Last year, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) delivered 90 million hours of tutoring to disadvantaged pupils in need of extra help after the coronavirus pandemic’s disruptions. The NTP is now about to resume in UK schools for the new academic year.
As an official Tuition Partner of the NTP, Protocol Education sent hundreds of specialist tutors into schools over the last year to deliver intensive tutoring to thousands of pupils. We are proud to have been selected as a Tuition Partner for a second year.
Before starting the new year of NTP provision in earnest, we surveyed our frontline educators who delivered the programme about their experiences of its first year.
We wanted to hear about the scheme’s success in achieving its stated objectives. We also wanted to know whether it had developed educators’ own capabilities, their understanding of the factors that hamper disadvantaged pupils at school, and how adequately they felt supported by the schools they worked in.
Let’s take a look at what we found.
1. The NTP helped pupils make significant progress
94% of tutors told us that their tutees had made noticeable progress over the course of their NTP course.
Tutors commended the NTP’s system of teaching in small group sizes as vital for building pupils’ confidence when tackling new materials. Respondents also felt that being able to assess tutees through individualised learning targets helped build reading and comprehension skills.
Attendance problems were frequently highlighted as a major impediment to pupils’ progress. Other tutors highlighted pupils’ struggles with self-confidence, stating that they overcame this through a focus on ‘pastoral and social issues’ alongside academic topics.
Tutors will have employed a huge range of different methods throughout the NTP. But their near-unanimous testimony means we can state with confidence that the NTP achieved tangible success in its primary goal: helping pupils make progress in closing the attainment gap.
2. Schools are helping the NTP succeed
We wanted to hear from our NTP tutors about the role that schools have played in how the NTP is achieving its aims. We asked them whether they felt that schools they worked in had created the right conditions for tutors to teach effectively.
An overwhelming majority of 88% were satisfied with schools’ efforts to cultivate a positive learning environment. Tutors commonly praised schools’ provision of suitable learning spaces and resources, as well as schools’ care to encourage and support pupils themselves.
However, tutors also reported that their experience would have been improved if schools had given them better information about tutees before the programme began, while also filling tutees in on the aims of the programme beforehand. Various tutors also described schools’ online technologies as cumbersome and prone to error.
Tutors who reported the most negative experiences in their placement schools typically raised the issue of unsuitable and noisy learning spaces.
As we head into the next stage of the NTP, schools should build on their successes here while thinking about how they can iron out some of these kinks.
3. The NTP told us more about the problems pupils face
The experience of the NTP may prove useful in informing future approaches to bridging the gulfs in attainment between richer and poorer students. 71% of tutors told us that the NTP had given them a more informed insight into the barriers to learning that less privileged children routinely face.
Insufficient parental support and a difficult home life were common hindrances that tutors mentioned here, alongside a lack of access to online technology when learning from home. Pupils’ struggles with motivation, poor emotional health and low self-esteem were linked to high levels of absenteeism.
Problems with poor learning environments extended outside of the home. One tutor bemoaned how noisy, crowded classrooms meant that pupils did not receive the attention they need at school, with shy students particularly penalised. Similarly, some tutors felt that undiagnosed SEN conditions were inhibiting some pupils.
The first-hand view of the everyday hurdles that underprivileged children must clear can only be a positive outcome of this targeted catch-up programme.
4. The NTP taught tutors too
This survey clearly demonstrates how educators feel the NTP has helped pupils progress, and it’s reassuring that a clear majority also feel the experience has helped them become better educators too.
When we asked our tutors whether teaching the NTP had improved their teaching ability, 71% agreed. Tutors reported that they had come away with greater confidence and a broader experience. Several tutors who were most used to working in a private capacity told us that the NTP has helped them view tutoring in the larger context of a working school.
We were touched to see that the clear social benefits of the scheme had given educators a sense of pride and direction. One respondent wrote of how the NTP helped them realise ‘that this [type of] coaching is where I want to be to make a difference’, while another told us that small-group tuition to disadvantaged pupils is ‘where I will now concentrate’.
Lastly, many tutors remarked on how the NTP had given them a useful grounding in online learning technologies.
5. Protocol Education made sure tutors could thrive
As well as constructing a useful picture of the successes of the NTP itself, we also wanted to find out how Protocol Education had fared as a Tuition Partner in the eyes of those delivering the programme. We were encouraged to find out that 88% of tutors felt that Protocol Education had given them the support they needed throughout the programme.
Our Tuition Managers were praised for their helpfulness and reliability in communicating with teachers, and our rate of pay was highlighted as particularly competitive. In addition, 83% of respondents felt that the material covered in our training and onboarding processes had been useful while delivering the NTP.
Everyone at Protocol Education takes pride in our work delivering the NTP. We are greatly heartened to hear those on the front line testify so strongly to its worth and importance as a project. The insights we have gathered will help us combat learning loss and improve attainment more effectively as we start our second year of the programme.
If you are a school leader who feels the NTP could be a useful remedy for your most disadvantaged pupils’ academic setbacks, click here for details on enlisting Protocol Education's talented tutors to deliver an effective programme.
If you are a qualified teacher or learning support worker eager to put your skills to use in the great national catch-up programme, register as an NTP tutor with Protocol Education today.