A National Tutoring Service won’t cure this situation

An article has recently appeared on TES.com suggesting that now’s the time to introduce a National Tutoring Service – something to support those disadvantaged pupils who are falling further behind in their education.

The article was written by Lee Elliot Major, professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, Emily Tyers is a teacher of human science at Ivybridge Community College and Robin Chu is CEO of CoachBright.

My wife and I are tutors ourselves, so you might be forgiven for assuming we’d support such a plan, however, I’d suggest that such a scheme, a National Tutoring Service, sidesteps the bigger issues around teaching.

I’d posted a response to their article and have included it below – I’d be interested to hear what parents, teachers or tutors might think too.

Funding a National Tutoring Service

I wonder how the many tutors who are (or were being) paid for their services feel about the idea of replacing them in part or in full with volunteers, even on a temporary basis, since, as I understand it, voluntary work = unpaid work.

Also, be aware that if someone were to suggest to the Government a voluntary scheme, ie one for which they won’t have to dip into their totally depleted coffers, then I’m sure they’d be only to happy to give it their full backing.

Something which I see that Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, has already done.

The idea of using pupil premium won’t go very far since it would probably be the whole of a school’s year group that would require regular tutoring sessions – and I’m sure no-one is suggesting online tutoring for groups of 30 pupils would be achievable for NQTs, let alone battle-hardened QTS professionals.

Low uptake of online lessons

Mindful, however, as to the low uptake of online activities provided by their own schools (not a reflection on the teachers, but the stats show this) then I’d suggest that attempting to ‘fix’ the problem of poor maths and English attainment won’t happen by simply having a large group of online tutors sitting next to their laptops ready to help.

Oh, wait, we’ve already got 1,000’s of tutors ready to help (see my first para).

Best you ask them by how much has their enquiry levels risen since that’s going to suggest what level of uptake a paid-for service might generate.

I think you’ll discover that most haven’t been inundated by order of magnitude increases to their enquiries.

The article details a list of tutoring organisations and I wonder how many of the tutors who secure work through them would wish to take on voluntary work at the level this scheme would require in order to have any meaningful effect.

Oh, wait, that would mean we’d end up with a suite of full-time tutors underpinning the, er full-time teachers.

Improve in-school KS2 provision

Perhaps we should improve the KS2 provision so less tutoring is eventually required?

I know that might sound like I’m a turkey voting for Christmas, but I do honestly believe that improving the school’s services would be the best way forwards.

But in the arcane way that Government funding is allocated, I’m sure it’s easier to secure short-term Pupil Premium funding rather than increase salaries or teacher headcount.

One of the biggest problems with trying to ‘level the playing field’ is that many children (and by implication their parents) aren’t too bothered with putting in the time to facilitate that improvement.

So, unless we can improve a pupils understanding of maths and English whilst they’re still in KS2 they’re going to be stuck behind the 8 ball when they commence KS3.

Take guidance from those who are getting the best results

Rather than deride the top-performing schools and those state schools who have a reasonable percentage of their students achieving top passes, ask them what they’d suggest we do to fix the problem.

Might not like their answers, however.

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