Duke’s Secondary School, Ashington
School stories

Duke’s Secondary School, Ashington

Duke’s Secondary School, Ashington

Andy Blight is Assistant Principal at Duke’s Secondary School in Ashington. He explains why they chose to access tutoring with NTP Tuition Partner, MyTutor.

Context

The school is set in an area of quite high social deprivation, so we have high numbers of Pupil Premium and Free School Meal children. We are in the top ten per cent of deprived communities in the UK and so that brings a unique set of challenges. Obviously, we have to do a lot of extra work to try and improve outcomes across the board.

At the moment we have about 50 pupils coming into school, as children of key workers, and the rest are learning from home. The school roll is normally about 900 plus.

Covid-19

With Covid-19 there has been numerous challenges all schools have had to face. We had to respond instantly to the first lockdown. This time around we were much better prepared, we had structures in place and staff and teachers in school were more ready. We had contingency plans drawn up and everyone knew what was going to be doing.

There have been difficulties with the digital divide, which is obviously linked to social deprivation. We have had to make sure all pupils have access to a digital device to be able to do their work, so we obviously have some challenges as well. The school has responded to that by trying to make devices available and providing children with laptops. We have recently received some government laptops as well.

Cost has been the biggest blocker to using external tuition in the past, but the Government catch-up funding made using the NTP a no-brainer really. Without that budget it might not have been possible.

Learning disruption

The children’s learning has been disrupted and there has been a loss of confidence. Learning from home is completely different to being in school and having a teacher in front of you to give personal support.

The struggles working from home bring can come in numerous forms, because living in a large family you might not have a great working environment, which is not conducive to having a good structure to your day.

Tutoring

The school has never used an external provider to deliver tutoring. We have delivered it in-house, but never used a provider to come into the school and children have never had their own personal one-to-one tutor.

Cost has been the biggest blocker to using external tuition in the past. In an ideal world extra tuition wouldn’t be needed but we know some parents in the country can use disposable income to pay for extra maths tuition. In regard to where we operate, that very rarely happens.

Accessing the NTP

I first heard about the NTP via email and my first thoughts were that it sounded like a great idea in practice, but we needed to understand more about the logistics of how it would actually work and whether it would be suitable for the students in our school.

The Government catch-up funding made it a no-brainer really. Without that budget it might not have been possible. Unless you give things a try you will never actually know.

I’m responsible for raising standards and achievement at the school, but it was a team effort in identifying where those knowledge gaps were, liaising with faculty heads and doing a full strengths and weaknesses analysis for each individual child, so that the tutors can work with them in those areas of their study. The tutors structure the one-to-one study around those technical areas.

The support from MyTutor has been good and the process has been relatively straightforward. We registered the school, registered the pupils and then provided a spreadsheet with some key information, including where knowledge gaps were.

MyTutor

The support from MyTutor has been good and the process has been relatively straightforward. We registered the school, registered the pupils and then provided a spreadsheet with some key information, including where knowledge gaps were.

Once they had that information, they started to build a ten week, tailored, one-to-one programme for each child. It has been personalized and tailored to where each individual needs support.

Shifting from face-to-face to online

The intention was before Christmas, we were going to keep the thirty students on the NTP in after school to stay and do an hour of one-to-one tuition. But obviously with lockdown all of those students have had to do it from home. So, it wasn’t quite how we envisaged working out but we’ve had to respond to that.

Obviously when we were notified about lockdown in early January, we had to respond quite quickly to the parents and students to ensure they were reminded about the NTP. We had to make sure they had all the right equipment to be able to do it, just things like headphones and webcams, the things that we just took for granted had the tuition happened in school.

Early impact

I haven’t been able to speak and chat to the children much as they have been doing the tutoring from home, but when I have they have been really positive and receptive to the tutoring. The students have done four or five sessions now, and if they weren’t enjoying it and weren’t buying into it, our kids would have said after just the first session I’m not doing this anymore’! The vast majority are still on board which is great.

The students that I have spoken to, their self esteem levels and confidence has risen in certain areas. Having that one-to-one attention from a tutor, which they don’t get in school, that personalized support and the confidence that brings has projected itself across those on the scheme.

The students that I have spoken to, their self esteem levels and confidence has risen in certain areas. Having that one-to-one attention from a tutor, which they don’t get in school, that personalised support and the confidence that brings has projected itself across those on the scheme.

Advice to others

I would make sure you do due diligence into who the provider is, how they operate and find out about the logistics of pulling together all the information that is needed. I’d stress the importance of identifying the right students to target and those that will benefit from improved outcomes and filling knowledge gaps where needed.

Just this week we have decided to roll it out to our current year 10s. Our current year 11s are getting the tuition at the moment, but in February we will roll it out to another thirty students.

I wouldn’t be doing that if I didn’t think it was worthwhile.

Andy Blight is the Assistant Principal of Duke’s Secondary School, in Ashington, Northumberland. Mr Blight leads on Raising Standards and Achievement. They are accessing tutoring through NTP Tuition Partner MyTutor.

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