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Best of both: Using a tuition partner alongside school-led tutoring for National Tutoring Programme

A combined approach may be the best solution for schools to deliver the NTP to its pupils

This September, schools will receive funding for tutoring if any of your pupils from year 1 to year 11 are eligible to receive pupil premium.

Perhaps you already have tuition support in place or maybe you are seeking new support for this academic year. As explained in the government guidance, there are three options available to schools as part of the National Tutoring Programme:

  • Tuition partners - tutors recruited by external tutoring organisations quality-assured by DfE

  • Academic mentors - full-time, in-house staff members employed to provide intensive support to pupils who need it

  • School-led tutors (tutors you employ directly) - members of a school’s own personnel, either currently employed or specifically engaged for this purpose, including retired, returning or supply teachers, support staff, and others

Time is of the essence and it isn’t easy to know what the best way forward is when it comes to selecting the most effective tuition support for your learners.

We've taken a look these options and provided useful information to help you decide how best to spend your funding over the academic year 2022/2023 – and you might be interested to learn that a combined approach may be the best of both worlds.

The DfE-approved tuition partners route

You can use your National Tutoring Programme funding to get a tuition partner, who will arrange tutoring for your pupils in school or online.

By entering your school’s postcode on the government’s Find a tuition partner site, you can find tuition providers that are DfE-approved. Online tuition providers can, of course, support learners in any location.

When selecting a tuition partner through this site, you’ll be able to view the age groups they work with, the subjects covered, the type of tuition they provide and read a summary of their service and expertise. Click through to their website to read testimonials so you can be sure you feel confident in the organisation.

The academic mentors and school-led tutoring routes

Academic mentors and school-led tutoring are the other options available to schools - either utilising their current staff members or employing individuals to provide tutoring.

If your school has many pupils in receipt of pupil premium, you may find that employing an academic mentor is a great way to reach large numbers of pupils and embed tutoring within the school. However, interviewing and selecting candidates to join the school staff and work alongside teachers to provide tuition is a lengthy process.

The school-led tutoring approach offers you the flexibility to select your own individual tutors. These tutors might be people on the school staff, such as teachers or teaching assistants, or they might be others with the necessary qualifications interested in tuition work.


The best of both worlds: A combined approach

Ultimately, you want the best outcome for your pupils and, subsequently, your school. You want the best tuition at the best value.

For many schools, the best tutoring solution is to use a tuition partner in conjunction with school-led tutoring. The two options offer different benefits to pupils and when combined, the impact will be maximised.

Your own staff or tutors employed by the school know the pupils and the school well. They may have already built a strong rapport with the pupils. But…

  • Are they experienced in specific subjects?

  • Are they qualified to put together a tuition programme to support the pupils’ individual academic needs?

  • Can they offer wellbeing support alongside academic learning?

  • Are they able to provide additional skills support with regard to exam technique, critical thinking skills or communication skills?

  • Will they be able to deliver the complete programme without being used in school to cover classes?

  • Will the programme still run if they are absent due to ill health?

Criteria to consider for managing your funding

Selecting the best route(s) and managing your tuition funding isn’t a quick or easy task. There are a number of areas to consider. Let’s break them down and think about what to look for when making tuition decisions.

Value for money

Your school budget is limited and you’ll want to spend the funding awarded to your school for tutoring in the most effective way. Using a tutor you know already is great, if you are assured of their ability to make a real difference to the pupils receiving tuition.

If you’re going to be employing new tutors or working with a tuition partner, requesting a trial class is a great way to see what you’ll be getting for your money.

The time it takes to implement a tuition programme

The sooner your pupils with learning gaps begin their tuition programmes, the better. Schools with academic mentors or tutors already appointed have a head start. If you are looking for new support this academic year, you’ll be wary of the administrative burden. That’s where using a tuition partner is a clear solution.

The tutors they employ have been DBS checked, are of the required academic standard and already have experience in delivering tuition. The benefit of using a tuition partner is that an account manager can quickly ascertain your school’s needs and put together suitable learning plans for your pupils.

Quality and experience of tutors

Ascertaining the quality of teaching that any tutor will be able to provide for your pupils is always going to be a challenge. If you already work with a mentor or tutor, you’ll know how effective their teaching has been and what sort of a rapport they have with the pupils they work with.

