Lib Dems pledge £390m a year to support struggling pupils with targeted tutoring
The party wants to make tutoring a permanent fixture in England’s schools.
Small-group tutoring to help pupils who have fallen behind in class would become a permanent fixture in England’s schools under Liberal Democrat proposals.
Schools, sixth forms and further education colleges would receive £390 million a year to offer 12-week tailored support to around 1.75 million children under the plans, the party said as it kicked off its conference in Bournemouth.
In a speech to delegates, Lib Dem education spokesperson Munira Wilson will accuse Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of letting down struggling pupils by “pulling the plug” on the National Tutoring Programme, which ends this year.
“Since the pandemic, England’s schools have been using tutoring to help the most disadvantaged young people catch up rapidly on their lost learning,” she is expected to say.
She will say that while the National Tutoring Programme “has been beset with problems”, it has boosted the poorest pupils’ maths and English grades and given them more confidence.
“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 (ASCL), welcomed the plans.
“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,” he said.
“Targeted tutoring funded on a permanent basis would help to improve their educational outcomes and life chances.”
Susannah Hardyman, chief executive of the charity Action Tutoring, said: “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.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We know the positive impact that tutoring can have, which is why we’ve made over £1 billion available through the National Tutoring Programme.
“Nearly four million courses have been started through programme since 2020. Almost half of pupils who received tutoring up until January 2023 were in receipt of free school meals, meaning tutoring is reaching some of the most disadvantaged children in the country.
“We will continue to support schools to deliver tutoring into the future, including through the pupil premium which is rising to £2.9 billion this year – the highest cash terms rates since this funding began.”