Page last updated at 00:03 GMT, Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Shortage hits one-to-one tuition

By Hannah Richardson
Education reporter, BBC News

Teacher helps pupil
One-to-one tuition is to be made available to 300,000 pupils

A flagship one-to-one tuition scheme for struggling pupils in England has faced a tutor shortage, says a government-commissioned report.

The scheme aims to offer catch-up help, by March 2011, to 300,000 pupils who have fallen behind.

For this, some 100,000 tutors are needed but only 37,000 teachers have signed up so far.

A government spokesman says there is "overwhelming support" in schools for the initiative.

The PriceWaterhouseCoopers report comes as Gordon Brown and Children's Secretary Ed Balls announced the scheme would be expanded to cover an extra 20,000 younger primary school pupils.

The report says that only a quarter of the expected number of pupils are getting individual help in the pilot areas.

It found that two-thirds of teachers are broadly supportive of the the Making Good Progress pilots, but many head teachers have struggled to recruit enough tutors to provide the specialist support needed to help pupils catch up.

Tutor shortage

The report says: "The number of pupils receiving one-to-one tuition is still below the allocation of 10% of pupils per pilot local authority.

"Head teachers/school pilot leaders suggested this was partly a consequence of the ongoing challenges around recruitment."

It adds that although recruitment problems have reduced they have not been resolved.

Instead of the bottom 10% of pupils getting help with English or mathematics, only 2.5% and 2.4% of pupils respectively in the pilot schools have been getting help, it says.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) says this 10% "was not a specific target" and that places had doubled in the second year of the pilot.

Head teachers have also found it easier to recruit tutors as the pilot has progressed, says the DCSF spokesman.

The report confirms that recruitment issues have improved in a majority of schools, with 57% of head teachers being able to recruit enough tutors.

But this has left four out of 10 head teachers struggling to find enough staff to run the schemes.

Last January, some seven out of 10 pilot local authorities said there were "major tutor shortages" in their areas.

In September last year the DCSF launched a major recruitment drive to boost the numbers of teachers registering with the Training and Development Agency for Schools to become tutors.

At that time a DCSF spokesman said it had been decided to increase the pay rates on offer to attract more teachers to sign up.

This resulted in the number of teachers registered for the scheme on the TDA website rising from 25,000 to the current 37,000.

But it is due to be expanded from the 10,000 assisted this year to 30,000 pupils in September 2010 and then to 300,000 pupils by the following year.

'More honest'

A spokeswoman for the Training and Development Agency for Schools insisted the number of one-to-one tutors recruited so far was high.

"As well as the 37,000 tutors registered on our database, many, many more have approached their local authorities direct.

"Our marketing campaign which ran between June and October 2009 and included direct mail, online and press advertising and PR was very successful."

The DCSF spokesman also says there will be a "quality mark to accredit agencies able to provide qualified and vetted one-to-one tutors".

Shadow Schools Minister Nick Gibb said Ed Balls's promise for one to one tuition was meaningless until he could explain where he would get the tens of thousands of extra teachers needed.

"This partly explains why the pilot schemes were such as disaster, with only a tenth of those who were promised help actually getting it.

"The small print shows that in reality much of this 'one-to-one' tuition will actually be in small groups, which is not the same thing. The government should be more honest when they make announcements like this."

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