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Is the Governments plan for Tutoring really the answer?

Recently the Government announced their plan of additional funding to help children recover from the lost learning time due to Covid (view here). Unfortunately however, the amount of money promised by the Government at £1.4. Billion, has fallen woefully short of the amount requested by the then recovery Tsar Kevan Collins.  Mr Collins had requested £14. Billion and as a result of only getting a tenth of the money, subsequently resigned. This is a massive blow as Mr Collins is well regarded in the education community as someone who can be trusted and who is not driven by politics but by research based pedagogy and teaching development.

The £1.4 billion promised has been described as a damp squib as it equates to £310  per pupil over 3 years, no where near enough to ensure children can recover. The amount also comes up woefully short compared to other advanced nations. America’s spend in this area is £1600 and the Netherlands £2500.

As a school leader I am not concerned with the amount of money but more concerned about the focus of the spend.  Is tutoring really the answer? I question whether, despite evidence of impact, this will have the impact the Government, Dfe and all school leaders want. I of course accept that tutors can have an impact on pupil progress of approximately 3- 5 months. However, I would like to see the contextual  factors that contributed to these outcomes. I am very doubtful that the impact was seen under the same circumstances as we are at this moment in time. Thousands of tutors are required to fulfil the requirement and I wonder whether supply can meet demand and if it does whether the quality will meet need. The Government have identified the funding will pay for 100 million tutoring hours. I just cant see where we will get enough high quality tutors to deliver this.

At Excelsior we registered for tutors and academic mentors but have really struggled to get people through the door and when we have managed to get tutors we have then struggled with the quality provided. Although, this is very anecdotal it does lead me to wonder whether it is inevitable that too much of this money will go to waste. I hope I am wrong.

If schools were allowed to pay their own staff to provide tutoring and access this money I do believe we will ensure better outcomes because the staff will know the children and can be held to account for their work.

I am glad that £400 million is being diverted to schools for training and support. This in my opinion is  where maximum impact can be achieved. The concept is simple but the delivery more complex. If we make every one of our teachers extremely effective we will be successful in closing the gap.

‘Data suggests that low socio-economic schools that can offer students three consecutive years of strong teaching close the achievement gap, correcting for a host of external factors.’ Leverage Leadership 2.0.

It is excellent that teachers at all stages of their career will have access to world leading professional development. However, is this enough money to have a real impact. I would have liked to have seen the funding amounts reversed with more funding going to professional development and less to tutoring. I hope the decision hasn’t been influenced by what can most easily be measured rather than what can bring about long term sustainable improvement to the whole system. We at Excelsior are focusing heavily on the quality of our continued professional learning and the impact it is having. We are using Rosenshine as a basis and elements of instructional leadership to support this. We are absolutely driven to close the attainment gap for our children by making the teaching as effective as possible.

The future will hold the answer and I just hope that we wont be looking back in 5 years time thinking about what might have been.

Written by Jonathan Smart

CEO Excelsior MAT

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