National Tutoring Programme Tuition Partners: Year 1 (2020-21)  - Reflections on scaling interventions to create system change 

To mark the end of the EEF's involvement in the National Tutoring Programme, we have published a comprehensive overview of the successes and challenges of the programme. These cover engaging with schools and the sector, programme design and delivery, alongside evaluation. 

Unpicking these insights should prove useful for scaling up and implementing evidence-based programmes in schools in the future. Here we summarise five of the key lessons learned in the past year.

Five key lessons learned

1. Keep evidence at the core of what you do - make sure there is clarity over what must remain part of the programme to stay true to the evidence, but also what can be adapted to respond to changing circumstances

During this first year of delivery, ensuring that the Tuition Partners programme remained grounded in evidence whilst flexibly responding to changing circumstances for schools was a recurring challenge. Continuous communication about the rationale that underpinned the programme model helped stakeholders to understand our decision-making. At times, it was challenging to convey to participating schools the additional flexibility in delivery that was allowed due to Covid-related disruption.

2. Ensure stakeholders are involved in the design – both at the beginning, but also along the way to make the programme as useful as possible

Set-up was necessarily rapid due to the critical need for a programme to respond to the learning loss that has resulted from school closures. A longer set-up period would have enabled us to engage stakeholders further in the design phase. 

However, it is not always possible to wait for a perfect set of conditions to begin delivering and testing an intervention, and we knew that many lessons would be learned in the process of delivery.

3. Take a long-term view - support any delivery organisations to improve, even if the benefits of this will be seen in the longer term

It was important that the programme took a long-term view of what sustained improvement in access to tutoring could achieve, particularly for disadvantaged pupils. For example, a central capacity building programme was valuable in improving tutoring provision and highlighting the areas in which Tuition Partners needed additional support.

4. Manage expectations of what the programme can achieve - don’t overclaim and also consider how the programme works alongside other initiatives in the sector

It was also important to manage stakeholders’ perceptions when delivering a programme of this scale, such as what problems it can realistically solve, alongside what can be achieved in the timeframe. Working closely with national and local leaders helped us to understand the specific barriers to participation in different regions.

5. Data is key – define the information that it is vital for you to collect, support any delivery organisation to provide this, and use it to improve delivery

A data-driven programme that helped understand specific needs was key to the success of NTP Tuition Partners. For example, by utilising data, we were able to ensure that the NTP team were aware of ‘cold spots’ in demand to be able to target support for schools and Tuition Partners. Challenges including managing expectations of data requests, which (whilst intensive) were critical to the success of programme delivery, and establishing that Tuition Partners were set up appropriately to manage this.

We hope that the report will provide useful learning for those who want to rapidly scale approaches within education, both within the UK and internationally. 

The report is not part of the independent evaluation of the Year 1 programme and reflect the views of the central NTP team only. Nesta’s People Powered Results team provided expert support in the qualitative research that this report is based on.