In recent years a number of initiatives and reports have made the case for more equal access to quality tutoring, and trialled new ways of delivering quality provision. But until now, there has not been a concerted national effort to bring quality tutoring to students from less wealthy backgrounds.
With Covid-19 and school closures widening the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers, targeted catch-up interventions will be crucial. Tutoring will be a key tool for teachers as part of this response.
The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is a rare opportunity to reshape access to tutoring in England, making high quality tutoring accessible to schools to help disadvantaged students whose education has been so severely disrupted. At Nesta we are pleased to be a part of this sector-led collaboration, working alongside the Education Endowment Foundation, Impetus, the Sutton Trust and Teach First, and in partnership with the Department for Education.
The NTP will deliver this in two ways. Through Tuition Partners, delivered by the EEF, high quality, subsidised tutoring will be made available to schools through an approved list of quality providers. Academic Mentors, provided by Teach First, will serve as full-time mentors and be employed by schools to deliver subject-specific work (both one-to-one and in small-groups), revision lessons, and provide support to pupils who can’t attend school.
This isn’t just about a short term solution. Our aim is that this sector-led, government-funded programme will leave a lasting legacy in the system, so that the way tutoring is accessed is reshaped, and more disadvantaged students can benefit from its proven impact over the years ahead.
This idea of broadening access to high impact tutoring isn’t a new one. For many years the Sutton Trust has published research exploring the nature of the tutoring market and its inequalities, and has proposed new approaches to expanding access and guaranteeing quality provision.
Evidence that tutoring can have a strong impact on academic success has been illustrated extensively: if it is implemented effectively. It is crucial that tutoring carefully targets specific student needs, in close collaboration with teachers, and is delivered by skilled tutors. The NTP has been designed with these principles at its core.
Nesta has a history of backing ideas in this sphere, having worked with the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport over the last 5 years to develop and grow the reach and impact of social action innovations. This has been across a range of fields from employment to health, but included a key focus on expanding access to volunteer tutoring, including testing online tutoring approaches through the Click, Connect, Learn Fund.
The NTP will draw on both volunteer and paid tutors, but there is clearly an excellent opportunity to tap into the huge numbers of well qualified volunteers keen to help young people in light of the pandemic. In the first few weeks of the NTP website being live we have had thousands of skilled potential tutors and mentors register their interest.
There is also the opportunity to scale a well-evidenced approach through digital means, bringing quality tutoring to students who need it most, no matter their location or subject need.
Online tutoring not only offers a short-term solution to social distancing and local lockdowns. It also offers a viable long-term solution for delivering quality tutoring to disadvantaged students in any school in the country, regardless of local tutor availability, as long as the right technology is in place. Through the NTP we aim to learn more about how online tutoring is best implemented to replicate the impact of face-to-face provision.
Of course tutoring is not a silver bullet. There is so much that must be done to help schools and students recover from the crisis, from academic catch-up to a concerted focus on mental health and wellbeing. But the NTP should be an important part of the sector’s response, and has the potential to leave a lasting positive impact on access to tutoring, and in turn on the attainment gap.