When I joined the school in 2018 they had just been brokered from one academy trust to another. At this time a number of children left the school which affected our budget. Our pupil premium proportion is now about 40%, up from a third since the beginning of lockdown in March. We have a lot of English as an Additional Language (EAL) children too.
We’ve been lucky, we haven’t had any positive Covid cases yet, we haven’t had to close any bubbles which has been amazing. Throughout lockdown, in June and now, teacher morale has been really high and we’ve bonded more as a result of the experience.
During the June lockdown some staff had to shield at home whilst some were working in school – those at home were planning for those in school. It was strange but everyone was desperate to do something to be useful.
Our attendance is now nearly 96%, which is absolutely incredible. Two families in particular were very nervous about coming back to school, but we worked with them and they both did come back, which is great.
Since I’ve been here the school has never used tutoring in any way, shape or form. It wasn’t a thing I knew existed in a school context, just something that parents paid for after school or at the weekend. Costs made it quite prohibitive really.
It was only when the Government’s catch up funding was announced that I thought about it. We do things in-house normally. We would do interventions with a group before or after school, but we’ve never thought to outsource it to a company before.
I thought it was great when I first heard that there would be two funding pots, one to help with catch up after school closure and one for the National Tutoring Programme.
I just thought that’s absolutely brilliant.
I read the EEF report that had talked about the tutoring pilots and how successful they had been. I saw Action Tutoring had been mentioned in the EEF report, and a colleague on LinkedIn recommended them as well. So I thought, right, I’m going to jump on this quickly because there might be a limited capacity. I contacted them straight away.
We’ve got a group of pupil premium children that we knew would be needing support. Even though we have a small cohort we are still dealing with the legacy of the previous trust.
It was incredibly easy to navigate the NTP website, engage with Tuition Partners and set everything up. I made an inquiry and within a couple of days I had Zoom call with Leo from Action Tutoring who explained how it would work and what the costs would be.
I was hesitant at first because I wondered ‘How much is it going to cost?’, but when they told me about the cost and the subsidy, I just thought that was incredibly good value for money. As a charity they pay for two thirds of the cost leaving us to pay just one third.
I had a discussion with my senior leadership team about whether it would work, and got approval from the governors. And I said yes to Leo.
And then it literally just happened. I handed it over to my deputy who’s in charge of Key Stage Two.
We decided to focus on maths tutoring because that’s the area the cohort needed. It’s harder to catch up on historic gaps in mathematical knowledge.
I just thought the scheme was a no brainer, really, because it’s such good value for money and really targeted.
They did a baseline, then the next week, it just started. The tutor comes every week and uses our laptops and brings the headphones. There were a few hiccups on day one, you know, with IT, that kind of thing. Otherwise, it’s been very smooth. Excellent in fact.
My advice for anyone considering using the NTP? I would just say, definitely do it. It’s excellent value for money.
We had one child who was quite nervous about doing it (tutoring). So we encouraged him to stay and then he absolutely loved it. Now he is engaging weekly, the children are really enjoying it and benefitting.
I’m really thinking we might be doing this again next year because the children absolutely love it and are really engaged with it. But the parents love it as well. It’s basically free tutoring for them.
Action Tutoring are working with children in year 6 until the SATS in May, then they will work with children in year 5. In theory, if we can afford it, we will continue tutoring with those children as they move into year six because, I think, covid is going to have a longer-term effect on children just beyond this year. It will cost about £5,000, but I think its real value for money.
This is really good value for money in terms of the number of children that it’s hitting, as an after school booster or additional intervention on top of the quality first teaching they get during the school day. So I think tutoring is real value for money.
Melody Berthoud is Head Teacher at South Norwood Primary School, Croydon, London. The school uses Action Tutoring.