Boris Johnson: I want to explore value of one-to-one teaching

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14:57pm, Tue 06 Oct 2020
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One-to-one tuition could be used more widely to help pupils in danger of falling behind as well as those who are excelling, Boris Johnson has suggested.

The Prime Minister said he wanted to “explore the value” of intensive teaching after it was used by many while home-schooling during the coronavirus pandemic.

He told the Conservative Party online conference: “When I talk about levelling up, I mean not just investing massively in our schools, delivering on our promise to raise per pupil funding to £4,000 per head in primary school and £5,000 per head in secondary school, as well as a £30k starting salary for teachers.

“I am thinking not just about the inputs, but about the outputs, the changes in the lives of young people.

I believe such intensive teaching could be transformational, and of massive reassurance to parents.

“And so I want to take further an idea that we have tried in the pandemic, and explore the value of one-to-one teaching, both for pupils who are in danger of falling behind, and for those who are of exceptional abilities.

“We can all see the difficulties, but I believe such intensive teaching could be transformational, and of massive reassurance to parents.”

Mr Johnson said that new approaches are born in crises, and championed his Government’s promise of free courses for those who lack A-level equivalent qualifications.

He said: “From internet shopping to working from home, it looks as though Covid has massively accelerated changes in the world of work.

“And as old jobs are lost and as new jobs are created we are offering free training for adults without A-levels in vital skills from adult care to wind turbine maintenance.

“The Covid crisis is a catalyst for change, and we need to give people the chance to train for the new jobs that are being created every day.”

A Number 10 spokesman was unable to provide details of the proposal following Mr Johnson’s speech.

The announcement was met with mixed reaction from union leaders.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The notion of providing one-to-one tuition to children who really need that extra help is laudable, but we would have to question why scarce resources would be spent on this type of support for those of exceptional ability, when these children are already doing very well.

“One-to-one teaching is expensive and school budgets are extremely tight thanks to Government underfunding of the education system which has not been fixed by extra money through to 2022/23. So, the Prime Minister’s idea could not be afforded at any scale without a huge additional investment.

“The danger is that what we will actually end up seeing is a relatively small amount of extra investment, and given the cost of one-to-one tuition it will benefit only a very small number of pupils, when it could be used to produce wider benefits simply by, for example, increasing the value of the pupil premium.”

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Evidence does suggest that small group and one-to-one tuition can be effective in accelerating progress. But there are very significant challenges to overcome in taking tutoring support to scale. It will not happen overnight. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

“The greatest challenge, as always, is ensuring that schools in the most deprived communities have equal access to high-quality support, whilst having sufficient funds available to pay for it.”

Sir Peter Lampl, chair and founder of education charity the Sutton Trust, said the commitment to tutoring is “really welcome”.

He added: “There is strong evidence that high-quality tutoring is a cost-effective way to support pupils, whether they are falling behind or need a bit of extra stretch….

“Our research has shown that many middle-class families already buy in tutoring for their children, so it is absolutely right that we are able to offer similar support to lower-income pupils too.”

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