The Future Of Professional Tutoring: My Hopes And Vision
Lockdown and the extreme life changes that came with it forced people to adapt to working in new ways, and to collaborate in new communities.
One of the most exciting things to come out of lockdown for me is the collaboration across the tutoring industry.
Organisations like The Tutor’s Association, Qualified Tutor, the Tutor’s Teaching and Learning Network, and my own Tackling Tutoring Online, have sought to provide the necessary CPD materials to fill the knowledge gap required to continue serving students remotely.
The Government has promised a budget of £1 billion to support ‘catch up plans’ for the most disadvantaged students in 2020. The biggest announcement so far on how this budget will be used is in the £350 million allocated to a National Tutoring Programme, supporting those most disadvantaged students with one to one and small group tutoring. This is being put together between four charitable organisations: Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta.
The Academic Mentors branch of the National Tutoring Programme is already being recruited with Teach First, offering a great opportunity for recent graduates looking for a path into teaching.
Steps are being taking very quickly, and with a great deal of collaboration and charitable spirit.
For the first time in my decade working in education, I am seeing tutors and teachers come together to support each other. And it is adding so much value to the industry, which will bring so much more reward to the students it serves in the coming academic year.
New resource libraries are being brought online in order to be able to reach students remotely, for example the Educ8all platform. Students are no longer restricted to Free Science Lessons, or Mr Bruff (although both are great!). There are so many more resources available for students to practice and learn independently, and greater availability must mean that providers compete to provide better quality resources.
There will undoubtedly be a great deal of support for the most disadvantaged students, and it is great to see the likes of Sutton Trust and Impetus being brought into the Government advisory in order to provide guidance on social mobility and bridging the attainment gap.
As provisions announced so far will be made directly through schools, there will of course be some variability in how support is distributed to the students that need it. It is important that parents are able to reach out to their schools for help. There are many provisions already in place (free laptops, 4G routers, etc) that parents may not be aware of.
But for the tutoring community, it is wonderful that the benefits of individual and small group tuition are being recognised by the Government through this programme. I am absolutely delighted that Gavin Williamson MP, Secretary of State for Education, has endorsed the benefits of personal tuition in advancing student progress.
Historically some parents have been reluctant to admit that their child had a tutor, as if it were admitting some sort of ‘failing’. Other parents would hire a tutor simply because all of their child’s friends had one. This level of ‘comparisonitis’ is impactful on the children themselves, as the surest route to low confidence and anxiety.
It can only be a good thing that private tuition is being heralded as a step all students can take to make the most of their individual talents and abilities, without shame or comparison, to rapidly reduce their stress and build their confidence.
And it stands to reason that personal tutors would be able to have a bigger impact on their students over a short period of time than classroom teachers can. There’s none of the behaviour management problems that classroom teachers spend so much of their time on - parents are usually in the next room to bring decorum when needed. Large group assessments aren’t required to monitor progress - it is easy to see in the moment whether a point has landed, or a problem is understood, and to take steps to rectify any knowledge gaps within an hour’s session. It would be impossible for classroom teachers to deliver that level of personalised tuition to a class of 30+ students within one lesson, through no failing on their part.
To see that delivered to the most disadvantaged students in the new school year will be an absolute delight. Those students who are ordinarily the last to access additional resources, have difficult home environments where they are not able to study, are more likely to have additional responsibilities outside of school, and tend to be the first to fall behind, will have that focused attention for 2020 and the coming years.
For the tutoring industry itself, this has been a wake up call. There are a wide variety of tutors in the market. Some like myself have been practicing for years and actively sought out CPD opportunities to fill knowledge gaps and provide the best resources for their clients. Some are retired teachers, disenchanted with the school environment, looking to find a new outlet for their passion for education. Some have no qualifications or experience at all and simply sought an income boost through what, on the face of it, seems like a straightforward job.
What sets apart the really outstanding tutors are those who meet the very requirements the National Tutoring Programme is holding applicants to - quality, safeguarding and evaluation standards. These are inherent within top tutoring organisations already.
In order to complete in this new landscape, these less qualified applicants will need to fall into line, and step up their game. I have been advising new tutors to align themselves with The Tutor’s Association, whose Code of Conduct already requires them to make those commitments to their clients, and stipulates that all members have an annual DBS certificate as well as references. Organisations such as this one will clearly shape the future of the tutoring industry, providing a better quality of service to clients.
Qualified Tutor has been doing wonderful work providing CPD to independent tutors and agencies that previously was not available. I myself have had to provide tailor-made training to my tutor team based on teaching qualifications, as no such CPD historically existed for tutors. This meant that we all had to ‘find our own way’ with learning and development. It is great to see a high quality CPD offering being made available as part of such a valuable and vibrant online community.
Working as a personal tutor is usually quite isolated. Even for those tutors working as part of an agency, the actual work of tuition is carried out either online or at the homes of clients, and they don’t tend to meet and engage with their fellow tutors. The conversations growing out of these online tutor communities have been wonderful to see, and I have been fortunate to witness several of these tutors venturing out of their comfort zone to grow their businesses and better serve more clients.
I can only see these collective efforts from so many different, wonderful sources helping to grow the online community for tutors, and improve the quality of tuition available to more clients, as well as making tuition more readily accessible to the students that need it. I couldn’t be more excited to see how this will develop in the coming months and years.
I’d be delighted to hear about your experiences in the tutoring community since lockdown. Come and join us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/tackleonlinetutoring/ and share your stories, resources, and experience with the community.