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Learning lessons from online tuition

March 1, 2022, 16:09 GMT+1
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  • Jane Ferguson discusses how remote tutoring has impacted outcomes for pupils
Learning lessons from online tuition

At first, we were as worried as any other school about the impact of the pandemic on our children.

At Sharman’s Cross Junior School in Solihull, with 419 children on roll, we had started some school-led tutoring involving our teachers and TAs which focused on reading, writing and maths.

But, as time went on, it became evident that we needed additional support.

That’s when we decided to buy in external tuition, using some of our pupil premium and the government’s recovery funding.

SATs and transition

We focused on our Y6s mainly because, at that time, we were still expecting them to do SATs in summer 2021.

But when these were dropped, we felt it remained vital that they received the additional support to prepare them for the transition to secondary school.

We also included some Y5s we felt would benefit from the tuition. The Y6s received tuition in English and maths while our Y5s received support in English only.

We had to think very clearly about exactly which pupils would benefit most from this tuition. We looked at all children who were not meeting their age-related expectations and chose pupils who their class teachers felt were most likely to respond well to online learning, based on their experiences during school lockdowns. 

For these pupils, we set up blocks of tuition, which consisted of 15 weekly sessions delivered by Pearson tutors. For other pupils we continued with teacher and TA tuition support.


A big consideration was access to devices at home, as well as a good broadband connection.

We worked with parents to ensure that they were happy for their child to receive the additional support which, for most pupils, was to be delivered at home.

We liaised with the teachers of all participating pupils and, where possible, teachers attended at the beginning of each child’s first tuition session to talk to the tutor about the child’s needs and then stayed to make sure that the child was happy. 

As we had so many children attending the sessions, some of these initial meetings had to be done at an alternative time, either on the phone or via email; however, those kick-off sessions were really important in establishing a good rapport between tutor, child and their teacher.


Getting feedback on each child’s progress was important.

Our teachers could see how children were benefitting from the tuition because they were grasping concepts in class with which they had previously struggled, but the feedback we got from tutors gave us a richer picture of how the children were progressing. 

Our Y6 teachers reported that the children were really enthusiastic about the tuition and that their confidence in lessons had increased.

The technology side didn’t present any challenges for the children either. Up to that point they had been using Teams for online learning, but they took to the Bramble platform we were using to support tuition quickly, and liked the whiteboard feature. 

Increased confidence

Parents could also see jumps in confidence in their children’s homework.

Those observations were confirmed by tests carried out by the tutors before and after the 15-week course of sessions. These showed that the percentage of correct answers from pre-tutoring tests to post-tests increased by an average of 71%. 

As a result, we decided to continue with the tuition support this year. 

Looking ahead

The make-up of the children this academic year is slightly different as our funding agreement requires 65% of the pupils supported to be receiving pupil premium funding. 

We’ve learned some valuable lessons since that first block of tuition. Because the majority of the children receiving support this year are from more disadvantaged backgrounds, we have had to think harder about the availability of technology.

Access to required broadband speeds or the lack of devices in a family is an issue we have had to overcome by lending equipment to pupils, or making arrangements for those children to do the tuition sessions in school. 

We have made changes to scheduling as well. At first, we concentrated the weekly sessions over two nights but looking back this was a big ask for our teachers who were expected to attend each child’s first tuition session. We now spread those sessions over the week.

External tutoring has been an incredibly positive experience. It took some time to set things up but that initial investment has been worth it.

Jane Ferguson is deputy headteacher of Sharmans Cross Junior School, Solihull.