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Stoke Damerel Primary Academy, Plymouth

Sam Smith is the headteacher at Stoke Damerel Primary Academy. She shares why they chose to access tutoring from NTP Tuition Partner Teaching Personnel.

Context

Stoke Damerel is a two-form primary school in Plymouth, part of the Reach South Academies Trust. The school itself sits in the city centre of Plymouth and has a mixed demographic.

The school is 32 per cent pupil premium, 13 per cent with English as an Additional Language (EAL) and 11 per cent have some sort of complex SEND. We are supporting aspirational middle class families, children with layers of vulnerabilities, often both SEND and pupil premium and we have many children who have multiple needs.

I’ve been the head for two years and when I joined the school was achieving below the national average, but since I’ve been here we haven’t had SATs, so it is hard to know how we are doing to some degree. But our own data shows rapid improvement and the school is beginning to move above national average achievement.

It’s the most clear moral purpose I’ve had for a long time in education. These children cannot become the casualties of this situation.

Covid-19

When children came back from the first national lockdown we carried out some baseline tests to see what the impact had been. From the point they left in March, they were on track to achieve at or slightly above the national average. After lockdown they came back with a 15 per cent decrease in Key Stage Two (KS2), and possibly a 50 per cent decrease in Key Stage One (KS1).

The youngest children came back with significant reduction in learning because a large percentage of their education had been missed. They were still working on fundamental learning skills, learning how to read and learning how to do mathematics. In KS2, they’d come back with less loss, but it was still significant.

The impact on children on their learning in each subject is different, and each age group is different. Other headteachers have said to me that there has been more of a regression in maths than English. Maths relies on a sequential learning style, so lockdown has meant then building blocks were not learnt as robustly. As a headteacher, you have to plug those gaps.

It’s the most clear moral purpose I’ve had for a long time in education. These children cannot become the casualties of this situation.

The younger children were still learning initial sounds. If you haven’t got your sounds, and you haven’t been building your phonetic knowledge, you have a gap, which is stopping you achieving fluency. We increased the amount of reading from what we normally do, which is five sessions a week, to eight a week. We just doubled the amount we did to catch them back up, which worked

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about the NTP, but it just seemed like a no brainer, so I knew we needed to get in fast and get the programme going. I proactively contacted a couple of Tuition Partners and asked what they would be delivering. From that point on the conversation was pretty straightforward.

NTP and the recovery plan

External tutoring hadn’t been previously used by the school, it just wasn’t in the psyche of the system. I know it is used to get children ready for secondary school, but not as a general provision for disadvantaged children.

I can’t remember exactly when I first heard about the NTP, but it just seemed like a no brainer, so I knew we needed to get in fast and get the programme going. But I was very aware of making sure the quality of provision was good enough. I proactively contacted a couple of Tuition Partners and asked what they would be delivering. From that point on the conversation was pretty straightforward.

Our rapid implementation of a schools-based catch up plan and the NTP, just starting in the first term, meant that we probably caught up about ten per cent in most subjects in KS2, and about 20 per cent in KS1 through lots of intense focus on specific areas.

One of the main reasons we started with the NTP as quickly as could, is we knew the children with those multiple vulnerabilities were most at risk of regressing again in another lockdown. We wanted to get them into tutoring, get them supported and ready to be able to learn.

The Teaching Personnel tutors were working online. They could have come into school, but we were aware of the risks of doing that, so we set up bespoke two-to-one tutoring online throughout lockdown and for children who had to self-isolate. There was intensive support in place for the children who had regressed and had multiple vulnerabilities.

It’s been excellent. The school has done a lot of work to make the process very strong but the quality of the tuition Teaching Personnel are providing is excellent

Quality of tutoring

I contacted several people who used to be in teaching and asked them if they were thinking of getting back into teaching to help children that had been affected by the pandemic.

I just said, ​‘Look, my kids need you’, and I put them in touch with Teaching Personnel. I knew I had the quality of delivery; I knew I had strong teachers.

It’s been excellent. The school has done a lot of work to make the process very strong but the quality of the tuition Teaching Personnel are providing is excellent.

Tutor/​teacher collaboration

We did a large amount of work looking at the children’s tests from the autumn term, doing a gap analysis to see exactly what they couldn’t do, and then pairing the children very carefully with tutors to work on the appropriate gaps.

Then the teacher met with the tutor and planned what they would cover.

The tutors then drew up an outline of what they teach. In the first week they worked with the children. I regularly dropped in to check the quality of work, to see how the tutors were delivering it.

Impact

We have nearly 83 per cent attendance on all online sessions.

I know anecdotally that the parents love the tutoring happening. The children are very, very keen to go to it. For some of the children, when we look at our virtual participation registers, they might not be doing much else, but they always go to their tutoring.

We work very closely with the families to make sure the children are attending their tutoring sessions but that’s what it takes to get 85 plus percent attendance. It doesn’t just happen. You have to work at it, but the parents have responded very well to the tutoring.

There is this absolute moral certitude that the children have to be given everything to stop them being the casualties of the pandemic. It’s not okay for them to suffer. For a six-year-old to be a casualty of this situation is not okay. So there is this absolute moral imperative, that the money from the government for ​‘catch up’ has to be put to use to help children with their learning.

Advice for other schools

Don’t wait for it to be perfect, just get going. The children are in lockdown. They need something to be happening for them.

There is this absolute moral certitude that the children have to be given everything to stop them being the casualties of the pandemic It’s not okay for them to suffer. For a six-year-old to be a casualty of this situation is not okay. That child who wants to get into grammar school doesn’t get to go, because there happened to be Covid-19 that year, is just not acceptable. So there is this absolute moral imperative, that the money from the government for ​‘catch up’ has to be put to use to help children with their learning.

One parent of a child enrolled in the NTP has said:

“Thank you for all your hard work. I’m really impressed with all the support that’s been offered to my son and how hard you all work.”

A key worker parent has said:

“I’m so proud to say my boy goes to Stoke Damerel. I think you’ve done an outstanding job in looking after the children through this time.”

Stoke Damerel Primary Academy in Plymouth are accessing subsidised tutoring with Teaching Personnel. Schools can find tutoring for their school here.

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