One month into my new role, and everything I’m learning in post is only fuelling my passion for greater equity in education.

It’s a desperately unlevel playing field now, and while the National Tutoring Programme has done much to make in-school tuition available to those who most need an additional boost to achieve their potential at school, there is a long way to go.

Take the Sutton Trust report published today: Tutoring: The new landscape, which gives an insight into educational life post-Covid. It reveals the stark stats around private versus in-school tuition, who accesses what (and how it is split between those with advantage and those without), and how London compares to the rest of the country.

I don’t think there are any surprises about which young people have access to private (mostly one-to-one) tuition, and who is more likely to be able only to access tuition through school. Or that there’s a greater prevalence of private tuition for 11-16-year-olds in the South than in the North.

However, because rates for both private and in-school tuition are growing, the latter largely following the introduction of the National Tutoring Programme, the attainment gap isn’t really closing, and private tuition is effectively creating a two-tier system.

Whilst the report has plenty of good things to say about the NTP, there are recommendations for the Government around how it can be more effective in future to make a long-lasting difference to those young people who most need the support of a great tutor.

Having been immersed in the world of education for more than a decade, and only a few months specifically focusing on the world of tuition, I have read reams of research, which, comfortingly (although disappointingly) are saying the same things. That the National Tutoring Programme has been a great introduction into education, but that it must do better.

Today from the Sutton Trust, and also recently in the National Audit Office’s Education Recovery in Schools in England and the Centre for Social Justice’s Cracks in our Foundation reports, there is an ask that the NTP is more targeted in reaching those disadvantaged pupils whose education has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Another report, the Government’s Learning during the pandemic: review of research from England, shows that experiences of teaching and learning during the pandemic were diverse, but that disadvantage and deprivation appear to be most associated with less effective learning and overall learning losses.

Whilst I am loath to use the word ‘disadvantaged’ (and if anyone does have a better adjective to describe the young people facing the greatest challenges in life, please let me know) these are the young people Tutor Trust has always focused on working with, and the NTP needs to make it easier for schools to access affordable support for them too.

Last academic year, almost two-thirds (65%) of the pupils we tutored received Pupil Premium. And we are continuing to focus on that as our target (if not more). The NTP’s original plan that 65% of pupils receiving tutoring should be disadvantaged was scrapped in early March 2022.

Like most of the recent reports, and the one we wrote for the Public Accounts Committee in their call for evidence around the effectiveness of the NTP so far, we need to embed the NTP and all that it stands for, into our education system.  It’s due to end at the end of next year, and that would be a tragedy.

It absolutely needs to be focused on supporting the most disadvantaged, and the current subsidy (of 65% for schools, down from 75% in 2021/2022, and which will be 25% in 2023/2024) should at least remain as it is now.  As it stands, a school which may have been spending £5,000 for a tuition programme in 2021/22 now has to find £8,000 from its budget to pay for exactly the same programme in 2022/23 (increasing to £15,000 in 2023/24 and then £20,000 when the subsidies stop completely).

How can we ever hope to close the attainment gap when in-school tutoring is likely to become even more unaffordable for schools in the most deprived areas?

And finally, the Sutton Trust report also emphasises that tuition must be of high-quality, through greater Ofsted inspection and evaluation of its effectiveness.

We know from our two Education Endowment Led-Randomised Control Trials (RCT) that our tuition works and has a real impact.  And quality is at the heart of our delivery – with our team of former teachers regularly observing our tutors in action, and creating a suite of free CPD materials and tutorials for tutors to improve their practice and impact.

Tutor Trust will continue to deliver high-quality tuition to those eligible for Pupil Premium, and we’ll continue to provide our own subsidies to those schools who are struggling to afford tuition. And, if I can have one wish as a new CEO, it’s that tuition is available to every child who needs it, as part of their regular school education, so that we have equity at last.