The challenges facing UK schools, and how online tuition can help

As a teacher, you live the challenges facing our schools every day. The pressure packed on by limited funding, big class sizes, teacher shortage and the attainment-wealth gap all puts you to the test. At MyTutor, we work with over 400 schools across the country to help tackle all of these hurdles.

We partner with schools to develop one-to-one tuition programmes for their students. These schools generally have a high percentage of students on Free School Meals. Schools pay for the tuition using part of their Pupil Premium budget, meaning we can help in schools where lots of their pupils benefit from the extra help.

Sometimes the programmes are to help stretch their gifted students, but more often they’re in place to help disadvantaged kids raise their grades and boost their confidence. Schools like this tend to bear the scars of an education system under pressure, but by working together, we can help more pupils achieve their potential in life. We’re growing too, and our mission is to partner with 1,000 schools by 2021, supporting teachers and helping kids. Here are some of the wider challenges that we help tackle in the process…

School funding

91% of schools are due to lose out under the government’s latest school funding proposals. They’ve already been cut by £2.8bn since 2015, and head teachers regularly speak about the impossible job they face to balance the books and offer a great education to all of their pupils. The cuts result in larger class sizes, loss of staff and fewer extra-curricular activities. Schools need to spend their reduced budgets more carefully than ever – and they need to see results.

As part of a broader strategy, one-to-one tuition helps increase the impact that an underfunded school is able to deliver for its pupils. A large pool of online tutors can be used to raise confidence, boost progress and reinforce the core classroom teaching.

Narrowing the attainment gap

Whilst the performance gap between pupils from advantaged and disadvantaged backgrounds has narrowed slightly (around 4%) over the past decade, it remains significant. Only 21% pupils from low-income families go to university, compared with 85% of pupils from private schools. Despite schools’ best efforts, according to a recent BBC article, only 24% of pupils from the poorest backgrounds got good passes in English or Maths last year, compared to 50% of better-off kids.

At MyTutor, we’re committed to narrowing this gap too. A study by The Education Endowment Foundation showed that one-to-one tuition accelerated pupils’ progress by approximately five months in a school year. We’ve also found that with one term’s worth of MyTutor lessons a pupil will improve by a whole academic grade. By spending part of their Pupil Premium funding on lessons with our tutors, schools can provide disadvantaged pupils with valuable one-to-one support to boost their progress. We offer seven key school subjects, and because our tutors are all at top universities, they also make great mentors to pupils who may not know anyone else who’s gone to university.

Teacher shortage

With 30% teachers leaving after 5 years, and 40% after 10 years, new ways to inspire prospective teachers are really valuable. The experience gained by our tutors, all students at top universities, lets them see how they enjoy teaching and encourages them to consider it as a career option for once they graduate. We have a great cohort of ex-tutors who’ve gone on to become teachers at schools across the country. It’s a natural progression, and one we hope to support even more practically in the future. For teachers, as a result of set-aside tutoring time, some of the pressure is taken off, enabling them to maintain progress for more pupils.

Increased class sizes

The average class size in the UK state secondary schools is 21, and this can rise to more than 36 pupils in some. Even the best teacher in the world can’t be in more than one place at a time. One-to-one tuition during the school day helps to supplement the time teacher give each of their pupils. Because we work directly with our schools’ teachers too, you can have peace of mind knowing that your pupils’ tutors are reinforcing your teaching by going over the work you’ve set.

More than that, any questions that pupils may have been too shy to ask in class, or a topic that they couldn’t grasp at the pace of teaching can be looked over and resolved in the personal setting of our online classroom.

What else is out there?

As well as the online tuition service that MyTutor provides, schools use several government initiatives to address these challenges. To tackle the difficulty with teacher recruitment, a new strategy called the Early Career Framework aims to recruit 30,000 new teachers a year and give extra support to the 450,000 current ones. Championing new and veteran teaching talent, facilitating more job-shares and simplifying the application process are some of the ways they’ll try to achieve that.

Another source of excellent tutors every year is TeachFirst. Founded in 2004, they recruit teachers from top unis and train them over the course of two years while they work in underserved schools. Just this year, they’ve brought in 1,735 new teachers to UK schools.

Like these initiatives, we’re dedicated to helping as many pupils in the UK as we can. Whether it’s help recruiting teachers, enabling higher-impact interventions, supporting big mixed-ability classes, or boosting pupil confidence, we’re with you on your mission to give kids the best possible education and set them up for life.

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