Headteachers have expressed concern about how published data on schools’ uptake of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) could be used as a “de facto league table”.
On Friday, Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi wrote to Geoff Barton and Paul Whiteman, general secretaries of headteachers’ unions ASCL and NAHT respectively, to confirm Department for Education plans to publish data on each school’s tutoring delivery at the end of the year and share it with Ofsted.
Mr Barton and Mr Whiteman wrote to Mr Zahawi to say they were “appalled” by a letter announcing the plans on a bank holiday earlier this month.
In his letter on Friday, Mr Zahawi apologised for the timing of the letter and “the impact that had on some headteachers and others in the profession”.
He added that he wanted to thank headteachers and school staff for how they had “embraced” the Government’s flagship tutoring scheme “since its inception”.
“We have seen the incredible popularity of the school-led route since its launch in the autumn,complemented by the continued involvement of Tuition Partners and Academic Mentors, which is testament to schools’ commitment to make tutoring work for their pupils,” he said.
“We are determined to build on this for next year, the first step of which has been to confirm that schools will receive all tutoring funding directly from September.”
He said that he was publishing the NTP take-up data in the interests of transparency.
“When I was Vaccines Minister I learned about the power of transparency in the delivery of public services,” Mr Zahawi said.
“As Education Secretary I am committed to this same level of transparency, and believe that publishing data and evidence is a critical part of delivering my priorities.”
He added that publishing the data was not a new accountability measure, and that while it would be used by Ofsted, the data would not determine schools’ inspection grades or be used in isolation.
“However, Ofsted will consider how schools make use of tutoring as part of their evaluation of the quality of education and leadership and management,” he said.
“It is therefore right that they are aware of all relevant sources of data, especially when this relates to provision for disadvantaged pupils.”
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said he was “pleased the Education Secretary has apologised for the timing of the letter” but added that he was disappointed the DfE would “press ahead” with publishing data on schools’ use of the programme.
“He says it is not a new accountability measure but we remain concerned that it will end up being a de facto league table, and we are disturbed that it is obviously going to be a source of information for Ofsted inspections.
“None of this was said when schools were first informed about this year’s NTP and there are a number of factors which will affect take-up – the disruption caused by Covid and the cost of topping up the partial NTP subsidy from school budgets which are under great strain, for example.”
James Bowen, director of policy at the NAHT, said: “We welcome the fact that the Secretary of State has apologised for the timing of this announcement and the recognition that this should not have been sent to schools on a bank holiday.”
“We do, however, continue to have serious concerns about the nature of the proposals themselves.
“There are a wide range of reasons why schools may not have used the National Tutoring Programme, and many of these are linked to failings within the programme itself. Given the problems we have seen with the programme, it is simply not helpful or indeed fair on schools to publish the data in this way.”
He added: “The Government has to also be aware that there is a very high risk that this data will be taken out of context and misused to present a misleading picture about the support schools are giving to pupils.”