The scope of the national tutoring programme and the breadth of providers and approaches are daunting. Simon Barnes sets out some first principles to help you get started

As schools start to take advantage of the subsidised tuition on offer through the national tutoring programme, school leaders are keen to maximise return on investment and find the best ways to complement the excellent work their teachers are already doing. But I’m increasingly having conversations with schools that have never used tutoring services before. So, as head of one of the NTP’s tuition partners and a former teacher, I thought I’d remedy that.

Firstly, it’s important to understand that every Tuition Partner is offering something different. Some are using graduates to deliver tutoring, some are delivering tutoring online, and some are using qualified teachers. Each have their strengths. We advise schools to consider their partner’s ability to form relationships with students as well as their flexibility.

Once you’ve established who’s delivering the lessons it’s important to understand how they are delivered. Once again, different providers will use different methods. Some will use interactive content while others will use static presentations. You will know what your pupils respond best to, so it’s important to communicate with providers and ask for lesson demonstrations if you’re not completely clear. Many providers offer flexibility in their tuition approach to best suit the needs of the students.

Effective tutoring should complement the teaching taking place in the classroom

Once up and running, effective tutoring should complement the teaching taking place in the classroom. Ongoing communication between teacher and tutor enables tutors to cover topics that students have missed due to absence and not repeat topics they have already covered.

Tuition Partners work best with schools when communication is open and flows both ways. Tutors and tuition providers should work alongside teachers to share their thoughts on progress from their sessions.

In addition to the partnership between teachers and tutors, effective tuition interventions also depend on cooperation between the school and the tuition provider. Both parties should have a clear understanding of the desired outcome and how they plan to achieve it. To maximise the benefit from tutoring, schools should agree ambitious but achievable – and quantifiable – attainment goals for each student.

When it comes to assessing progress, schools can use their regular data capture and monitoring systems. Using existing systems is simpler and ensures that data is easily accessible. If the Tuition Partner offers an additional reporting mechanism, schools should consider the best way to integrate it into their current system. At the end of the NTP-funded tutoring, teachers should ask tutors for feedback on areas that still require focus. In our experience, this is particularly important for students approaching exams.

In addition, ensuring that tutoring is delivered in a sustained block with consistent student attendance is key to achieving positive results. If a student isn’t attending regularly, then the Tuition Partner should work closely with the school to find a more effective approach. This might involve changing the time or day of the lessons, changing the tutor or focussing on other key learning areas. The NTP has worked on a best practice guide for tutoring organisations, to make sure factors like this are taken into account and mitigated.

The primary schools we’re working with are typically requesting support with maths and English with a specific focus on reading, spelling, punctuation, grammar and phonics with greater attention paid to upper KS2. Secondary schools are focussing on maths and English with some science and humanities support for specific students, with tuition being spread across all ages from years 7 to 11. In short, the requirement is widespread and to get the most from the NTP offer it’s important to adopt a collaborative approach.

This is only the start of the NTP’s journey. Across the consortium of 33 Tuition Partners there is a great deal of choice, and while that can no doubt be daunting it also means there is plenty of flexibility. Together we’re certain we can make a real difference to schools and I hope this guidance helps some take a confident first step to mitigating the impacts of Covid.