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News & Insights 20 July 2022

Leading a tutoring revolution in schools to close the attainment gap

Tutoring has been proven to be a tangible and time-tested solution to improving the academic outcomes of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

With the pandemic disrupting school years, many young people have continued to face learning loss and remain several months behind in catching up. Even more significant is the impact on children facing disadvantage; predictions from the EPI estimate the attainment gap could increase by as much as 75%.

A major intervention that can help students get back on track is tutoring — a transformative instrument for reducing long-standing disparities in the education system. The government’s flagship National Tutoring Programme (NTP), if targeted, resourced, and managed well long-term, holds considerable potential to bridge the attainment gap.

Nick Brook, the Deputy General Secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT sought the insights of education experts while moderating a panel discussion at the Festival of Education last Thursday on the evidence behind tutoring, the focus placed on it by the Government, and the future of the NTP beyond Covid recovery.

These experts included Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring, Sandra Hayes, Senior HMI of Schools and Early Education at Ofsted, Simrat Mavi, Deputy Headteacher of St. Giles C.E. Primary – a partner school of Action Tutoring,  and Ben Styles, Head of Classroom Practice and Workforce at National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).

Firing on all cylinders

Susannah believes the attainment gap has the potential to narrow if the National Tutoring Programme is reformed in light of lessons learnt this year, and scaled up to focus on more disadvantaged children.

“If we can get the NTP firing on all cylinders in its implementation this year, it can fight the effects of Covid on education and reduce the attainment gap in the long-term.”

When Nick’s asked if the communication of the role and benefits of the NTP to schools in particular has misfired, Susannah said that there still remains an opportunity for the NTP to send a clear signal to schools of its value and purpose by focusing resolutely on the needs of disadvantaged young people and schools.

“We must also appreciate the dedication of senior teachers and staff in schools for offering logistical support as that is vital for making tutoring a success,” Susannah added.

Valuing tutoring

Drawing on the recommendations in the recently released CfEY report – Levelling Up Tutoring, Susannah called for a paradigm shift in thinking about tutoring as a profession and not an interim step. This, she believes, will improve the reputation of tutoring and support its growth in the educational sector. 

Read the key findings and recommendations of the Levelling up tutoring report here.

“Tutoring shouldn’t be seen as a ‘stop-gap career’ but a valuable profession in the education system. We can create pathways between the teaching and tutoring professions to help resolve recruitment issues in teaching and support the growth of human capital.”

Nick backed this narrative with an explanation of the possible benefits of the tutoring and teaching professions as mutually supportive, with flexible career routes between both, to help strengthen our education system.

Sharing tutoring evidence

Talking about the promise tutoring holds for addressing the attainment gap, Nick called for greater information sharing about how it’s making its impact on young people. “We need to move knowledge of what’s really working in tutoring around the system so we’re guided by the best evidence for supporting children’s learning.”As part of the work of the NFER, Ben said they advocated for new research which is forthcoming from Ofsted later this year to support the evidence-building and buy-in of tutoring.

In support, Sandra said high-quality tutoring was essential to closing the attainment gap.

“Tutoring is quality, not quantity. It’s about genuine partnerships. It works best with the young person at its heart.”

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