One-to-One - Change your perspective

26th March 2010 at 00:00
From pupils struggling with grades to schools tackling special measures, one-to-one has the power to turn performances around

The one-to-one programme has far-reaching benefits for school improvement, teachers' professional development and parental involvement, as well as for the pupils themselves, according to the schools which have participated.

A national survey of the pilot project has revealed that 75 per cent of teachers believed tuition had boosted pupils' progress. Yet the impact of one-to-one is not confined to individual pupils.

For one school which has emerged from special measures, one-to-one tuition is a valuable part of a whole raft of assessment and teaching strategies designed to lift achievement.

"We have seen a dramatic improvement in the skills of pupils receiving tuition," confirms Sheila McAllister, the deputy headteacher of Archbishop Beck Catholic Sports College in Liverpool. Mrs McAllister believes that one-to-one tuition sits well in the school's intervention programme, as well as with personalised learning.

Archbishop Beck, which has 49 per cent of its pupils achieving five A*-C grades (including English and maths), up from 29 per cent five years ago, is now rated as "good with outstanding features".

Rebuilding staff confidence and morale has been crucial; one-to-one tuition has contributed, as almost one-third of the teaching staff are also tutors.

"After being in special measures, we needed to build up the department," says Cathy Strode, the head of English. "The tuition sessions are held on Saturday afternoons at a hotel in the city centre, and staff see it as team building."

According to Mrs McAllister, close links between tutors and class teachers are a key element, encouraging discussion about learning styles and pedagogy.

One-to-one has opened up the school's dialogue with parents, too. There are meetings to explain tuition plans and parents dropping their children off on Saturdays often stay for a cup of coffee and a chat about their child's progress.

"My mother is made up for me because I'm getting my work done," says Jamie, a Year 9 pupil. Jamie thinks the sessions have been fun; he especially enjoyed the computer games but he is also more confident in class. "I feel more comfortable because I know that if I've got a question, the teacher will help me with it."

This improved engagement with learning has been echoed in schools across the country, and tutors in many schools have been bowled over by the rapid results.

"I had a Year 11 student last year whose mother was very poorly and who found school life very difficult," recalls Louise Ford, head of English at Norham Community Technology College in North Tyneside. "After one-to-one tuition, her GCSE grade in English shot up from a D to a B between Christmas and the summer."

Tuition has also massively improved pupils' attendance, according to Ms Ford - students stop missing school because they do not want to miss tuition.

"It's opened my eyes to how committed students are to their own learning," adds Ms Ford. "Many students are now asking if they can have tuition because they can see the difference it makes."

Linda Halbert, the headteacher at Norham, points out that pupils will often avoid lessons they find difficult, but tuition gives them the confidence to turn up and ask for help if they get stuck, improving learning and behaviour for the whole class.

Tuition has empowered parents, too, as they have the chance to discuss progress regularly with tutors, believes Mrs Halbert.

"Parents can better support their children, and they are delighted to be offered tuition," she says. "One mother told me that tutoring had previously only been for those who could afford it, and she wasn't going to pass up the opportunity."

One of the greatest benefits of one-to-one is the enhancement of teachers' professional development. Tutors are feeding gaps in pupils' knowledge back to teachers, who then review their practice, according to Jane Stanier, senior inspector for SEN and personalised learning in Dorset.

Danvir Visnavathan, headteacher at Fullwood Primary in Barkingside, Essex, is impressed by the improvements to teaching in his school. "Class teachers who are also tutors have become much more reflective about their practice, identifying how misconceptions have arisen and adapting what they do," he says.

Becky Hammond, an English teacher at Gosford Hill, finds tutoring very rewarding. "It gives you a greater understanding of students' reluctance about certain activities. Something you might see as 'simple', like using a thesaurus, they might not understand. You have to go back to basics."

Nina Lorenzini, a teacher and a tutor at Alamada Middle School in Bedfordshire, is convinced the informal nature of one-to-one helps her to spot misconceptions and boost pupils' self-esteem.

Pilot schools which have followed up one-to-one tutees have found that pupils continue to make good progress once tuition has ended. "The evidence is that once kids catch up, they keep up with their peers," says John Ramby, a governor who is a member of Hull's one-to-one steering group. "For some pupils, it's like switching on a light."



One-to-one tuition is popular with parents, pupils and staff at The Gryphon School in Sherborne, Dorset.

"The improvement in Jessica's confidence is so marked," says Stephen Jacques, whose daughter is receiving tuition in maths. "She used to be afraid to ask us anything about maths, but she came up with some questions about her maths homework last night."

Mr and Mrs Jacques were pleased when Jessica was offered tuition, seeing it as continuing evidence of the school's concern for their daughter's progress and welfare.

"If they are not gifted and talented or don't have SEN, you can feel that your child is overlooked, but this is something available for everyone," Mr Jacques says.

"It's helping a lot," confirms Jessica, who is in Year 8. "I'm learning new methods and I enjoy the subject much more."

Molly Edwards and Ben (pictured left) are receiving tuition in English. Ben is a very able student who needs to improve his writing skills.

"I've been learning how to use metaphors and more powerful verbs," he explains. "It's been very helpful in expanding my vocabulary."

Molly, who loves cooking, is comparing different writing styles in recipes by Nigella Lawson, her favourite celebrity cook, and Delia Smith.

The tutors, who are all teachers at The Gryphon, are also enjoying the programme, seeing it as flexible to students' needs and finding the rapid progress rewarding. The school is planning to double its tuition provision.

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