Blenheim Primary School, Orpington
School stories

Blenheim Primary School, Orpington

Blenheim Primary School, Orpington

Ellie Salisbury is a Year 6 teacher and Maths Lead at Blenheim Primary. She shares why they are using NTP Tuition Partner Tute to deliver subsidised tutoring.

Context

Blenheim Primary School is in Orpington, Kent and is a one form entry school with 220 children. We currently have an IDACI score of 5332, putting us amongst the 20% most deprived neighbourhoods in the country. We have significantly high numbers of pupil premium children. 40% of children receive free school meals, the proportion of pupils that have English as an Additional Language (EAL) is 41%, higher than the national average, and we have children with high levels of mobility. About 20 per cent of the school are SEND so there are lots of barriers that we have to consider before we even start teaching in the classroom. These bring a number of challenges to our school, but as a school community we remain determined not to let that stop us. All of our children deserve the best educational experiences and we won’t stop in that endeavour. We continue to maintain our Good’ Ofsted gradings and serve as an important pillar of the local community.

Despite the challenges we face as a school, particularly with regards to improving pupil outcomes, our highly trained and committed staff base means that we are determined to ensure all of our children make excellent progress. As a school we have high levels of mobility and movement, and therefore it is extremely important for us to do as much as we can for individual children during the time they spend with us, however short or long that may be. The children of Blenheim deserve nothing but the best and so we have to have in place multiple, secure strategies which enable them to be challenged, to strive and to succeed which is embraced in our school motto.

Covid-19

The impact of two rounds of lockdown has seen a really significant drop in expected outcomes, compared to pre-Covid predictions. During the first lockdown there were significantly fewer children actively engaging in remote learning and there was a lot that was lost. This time round we were able to deliver live lessons with remote learning, which we didn’t do last time, and we set ambitious attendance engagement targets of 100 per cent. At the end of our most recent lockdown, our attendance in online learning was around 90 per cent. This was a huge improvement in comparison to the Spring of 2020, which is to be celebrated – but we were naturally disappointed we didn’t reach our target!

We do have a number of parents who struggle to read and/​or write, and understandably they find it tricky to support their children in their learning. Despite our best efforts, there was a small minority of children who we just couldn’t get through the screen to. That digital divide has highlighted a number of issues, not just access to devices, which the government and our Multi-Academy Trust (MAT) did help us with, but our office staff took a lot of time to help parents ensure their children logged on, typed in passwords and made sure their children were ready to learn each morning.

In this year we’ve delivered so much more. Rather than having one device per household, we have had one device per child. We’ve had laptops donated by parents, by the teachers, by families and so we have worked hard to get them supported so they don’t have access issues. We also had vulnerable children coming to the school to access provision with support staff. The whole impact is a lot more significant than we fully expected and therefore teachers are working extremely hard to design and provide the best recovery curriculum possible to ensure children make good progress.

NTP

We haven’t used external providers to deliver tutoring before, it’s just not something we could afford. Teaching and Learning support staff at the school have previously volunteered time to offer individual tuition directly; but nothing like this has ever been achieved, which is what’s great about using this external provider.

Our Executive Headteacher contacted me about the NTP and asked me to lead on delivering the tutoring programme at the school. Primary heads across the E21C MAT, which Blenheim is a part of, had identified Tute as their chosen partner and so I was paired up with Darren, and we went from there.

We sent out letters of interest and everyone came back and said Yes’. It was wonderful to see everyone jumping at the opportunity.

The parents are so relieved that this additional support is being put in place and together we are all grateful for the opportunity for extra learning and small group work. It’s something which we wish we could deliver ourselves of course, but logistically this isn’t something we would have been able to do, not on this scale. The whole set up has been fantastic from the start and the children are thriving.

Every child has come back differently from lockdown, so we can use the tutoring programme to focus on topics they haven’t yet grasped or previously found tricky during remote learning. We can build their confidence for learning more generally or we can focus on topics coming up for them using pre-teach methodologies.

Some of our children have come back to school and are flying ahead because their parents have been on furlough, for example, and have had the time to really work collaboratively with the school and adopted home education’ fully. But we have others whose experiences have involved them learning to cope with loss, significant change, parental mental health issues, family financial difficulties due to parental redundancies, alongside many other challenges which have come out of a year of national lockdowns. All the children have changed and have different needs, understandably, so we are doing a lot of work around reintegration and readjustment, but the NTP means we can really begin to target children’s individual needs which is paving the way for them to go on and flourish academically.

