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21st May, 2023

Ben Raven-Hill
Ben Raven-Hill
Job Title
Tuition Manager

Pupil premium budgets

School budgets are never out of the news for long and in the current climate, where we are seeing teachers striking across the country, they are at the forefront of conversations in the education sector. One core area of funding which schools rely on is their pupil premium (PP) allocation. In the academic year 2023/24, primary schools will receive £1,455 for each disadvantaged student and secondary schools will receive £1,035.

To ensure PP is used on measures that can effectively raise the educational attainment of disadvantaged pupils, schools must use it in line with the ‘menu of approaches’ set by the Department for Education in its recently published guidance. These three approaches are:

  • Supporting high-quality teaching, such as staff professional development.

  • Providing targeted academic support, such as tutoring, including through the National Tutoring Programme.

  • Tackling non-academic barriers to academic success, such as difficulties in attendance, behaviour, and social and emotional wellbeing.

For years, schools have been primarily focused on the first and third bullet points. From my own experience as a former member of the senior leadership team in a primary school, PP budgets were allocated to measures that had an impact on the school as a whole, such as CPD opportunities, teaching resources for school, staffing costs, school trips etc. I think everyone would agree that all of these are valuable and important ways to spend this funding, however I do question whether we spoke enough about the direct impact on the academic progress of disadvantaged students.

A recent report funded by the Nuffield Foundation and conducted for the Institute for Fiscal Studies reveals that the achievement disparity between disadvantaged students and their better-off classmates remains as significant today as it was two decades ago and suggests the pandemic likely exacerbated educational inequalities. The study highlights that disadvantaged students commence their educational journey already lagging behind their peers, and this often persists throughout their schooling, having long-lasting effects on their earning potential.

This begs the question, does there need to be a bigger focus by schools on the academic progress of disadvantaged pupils? Does bullet point two of the ‘menu of approaches’ need to become a core part of every school’s offering? And would a more strategic approach on staffing allow for more targeted and impactful intervention and academic support?

The National Tutoring Programme

Since its establishment in 2020, the National Tutoring Programme has been championed by the Department for Education (DfE) and various government representatives as an integral component of our education system. Research conducted by the Education Endowment Fund (EEF) indicates that one-on-one tutoring can facilitate accelerated progress equivalent to five months of learning, while small group tuition can lead to approximately four months of advancement.

Despite this, recent government data reveals that approximately one-third of the allocated £594 million intended for tutoring remains unspent. The DfE is advising schools to utilise their pupil premium allocation for this, clearly illustrating the government's view that tutoring, particularly through the National Tutoring Programme, plays a pivotal role in narrowing the disadvantage gap.

How can schools spend their funding?

There are several ways that schools can spend their funding, and each has its merits. These include:

  • School-led tuition (the deployment of existing school staff to deliver tuition, additional to their other responsibilities).

  • Academic mentors (workers who have not necessarily had a history in education but go through training to learn how to do the role effectively and become employed by the school).

  • Tuition partners (providing schools with experienced teachers and tutors externally, creating a timetable which suits the needs of the pupils and school as a whole).

Statistically the most popular method of delivery, the school-led model, has come under scrutiny in a report by the Sutton Trust which said “school-led tutoring also may not be the right fit for all schools.” It also suggested: “The tuition partners arm of the NTP should be fully re-established, with work restarted to identify the highest quality provision and encourage growth of these organisations to improve what is available in the tuition market long term.”

Throughout the 10 years I spent working in education, I have built and sustained relationships with many education professionals across a variety of schools. When speaking to them about the impact and success that school-led tutoring has had in their experience, the answers are often similar, such as “sessions don’t always go ahead as there are other priorities”, “sessions are often not planned for and more off the cuff”, and “the people delivering aren’t always the most suitable for the requirements of the students.”

While there will be countless examples of schools that have had success from school-led tutoring, the Sutton Trust’s report makes you consider whether schools should be looking more towards tuition partners and academic mentors to have greater impact.

How will the funding change in the academic year 2023/24?

Currently, schools receive 60% of funding towards their tuition costs, meaning 40% must be made up from existing school budget (primarily their PP funding). This is set to drop to 25% for the coming academic year.

If schools are to rethink their allocation of pupil premium and tuition does become a staple of the system (as intended by the DfE), schools must consider how they can make the most impact on the outcomes of their disadvantaged students. Just because one method is cheaper than the other, doesn’t mean it will have the greatest impact.

Here are some key questions to consider:

Is one full-time intervention teacher more likely to have a lasting impact than two classroom support assistants?

Would a well thought-out, planned, and monitored programme of tuition have a longer-lasting impact than paying the recruitment costs required to hire certain new staffing positions each year?

Would prioritising intervention over other resources actually have the greatest impact on the outcomes of disadvantaged students?

Could tuition play a vital role in relieving some of the huge recruitment pressure secondary schools are facing in the core subjects?

The answers to these questions aren’t ones that have set answers. Each school must draw its own conclusions. What seems clear is that schools need to rethink how they have always done things if they wish to close the gap between disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged students.

As an approved DfE tuition partner, Reed Tutors has seen first-hand the impact that effective tuition has on disadvantaged or lower achieving students. If you wish to find out more about our programme, contact me directly at to have an open and informed conversation.