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Curriculum - work with your pupils’ tutors for maximum progress

January 30, 2023, 11:36 GMT+1
Read in 8 minutes
  • Nicola Beaverstock explains how teachers and online instructors can collaborate to raise achievement for students and schools
Curriculum - work with your pupils’ tutors for maximum progress

You’ve spent time deciding which pupils will receive additional support, you’ve grouped them appropriately and set them up online and you’ve carefully selected a tuition provider and a tutor with your students’ needs in mind, so now what?

Tutoring has become a key word in staffrooms, with online support being a popular option. However, with a tutor only visible on a screen or at the other end of a phone or email exchange, can an effective tutor/teacher relationship really be possible? Can you both really sing from the same song book, virtually? I believe you can.

Some tutors, like me, are teachers too, so we understand the job and strive to ensure our work supports yours in parallel, rather than as a separate strand of activity.

Before tutoring begins – things to consider

At the group planning stage, it is a good idea to group students of similar ability. Some tutoring providers may be able to deliver separate content to each student visually (that is certainly something that can be done using Bramble, as I do for Pearson), but it is not possible to speak to each pupil individually. Where there are different abilities in a group, I always provide extra challenges or encouragement as necessary, to maximise the benefit for each student.

If the sessions are to take place at school a quiet space is helpful, so the students and tutor can hear each other. Headsets help with this too and, ideally, each student should have their own laptop or tablet. Supervision may well be required by your tutoring provider for safeguarding purposes, which is also really helpful if there are any technical issues. One benefit of online tutoring is the fact that the students do not all need to be in the same place, as sessions can work equally well if they each join from home.

When your tutor knows they have been selected for your school’s block of tuition, they will send you an introductory email. This will tell you all you need to know about the first session and provide you with contact information. If you have time to send a reply, that really helps create a rapport from the start. The more information you can give your tutor, the better they can tailor their sessions to meet pupils’ needs.

Ideally there will be a face-to-face meeting between the teacher and tutor at the start of the first session. This is an opportunity to put a face to a name, ask questions, and discuss the details of your requirements. If a meeting is not possible, you should send an email with details of the areas you would like the sessions to cover and any information about pupils which they may find helpful. If there are pre-tests to be carried out, your tutor will let you know how these should be administered. It may be possible for the students to each view their own individual version of the test on screen during one of the first tutoring sessions. If this is not possible, you may be asked to administer the test at school, then scan and send it back.

During tutoring – keeping track of progress

Once a block of tutoring sessions has begun, you can worry less about keeping in touch with your tutor. You will receive details of any pre-test scores and feedback after each session. The process I follow is to give an overview of pupil attendance, engagement, understanding and confidence, plus brief comments to highlight particular progress or difficulty for each student. As well as keeping you informed, this may be helpful if you are planning a similar activity in the classroom. Of course, if one of the students in the tutor’s group makes particularly good progress, your tutor would be delighted to hear from you. It can certainly be very motivational for students to know that their teacher and tutor both know how well they are doing.

Sometimes an entire tutoring block runs exactly according to plan - but there are often unforeseen events during the course of the block. I try to be as flexible as possible, changing the time or day where I can, or moving a session that is no longer convenient to the end of the block. Of course, tutors may also need to reschedule occasionally, and we very much appreciate your support if this happens.

With some tutoring providers, all tutoring sessions are recorded. You have access to the recordings whenever necessary, which can be a helpful resource for students to practise a skill or for test revision. Some recordings have even been shared with Ofsted to illustrate the benefits of online tutoring for particular students - with the school obtaining all the relevant permissions, of course.

After tutoring – what happens at the end

Like the first session of a block, the final session could include a face-to-face meeting between the teacher, tutor and students, if possible. I always share individual pre- and post-test scores, areas of progress and next steps for learning, as well as general comments about each student’s approach to the sessions. This allows teachers to see at a glance how tutoring has benefitted each student.

From working with many teachers, I’ve noted that everyone has a slightly different approach to communication. The process I have described is one I follow and other tutoring providers may differ slightly. But don’t forget, your students are in good hands and we are all working to the same goal - to give your students the extra support they need. We can work in harmony and, as a result, your students will flourish.

Achieving tutoring success

  • Aim to group students of similar ability if possible, to remove the need for the tutor to differentiate and potentially spend less time with some students than others
  • Decide what areas of learning you would like the tutor to cover and let them know how this fits in with what is being taught in class
  • Compile brief details about students for the tutor so they have some prior knowledge, and know what to expect of the learner
  • Ask your tutor what feedback you can expect, if this is not clear. You will need to know how pupils are progressing and if the tutor has identified any problems or new challenges
  • Find a quiet space where tutoring sessions can take place, if it is to happen at school, so both the tutor and learner can concentrate without interruption
  • Individual laptops or tablets with headsets are best to avoid disruption and background noises and to keep the pupil focused
  • Arrange for supervision (and technical support) to ensure that tutoring sessions can go ahead without any hindrances
  • Inform your tutor of any particular progress a student may have made in class so that they can adapt their own session, if needed, or reinforce the work being done in lessons
  • Let your tutor know as soon as possible if you need to reschedule for any reason

Nicola Beaverstock is a former primary school teacher, and tutor for Pearson