No wonder teaching unions have “reacted cautiously” to government plans for a year-long national tutoring programme (Government to fund private tutors for English schools, 17 June). It’s clearly yet another example of this government being so out of touch that it has to apply window-dressing to a problem in the hope that the public will be fooled into thinking a solution has been found.
Rather than develop this “multi-million-pound programme” involving private tutors, would it not be more sensible to give the job to the people who already know the children, have their trust, are aware of their backgrounds and have vast experience of helping pupils “catch up on lost learning” – the teachers? Far better to give classroom teachers the pay rise they deserve and allocate a large sum of money, dependent on numbers and location, to each school to be spent on “lost education” projects, with Ofsted, or another government agency, checking on how effectively the money has been spent.
The government ignored local expertise when introducing its test-and-trace programme, preferring private companies, and it obviously has not learned its lesson. Can we expect, when the true number of tutors needed is revealed, Serco to be given the job?
• Individual and small-group tuition is highly effective in making rapid progress in learning. But the size of the learning gap built up over this year is too large for another sticking-plaster solution. Despite the derision poured on the suggestion by the former chief inspector of schools, Michael Wilshaw, to start the year again, thought should be given to planning a curriculum and exam regime to cover children’s learning and motivational needs. Even with a vast number of qualified and well-managed tutors, easy and universal catching up to where learners may have been is a fanciful concept.
• Private tutors in schools is in danger of being yet another scheme for the government to enrich its Knightsbridge pals. Millions will go to private agencies in commission when school budgets have been cut. Agencies charge upwards of £80 an hour and pay tutors half that. Often the tutors are bright graduates but they are mostly untrained and unaware of the national curriculum. A better plan would be to hire trainee teachers who are aware of the syllabus and are experienced in classroom techniques. This would be an investment in education rather than a gift to the private pocket.
• If the government is so concerned about ensuring children receive an education during the Covid-19 outbreak, why hasn’t it asked independent schools to open up to state school pupils? Many private schools will not reopen until the new academic year so they could make their spacious and well-equipped buildings available to local state school pupils, and their staff could volunteer to take part in the proposed catch-up lessons over the summer holidays. Surely Eton would be willing to respond to an old boy’s request.
• Could the BBC not be used to deliver lesson programmes each day in the summer? One channel on the red button per year group – a selection available on a channel that all TVs can access.
Dr Kate Gales
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