Robin Walker – 2022 Statement on Education

The statement made by Robin Walker, the Minister for School Standards, in the House of Commons on 14 March 2022.

Today, I am providing an update to the House on three elements of this Government’s work to enable every child to fulfil their potential by ensuring that they receive the right support, in the right place, at the right time. This is in advance of the forthcoming Schools White Paper, which will demonstrate how our education system can deliver on the Government’s priorities of building back better after the pandemic and levelling up across the country.

My update today addresses our work on tutoring, the Oak National Academy and with the Education Endowment Foundation.

I can now confirm to the House that over one million courses have been started by children across the country through the National Tutoring Programme. Of these, around 532,000 were provided through the school-led tutoring route, which provides funding directly to schools giving them greater flexibility to source their own tutors, whether external or staff already working in the school.

We are building on this success by transferring, this academic year, up to £65 million to school-led tutoring from the academic mentor and tuition partner pillars of the programme. This will give schools even greater autonomy to deliver high quality tutoring to as many children and young people as possible, reflecting the Department’s continued focus on following the evidence of what works.

To support schools further and meet increasing demand, the eligibility criteria for recruiting academic mentors into schools has been updated, with minimum A level requirements replacing the requirement for a degree, along with increasing the rate of pay for all graduate mentors looking to enrol and support the programme.

Alongside, we are giving schools working with tuition partners increased discretion to determine the size of groups receiving tutoring; our advice remains that three pupils per tuition group is optimal, but we are raising the maximum group size to six pupils to allow greater flexibility where needed, such as for phonics where pair work is required.

This Government will continue to build on the success of the National Tutoring Programme this year, in particular the school-led route. Schools, tutors and other stakeholders have continued to provide feedback to the Department over the course of the year—in particular regarding the need for a programme that is as simple as possible—and we are exploring all options to make sure that feedback is reflected in the programme next year.

Tutoring is vital for providing extra help to pupils. But the heart of their education will of course come from the outstanding teaching they receive in their classrooms.

We want to empower teachers to focus on delivering the best possible lessons, and support schools by giving them access to resources and approaches that have proved their effectiveness.

Oak National Academy has been one of the great achievements coming out of the education system’s response to the pandemic. Over 500 teachers from over 50 schools, trusts and partners worked together, delivering over 140 million lessons.

Building on this success, we will now establish a new arm’s length curriculum body incorporating Oak, working independently of Government and collaboratively with the sector.

Curriculum design is complex, and we want to share the very best practice so teachers can draw inspiration from examples of evidence-based, carefully sequenced curriculum design.

Under the framework already provided by our excellent national curriculum, the curriculum body will lead the creation of curriculum maps and resources which will be freely available to all teachers, parents and children.

Instead of each teacher reinventing the wheel, they will be able to access content, for free, that continuously evolves and improves through feedback from teachers across the country—reducing workload and of course improving lessons and curriculum expertise. The resources will be entirely optional and will not be mandated by Ofsted.

At the heart of this body will be collaboration and partnership, with the sector and with providers of resources. The curriculum body will work closely with teachers to ensure it is meeting their needs, including those supporting children with additional needs. We are committed to building on the “by teachers, for teachers” approach that has been a key success factor for Oak National Academy.

The body will continue work with the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) to ensure its resources are informed by the best available evidence and align with best practice.

With the same motivation to use evidence where we can, we will permanently put evidence at the heart of the teaching profession by re-endowing the EEF. As independent evidence guardians in the system, the EEF will continue to generate and spread world-leading education evidence. This work will include leading an ongoing cycle of reviews of the underpinning frameworks for teacher development to make sure they are always based on “what works” to improve pupil outcomes. The EEF will keep these frameworks updated in line with the best available evidence from this country and abroad, giving an independent badge of assurance to our teacher development programmes.

We will also continue to work with the EEF to scale up and spread effective teaching practice in literacy and numeracy to ensure pupils have the best chance of catching up following the pandemic.

Further details on the endowment will be confirmed in due course.