A large multi-academy trust is recruiting its own full-time tutors as it rolls out one-to-one tutoring for thousands of disadvantaged pupils.
About 5,500 primary and secondary pupils entitled to free school meals in The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) will receive pastoral and academic support.
It is believed to be one of the most comprehensive trust-wide mentoring schemes. It is also more welfare-focused than the National Tutoring Programme, and more sustainable than initiatives funded through one-off recovery premium funding.
A £250,000 pilot earlier this year, funded by trust reserves, involved six of its schools and about 500 pupils in the south east. It has now been extended for around 1,500 pupils at all 45 schools this year, and will include about 5,500 pupils from next September.
The “A Champion for Every Child”, or ACE, rollout has allowed schools to hire “ambition tutors” full-time for about a third of the roles, with existing staff such as teachers or pastoral support workers making up the rest.
One of the new roles was advertised with a £21,000 salary.
Karen Roberts, TKAT’s chief executive, said: “It’s quite simple. You give a child an adult who’s their champion, who makes contact with them twice a week.
“If you’ve got that person in your life, you get that relationship going.”
Tutors are trained in helping pupils overcome barriers to academic, social and emotional development.
Pilot showed ‘incredible’ results
Roberts said the pilot, conducted while schools were partially closed in the January lockdown, had shown “incredible” results and boosted attendance.
By the end of the trial, participants’ attendance was outstripping that of non-pupil premium children, she said.
At Rainham School for Girls in Kent, attendance averaged 80 per cent for year 8 pupils receiving the pupil premium in January, six percentage points behind their better-off peers.
By March, it stood at 98 per cent, one percentage point higher than their peers.
Roberts said another major impact was “closing the gap” in reading and maths between less and better-off primary pupils.
Analysis by the evaluation company ImpactEd found a 4.8 per cent rise in pupils’ self-reported “goal orientation” and “self-efficacy”.
The trust began weighing up initiatives to tackle the disadvantage attainment gap before Covid. “Although the gap’s smaller than the national average, we realised we’d hit a plateau,” Roberts said.
“We knew we needed to do something else. Then we hit Covid, and a key concern was losing contact with those pupils and erasing everything we’ve done. Covid was a trigger.”
Check-ins with vulnerable pupils ‘worked well’
Roberts said regular check-ins with vulnerable pupils during lockdowns had “worked really well”, and inspired the personalised, regular contact central to ACE.
“At a time when various national organisations were saying give children a laptop, I thought there was more of a human element to this.”
While tutors are often not employed directly, David Linsell, ACE’s director, said it was “critical” they were part of the school, regularly feeding back issues to teachers.
The programme had boosted awareness of the barriers created by poverty, he added. Issues, including parents struggling to afford shoes or access welfare support, had led the trust to secure shoe donations and help families get the benefits they were entitled to.
The rollout is “self-funding”, with schools diverting around a third of existing pupil premium towards it. Roberts and Linsell noted much of this already went into pastoral staff and attendance work, and they had not heard of schools unable to do things because of the shift.
TKAT is one of several big trusts to launch high-profile mentoring schemes in the past two years, although it appears to be one of the only chains taking on tutors as part of its full-time workforce.
Academies Enterprise Trust invested last year in mentoring for 8,000 pupils identified as needing extra help.
The Astrea Academy Trust is similarly offering year 11 pupils who need extra help tuition to “manage lost learning”.
It is funded this year via existing budgets, exam fee rebates and catch-up funding.
Summit Learning Trust began offering year 11s an extra hour of teaching a day, a permanent move resourced by cutting staff time on pre- and after-school duty.