To me, intervention has always been something that I’ve seen as marginally effective. It wasn’t until I moved schools that I realised the true value of teaching additional sessions outside of prescribed lesson time.
Recently, I came across an article by Mark Enser about why teachers should “say 'no' to revision sessions out of hours”, from December 2017. It got me thinking about why my views on intervention have changed.
Enser raises some really important points about the increased pressures that our profession is facing. He discusses the “race” to equip students with the knowledge they need to succeed in exams, and how out-of-hours revision sessions are helping to make teaching less sustainable.
However, referring to this as the “tragedy of intervention” is, in my opinion, missing the real reasons why some of us choose to put these sessions on for our students.
All about context
I agree that the teaching week should be sufficient contact time to teach the curriculum. However, I don’t agree that extra time outside of lessons is a negative activity for all teachers and pupils.
The school in which I teach offers intervention sessions throughout the year for all subjects. These are carefully mapped against exams, extracurricular activities and staff workload to ensure they are beneficial for students and manageable for staff.
To begin with, I didn’t understand the point of offering a voluntary two-hour session on a Saturday morning. But when we had a 90 per cent turnout, I quickly realised that these sessions weren’t about “additional curriculum time” for our students. Instead, they offered a recap of knowledge and an important extra bit of reassurance.
For some pupils, these sessions provide an escape from their home lives; for others, they allow additional structured normality; and for a few, they prevent them from getting into trouble elsewhere.
The fact that students valued their learning enough to turn up was a huge motivator for me, and what they took away from the session was instantly evident in their work.
I was sold.
How intervention is set up at a school makes a lot of difference to how sessions are delivered and received.
I feel that the targeted intervention of times past, where students are provided with what Enser calls the “constant safety net of additional classes” is the type of intervention that creates problems.
But by making intervention sessions more inclusive, we make them more valuable. I think the real key is making the sessions voluntary. Building this into school culture is a must and it takes dedication and commitment from staff to do it.
That said, I do not agree with asking teachers to work additional unpaid hours. We all joined the profession knowing that there would be “out of hours” marking and admin, but if you are in front of a class, there needs to be a level of remittance.
For me, the message about intervention isn’t whether or not it has value, but how to make the process fair for teachers; we should never feel pressured to work voluntary additional teaching hours. If schools are putting on additional sessions, teachers should be compensated accordingly.
Intervention always has to be context-specific. It’s not about an arms race; it’s about providing the right support for the students you teach, in a way that suits your school and you as a teacher. Saying there needs to be blanket ban on additional teaching is like saying we close the doors at 3.30pm and aren’t prepared to help after that. And that’s not the message I want to send.
Adam Riches is a specialist leader of education and lead teacher in English