Tute

Since we first engaged with Tute, it’s been extremely busy! There is a lot to do because we are designing a curriculum for individual children. But I’m glad we can work collaboratively with the tutors and as teachers, our knowledge and formative assessments inform the tuition program. As the children’s class teacher, I knew what they needed and what groups they needed to be in, I wouldn’t want anyone else to do that. All the teachers feel the same about their individual classes and it’s great that we have that control and ownership of what’s being taught, even during tuition with an external partner.

The turnaround from signing up to the first session was extremely quick. Tutoring started within just three weeks and that was during school closures with remote learning provision in place. We were trying to organise the logistics remotely as well, which was of course a challenge but one we are delighted has paid off.

In terms of organising the groups in order to target needs, I’ve been able to group three children together with low confidence in Maths, for example, and explain to the tutors this is a group that needs confidence boosts, or three children who haven’t picked up a pencil in three months and say that these ones need to focus on writing. Having the opportunity to provide additional, tailored support beyond what is feasible in the classroom is a complete privilege.

I was expecting it to be a bit of an uphill battle encouraging the children to take part; they’d already spent so much time accessing remote lessons during lockdown, I had visions of me spending what’s left of the year convincing children to plug into a laptop again! But they absolutely love it and I’ve had nothing but amazing reviews from them. All of the children have shown such maturity and are also grateful for all of the support which they feel is going to be beneficial for them in giving them a better start when they move on to their secondary schools later this year.

Tutor support

Tute uses a OneDrive file in which they use learning trackers, so I can access those, and any teacher can access those to have a look at the trackers which is really useful. It’s easier than getting emails.

Being able to see the children’s data is really helpful. Tute has offered me a session with their data administrator to show me how to look at the cost breakdown, how to look at their attendance trackers and look at the more nitty gritty side of it.

Impact

I have a lot of parents come up and thank me for letting their child get involved in the tutoring, which to me seems really bizarre because it is a government initiative and as a school we continuously provide so much for our children. But they’re just grateful we’ve selected their child and they can access more than any of us could imagine. It is moments like this that make all the hard work worthwhile.

We have children who are very shy, who don’t speak in class and are anxious about learning in school, often stemming from parents feeling the same way from their own childhood experiences. Those children are actively engaging in the online tutoring because they can type answers and there is no expectation to speak or put their hand up. So their engagement is more than we would get out of them in the classroom as there is such little pressure.

Then we also have other children who are just low in confidence, who would look around the room and let other people answer. Now they don’t do that because they are in a small, safe place and can make mistakes, take risks and be confident without all eyes being on them. Motivation in learning has increased visibly.

Children have frequently said to me that they like that tutors encourage them to give things a go and help them when they get stuck, and they are recognising their own development as well. They are extremely reflective about the benefits of the tuition which has been fascinating for me to see.

Then we also have other children who are just low in confidence, who would look around the room and let other people answer. Now they don’t do that because they are in a small, safe place and can make mistakes, take risks and be confident without all eyes being on them. Motivation in learning has increased visibly.

Children have frequently said to me that they like that tutors encourage them to give things a go and help them when they get stuck, and they are recognising their own development as well. They are extremely reflective about the benefits of the tuition which has been fascinating for me to see.

Advice

I think if I had some advice for another school using the programme, it would be to consider enrolling some children who are in the middle, those unseen’ children, children who are doing well but would benefit from being in a one-to-one, or a one-to-two, tutoring session. It can bring the most out in them rather than just simply focusing on the children that are significantly above or below expected or that naturally distract a lot of your attention in class. The children who are always doing exactly what we want, but that we may unconsciously overlook. Programmes like this are an incredible tool to empower the children that we may otherwise take for granted.

The NTP is just the perfect opportunity to give those children, just that little bit extra. A little can go a long way after all.

Ellie Salisbury is a Year Six Teacher and Maths lead at Blenheim Primary School in Orpington, Kent. The school uses Tuition Partner Tute to deliver subsidised tutoring.

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