Why you should add student tutors to your teaching toolkit

Teachers’ qualifications and expertise make them irreplaceable as children’s primary educators, so why would a school choose to use a student tutor? How can a young tutor, fresh out of school themselves, possibly compare to someone with years of teaching experience and training? 

Let’s look at this another way: teachers are already taking on a tonne of stuff. You’re stressed out, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get to everyone, and marking seems never-ending. It’s OK to give yourself a break, and a student tutor can provide some much-needed relief. 

When you have a class of 30 kids, tight availability, capacity, paperwork, and increased staff absences all add to the frustration of not having more time for teaching. Tutors close in age to their pupils are a natural complement to you and your lessons.  

You might be surprised by the research: studies have shown near-peer tutoring to be incredibly effective. Let’s get into why. 

Near-peer tutors make inspiring role models

Someone who is like ourselves in one or more important ways is a near-peer role model. This can be in age, gender, background, or ethnicity. We generally find it easier to relate to those who are like us on a personal level, which means they can have a far greater influence on our motivation than someone who is very different to us. Tutors close in age to the kids they’re teaching make for excellent mentors.

What does  near-peer tutoring look like in a school setting?

Near-peer tutors show pupils what’s possible. If their tutor, who is like them in some way, can be successful, why can’t they? They present a real-life example of someone who’s already achieved what that learner is working toward.

Gary Green, Head of Virtual School at Bohunt Academy Trust, recently talked to us about how he saw this effect with the pupils across the schools in the trust. He was keen to explore the near-peer effect, and said, “The student tutors are within a few years of our pupils, and there is a lot of research to back up peer mentoring as a potential motivator.”  You can read more here: Boosting attainment at Bohunt Education Trust 

Kids whose tutors are recently out of school themselves and are studying at university offer lots of current, real-life advice to the pupils they tutor, as well as personal stories that inspire hope. 

Some of the tutors, Gary told us, gave talks to the pupils about their own journeys, and tutors who came from disadvantaged backgrounds seemed to have the most impact on pupils who had similar circumstances: ”There were tutors and graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds running sessions who shared their own stories with our kids, delivering inspirational talks to our pupils.” 

Suddenly, pupils with similar backgrounds could see futures for themselves they’d never previously imagined possible. 

What are the benefits of near-peer student tutors?

Having recently come out of school themselves, student tutors are very well placed to understand recent GCSE and A-level exam requirements, and they can offer advice on university-level exams for pupils who are interested. Teachers teach the content, and near-peer tutors help with hacks for mark schemes, recall, and time management. Tutors can also teach their tutees how to identify clear goals and independent study habits, as well as more achievable targets for motivation. Near-peer tutoring has been associated with lower test anxiety.

Student tutors provide personalised and detailed feedback, to help teachers understand how their kids are progressing in the lessons. This clear feedback can also show how well the tuition is lining up with what pupils are learning in class, making tutors the perfect allies for teachers. 

University isn’t the right path for everyone. Tutors can give pupils tips for following their own goals, like gaining valuable employment skills, doing an apprenticeship, or getting into college.

Teachers are wonderful advocates for the kids in their care, but sometimes you need an ally to team up with to give your kids even more help when it’s needed. Student tutors can be a natural fit due to being closer in age to the pupils, and personal connections are often easily and quickly formed. Tutors act as educators as well as someone to confide in if a pupil needs to ask for help or advice – kids are more likely to ask for help from someone closer to their age. 

Confidence levels go up in kids who receive personalised tuition: 78% of teachers surveyed in our recent Impact Report said MyTutor lessons had increased their pupils’ confidence. The level of interaction student tutors can offer and the praise they can give as kids move through their lessons makes a big difference. And the tutors provide models to imitate – seeing the success of people who are similar to them increases pupils’ confidence that they too might be able to achieve similar outcomes.

Student tutors can reach the kids who feel out-of-reach. There is evidence that the type of individualised feedback near-peer tutors give may be particularly impactful for harder to reach or less successful and engaged learners. 

There should be no question that near-peer tuition is an excellent choice for teens, and a great help for teachers too. MyTutor offers personalised online one-to-one tuition for KS3, KS4, and KS5. Lessons take place online, slot flexibly into the school day, and are particularly effective for students who need a boost in confidence. We’ve found consistently that our pupils make 1 whole grade of progress on average from their mocks to their final summer exam grades.

Our team is always happy to chat with you about tuition options. Book a call with us to plan your own programme.

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