As schools prepare to return to full capacity in September, attention in secondary schools will turn towards the typical Year 11 interventions.
It feels as if there is more pressure on them than ever, given the push to close the gap that coronavirus has left in their schooling provision.
Reopening schools: National plan 'needed to create more school space'
But with staggered starts and reduced capacity at lunchtimes, maybe it’s time to consign the old-fashioned after-school GCSE intervention session to the bin?
The time-cost to teachers is enormous. Yes, it might be voluntary, and your staff might say they are happy to give up their time. But every minute spent planning and carrying out these sessions is taken away from something elsewhere.
And some teachers would even argue they’re not that effective, and the research seems to agree. An intervention-catch up culture undermines quality first teaching. We’re effectively telling our students not to listen the first time around because we’re going to cover it again in the summer term.
Webinar: how to plan to close the learning gap
So what do we do instead? We spoke to some school leaders about other approaches being taken to tackle the problem of ensuring all students are set to achieve.
The registration intervention
“We don’t have after-school or lunchtime interventions, instead, we have interventions during extended registration,” explains Susan Strachan, head of English at St Bernadette Catholic School in Bristol. “Students will be invited to sessions weekly to do small group work with an English or maths teacher.”
But why registration? Is it really any easier than getting students together after school?
Strachan says it is the captive audience and the guarantee that students are already in school that makes the difference.
“By holding it in registration, there are no picking up or getting bus home implications that you have after school,” she says. “We have extended registration for 25 minutes, so these are very short, very targeted bursts of teaching.”
1-2-1 tutor programme
Gareth Harris, principal at Beamont Collegiate Academy, introduced a tutoring intervention programme following a disappointing set of GCSE results.
“[We used to have] the usual after-school catch-up offered by teachers, run voluntarily,” he says. “Teachers would celebrate the numbers they had in an after-school class – it was a case of more bums on seats, the better the job they felt they were doing!”
Harris gave it a radical overhaul. He knew there was a strong evidence base that 1:1 tuition could be high impact, but he also knew it came at a cost.
After looking at the budget, Harris came to the conclusion that they could make it work by using pupil premium money, and stripping back costs elsewhere.
“Our vision was to offer the kind of private tuition that families and students in more affluent parts of Warrington take for granted,” Harris explains. “Our school serves the most socially deprived postcodes in the town meaning private tuition is not financially accessible for most of our families.”
The English and maths tuition took a joined-up approach with the normal class teachers. The programme has grown from one tutor supporting five students to 20 tutors supporting 60 students a week.
“[The tutors] provide tuition on Saturday mornings and some weekday evenings,” Harris explains. “Almost all of the tuition takes place on the school site, but we have also permitted our tutors to work with students at their homes in agreement with parents.”
Creating an extra lesson
Liam Davis is a former head of year at Woodside High School. He explains how, in order to do intervention properly, they needed to create more time in the school day.
“In Barnaby Lenon’s book Much Promise: successful schools in England, he mentions a programme where students did extra lessons in the morning and afternoon and it had boosted attainment in an under-achieving group,” explains Davis.
Using this as their inspiration, the school put together a group called "Key 30", made up of predominately pupil premium students who were underachieving in English and maths at the end of Year 10, based on latest attainment and progress data.
“We put these students all in the same tutor group, and they all started school each day at 7.40am, and finished at 4:20pm and were given extra lessons in English, maths and science in those morning sessions and other subjects in the afternoon,” Davis explains.
Teachers were paid to deliver these extra sessions, and senior staff oversaw the running of the programme.