‘Army of tutors needed’ to ease damage of lost school learning
Britain needs to massively expand its army of tutors to stave off the long-term economic damage of Covid-19 from lost learning, education experts have warned.
The £350m National Tutoring programme (NTP), targeted to reach up to 250,000 children hit by school closures, was unveiled last summer and then extended into the 2021-22 academic year last month without any additional funding.
Under the programme schools can apply for taxpayer-subsidised tuition, but the University of Bristol’s Simon Burgess, a leading education economist said: “£350m for the NTP is not enough – you could multiply that by 10.”
The call comes days after the Treasury offered £4.6bn in extra grants to businesses to help steer them through a third national lockdown. “We’re throwing billions around like they’re nothing,” Mr Burgess added.
Additional £4.6bn worth of support announced to help affected businesses through third national lockdown
A Royal Society report last year put the economic cost of lost learning at “billions not millions” as future earnings are scarred by the lost learning. “The labour force is going to have lower skills for the next 50 years or so unless we can do something about it – and that’s going to have very long lasting repercussions,” Mr Burgess said.
Andy Eyles, a research economist at the Centre for Economic Performance, added: “The Government has been fairly radical with the furlough. So I don’t think it’s inconceivable that they should do the same with education and really put a lot of money into getting kids up to a standard where you’re going to be able to continue studies at a decent level.”
MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Education Select Committee, said he would “triple it or quadruple it”, adding: “It absolutely needs to be rocket boosted and relentlessly focused on disadvantaged areas.”
So far almost 70,000 pupils have enrolled in the scheme – around 5pc of the estimated 1.4m pupils entitled to free school meals.
The Department for Education has also granted another £650m in catch-up funding to headmasters, which it intends to be mostly spent on tuition. A spokesperson said: “The National Tutoring Programme continues to offer high-quality tuition to the students that need it most throughout this academic year and the next.
“The majority of organisations that are providing tutoring on behalf of the programme are already offering online lessons so catch up can continue while students are at home.”
The Treasury declined to comment.