Uxbridge is a large secondary school with 1300 pupils in an urban environment. 58 per cent of pupils have English as a second language and about 40 per cent are eligible for pupil premium.
We are a diverse school and we have faced several existing challenges anyway, even before the first lockdown.
Engagement can be a bit of an issue for some of our students and, for some, remote learning during the first lockdown was just a step too far. Some of our students effectively lost that engagement with education. We kept in touch with all of our students in terms of wellbeing, but for a lot of them attending online lessons was just something that they could not do. Some couldn’t access online learning because of a lack of technology and some didn’t have suitable home learning environments. We provided a number of students with laptops, but others didn’t have Wi-Fi.
For a small group of our students, becoming stressed by the new environment was also a factor in what they were facing. Quite a few have specific needs and found it difficult to adapt to new situations. They just couldn’t create a new routine and drifted away from us a little bit so we had a number of students who effectively missed out on that entire section of teaching.
I liked Career Tree’s assurance as to the sort of the quality of tutor that we were going to receive. It was important to get a sense of the autonomy of these tutors as well because I wanted students to be able to build a relationship with their tutor.
I heard about the NTP in a webinar about how schools were spending some of the Covid catch-up funding and it was discussed a lot. I did a quick search, found the NTP website, stuck in our postcode and the rest is history.
To be honest, the process of choosing the right tutoring partner was a little like shopping for a car. I met with two or three different companies, in order to find the right fit for our school and the children.
Career Tree were a good fit for us as they asked us how the students were and didn’t try to sell us their business. They just cared about the type of students we have at our school. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with the other companies, I just didn’t get the feel that they were quite right for us.
I liked Career Tree’s assurance as to the sort of the quality of tutor that we were going to receive, they were all people who knew what they were talking about. It was important to get a sense of the autonomy of these tutors as well because I wanted students to be able to build a relationship with their tutor.
Ali at Career Tree has been very helpful. He has even identified where a student might have been in the wrong group, for whatever reason, and his communications are good. He was fantastic when, at short notice, we had to modify all of our initial plans and adapt given that we went into another lockdown.
For the subsidised tutoring, we are focusing on year 11 and we are excited about making use of the NTP to target individual students in a controlled environment. The majority of the pupils who we’ve put forward for tutoring are eligible for the pupil premium. Not all of them have missed out on their education but they had missed specific sections of their GCSE course.
The idea was to close the gap and fill in the knowledge they would need. All of this planning took place before we knew there was going to be another lockdown. We had arranged for it to start in the second week of January, so the tutoring had to be delivered online.
I read all the reports the tutors send through and it sounds as if they’re really building the confidence of the students, which is wonderful. That’s what we want.
I was struck by the irony that we were starting an online service for students who hadn’t coped well with online learning. But there was a different feel this time, a lot of the students were now able to access it and we had good uptake on it.
Now that students are back at school, the tuition is being delivered in school and we are seeing how our students like this compared to doing it at home. I’m quite happy with the progress that some of the students who’ve engaged with tutoring have made.
I’ve noticed the engagement levels of my students who have been accessing tuition and they seem as confident as the students who have been taught first time.
I read all the reports the tutors send through and it sounds as if they’re really building the confidence of the students, which is wonderful. That’s what we want. One of the silent impacts of this year is the knocking of students’ confidence. They don’t know what they’ve missed and there’s a fear of the unknown. They assume everyone else has made huge progress, and they haven’t. So we are trying to spell that out and make them realise that they can make progress . With the exam system changing again, that confidence is going to be key, we need that. The students feel special because they’ve been chosen to do this, which is really encouraging to see.
I’ve seen in the press about the continuation of the NTP, and I think this is a fantastic thing. Tuition for a lot of these children and their parents is well outside their scope, there is no way they would ever be able to afford it. So being able to give it to them is lovely, and the school couldn’t afford it otherwise. It’s a fantastic programme.