Government One-to-One Tuition Programme: will it work?

Gordon Brown and Ed Balls are looking pretty cheery about the government’s one-to-one tuition programme – but will it work?

The programme is aimed at helping struggling children in England’s state schools. In July last year I reported on how the government is trying to recruit 100,000 one-to-one tutors for the purpose, and at the time, PriceWaterhouseCoopers brought to light the problems involved in recruiting such a large number of tutors.

Well, yesterday PriceWaterhouseCoopers published their final evaluation of the tuition pilot scheme, and the problems with tutor recruitment haven’t gone away. Only 37,000 tutors out of the proposed 100,000 have decided to sign up. They state,

The number of pupils receiving one-to-one tuition is still below the allocation of 10% of pupils per pilot local authority. Head teachers/school pilot leaders suggested this was partly a consequence of the ongoing challenges around recruitment.

Back in July, I discussed the recruitment issues with a Training and Development Agency for Schools (TDA) official who suggested that graduates with good degrees in maths or English (or strongly related subjects such as Media Studies) may be eligible to become tutors for the scheme in the future.

This sounds like a sensible idea: it would provide rewarding employment to graduates struggling to find work, and at the same time provide real support to pupils who are struggling at school. As my previous posts have emphasized, the most comprehensive research into tutoring demonstrates that the ‘active ingredient’ of tutoring is not the expert teaching skill of the tutor – it is rather the creation of a space for active pupil contributions which makes all the difference. Therefore, tutoring is something that intelligent graduates can certainly handle without requiring them to undertake conventional teacher training.

However, whether the government would ever consider this feasible or acceptable to the teaching profession or general public is another matter.