University of Birmingham School is a school situated on the outskirts of Birmingham. Our “multi-nodal” admissions policy means that our pupil cohort comes from a wide range of areas across the city. We are proud of our diverse intake of pupils, with 36 different ethnic groups represented across the school. 35% of our pupils attract funding for free school meals with 39% eligible for the pupil premium, so our demographic of disadvantaged pupils is above the national average. We are a popular offer for families of children with SEND. 5.3% of our pupils have an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP); amongst the highest in the local area and indeed nationally for a mainstream school. Attendance is in line with national, at an average of 96%.
In spite of relatively good engagement with our remote provision, virtual teaching is not the same as face to face. The level of personalisation is far weaker and the ability to rigorously assess what pupils know and understand is more challenging. This has resulted in pupils missing out on sections of the curriculum and misconceptions creeping in. Whilst we are working hard to assess pupils’ needs now they are back in school, time constraints mean it is impossible to recover all of the lost learning.
On the whole, we have been impressed by the resilience and flexibility of our pupils. However, it is noticeable that for some, they have lost their confidence in their academic abilities. The small group nature of the NTP does allow for highly personalised support and an opportunity for tutors to rebuild some of this confidence in those pupils where this has been impacted upon.
We have not utilised the use of a tutoring partner previously, primarily because we have conducted tutoring in-house. We employ a Literacy and Numeracy coach, who coordinates and leads the academic interventions we run.
We heard about the NTP through the national media and were keen to explore further the opportunities the NTP may offer.
Since we returned to school in September, it was clear to us that a significant number of our pupils would need additional support. There is a limit to the level of personalisation that remote learning can provide. Hence we knew that we needed to expand the capacity we had in school towards tutoring. The NTP was the natural place to go! Some of us were a little nervous at bringing in external tutors because we were keen to ensure those working with our pupils knew their needs and could meet these best. We were keen to ensure that we had consistent tutors who would really get to know our pupils. We’re delighted that this has been our experience!
The process of searching for and finding tutors was extremely easy and efficient. As soon as the request was submitted to Connex Education Partnership, an online meeting was arranged to discuss our needs. Tutors were organised to attend school within a few weeks of our request.
Connex Education Partnership
We chose Connex as our NTP Tuition Partner because we were keen to ensure our tutors were qualified teachers.
They began working with us in December 2020 in school. We did conduct some remote tutoring in the second home-schooling period, but we have preferred the face to face tutoring because the level of support which can be given is much more effective, personalised and nurturing.
To date, 82 pupils have engaged with our tutors in English and Maths from Years 7 – 10. We are about to engage a Science tutor also. We have had hugely positive feedback from parents and pupils alike. Many have asked to extend their intervention hours. Comments tend to focus on the highly personalised academic support offered as well as the increased confidence the pupils have gained.
We have one academic mentor who joined us in February 2021, and we’re very grateful to have her support. She supports us in Mathematics, and is teaching small groups of pupils in Years 9 – 11. She also helps pupils in lessons, but most of her time is spent taking small groups out to provide a greater level of personalised support. Furthermore, she can identify the areas pupils have struggled with throughout remote learning and offer support with this.
62 pupils have received support so far. It is difficult to provide empirical evidence at such an early stage, but we have had many comments from parents and their children outlining how much they have benefited and how their confidence has grown in Maths. Many are prepared to attend sessions before school, which is a testament to their enjoyment and commitment!
Advice and feedback
I’d advise other school leaders to invest in establishing an effective relationship with the tutors. Furthermore, engage and involve parents; this is crucial in order to ensure pupil engagement.
The other day I bumped into some Year 10 pupils, who don’t always positively engage with school. They have requested tutoring, because they have heard from others how positive it is. It certainly made my day!
University of Birmingham School is accessing subsidised tutoring with NTP Tuition Partner Connex Education Partnership. They also have an Academic Mentor, recruited and trained by Teach First.