We are an oversubscribed one-form entry primary school within a town with a growing population. As a faith school our catchment area is wide and varied but during the past seven years the numbers of children joining our school who do not speak English as a first language has increased.
Although we have low pupil premium and SEND, we currently have 48 per cent of pupils who have English as an additional language (EAL). Developing and delivering a curriculum into which children are immersed in high quality language opportunities and vocabulary development is challenging when children and parents speak a variety of languages at home, but our diverse community is something we are very proud of and we celebrate at every opportunity.
We are not unique in the challenges Covid-19 has presented for our school. Each and every school is under immense and growing pressure to ensure all children have the opportunity to progress in their learning and thrive despite attendance restrictions.
When the children returned after the first round of restricted attendance in Summer 2020, we noticed a decline in language competency for many of our EAL pupils. Although not our only challenge during Autumn 2020, language acquisition and competency has a marked impact on all areas of the curriculum as well as listening and attention. We prioritised speaking, listening and vocabulary development throughout the school, alongside daily reading and discussion for all pupils.
Accessing the NTP
We have never considered using tutoring as an intervention within school before. The cost has always been a barrier, so we have prioritised using in-house staff expertise and research-led interventions.
When I heard about the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) I was intrigued. The possibility of additional tutoring, at a subsidised price, was appealing as it would allow us to target individual pupils for accelerated progress. This would be an approach in addition to, not in replacement of, our current practice.
Initial assessments of the children as they returned to school in the Autumn identified gaps in their learning with many children operating up to 12 months behind. Teachers and support staff were already working at capacity to provide interventions so engaging with the NTP appealed as it offered a structured approach led by an NTP Tuition Partner without impacting on established interventions.
Our experience with Tute has been positive. Class teachers were able to engage with Tute to identify the gaps in learning they wish to address which has ensured the tutoring provided reinforce classroom learning.
When schools entered a further period of restricted attendance in January 2021, I was concerned those pupils learning from home would not be able to continue with their learning with the NTP. However, Tute were quick to reorganise the permissions and the home-learners began accessing their tuition lessons that very week.
It is a little too early to measure the impact on our current cohort of Tute pupils other than to say the children are engaged and enjoying their lessons. They look forward to them each week.
Catherine Whatley is the headteacher at St John the Baptist Catholic Primary school in Andover, a town in Hampshire. They are using Tuition Partner Tute.