DfE offers £96m grant for 16-19 tutoring after Covid catch-up fund U-turn

The government has U-turned on its decision to exclude 16 to 19 providers from its £1 billion Covid catch-up fund.

A one-off, ring-fenced grant of up to £96 million will be stumped up to provide “small group tutoring” for disadvantaged 16 to 19 students whose studies have been disrupted by the pandemic.

Prime minister Boris Johnson and education secretary Gavin Williamson had sparked outrage last month when they announced the programme for schools and excluded 16 to 19 providers at the last minute.

Organisations such as the Association of Colleges called the move “indefensible” while Toby Perkins, Labour’s shadow apprenticeships and lifelong learning minister, said it was an “unforgivable disgrace”.

The £1 billion fund has two streams: £650 million additional funding for the 2020-21 academic year to help school pupils catch up on education missed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and £350 million will pay for the establishment of a National Tutoring Programme.

Announcing the distribution of the catch-up funding to include 16 to 19s, the DfE said today: “As part of the tutoring fund, we will also provide a one-off, ring-fenced grant of up to £96 million for colleges, sixth forms and all 16 to 19 providers, to provide small group tutoring activity for disadvantaged 16 to 19 students whose studies have been disrupted.”

The DfE confirmed to FE Week that the £96 million will be taken from the £350 million National Tutoring Programme, it is not new funding in addition to it.

Further details, including how the £96 million will be shared out, will be published “shortly”.

Skills minister Gillian Keegan said: “I’m absolutely delighted that we have secured an additional £96 million so colleges, sixth forms and all 16 to 19 providers can provide small group tutoring activity for disadvantaged students whose studies have been disrupted due to Covid-19.

“The past few months have been extremely challenging for students, and we are really grateful to the FE sector for their hard work to support students to study online. This funding will make sure those that students who will benefit from additional tutoring support will get the help they need to get ahead.”

AoC deputy chief executive Julian Gravatt said today’s announcement is a “welcome step”.

“We have argued all along that they deserve as much support to overcome the challenges thrown up by Covid-19 as every other age group, including their peers in schools.

“The ringfenced funding for disadvantaged 16 to 19 students will allow colleges to be flexible in their support programmes and enable them to reach those most in need. For example, 70 per cent of students resitting English and maths are from disadvantaged backgrounds and will need tailored and concentrated support to ensure they can succeed next academic year, despite the disruption.

“Today’s announcement is a strong sign that the government recognises the unique role colleges play in getting the country’s young people back up to speed but, in future, it would be better to get these decisions out earlier. Most colleges have already set their budgets for 2020-21.”