How Will Ofsted Inspect Your Tutoring?

It’s now clear that schools will need to report on their tutoring spend at the end of the year, but what’s less clear is how tutoring will form part of Ofsted’s inspection criteria.

Here, we share how Ofsted has approached tutoring since the introduction of the National Tutoring Programme in 2020.

By understanding Ofsted’s context when it comes to tutoring, you’ll be better prepared to answer their questions around tutoring at your next inspection.

The short answer is that they won’t actually inspect your tutoring.

However, Ofsted will consider tutoring as part of your school inspection.

Ofsted are looking at tutoring holistically; tutoring is seen as a means of delivery and a tool for consolidating the national curriculum.

At the National Tutoring Summit, Sandy Hayes (HMI, maintained schools and academies) covered two main areas linking tutoring and Ofsted.

  1. How tutoring features in Ofsted’s school inspection handbook (and what this actually means for schools in practice)
  1. Her summary of the phase 1 findings from an independent review of tutoring in schools (published October 2022)
Download Free Resources

Ofsted Preparation Guides

Prepare for your next inspection with this step-by-step math framework. Includes checklists and questions for an Ofsted deep dive in math.

Download Free Now!

What Ofsted won’t do with your tutoring

At the National Tutoring Summit, Sandy (HMI) ran a workshop called ‘How does Ofsted consider tutoring as part of your inspection’.

It became clear very quickly that Ofsted does indeed ‘consider’ tutoring rather than ‘inspect’ tutoring; an important distinction for schools.

  • Ofsted will not evaluate tutoring in your school;
  • Ofsted will not evaluate the quality of the tutoring in your school;
  • Ofsted will not inspect your school’s tutoring programme;
  • Ofsted will not check if your tutoring is compliant;
  • Ofsted will not routinely hold information about tutoring in your school.

In Sandy’s words, Ofsted will not become the ‘tutoring police’.

Ofsted is interested in how tutoring contributes to the quality of education overall, and the rationale behind school decisions.

What Ofsted will do with your tutoring

Instead, what can you expect from Ofsted with regard to your tutoring?

Well, the school inspection handbook is somewhat light on tutoring. In fact, the word ‘tutoring’ actually only appears twice (paragraph 82 and 220).

  • Ofsted will review and consider information about the use of tutoring in your school among a myriad of other relevant data;
  • Ofsted will evaluate learning from tutoring as part of the wider curriculum;
  • Ofsted will consider how tutoring supports the aims of the school curriculum;
  • Ofsted will integrate the use of tutors into the evaluation of the quality of education and the quality of leadership and management.

Paragraph 417 also includes reference to “building teachers’ expertise in remote education”, which is still worth mentioning in the context of Covid.

Ofsted are interested in school leadership being ambitious and putting in place the right tools for ALL of their pupils. It should be the aim of all leaders that all pupils complete their programme of study (including through tutoring if that’s needed).

Here are some questions to think about:

  • Why did you choose tutoring?
  • How do you know it’s successful?
  • Which pupils are you targeting?
  • Why are you targeting those pupils?
  • How does it fit with classroom teaching?

To summarise, inspectors will not consider tutoring data in isolation. Tutoring data will not determine a school’s inspection grade.

Read more:

Tutoring Funding Summary: Downloadable guide for SLT

Tutoring Funding Calculator – see exactly how much funding your school will receive in 2023/24:

Findings from Ofsted’s review of tutoring in schools

As well as knowing what’s in the handbook, you should also consider the findings from the Ofsted review phase 1 findings (published October 2022).

Inspectors will inevitably be mindful of these review findings when considering tutoring in your school.

Sandy surfaced 8 key themes from Ofsted’s perspective, which we’ll explore further below, including how Third Space Learning can help!

1. Schools know their pupils best

Schools want to be involved in the implementation of tutoring, because they know the needs of their pupils best.

Tutoring is all about the right people at the right time for the right pupils.

Targeting the right pupils with the right approach means that what works for a pupil with SEN may not work as well for someone else.

At Third Space Learning, we work in partnership with schools to deliver a programme of online one-to-one maths tuition that place pupils at its heart.

Read more: Online Learning for SEN Pupils

2. Size of group, frequency and duration of tutoring matter

Tutoring should be customisable to the needs of the individual.

If schools want to use NTP funding, this carries a limit of 6 pupils per tutoring group. There was lots of discussion from senior leaders and policymakers at the National Tutoring Summit that this was still too much. At Third Space Learning, every single session is one-to-one, which means you never have to worry about pupils not getting exactly what they need from their tuition.

Schools also need the flexibility to choose the frequency that works for them. Sandy said twice a week is probably best, but in Third Space Learning’s experience, most schools opt for weekly sessions. That being said, schools are free to (and do!) book in multiple sessions per week depending on their needs.

It’s been found that the impact of tutoring usually tails off once pupils have reached 15 hours. However, tuition success depends on effective assessment to decipher whether a pupil has caught up or made progress as intended. For those that haven’t, they may need to stay on the tutoring programme; that’s what it’s there for.

