As many schools and pupils readjust to online learning during this lockdown, it is understandable that some are sceptical of this new way of working. However, a major study from the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has revealed that online tuition can be a powerful tool to support disadvantaged pupils.
The EEF is delivering the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) Tuition Partners pillar, which offers subsidised face-to-face and online tutoring to schools from an approved list of 33 Tuition Partners. Since its launch in November 2020, the NTP has enrolled more than 100,000 pupils, and 14,000 tutors, and is working with thousands of schools to deliver tutoring, both online and in person where possible.
The EEF’s evidence, produced by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen), shows delivering online tuition can be an effective way to support the learning of disadvantaged pupils during partial school closures – if supportive measures are in place. The National Online Tutoring Pilot was commissioned by the NTP’s founding charities, and aimed to test the feasibility and promise of using online tutoring to support remote learning among pupils from low-income backgrounds. It was the first study to look solely at online delivery in England.
The pilot was delivered from July to October 2020 by four organisations with experience of tutoring children from disadvantaged backgrounds: Action Tutoring, MyTutor, The Access Project and Tutor Trust. The pilot reached 1,425 learners in 65 schools, with 9,800 tuition sessions delivered.
The independent evaluation by NatCen lists five key conclusions. Here are five key findings that show online tutoring is a powerful tool to help disadvantaged pupils learn remotely:
- Delivering online tuition during the period of partial school closures was feasible. Reach was high considering the circumstances and providers, schools, tutors and learners quickly adapted to what was a new learning model for most.
- Tutoring is popular. Only 6% of pupils involved didn’t like online tutoring at all, 52% enjoyed it a lot, 41% enjoyed it a bit (p16). Almost all (96%) of year 10 – 13 learners wanted to continue receiving tuition (p17). In addition, 90% of those that took part felt better prepared for exams and tests as a result.
- Access to equipment and reliable internet connections were key barriers to participation, particularly for home-based learners, despite the best efforts of schools. Almost half (48%) of schools reported lack of equipment as a challenge.
- Pupils enjoyed the tuition and there were perceived benefits for learning. All groups involved felt that learners benefited from the tailored support. They saw improvements in learners’ confidence, engagement with education and preparedness for the new school year. The overwhelming majority (87%) of learners said that, if they had the opportunity, they would like to carry on with their tutoring. Three-quarters (76%) said they enjoyed learning more than they did before.
- Investing time in building effective relationships between schools and families was crucial in supporting take-up and engagement. Building relationships helped tutors to motivate learners and tailor the support. Providers and school staff also worked to identify the best ways to secure parents’ and learners’ buy-in.
The findings from this independent evaluation demonstrate that the NTP can still support learning during school closures, with 29 of the 33 partners already delivering online tutoring to pupils across England. Whilst we know from the wider evidence that tutoring that takes place in school is most effective, the findings from this pilot suggest that online, at-home provision also has a role to play. The NTP is working with Tuition Partners to ensure as many pupils as possible can benefit from tutoring through the NTP during partial school closures.