by Emma Morris, Assistant Principle at Carshalton Boys Sports College…
Following the unsettled school year our Year 9 and 10 students had experienced last year, with nationwide lockdowns and periods of year group bubble isolation, not to mention subsequent individual periods of isolation and staff absence, we made the decision to explore using tutoring to help some of them get back on track.
During lockdown, our remote provision had utilised Google Classroom. We included fortnightly reporting to parents about engagement, and our pastoral teams made regular contact with families, providing Chromebooks to those who needed them and offering support with a wide range of scenarios from family bereavements to helping to get their sons out of bed.
We felt our lockdown provision worked well as a whole, but we knew that not all students engaged with this style of learning.
Upon returning we identified that we had several groups of students: students who had engaged well with remote learning and made good progress; those who had engaged well but struggled to make progress; students who had not engaged but would be able to catch up quickly; and those who had not engaged and would need significant support in catching up.
The question that was on all of our lips – how can we best help these students? And was tutoring the answer?
Working closely with the learning coordinators of the different year groups, we identified 15 boys in each group who we felt would benefit from, and actually engage with, the programme.
Some boys were really keen to take part and others needed a bit of persuasion.
To make this as appealing as possible, we offered tutoring in groups of three (although we had one student who had had a very difficult time prior to lockdown, then experienced a bereavement during it, so we decided to offer him tutoring on a one-to-one basis).
We gave them the option of either a virtual session at 8am or an in-person session at 3pm, and allowed them to choose from a range of subjects.
Interestingly, they nearly all chose maths or science suggesting that they felt these subjects were the areas they had fallen behind with the most, rather than English.
I don’t think this was a reflection on the quality of remote provision in these subjects, however. Speaking to some of them, it was more about their general confidence in their skills.
We decided to use the tutoring service offered by Pearson and picked the units we wanted the tutor to cover in our sessions.
After setting up the students on the system in their groups, we very quickly started to get notifications that tutors had signed up to the blocks.
With each block basically becoming a job advert, we were receiving information on tutors that we knew were available – for one block in particular we had over 30 tutors to choose from, which was amazing, if not a little overwhelming.
Once we had picked the tutor we felt was right for our students, we started to arrange the sessions, it was that easy!
The sessions worked well, and although these were pre-planned, the tutors were able to adapt and tailor the sessions to meet the needs of our students. With each block including pre- and post-tests it allowed the tutor, students and us as a school, to track their progress.
We found this to be a really positive experience. We had 15 groups in total, seven took place in the morning and eight in the afternoon, with some groups having four sessions a week to fit them all in. Although, in hindsight this was a little too ambitious in some cases.
We tried to make the sessions engaging, providing breakfast for our morning groups and ice lollies for our afternoon ones. However, some students really struggled to stay engaged and attendance for some was patchy.
We used our main hall for the tutoring and spread the groups out around the space, with each student having a headset with a microphone and a Chromebook. This worked really well and meant that once the sessions were up and running we only needed one member of staff available to register them and supervise.
Students who engaged in the majority of the sessions were really positive about the programme. The results of the pre- and post-tests showed they had made progress, and they all said it had helped their confidence.
The student who had taken part in the one-to-one sessions only missed one session and made amazing progress, doubling his scores between pre- and post-tests.
Tutoring definitely worked for our students, so much so we are offering tutoring to over 60 students this year during timetabled private study sessions.
If you decide to try tutoring, here are my top tips:
- Set up a document with the students’ names on and liaise closely with the teachers of the subjects that each student will be getting tutoring in – a Google document worked well for me as I could record the working grade for each student in one place, which I then used as a base to choose the units I felt they would benefit from the most. From here, I could also sort the boys into their trios
- Take time to read the bios of the tutors who have put themselves forward, one may suit a particular student over another
- Use your staff – you will need to speak with all the tutors you decide to go with which in our case, resulted in eight tutors! As much as you would like to do them all, it’s not always possible. Use the other staff who know your pupils well to run some of the meetings for you
- Be prepared! Have some admin and IT support available for the first sessions. Most tutors will ask for the pre-tests to be printed off and then, once completed, scanned in and sent back to them, which can be time-consuming and fiddly. Students receive an email with a link to join the sessions which is straightforward, but having IT on-hand to help troubleshoot is a must
- Note the times and dates of each tutoring sessions. It’s worth looking carefully at the school calendar to ensure you avoid things like school trips, mock exams or even half terms. It sounds obvious but schools are so busy – we had planned a festival for the last week which really affected attendance to tutoring sessions
Whether you feel tutoring is the right answer for your students or not, it’s definitely something I would recommend fellow teachers to consider. It has worked wonders for our students, and it could do the same for your students too.