Students get further with maths and English tutoring

Students get further with maths and English tutoring
Date10th Jul 2023AuthorSarah WaiteCategoriesPolicy and News

Over three years have passed since schools and colleges across the country were first shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The students who are now about to enter colleges and sixth forms this autumn were in year 9 at this moment in time. They have spent most of key stage 4 in and out of lockdowns and navigating the fallout of the pandemic on their education.

Every year since 2020, colleges and sixth forms have admitted substantial numbers of young people who have gaps in their knowledge and skills because of what happened during the pandemic. Late last year, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) published a report warning of a widening disadvantage gap among 16- to 19-year-olds. Despite this, the Public Accounts Committee’s recent enquiry into education recovery only examined the ongoing impact in schools. Ignoring the post-16 sector’s vital role in helping young people to catch up on lost learning will do nothing to address the widening attainment gap and risks leaving an entire generation behind.

While the fallout of COVID-19 continues to affect colleges, this part of our education system receives less funding and fewer resources than school-age pupils. Both funding per student and funding to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds nosedive at 16. There is no 16 to 19 Pupil Premium. At present, 16- to 19-year-olds are funded to receive only half the number of timetabled hours as their peers in other leading economies.

The 16 to 19 tuition fund - announced 3 years ago in response to the pandemic - has meant that, for the first time, colleges and sixth forms have access to a ring-fenced fund to spend on additional interventions to help young people who have fallen behind. We know from robust studies both at home and abroad that tutoring is one of the most effective interventions in today’s education toolkit. The combination of personalised support, immediate feedback, and mentoring from a trusted person has a transformative impact on building confidence and closing gaps in knowledge. At Get Further, we see the power of intervening at this age first-hand. Our charity was set up to prove that 16 isn’t too late for young people to build their skills and confidence in the core subjects of English and maths. Our latest impact report demonstrates that after a term of tutoring, students make 7.4 times more progress in maths and 6.5 times more progress in English than the national average.

With these qualifications under their belt, opportunities for further study and work are unlocked. Gbemi, one of our student ambassadors, has now secured a university place thanks to passing GCSE maths. Kai, a student we matched to a tutor last year, progressed from a grade 1 to a grade 4 in GCSE English, and is now enrolled on a level 3 course at college. We hear hundreds of these stories every year about the difference gaining these qualifications has made to a student’s next steps.

Most of our tutoring programmes to date have been delivered in partnership with further education colleges. We recently expanded our partnerships to include other 16 to 19 colleges and sixth forms, such as the London Screen Academy and the sixth form at St Joseph's College, a secondary school. These partnerships have been just as successful as those in FE. This adds weight to the evidence that no matter the context, all young people aged 16 to 19 who need extra support to help them to progress benefit from one-to-one or small-group tutoring.

However, the 16 to 19 Tuition Fund is due to end in August 2024. We hear from colleges up and down the country who are keen to keep the fund and build on the interventions they have delivered since its inception three years ago. But without an extension of funding, the number of young people they will be able to support through tutoring will be sorely limited.

The potential of national tutoring policies goes much further than education recovery. Funding for tutoring in the education system rights a historic wrong that saw families on low incomes systematically priced out of tutoring support if their child fell behind. For the first time in the history of our education system, all young people who need it can now access tutoring interventions. These reforms should now form a fundamental plank of ongoing efforts to tackle the longstanding attainment gap. It is vital that the 16 to 19 tuition fund is extended and embedded, so that the progress colleges have made over the last three years for their students is not lost.

Sarah Waite is CEO and founder of Get Further, a tutoring charity focusing on English and maths resit students.

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