If you are, however, looking to bring tuition provision in for the first time or are seeking new tutors to work in your school, you’ll be looking for tutors with excellent subject knowledge, passion, experience, and understanding of the learners’ needs.

Academic mentors and individual tutors must meet the qualification requirements and must have completed the mandatory core training available from the Education Development Trust.

Schools that are hiring new staff as tutors in the 2022 to 2023 academic year will be required to provide proof of employment and can nominate them for training via the Education Development Trust website. Quality-assured tuition partners employ tutors who meet their criteria so schools can be confident that they meet the required standards.

It can be difficult to measure the quality of an academic mentor or tutor you have sourced yourself but a tuition partner is likely to have statistics to show the average improvement in test results made by pupils who have previously used their service.

Wellbeing support for pupils

Many of your pupils who are eligible for extra tuition will benefit greatly from wellbeing support as well as academic support. They may need tutors who have understanding of anxiety, stress and low self-esteem, who can work to build their confidence alongside their academic learning.

Learning tailored to meet the needs of pupils with SEND

Your learners are individuals with a range of learning styles. Whoever is going to be working with these pupils should have experience of working with pupils with SEND, meaning they’ll have an understanding of different needs and be able to tailor the tuition to support every individual to make progress.


It goes without saying that you’ll need to ensure all tutors who work with learners (in-person or online) are suitable and that they meet all the requirements set out in keeping children safe in education (KCSIE).

As stated in the government guidance, ‘Academic mentors and school-led tutors will require pre-appointment and safer recruitment checks. Schools should complete these checks themselves, and they must be compliant with their obligations under part 3 of KCSIE.’

Tuition partners will have already run safeguarding checks on their tutors and can provide your school with tutors’ DBS certificates.


You’ll want to consider how the tuition sessions will fit around pupils’ other commitments.

You’ll also need to think about group sizes and the specific needs of the learners in those groups. There may be some pupils who require some one-to-one support from time to time, and the learning programme may need adjusting as it goes on.

Time is precious in the school day so it’s crucial to be able to organise suitable sessions for pupils in a short space of time, so no learning time is lost.

If the tutor is ill, can another tutor step in so the session isn’t cancelled? This is something that’s going to be possible with a tuition partner but not if your school is solely relying on an academic mentor or individual tutor.

Curriculum coverage

Pupils receiving tuition will be focusing on the core subjects with their tutor. The best tutors will also focus on generic skills necessary to develop great learners:

  • Critical thinking skills

  • Analytical thinking skills

  • Essay and academic writing skills

  • Presentation and communication skills

It’s well worth checking with mentors, tutors or tuition partners exactly what they cover and whether these extra study skills are incorporated into the support the students receive.

The best overall solution?

Every school setting is different and you will know best how to meet the needs of your students. After considering the above criteria, you may well decide, like many schools, that a blended approach of using both a tuition partner and school-led tutoring is the best way

to support the academic and wellbeing needs of your pupils. But what does this look like in practice?

How you can use a tuition partner alongside school-led tuition

A great example of utilising your tutors in school in conjunction with a tuition partner is thinking about how the in-house support can boost an online learning programme put together and delivered by a tuition partner.

Your school-led tutors are well-placed to be in the classrooms helping to oversee multiple ongoing online lessons from a tuition partner at the same time. This allows the school to run a large number of lessons while making the best use of staff, equipment, space, timetables and the funding itself.

The tuition partner can put together a bespoke learning plan, based on your student numbers, their learning preferences and any special requirements you may have. Their skilled tutors, with subject-specific knowledge and experience of learning styles and study skills can be rolled out through the programme to all pupils.

Meanwhile, the school-led tutor can focus their time and energy on supporting specific individuals, as and when needed. They can answer questions as they arise, support vulnerable learners with any specific wellbeing issues they might be experiencing and provide clarification or further explanation if a pupil requires it.

Clever management of your funding can see you derive skilled tutors, a tailored learning programme delivered over a set number of weeks, and wellbeing support for the pupils who need it most. And that will lead to learning gaps closing which is every school’s aim right now.

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