One-to-One - Meet the flexible friend that's got time for everyone

26th March 2010 at 00:00
Whether it's during or after the school day, at weekends or in the holidays, teachers are finding one-to-one is highly adaptable to pupils' needs

During the school day or outside it? Before or after lessons? In holidays or term time? Schools are free to run the one-to-one programme however they choose, making it easy to find tuition times that suit everyone.

A popular model is to schedule tutorials at the beginning or end of the day. But many schools also hold tutorials during the school day, especially in rural areas where after-hours transport can be tricky.

"It's very carefully planned, so that we take students out of a different lesson each week," says Karen Ball, a tutor at Heathfield Community College, East Sussex. "I also make sure they don't miss their favourite lesson, because you don't want them wishing they were somewhere else."

Weekend or holiday tutoring also has its fans. "Most of our tuition happens after school, but not every child is able to stay," says Peter Jenel, who teaches at Heptonstall Junior School, West Yorkshire, and also works as a tutor at nearby Shade Primary.

"I began running some Saturday morning sessions. The building is quiet, everyone's less tired and because the children don't have to wear uniform, they see it as something different. In just an hour you can achieve so much."

And it doesn't have to be "just an hour". At Halifax High School in West Yorkshire, tutor Bryn Moore, a retired head of English, sometimes schedules two or more sessions a week for pupils who he thinks will benefit. "In some cases, running tutorials close together can be very productive. The great thing about one-to-one is that you get immediate feedback from the pupil, so you can very quickly see what works best, and then build on that." Some schools are also looking at delivering one-to-one in large blocks during the holidays, for a more focused and intensive approach.

Some schools use their own staff to deliver tuition, by slotting tutoring into teachers' timetables, or by running after-school sessions. Others turn to colleagues who have gone part-time or recently retired, or source tutors from their local authority database. With the number of pupils receiving tuition set to double this September, schools will need to be flexible and draw tutors from a variety of sources. The tutors themselves can work across both primary and secondary schools.

At St John Plessington Catholic College in Wirral, KS3 tutoring is carried out internally, with teachers assigned one-to-one slots as part of their timetable, while KS4 sessions are run by outside tutors. The internal tutoring takes place during a part of the day when most pupils have 'form time', while external tutoring is held after school.

The beauty of one-to-one is that it allows a spontaneous approach as well as a personalised one. "You start with a detailed tuition plan, but sometimes that goes out of the window," says Helen Rearden, a tutor at St Margaret's CE Junior in Kent. "One boy wasn't progressing with his writing: he'd never really grasped what a sentence was. We stopped right there and went back to basics. I ended up spending all 10 sessions unpicking (his) misunderstanding(s)."

Overall, the more flexible and imaginative schools can be, the better the programme works. "It's about suiting everyone," says Christine Smiles, tuition co-ordinator at Norham Community Technology College, North Tyneside. "You need an ongoing dialogue between tutors, teachers, students and parents to ensure the model you choose helps each student make the best progress."


Tutors' views

Jane Nesbitt is head of history at St Cuthbert Mayne School in Torquay, but spends two hours a week tutoring English after school.

"I'd done some EFL work in Poland 10 years ago, but otherwise had no English experience. I've had great support from the English department. The tutoring has been excellent CPD and I've been able to make good cross-curricular links."

After 30 years as a classroom teacher, Chrissy Smith was ready for a change, and was already working as a private tutor, when Ratton School in Eastbourne asked her if she'd help deliver their one-to-one programme.

"Being from outside the school means you're making a fresh start with students, which I think they like. I tutor for two and a half days each week and I've found the key is tapping into students' interests. I've one boy who's mad about football, and we often use that as a starting point."

School's view

Alison Tilbrook, deputy headteacher at Methwold High School, Norfolk.

"There's been no difficulty in recruiting tutors: ours include full-time, part-time and retired teachers. During the pilot, the sessions had to take place (outside) the school day, but we found pupils were often too tired to benefit. Now they can be taken out of lessons and we also have tutoring in the holidays."


One-to-one: the past, present and future

September 2007: Making Good Progress pilot launched

April 2009: Early rollout of tuition for 36,000 pupils falling behind in the latter part of key stage 2

September 2009: National rollout of tuition: 300,000 pupils to receive it in English andor maths in key stages 2, 3 and key stage 4 in National Challenge schools

March 2010: Quality mark for private agencies and tutors launches

April 2010: Easter schools pilot

JulyAugust 2010: Summer schools

Year 2 of national rollout: tuition will be available to 300,000 pupils in English and 300,000 in maths

September 2010: Pupil Guarantees due to come into force.

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