Commenting on the Prime Minister’s speech to Conservative Party Conference, in which he hinted at expansion of the National Tuition Programme (NTP), Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“Boris Johnson has been keen to present himself as a hero for disadvantaged young people but has so far not come up with the goods. It is hoped that the National Tuition Programme will go some way towards boosting individual support, but we need a different approach to education during Covid, not ‘normal expectations’ plus some tutoring on the side.

“The idea of meeting individual needs is the right one, but the Government is sending mixed messages – sometimes recognising this isn't a normal year, but then also pressing ahead with exams and standard tests as if normal teaching time did occur last year. 

“The ideological obsession with the private sector's ability to deliver has been thoroughly tested during Covid and left wanting, and there is no reason to suppose the NTP will be any different. Untested, rushed plans will always lead to dysfunction. What is presented as a magic solution for disadvantaged young people could result in less time being spent with qualified teachers. Schools should instead receive this money direct and target that extra support as they see fit, based on their plans to re-engage students, rather than see it allocated for unqualified tutors.

“In a poll of NEU members published at the weekend, 51% reported they had witnessed a ‘significant increase’ in hardship amongst their pupils since March. In 2018-19 some 4.2 million in the UK were trapped in poverty, but by Christmas, 200,000 more children will be pushed below the poverty line.

“The tuition programme can't be used to hide from making the overall changes to assessment and exams needed this year, which must be driven for what's realistic for students and fair for teachers.

“The Government can do much more to ensure no child is left behind. Real differences could be made if they were to address hunger, not least during school holidays. We also need affordable uniforms. The Government must redouble its efforts to meet the need for IT and wi-fi, which nearly half a million young people are still awaiting after months of broken promises.”


Editor’s Note

NEU survey, 3 October:


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