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National Tutoring Programme

Five recommendations for best practice tutoring

By Laura Fox, Senior Education Adviser at Education Development Trust

At Education Development Trust, we seek to improve education through expert research on what works, developing evidence-informed solutions to bring about real change and reduce disparities in education. Our National Tutoring Programme Training Course is informed by a body of research which helps us to understand what effective tutoring looks like. We have assimilated this evidence along with our own research to provide our top five recommendations for best practice tutoring.   


1. Watch, learn and plan 

Quality teaching is key to pupils’ progress and we know that it cannot happen by chance. It is important for tutors to seek information about a pupil’s strengths and needs from the class teacher, other relevant adults, and the pupils themselves - focusing the enquiry on how they learn as well as what they need to learn. By taking the time to identify how pupils respond to learning, a tutor can confidently plan lessons that target individual needs rather than providing less effective, generic catch-up sessions (Education Endowment Foundation (EFF), 2018). Similarly, time should be dedicated to review progress and adapt plans to ensure that tuition remains individualised.  


2. Getting to know you 

Research by the EEF has proven that one-to-one and small group tutoring can enhance a pupil's attainment and attitude to school yet, for some students, this is only possible once they have overcome the stigma of being offered extra help. A priority for any tutor should be the development of a strong relationship with their pupils. Not only will this ensure that planning is individualised and specific to pupil needs, but it will also provide a sense of safety and security for the pupil. Increasing a pupil's willingness to take risks and ask questions can accelerate progress in their knowledge, understanding and confidence (NBER, 2020).  


3. The smaller the better

Tutoring sessions may be dependent on the school timetable, availability of space and pupil attendance. Where possible, evidence suggests that short, frequent sessions of around 30 minutes, three to five times a week are likely to have the biggest impact (EEF, 2018). By delivering tutoring via short activities, sandwiched between retrieval and consolidation practice, there is reduced risk of cognitive overload and a higher chance that pupils will retain their improved knowledge and understanding. Schools should also aim to provide a consistent and well-equipped tutoring space to maximise learning. 


4. Collaborate for best progress 

In cases where the tutor is not a pupil’s usual class teacher, it is important that the tutorials are designed to supplement and support classroom learning and that tutoring is not seen as an opportunity to cover new topics and concepts. Best practice recommends that time is provided for regular collaboration between the class teacher and tutor to ensure that learning is carefully structured and connected to their classroom curriculum (Jun. S., Ramirez., G. and Cumming, A., 2010). Regular formative assessments, planned collaboratively, can further support bespoke planning which targets pupil needs. 


5. Time and training matters 

The National Tutoring Programme Training Course provides support for school-based adults with or without Qualified Teacher Status (QTS), in line with evidence that specific training can improve the impact of small group or 1:1 tuition (EEF, 2018).  Effective tutoring recognises the level of pedagogical understanding required to customise learning to suit individual pupil's needs (NBER, 2020) and the differences to classroom teaching. Where schools support tutors with time to access training, collaborate with class teachers and plan their sessions, tutoring is likely to have a greater impact.