Sheffield Assoc. Research School
Our Director of School Improvement; John Coats, discusses the COVID response plan for Notre Dame High School, home of the Sheffield Associate Research School
As all colleagues will have been doing, we have been wrestling with our COVID recovery plan. As I write this in mid-November, our recovery plan still isn’t ‘finalised’. While on the one hand there is a part of me that wants to have this all tied up so that we can ‘get on with it’, the reason is quite simply that we have been taking time identifying the gaps and thinking carefully about the way in which we can best address them. All this takes time in ideal circumstances, never mind those that we are faced with this year. The truth is, we are ‘getting on with’ making what will be properly informed and considered decisions.
We do know that the National Tutoring Programme will be part of our COVID recovery plan. For our students we don’t think that 15 hours of tuition is going to be a silver bullet, but we do think that it will serve a valuable purpose in helping close gaps with some well-chosen KS4 students, where there is quite simply less time to catch up on lost time and particularly in those cases where families may not be well-equipped to support their children in catching up through other means.
We have thought about aspects of the evidence base and adapted our response in light of our context. Ie taking a best bet, while at the same time using some contextual intelligence.
Aligning tuition to what is happening in the classroom comes through strongly in the evidence as an active ingredient of effective tutoring. To this end we have offered those departments where children are receiving tutoring the option of having some time protected to manage the weekly communication that will be needed between the classroom teacher and the National Tutoring Programme partner. Early conversations with the partner we will be using reassures us that they have thought about communication too – they have a portal where there is weekly two-way communication between school and the tutor about objectives to be covered and progress made. Good communication will be essential here and we recognise the need to invest in this. If we leave this to chance, the chances are that the impact of the tuition will be lower.
At a logistical level, scheduling tuition will pose all kinds of challenges. The evidence suggests that we should avoid taking students out of those lessons in the subjects for which they are receiving tutoring and our school philosophy is that all children follow a full curriculum in virtually every case. This limits the scope to run tuition during the day. We are considering using PE lessons to schedule tuition, but are also acutely aware that COVID has led to fewer opportunities for students to exercise – add in shorter staggered lunch breaks, and the COVID-related banning of ball games at break time and PE lessons become even more important than before. There is also the option of before and after school, although in our context over 50% of our pupils use school buses, so this is not without challenges either. The evidence also suggests that after school tuition may get a lower “buy-in” from students, so we need to be careful here.
We have also thought about 1-1 vs Small group tuition. Our model of class teachers identifying bespoke gaps to work on for each student has us coming down on the side of 1-1 tuition.
In terms of identifying which students will be offered access to the National Tutoring Programme we have first collected information from department areas about gaps. This list is being refined by pastoral intelligence – for some students we will be putting in place wider pastoral support that we may prioritise over a 15-hour block of tuition. You will notice that I haven’t used the word ‘disadvantaged’ at all yet in this piece. The list of students we will have at this point will inevitably be longer than we can fund tuition for, so we will then consider those students for whom we believe the tuition will have most impact. It is at this stage that students from families who are least likely to be able to access tuition normally will be prioritised – again pastoral intelligence will be invaluable here as this won’t be as blunt as a pupil premium label.
Returning to scheduling tutoring, we will go back to pastoral intelligence to identify those students who we will withdraw from one PE lesson a week and those where we think we will get buy-in if we run after school tuition. We will also identify a third group; those that have sufficient access to IT and parental support to engage with online evening tuition. Ensuring good access to IT is worthy of another blog post in its own right, but this is an aspect of our recovery plan we feel we have ‘got on with’ as this is more of a binary problem. We have put capacity in place to support students with accessing IT as well as just giving them a laptop.
All this leaves our tuition starting mid-January. Late? Definitely not, considering everything that needs to be thought about and put in place to maximise the chances of a positive impact.
The National Tutoring Programme English Event:
The National Tutoring Programme Maths Event:
For further information on the research evidence on tutoring go to the EEF Toolkit
The good practice guide to tutoring from the NTP can be found here