Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg announced the initiative last week, pledging £500 for every year 7 student who did not hit the Level 4 benchmark in English and maths at the end of key stage 2 this summer – some 110,000 pupils.
The money is to be used for intensive catch-up tuition, but unions have said that qualified staff must lead the initiative for it to have an effect.
Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), welcomed the funding, but warned: “There must, however, be enough teachers in schools to be able to fulfil this promise. The previous government’s additional tuition pledge floundered because of a shortage of teachers. It is proven that interventions led by qualified teachers are more effective than those led by support staff.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, added: “We would stress that extra tuition should be delivered by qualified teachers and so any funds to provide additional lessons should be matched by funds for training and investment in those expected to deliver them.”
The NUT also said that the SATs at key stage 2 are to blame for some children falling through the net and that they should be removed.
Ms Blower added: “Schools have felt forced to meet floor targets by pushing the average pupils to Level 4 and have not always had the resources, despite hard work and the best intentions, to sufficiently support pupils requiring additional help in basic skills who may never reach Level 4. It should be recognised as a failing of the system rather than of primary schools or individual pupils.”