schools in the north of England have shown less interest in a tutoring catch-up program than in the south, a government official said.
Graham Archer of the Ministry of Education (DfE) said the National Tutoring Program (NTP) adoption has been slower in areas where tutoring is viewed as a "less normal part of academic life".
The program, designed to teach disadvantaged students, is part of government plans to help children catch up on missed learning due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It enables schools to access heavily subsidized tuition fees through a list of partners, and to help those in the most deprived areas employ academic mentors to provide intensive catch-up support.
Mr Archer told the Education Committee on Tuesday that there is mixed interest across the country in the NTP that schools must register for.
"We're seeing a slightly slower spread in – I believe – areas of the country where tutoring is seen as a less normal part of academic life," the DfE's director of qualifications, curricula and extracurricular activities told MPs.
"It's essentially slower in the north than in the south."
He said the DfE was "working closely" with tutors, schools and local authorities in these areas and using regional teams "to spread the word about the benefits of tutoring for these students".
So far, around 150,000 children have signed up for the program, Archer told the committee.
He said the DfE had plans to increase that number to 250,000 this school year and expected the number to "rise sharply" as more children return to school next month.
The government recently announced Sir Kevan Collins as its new commissioner to restore education. His job is to oversee plans to help children catch up on missed learning due to the pandemic.
Most students were told to stay home from last March to early June when some grade groups were allowed to return to the classroom in England.
While all students were allowed to return from September to December last year, children had to learn remotely when asked to self-isolate as close contact with a coronavirus case.
Schools went online for all but vulnerable students and children of key workers in early January. All students will be allowed back on March 8th.
In June last year, Boris Johnson announced a £ 1 billion plan to help students in England make up for lost study time after months of school closings.
He said £ 350 million would be spent on the NTP in the 2020-21 school year to help the most disadvantaged students, while an additional £ 650 million would be shared between schools to help children of different backgrounds who missed classes to have.
Last month an additional £ 300 million in new money was announced for early age tutoring, schools and colleges to help children catch up.
This is happening amid speculative catch-up plans for students who missed studying due to the coronavirus, including summer schools, extended school days, or shorter summer vacations.
Sir Kevan, the new tsar for restoring education, called the government's £ 1.3 billion catch-up package a "good start".
Additional reporting by PA