‘Tutoring for the millions’: Lib Dems plan booster classes for almost 2 million children

Liberal Democrats will offer free small-group tutoring to 1.75 million children a year who struggle with their learning, the party’s education spokesperson will say today (23 September).

It comes analysis by the party shows that more than one in seven teenagers fall behind with English or Maths at secondary school. These 64,000 students meet government reading and maths standards at age 11 but then fail either GCSE English or Maths at age 16.

In her keynote speech at the party’s Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, Munira Wilson MP will accuse Rishi Sunak of letting down these children by “pulling the plug” on school-based tutoring. The National Tutoring Programme ends this year.

She will compare Sunak to Mr Bumble from Oliver Twist for consistently rejecting cries “for more” investment in education when he was Chancellor. Sunak rejected bids from Government advisers and officials for greater investment in COVID catch-up lessons, free school meals and new school buildings.

Instead, Liberal Democrats will call for tutoring to become a permanent fixture in England’s schools. Schools, sixth forms and further education colleges would receive £390 million a year for intensive small-group sessions for students who have fallen behind in class.

Pupils would receive tailored support over 12 weeks in English, Maths, Science, or another academic subject. Schools and colleges would select pupils who receive tutoring, prioritising children from low-income backgrounds, with low prior attainment or with additional needs.

Schools and colleges could use their own teaching staff, recruit tutors themselves or choose from quality-assured external providers. Classroom teachers and parents would work together to identify the subjects where the tutoring is most needed.

A survey by Public First found that more than 7 in 10 parents whose children received tutoring at school said that it raised their child’s attainment. The Government’s ‘what works centre’ for education says that small-group tutoring boosts pupils’ progress by four months on average.

In her speech, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Munira Wilson MP is expected to say:

On Rishi Sunak:

And when our schools and colleges beg, bowl in hand, asking, “please Sir, I want some more”, who is the Mr Bumble in our Dickensian nightmare?

Rishi Sunak. As Chancellor, time and again, he denied our children the investment they so desperately needed.

When the pandemic hit, our children were forgotten… Despite the heroics of our teachers reinventing their lessons for online learning, tens of millions of hours were lost from school.

The Government’s own adviser said that children needed £15 billion to catch up. Otherwise, all the work done over a decade closing the attainment gap would be completely wiped out. Which Chancellor coughed up less than a third of that? Rishi Sunak…

When crumbling concrete was found in a school in Essex last month, they moved pupils into a wedding venue for four days a week… Officials told the Treasury that schools needed £5 billion a year to stop their crumbling buildings from collapsing completely. Which Chancellor gave them less than two-thirds of that? Rishi Sunak…

He simply doesn’t appreciate the value of education.

On tutoring:

Conference, there are parents up and down the country who, each and every day, are making that investment in their own children… So Liberal Democrats will provide those parents with a vital boost.

Since the pandemic, England’s schools have been using tutoring to help the most disadvantaged young people catch up rapidly on their lost learning.

To be clear, the Government’s National Tutoring Programme has been beset with problems, from incompetent outsourcing to shortages of tutors… Yet despite all that, it has had some success.

Hundreds of thousands of students got extra support. Schools that focused on the poorest pupils boosted their Maths and English grades. Parents said that their children became more confident.

But yet again, just as we were seeing some progress, the Conservatives pulled the plug. This year’s programme will be its last…

Conference, I am fed up with the Conservatives letting down our young people over and over again. So Liberal Democrats will invest in our young people to transform their education.

Tutoring will no longer be something that only an elite few can afford. Under the Liberal Democrats, it will be for the millions.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

We are very pleased to see this commitment to education by the Liberal Democrats. There is strong evidence for small group tutoring as an effective intervention to support young people who need additional help.

ASCL has campaigned for more action to support the ‘forgotten third’ of young people who fall short of the gateway qualification of at least a Grade 4 in GCSE English and maths at the age of 16. Targeted tutoring funded on a permanent basis would help to improve their educational outcomes and life chances.

Sarah Waite, CEO of Get Further, a charity that supports further education students from disadvantaged backgrounds retaking GCSE English and Maths, said:

Ensuring all young people from disadvantaged backgrounds in schools and colleges can access high-quality tutoring is an essential part of the strategy to close the country’s attainment gap. With such a positive impact on confidence and skills, it is vital that tutoring policies are extended and scaled up beyond August 2024.

It’s fantastic that the Liberal Democrats are announcing their commitment to embed access to tutoring for disadvantaged young people into the education system long-term.

Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring, a nationwide education charity that provides tutoring to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, added:

Tutoring is one of the best-evidenced ways of supporting disadvantaged young people to achieve academically, levelling the playing field between those that can afford private tutoring and those that can’t. The benefits of tutoring extend beyond just academic attainment, with evidence highlighting that it also increases wider confidence, motivation and engagement in education. Tutoring unlocks the potential of children and young people, which ultimately benefits not only their future but wider society too.

We are delighted that the Liberal Democrats have announced plans to make school-based tutoring a permanent fixture in England, especially targeting those that need the support most.

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2 Comments

  • Helen Dudden 23rd Sep '23 - 9:49am

    I will be doing a zoom meeting shortly on education and autism.
    Autism is a wide umbrella and children vary.
    My granddaughter is now less non verbal. I speak to her and have bought educational book for pre school children.
    The Westminster Forum have covered the topic of self harming. This is a demanding situation for parents and children.
    Having worked for Teacher Staffing for a Local Authority I personally feel it’s important to have some ability.

  • We know that there is a very high correlation between educational outcomes and family poverty. In fact of course it is registration for free school meals which is used as a measure of family poverty.
    There was a lot of discussion about the reasons for this relationship during the recent lockdowns. Things like children arriving in school without having had any breakfast, overcrowded houses without anywhere for children to work, highly stressed adults who often use their children of secondary age to look after younger children.
    So we need to abolish family poverty.
    As far as tutoring is concerned this is very common. I knew of one secondary school where the estimate was that about two thirds of pupils were tutored regularly during their school years, including those who were tutored by family members.
    So our first priority should be to make sure that no children live in poverty.

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