The government is expected to unveil a national tutoring programme for all of the UK’s students, designed to help them catch up on learning lost during school closures.

The year-long, multi-million-pound programme will allow schools to hire private tutor from approved agencies to deliver lessons to students who have fallen behind during their time away from school.

According to The Guardian, the programme will involve thousands of tutors and will be delivered via a mix of online and face-to-face lessons, which will support students’  ongoing regular school work.

Though the lessons will be available to all students from all year groups (both primary and secondary), but will be particularly aimed at those from disadvantaged backgrounds, who are estimated to have experienced the biggest loss in learning.

Over 2 million children estimated to have done little to no learning

The government’s new scheme comes following public criticism of its handling of the pandemic – particularly when it comes to ensuring all children continue to receive a quality education whilst schools were closed.

Just last week, children’s minister Anne Longfield wrote a scathing letter to the prime minister in which she warned he was putting children’s right to an education “dangerously at risk”.

It is estimated that around 2 million children in the UK have done little to no schoolwork during lockdown, due to various factors such as lack of appropriate tools and devices, and even lack of internet access in some areas. Students from disadvantaged backgrounds may have also lacked parental support or supervision to ensure learning is taking place at home.

Last night during prime minister’s questions, Boris Johnson told MPs: “It is vital that kids get the catch-up on the education they have lost”.

How will the tutoring catch-up scheme work?

Details of the comprehensive scheme will be announced later this week, but the government is encouraging secondary schools to bring in students for a face-to-face review meeting to find out what progress they have made and what support they might require for the next academic year.

Some academy trusts also have plans to bring in students a week before the start of Autumn term to identify learning gaps and better prepare them for academic study.

Hamid Patel, chief executive of Star Academies said they currently have a series of measures in place that involved supporting students over a 12 month period.

“Our strategy to bridge widening gaps, foster resilience and set our pupils up for success is built on planned interventions over a 12-month period” he said.

“We intend to use a set of measures including summer holiday camp, Saturday school and planned literacy and numeracy catch-up sessions within the school timetable.”

The tuition programme will be just one strand of the government’s education catch-up plan. There are expected to be summer holiday schemes that focus on sports, arts and citizenship rather than academic work, with the intent of supporting students’ mental health and physical well-being after lockdown.

Several models are being piloted for the scheme, which include one-to-one and small group tuition as a cost-effective way to help children who are struggling. Regular sessions of 30 minutes, three to five times a week over six to 12 weeks could add up to five months of additional progress.

Tutoring and education companies like The Sutton Trust, the Education Endowment Foundation, Nesta and Impetus and the Tutor Trust are all involved in rolling out pilot models to help disadvantaged students catch up.

Union leaders doubtful of the scheme

Though efforts to support children who may have fallen behind are welcomed by the education sector, the news has been met with some trepidation.

Leora Cruddas, Chief Executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said it was vital that the catch-up programme be a year-long endeavour, rather than just a summer holiday scheme.

“Where tuition can have value is where it’s done alongside the curriculum. If the government is going to be spending money, I would suggest that those programmes start in the autumn and are strongly aligned with the work a school is doing,” he said

The question with all these things is, if you are using private providers, how easy is it to scale up.

Mary BoustedJoint secretary of the National Education Union

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders (ASCL) said: “With so much legitimate concern about the growing gap between advantaged and disadvantaged young people, it’s essential that any plans to address the issue are based in evidence of what works rather than what may simply sound good.

“The starting point should be a review by the child’s teacher of where the child is now, and what their curriculum needs to look like.”

Meanwhile, joint secretary of the National Education Union (NEU) Mary Bousted said: “We’ve got nothing against extra support for literacy and numeracy. The question with all these things is, if you are using private providers, how easy is it to scale up.”