How one Leeds school is trialling tutors to help children catch up on lost learning

There is a vibrancy to the school community at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown, said assistant vice principal Ashley Jacobs, which cannot be dimmed even in the absence of live lessons.

Dixons Trinity Chapeltown assistant vice principal Ashley Jacobs. Image: Simon Hulme

While the majority of its students have been undertaking home learning since lockdown in March, he said, there has been a “brilliant” spirit from pupils and teachers alike.

As the school pilots a tutoring catch-up scheme to support some of its students, it can only serve as a boost in ensuring a welcome return to settings in September.

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From the start of lockdown, Mr Jacobs added, the school has been ready to rally anything it needed to get through.

Dixons Trinity Chapeltown assistant vice principal Ashley Jacobs. Image: Simon Hulme

“As a community we’ve been directly affected by the virus, we’ve always known we need to be really supportive,” he said.

“Inevitably, the lockdown is going to impact those who are disadvantaged the most. We will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes.

"That disadvantage gap is only going to get bigger - we need to make sure that we support all our pupils.”

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Ashley Jacobs pictured with teachers O'nika Jones (right) and Kristina Lamb-George at Dixons Trinity Chapeltown. Picture by Simon Hulme

Every single one of the 550 students at the through-school in Leeds was spoken to under lockdown, with weekly workbooks created to support home learning.

The school hub had 30 pupils in throughout, while a number of teachers also delivered lessons through the national Oak Academy to millions of children across the country.

There were food parcels and packages, delivered to doors, and work is continuing over the holidays in supporting the most vulnerable.

“It is obviously no substitute for face to face teaching,” said Mr Jacobs. “We had to think about those students at home. Some don’t have access to the internet.

"We have families with three children, and just one phone between them. We’ve had to buy bits to make sure they can access what they can.

"It wasn’t appropriate to deliver classes on online learning.”

From the start, the school had committed to fund the tutoring of 10 pupils and now, under a national pilot, 15 are being supported by educational charity The Tutor Trust.

“It’s brilliant,” said Mr Jacobs. “It’s a real asset for schools, with tailored tutoring and really detailed notes on exactly what they are doing and what is needed to support them. All this information is going to feed in to us in September when we start to think about recovery.

“We can always say ‘it’s never enough’, no matter how many that number is,” he added. “Schools are trying their best with what they’ve got.”

The Tutor Trust

Progress made in narrowing the attainment gap for the nation’s young people must not be reversed in the current crisis, an education charity has warned, as moves are made to move dedicated support online.

The Tutor Trust, working with university graduates, links with schools to offer tutoring primarily in areas where children are on free school meals.

Such support services should not only be available to those who can afford to pay for them, said charity co-founder and executive director Abigail Shapiro, with a pilot scheme underway to help through the pandemic.

“It is vital,” said Mrs Shapiro. “There is already a huge gap. Slow progress has been made, but we need to make sure that progress isn’t reversed and that young people are not deprived of the opportunity to achieve their potential.”

Having been selected by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) for a tutoring pilot in May, it is now working with charities Impetus and Nesta on a nationwide tutoring scheme including with two schools in Leeds, as well as with the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

“There will be a big catch up job to do, and that will become even more evident with our disadvantaged young people due to differences over access to equipment and tutoring,” said Mrs Shapiro. “We are working with schools to do everything we can.”

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