Success for tutoring programme

Derren Hayes
Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Amid concerns over national tutoring scheme, academy trust initiative improves poorer pupils’ outcomes.

Evaluation shows ACE has improved children’s outcomes in maths and reading. Picture: Freedomz/Adobe Stock
Evaluation shows ACE has improved children’s outcomes in maths and reading. Picture: Freedomz/Adobe Stock

Amid rising concerns over the impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged children’s learning and the effectiveness of the government’s education catch-up programme to tackle this, an academy trust has developed an approach that is delivering impressive outcomes for pupils.

For the past 18 months, The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) has been providing pupils entitled to free school meals with one-to-one time with a tutor trained to provide support to vulnerable or disadvantaged children.

Launched at the start of the 2020/21 academic year, TKAT’s A Champion for Every Child (ACE) pilot programme aims to help pupils overcome barriers to progress academically and in their social and emotional development.

The ACE programme was used with 500 pupils across seven of TKAT’s 45 schools in the South and East of England. This was 10 per cent of all TKAT’s children eligible for the pupil premium, which funded the initiative.

Improved outcomes

Independent evaluation of the programme shows it has improved children’s outcomes in maths, engagement with school life and motivation to learn, with much of this success put down to the high quality of the tutors’ training.

The success comes at a time when there are questions over the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), run by multinational company Randstad, which took over the contract in June 2021 from the Education Endowment Foundation. MPs on the Commons’ education committee were recently told that just 28,000 pupils had so far enrolled on the scheme – just five per cent of the 524,000 target for the 2021/22 academic year.

The Department for Education says the programme is on target and the 28,000 figure does not take into account the school-led tutoring arm of the programme, which is the largest component. Data will be published soon to update progress.

Under the scheme – in which the government has invested £500m – schools choose from a list of approved tuition partners and pay 25 per cent of the cost while the government picks up the rest of the bill, although the level of subsidy will reduce over the next three years.

The education committee is scrutinising the NTP as part of its short inquiry on the catch-up programme. Robert Halfon MP, chair of the education committee, says: “The outbreak of Covid-19 has been nothing short of a disaster for our children and young people in terms of a widening attainment gap, a worsening mental health crisis, a rise in safeguarding hazards and damage to their life chances. We know that those from disadvantaged backgrounds have been hit particularly hard.

“The committee will scrutinise the work of the government to date to ensure that education recovery is targeted towards remedying the learning loss caused by the pandemic, but also on improving wider aspects of mental health and wellbeing. Only then can we be sure that our young people are being helped back on to their feet to climb the ladder of opportunity.”

Recent research by the Education Policy Institute identified that primary aged pupils had lost 0.9 months learning in reading and 2.8 months in maths, with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds experiencing even greater losses – an additional 0.4 months for primary-aged pupils and 1.6 months for secondary-aged pupils by the summer term of 2021.

However, pupils on ACE bucked this trend. In the pilot schools, there was a “statistically significant improvement” in maths and reading levels for vulnerable pupils. In addition, there were significant improvements in pupils’ self-reported levels of goal-orientation, self-efficacy and motivation, while pupils’ engagement with school life also improved.

Karen Roberts, chief executive of TKAT, says: “Our vulnerable pupils benefitted from the additional one-to-one support they received during the pandemic. I was determined we would learn from this, to make a difference post-pandemic, from which the ACE programme was born.

“The ACE programme has been close to my heart and I am thrilled that we have seen such definitive results in just the first year.”

“While the improvements in maths and reading are great news, I am particularly pleased and proud to see that pupils also came out of the programme more goal-orientated and with greater motivation – for it is those attributes which will truly reap dividends in the future.”

Rollout extension

The multi-academy trust is now extending ACE to all 5,500 children eligible for pupil premium funding. “We are rolling the programme out across the whole Trust to ensure that every pupil, no matter their circumstances, overcome barriers, have the tools, and most importantly the confidence, they need to succeed in life,” adds Roberts.

The evaluation highlights the availability of support networks for tutors, good quality training and the personalised one-to-one nature of the programme as key strengths which should be built on as it is rolled out.

“The high quality of training and CPD support for tutors should be sustained, with particular attention [on] enabling tutors to share lessons with their peers and support each other,” it states. “This was one of the most appreciated features of programme implementation, and will be key to sustaining momentum of the programme as it grows.”

FURTHER READING

  • TKAT ACE Evaluation Summary, ImpactEd, November 2021

  • Understanding progress in 2020/21 academic year, Education Policy Institute, October 2021

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