At Third Space Learning, we see a mix of schools who keep pupils on the programme for multiple terms and also schools who switch pupils on and off according to various factors, including progress made after sessions.

3. Prioritising the right pupils

Tutoring prioritisation is often based on pupil premium pupils as a starting point, but this should not be the end point. The ‘best’ schools use additional information to inform their tutoring decisions, and spread the opportunity as fairly as possible.

At Third Space Learning, the majority of pupils that schools choose to put on the programme are eligible for pupil premium. We do also see schools who choose pupils that lack confidence, or who have been particularly impacted by school closures, but who aren’t necessarily eligible for free school meals.

4. Timetabling

Tutoring is best to take place during the school day. However, this doesn’t always account for the realities of schooling. Where practicality takes over, the timetable of tutoring usually depends on the availability of the pupil, teacher and tutor.

At Third Space Learning, our 1.30pm time slots are always the first to fill up and sell out, followed by 2pm and 3/3.30pm. Early afternoon and after school are our most popular time slots with the most demand from schools.

5. Well-planned curriculum provides strong foundation

Tutoring is at its most effective when used to support the delivery of a well-sequenced curriculum that provides lots of opportunities for recall and practice. When pupil knowledge gaps are clearly identified, a high-quality, personalised tuition programme can help to close those gaps to promote success in the classroom.

At Third Space Learning, all of our lessons follow the same structure and are mapped to diagnosable gaps:

  • Let’s learn
  • Follow me/your turn
  • You do
  • Go further
  • Let’s explore this more
lesson slide
Application in Third Space Learning’s online tuition: Creating a number with specific values

Read more: KS2 Lesson Structure

6. Quality of tutors matter

Tutoring is ultimately more likely to be successful if the tutor has a good subject knowledge and an understanding of pedagogy i.e. how to transfer their subject knowledge in the most effective way.

At Third Space Learning, our effective tutor training includes:

  • A well-structured training programme;
  • A rigorous recruitment process;
  • Extensive training on the UK curriculum;
  • Adapting and personalising lesson content;
  • Building empathy and rapport;
  • Emphasis on active pupil-centred teaching;
  • Assessment for Learning;
  • Continuous professional development.

7. Collaboration

Tutoring is about collaboration between all parties. As well as the obvious tutor/pupil relationship, the tutor/qualified teacher and the school/tutoring provider relationship are all integral to the success and value added of a tutoring programme.

assistant headteacher quote

8. Pupils overwhelmingly positive

While senior leaders might not always be clear about the impact of tutoring, pupils are usually overwhelmingly positive about their tuition experience when it comes to improved confidence and increased participation. The metric for tutoring ‘impact’ is more complex that x number of pupils achieving a particular grade.

student quote

Read more: Why Schools Choose Third Space Learning

Tuition Partners facilitate the quality of education

National Tutoring Programme approved tuition partners, such as Third Space Learning, listen to schools about how best to support their pupils.

Tutoring should not be treated as a ‘bolt-on’ but rather interwoven into the fabric of a school. At the National Tutoring Summit, attendees heard about how tutoring could be successfully embedded from Simrat Mavi, Deputy Headteacher at St Giles C.E. Primary School in the West Midlands, who use Third Space Learning to support 90 pupils per week in maths.

This focused on:

  • Packaging assessment to demonstrate impact;
  • Investing time and energy in the greater good of pupils;
  • Emphasising the link between tutoring and the curriculum.

Read more: St Giles Case Study and How to choose your tuition partner

In the Q&A portion of Sandy’s Ofsted workshop, an important distinction was made between narrowing the curriculum and short-term prioritisation to plug gaps, especially where gaps are acting as a stepping stone to access further content.

Tutoring is predicated on the quality of a school’s curriculum. Tutoring cannot make up for the deficits of a weak curriculum, and is only ONE of the means by which schools deliver the curriculum. These two areas must work harmoniously together for tutoring to be as successful as it has the potential to be.

During our second day of the Ofsted inspection, one of the inspectors observed a Third Space learning sessions and was so impressed that she actually phoned Third Space Learning that day and introduced their one to one tutoring in her school.

Headteacher, Trent Church of England Primary School

Tutoring is now part of the furniture

Despite the lack of explicit reference to ‘tutoring’ in the school inspection handbook, it’s clear that Ofsted is now invested in what’s going on in the tutoring space.

There is no indication that tutoring will be further added to the handbook anytime soon, but continues to be implicit in Sandy’s training of Ofsted inspectors.

Ofsted continue to independently review tutoring, focusing on the development, wider impact and sustainability of tutoring in the education system.

Watch this space!

Further reading:

Third Space Learning Upsell Section


Every week Third Space Learning’s specialist school tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1 to 1 maths lessons designed to plug gaps and boost progress.


Since 2013 these personalised one to one lessons have helped over 150,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians.


Learn about the scaffolded lesson content or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.


FREE Ofsted Deep Dive Questions: Preparation And Discussion Framework

Questions are taken from those that have turned up most frequently in recent Ofsted Deep Dives, as provided to us by teachers from inspected schools, following the current Ofsted Education Inspection Framework.

Many of the questions apply across other subjects - not just maths!

Download free