A recent Ipsos MORI poll for the Sutton Trust found that 25% of all young people in the UK have received private tuition at some point; in London, the figure rises to 44% where the number of children receiving five or more A*-C grade GCSE’s has more than doubled in the last decade.
In the last few days, the National Audit Office (NAO) issued stark warnings of teacher shortages in the UK. According to a report released on Wednesday, although 33,200 trainees started teacher training last year 14 out of 17 secondary subjects had unfilled training places. That's compared to 5 years ago when just 2 subjects had gaps.
Sounds suitably disturbing but what does it actually mean for our child and how is it likely to impact them at school?
Former teacher and Vice Chair of Governors Judith Pearce knows first-hand the very real damage caused: “A long term absence once took my department from achieving 80% grades A* -C down to the upper 60 percentile in successive years. That department took three years to recover as children failed to opt for more than the compulsory subject as they felt that they wouldn't get good results. It was only after we had sorted the staff issues that the department began to grow in confidence and results improved rapidly.”
“Due to staff shortages I myself was once forced to teach 3 lessons a week of History which I had only done to A-level. I spent nearly as long preparing those 3 lessons as I did for my other 20. I am sure that my lack of background meant that those lessons weren't as interesting or innovative as those in my own subject and thus not as motivating for the pupils. I know from official results that over a period this type of shortage can definitely cause a pupil’s results to drop and they are far less likely to choose that subject at GCSE or AS level.”
Tarun Kapur is Chief Executive and Academy Principle of the Dean Trust. The trust oversees six schools and academies, both secondary schools and primary schools, in three local authorities. Yesterday, he on the NAO’s warning: “Our single biggest challenge is getting the right teachers in front of the students. I think in some of the shortage subjects such as Maths and physics, modern foreign languages, we really struggle. Our Head Teachers ring each other and say, have you got anybody - and we run good and outstanding schools so if we're in that position, then schools that are possibly less attractive to go to have a real challenge.”
So what can be done to support children where schools simply don’t have the resources to maximise every child’s individual potential?
Frank Milner, President of Tutor Doctor, is adamant that children shouldn’t have to give up on their dreams when they start to struggle at school and believes tutoring is the sensible solution to the increasing problems faced by schools and academies: “Our children tend to start to doubt themselves and their ambitions when they struggle with school work. I’ve seen it often and it breaks my heart - those dreams of becoming a vet or a scientist, they start to fade. Home tutoring is fast becoming the social norm for families where schools just can’t provide the one-to-one support and tailored approach to learning. Rebuild a child’s confidence and their enjoyment of leaning and the results soon follow.”
“Home tutoring used to be seen as elitist but now, it’s just common sense,” concludes Frank.
Over 170,000 British school students are attending secondary schools deemed inadequate by Ofsted. But do teachers agree with the likes of Frank Milner or are they against additional tutoring for students? Judith Pearce says “in my experience, children benefit hugely from home-tutoring as an extra support to classroom learning. Making significant progress quickly and I think in all cases rapidly catching up with their peers. I can say without doubt that pupils who received such tutoring during my time in the profession improved more than those that didn't and that the relationships formed meant those students often improved in class and essays as well.”