Catching up with small-group tuition and TV lessons
Small Group Catch Up Tuition

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With a second lockdown looming across England, teachers are yet again carrying an extraordinary load as the country is still trying to process the damage caused by school closures during the Spring.

Before Covid-19 hit, the government was already promising to ‘level up’. Then schools had to close to all but a few students. It’s not surprising that poor pupils were hit hardest, and it’s not surprising that the Gavin Williamson, the education secretary, is under even more pressure to reduce the learning gap. He’s set aside £1 billion for a catch-up scheme, and today’s news suggests that he’s not above accepting all offers of help…

Most teachers – and, since our home-schooling experience earlier this year, most parents too – are familiar with Bitesize, the BBC’s online education offer. From today at 9.00 am, CBBC will host an hour of dedicated programming for primary school children every school day.

The CBBC launch is in response to the Department for Education’s prediction that around 14% of England’s children will not be returning to school after half term. Using the TV channel it’s hoped that accessibility to the programming will be increased – especially in deprived households with limited digital capability.

At the same time, the new National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is opening its doors for business – both in-person, and online. The Education Endowment Foundation has selected 32 organisations (11 of which are not-for-profit) to deliver the scheme. Its chair, Sir Peter Lampl is delighted schools will be able to access high-quality tutoring: "For too long, low income pupils have not been able to afford tutoring” he said. "This is an important step in enabling them to access it."

The programme will provide 15,000 tutors to focus on helping the most disadvantaged pupils catch up. And they could be an interesting bunch. In addition to heavily subsidised tuition from an approved list of tuition partners, NTP will offer in-house academic mentors to provide intensive catch-up support. NTP personnel will range from post-graduate students to qualified teachers and volunteers – many who do not have qualified teacher status (QTS).

The scheme is not without its critics. Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said “it is severely constrained by the number of tutors available”. NTP aims to enrol tens of thousands of children before the end of the year, with more of the 250,000 target to be involved after Christmas – a drop in the ocean of the 1.4 million pupils who are eligible for free school meals.

NTP also adds a level of bureaucracy that some see as unnecessary. Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders is not against catch-up measures, but said “it would have been far simpler and quicker for the government to have given this funding directly to schools, alongside other catch-up money”.

Indeed, teaching unions are concerned that NTP  may offer a ‘cut price scheme’ which is compromised by its lack of commitment to QTS – and undervalues the skills and experience of the qualified teachers who may be employed by the programme.

In selecting its 32 approved tuition partners, NRP harnesses the expertise of a number of well-established education organisations. The Tutor Trust, founded in Manchester in 2011 announced today that it is thrilled to be part of the programme. The Trust’s co-founders Nick Bent and Abigail Shapiro said:

“The NTP puts rocket boosters under our mission of ‘transforming lives through tutoring’ across the North. We are doing all we can to support teachers and to help every child achieve their potential, despite family disadvantage or the impact of Covid”.

“The NTP puts rocket boosters under our mission of ‘transforming lives through tutoring’ across the North. We are doing all we can to support teachers and to help every child achieve their potential, despite family disadvantage or the impact of Covid”.

Every headteacher knows of students who would benefit from improved learning skills, better subject comprehension and increased confidence and providing access to small-group tuition and engaging on-line content are surely some of the ways to begin to reach them. However, we all know the challenges that 2020 continues to throw at us, and it may feel like there’s a great deal of ground to cover.

At Hourglass, we specialise in helping schools find the teachers they need for whatever vacancies they're trying to fill. Get in touch to see how we can help.