Increasingly, schools are turning to tutoring as a solution to this problem. One-to-one tuition gives students the chance to go over areas which they don't understand at their own pace. This helps to complement the work teachers do in class. It is especially effective for less confident students who don't feel comfortable asking for support in front of their classmates, as it gives them room to go through problems at their own pace and without fear of embarrassment.
The evidence for the efficacy of tutoring is substantial; the Education Endowment Foundation found that one-to-one tuition accelerates progress by an average of five months, and there is a wide body of academic literature which proves the impact that tutoring can have on students. Indeed, in their 2016 evaluation of the tutoring industry, education charity The Sutton Trust noted that 'the evidence that individual tuition is one of the most beneficial interventions for the learner is robust'. As well as having a tangible impact on students' grades, tutoring has also been shown to improve students' confidence and enjoyment of learning, providing long-lasting academic and personal benefits to pupils.
However, there are two main limiting factors which are preventing schools from accessing tuition: cost and location. Broadly speaking, schools in rural and coastal regions have limited access to educational support due to poor transport links and a dearth of recent graduates and funding, both of which tend to be concentrated in urban areas. A recent study by the charity IntoUniversity found that this has a direct negative impact on the social and economic mobility of students in these areas. A 2016 report by the Sutton Trust found that the distribution of tutors is in line with this trend: while tutors are concentrated in London and the South East, access to tutors is limited in other areas of the UK.
Cost is the other major factor - a 2016 investigation by the Sutton Trust found that tuition costs an average of £31 per hour. This is due in part to the extra time and money which transport to and from schools can cost tutors, especially for schools in areas with poor transport links. Its cost means that students from affluent backgrounds are much more likely to benefit from tutoring: young people from wealthy households are twice as likely to receive tuition than students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The high cost of tutoring also makes it inaccessible as an intervention in state schools, especially following recent constraints on school budgets.
Online tutoring presents a solution to these issues for schools. Within the online tutoring model, video chat software is used to connect tutors with students, and all tutorials are conducted online. Prices are minimised due to the elimination of transport costs, and students can access tutors across the country regardless of their location. This ensures that schools have as wide a choice of tutors as possible, empowering them to choose tutors which suit the specific needs of their students. For example, a student who needs help with their UKCAT exam in Blackpool can be connected to a current medical student at Nottingham, ensuring that the support they receive is as targeted as possible. It also removes the safeguarding issues often associated with hiring external support staff: because all interaction occurs via the tutoring platform, it is recorded and can therefore be monitored effectively.
The expansion of the online tutoring market is an incredible opportunity for schools to provide impactful, cost-effective support to students without breaking the bank. I'm excited to see the changes that it will bring in the future!
Want to receive cutting-edge insights from leading educators each week? Sign up to our Community Update and be part of the action!