The summer term is upon us, and with it comes the final stage of this academic year’s edition of the National Tutoring Programme. For the million-plus pupils enrolled on the scheme, this term will wrap up and consolidate many months of intensive work catching up on all the learning disrupted by the last two years’ recurrent lockdowns.
Yet any teacher who’s worked a few Septembers could be forgiven for worrying if it all that effort might just end up lost to the long, languid summer days. Every year, the infamous ‘summer slide’ sees some pupils return to school with noticeable declines in their maths and reading abilities. Given the pandemic’s disproportionate effect on the most disadvantaged pupils’ learning, it is critical that children are given a chance to retain all they have learned in these special sessions.
That’s why Protocol Education welcomes the DfE’s extension of the deadline for schools to use their National Tutoring Programme funding to 31 August. As a prelude to some major reforms to the scheme’s funding structure coming in the next academic year, schools will now be able to run catch up programmes during the summer holidays.
Summer tuition works
When conducted right, summer tuition can be a powerful tool for sustainably raising pupil attainment. The Educational Endowment Foundation has estimated that pupils who attend summer school programmes will make around three months’ worth of extra progress.
Clearly, summer tuition can lay the groundwork for better performance in the year to come. It just has to be conducted correctly. If your school is one of the many thousands who have run catch up tutoring schemes through the National Tutoring Programme, it’s worth considering how you can most effectively adapting your termtime tutoring approach to the holidays. These eight variables should help you decide how to plan a programme that works for your school and your pupils.
1. When it takes place
The question of when you hold your summer tuition programme deserves some careful thought. After several years of disrupted travel, families and teachers alike will be making much anticipated returns to the beaches of foreign shores this summer. To succeed, your catch up programme needs to reach as many of the pupils you deem as most in need of help (more on that in a minute).
Course leaders could benefit from conducting some research into when the greatest number of pupils are most likely to be available during the holidays.
Once you’ve picked a viable time period that as many pupils as possible can be present for, you’ll have to think about how you structure the course. Would it work best as a week-long course, or maybe two days a week over a fortnight?
If you’re concerned about staff availability over the holidays, we will have a large selection of skilled tutors available to take on throughout the summer.
2. Which pupils you will target
Attending school during the summer is a big ask. Most children will be understandably reluctant to give up their holiday time, so your tuition programme needs to really zero in on those pupils you think really need the most help.
2021’s summer school programme was largely focused on aiding incoming Year 7s’ transition from primary to secondary school. In a similar vein, you might want to direct your attention to a particular year cohort, such as new Year 11s set to take the first public GCSE exams in three years. You may even prefer to pick out individual pupils who have really fallen behind. This requires your careful judgment.
3. Learning objectives
To keep a group of children engaged during what would otherwise be their free time, any learning taking place outside of normal school hours must have some very clear objectives.
What these objectives are will, of course, depend largely on the pupils you have decided to target. Do you want to consolidate their knowledge of specific exam material? Improve reading comprehension skills? Aid year group transition?
Whatever you choose, your objectives must be clearly explained to pupils at the programme’s outset and reinforced throughout. Don’t allow mission creep to dilute the purpose of your course.
4. Academic intensity
It’s worth considering how academically strenuous you want your programme to be. Children need time during the holidays to rest and recharge. A ‘boot camp’ ethos might be the wrong tack for pupils already tired after a demanding and stressful year.
In this vein, your catch up programme could involve a range of morale-building enrichment activities that pupils will genuinely enjoy, like storytelling sessions or team sports. Protocol Education will have an eclectic mix of activity leaders on hand all summer to support this.
On the other hand, if you feel your chosen pupils are in a truly parlous state ahead of some crucial examinations or learning stages, a higher-intensity course may seem like the only option.
5. Wellbeing focus
Children learn best when they’re happy and content, but current figures paint a concerning picture of our young people’s mental health. A recent report showed a near-6% rise in rates of probable mental disorder among 6- to 16-year-olds between 2017 and 2021.
Of the almost 3,000 schools who put on summer schools in 2021, over half reported that they were ‘extremely effective’ for improving pupil wellbeing. If your pupils have been struggling with mental ill-health (and its highly likely that many have been), putting wellbeing at the centre of your catch up programme could prove genuinely ameliorative.
6. Parental engagement
During termtime, parents will normally trust a school to do what it will, including providing special tuition sessions in school hours. In the holidays, however, getting buy-in from parents or guardians becomes a much more pressing matter.
The degree to which you involve parents in the planning and execution of your summer tuition is entirely up to you. Whatever you choose, you should present the case to them as clearly and early as possible and maintain strong lines of communication with them throughout the programme itself.
7. Combating holiday hunger
In the absence of Free School Meals, hunger and food insecurity can become much more of a pressing issue for many families over the summer holidays.
You don’t need the reach of a Marcus Rashford to do something substantive to help. Your summer tuition programme can ensure that children are well-fed, whether through the school catering team, partnering with a local shop or restaurant or providing packed lunches.
Recruiting from among your own permanent members of staff can prove tricky during holiday times. Your teachers may well have their own holiday plans drawn up and booked, which may end up being hard to square with the most accessible time period for pupils.
To give yourself as much as flexibility as possible, you might want to consider sourcing staff to run your summer catch up programme from third parties.
Protocol Education will be providing a full suite of vetted educators throughout the summer, from experienced tutors to enrichment leads and mentors. For the freedom to design a holiday NTP programme that will prevent your most at-risk pupils from slipping behind, get in touch with our specialist consultants today.