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Does improved access to tutoring help students target the right areas?

A recent study from the COVID Social Mobility and Opportunities (COSMO) study has drawn positive conclusions on improved access to tutoring support for economically disadvantaged families. The National Tutoring Program (NTP) has been successful in working with schools to provide better access to pupils across socio-economic divides - but is the support targeting your child's needs and are educational outcomes being improved? We discuss the importance of dialogue with your school and how to navigate those tricky conversations around getting the right support to the right areas.

Figure 1. Patterns of private tutoring and total tutoring (school or private) during Year 11. Credit: The Sutton Trust

Recent evidence supports that the NTP has significantly improved access to tutoring to families who have not been tutoring customers in the past writes Rebecca Montacute, Senior Research & Policy Manager at the Sutton Trust. Where high income families still make most use of private tutoring, schools and tutoring firms have used the scheme effectively to ensure government-subsidised tutoring is getting to pupils from all sectors of society. The NTP was initially designed to target - and ensure it reached - those who needed the support the most and initially it faced criticism in its failure to reach these groups. Improved support from schools and lessons learned by the tutoring firms getting to grips with the funding schemes has been a success in helping students from all backgrounds get access to additional help.

One of the ongoing concerns is around measuring the academic impact of these interventions, and whether families have the same amount of say over NTP/school-led programs as they have over private tutoring. One of the challenges the NTP program has reported is in engaging families who have typically been less involved in their child's schooling; those who have largely taken the stance that its the school's job to identify and support their child's learning needs. In contrast, traditional customers of tutoring have already taken an active role in providing the support their child needs to succeed. One of the unanswered questions is how much NTP has improved dialogue between school and home in helping families understand where their child needs help, set realistic goals, and explore opportunities.

We know, from working in schools ourselves, that marching in all guns blazing, waving a report from Spotlight is unlikely to have the desired affect!

Spotlight's central mission is to empower students with outstanding insight. This means measuring their progress, academic strengths and challenges using easy-to-use low stakes assessments, and crucially, providing dialogue with parents to discuss and better understand what their child needs in order to succeed. This is an important element missing from the recent uplift in tutoring. Parents report that they struggle to discuss their child's needs with schools, they lack data on what specific areas need help, and there's little evidence provided on the impact of these interventions. Schools are often reluctant to share data on their students - even with parents, and there are often limited opportunities to discuss problem areas and what can be done about it. At Spotlight, we support parents in how best to navigate these conversations, and use our reporting to target interventions - both at school and with tutoring - on the areas that need it most. Without this data-driven approach, these opportunities and resources will not be as effective.

If you are wanting to speak with your child's school about their needs, our friendly and approachable consultants will help you understand what the expectations are at your child's age and provide specific pointers in how to navigate these conversations. We know, from working in schools ourselves, that marching in all guns blazing, waving a report from Spotlight in your hands is unlikely to have the desired affect! But we can arm you with the sort of questions you should be asking, and help you balance the discussion with what's best for your child in the context of what the school can provide. The fact you want to be involved and want to engage with the school is already a great thing, we want to ensure the conversations are as productive and positive as possible. All of our consultants have held the top posts in schools and they have certainly navigated these conversations in their long and distinguished careers, but they are also independent of your child's school and will provide completely impartial, professional, and evidence-based support.

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