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Uni student tutors boost pupils’ maths in 12 hours

Education Endowment Foundation says using university student tutors could be a 'cost-effective way to boost attainment for struggling pupils'

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Education Endowment Foundation says using university student tutors could be a 'cost-effective way to boost attainment for struggling pupils'

Maths results for disadvantaged primary pupils can be boosted by just 12 hours of low-cost tutoring with university students who had been trained to manage small groups, new research has found.

The tutors helped 10 and 11-year-olds who had been struggling with maths, to make the equivalent of three additional months’ progress over a year.

The study, which has been published by the Education Endowment Foundation today, evaluated tutoring from the Tutor Trust, a Manchester-based charity which aims to provide affordable small group and one-to-one tuition to schools.

And the EEF is now in talks with private equity foundation Impetus-PEF and Tutor Trust on how to bring affordable tutoring to more schools.

Private tuition has grown rapidly over the past decade so that it is now a £2 billion industry. However, due to the cost which averages £27 per hour it is only better-off pupils who benefit,” Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the EEF and founder of the Sutton Trust, said.

“The challenge for the future is to scale up and bring the benefits of this model to a large number of disadvantaged young people.”

The latest evaluation involved 4,436 children in 105 primary schools with high numbers of disadvantaged children in Leeds and Manchester. 

Children in Year 6 who were struggling with their maths were selected by their teacher to receive extra support from Tutor Trust tutors, who were all students or recent graduates.

The tutors were given structured training to help them plan tuition sessions, manage behaviour and assess pupils’ grades.

The pupils taking part in the trial received 12 hours of tuition, usually one hour per week for 12 weeks. Schools could choose when the sessions took place and whether one, two or three pupils would be in each group. Most opted for pupils to be tutored in groups of three, and for sessions to take place during school hours, either through pupils being withdrawn from lessons or during break or lunch time.

The pupils' own teachers set out the aims of each session and weekly feedback was provided to teachers by the tutors, meaning sessions could be personalised.

The evaluation of the project by researchers from the University of York and Durham University used a randomised controlled trial, meaning children who had tutoring were compared with similar children who did not.

It concluded that there was evidence that the approach may be particularly beneficial for disadvantaged pupils – with a larger effect noticed for pupils eligible for free school meals, girls and those with the lowest maths scores at the start of the trial.

The cost of the tutoring was £112 per pupil for 12 hours of tutoring where pupils learnt in groups of three.

“Private tuition is often expensive, meaning those who can afford it are able to give their children a significant advantage over those that cannot,” Sir Kevan Collins, chief executive of the EEF, said. “Today’s findings give us strong evidence of how to bring the benefits of small group tuition to those who can’t afford it.

“The pupils taking part in our trial were given 12 hours of tuition from university students and recent graduates. The evaluators found that these pupils made three months more progress than pupils who didn’t get any extra tutoring. Schools should consider the Tutor Trust’s model as a cost-effective way to boost attainment for struggling pupils.”

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