For me, as the leader of a charity in the education sector, The Tutor Trust, I see the massive effect the pandemic is having on the learning of pupils in Yorkshire every day.
With school closures, uncertainty over exams and the struggle to do the best for our next generation, there is little to be optimistic about when talking about the effects coronavirus has, and will continue to have, on learning. Despite the heroic efforts of teachers, disadvantaged pupils fell the furthest behind and missed the most lessons during the first and second lockdowns.
As a charity operating in the North, founded in Manchester and delivering tuition in Leeds and Bradford for more than five years, we know a lot about tackling disadvantage and supporting those hardest hit in society. When the pandemic struck last March, everyone in education knew it would affect that group of people the hardest.
However, all of this being said, there are some powerful tools teachers have to help navigate their way through the effects of the pandemic.
Last spring, a consensus emerged that the Government should provide substantial ‘catch-up’ support to schools and that the money should be spent on things that have a rock-solid evidence base, like private tutoring.
From this consensus, the £350m National Tutoring Programme (NTP) was announced and began operating on November 2 and – you might want to sit down for this, as it may be a shock – the Department for Education has achieved something really positive through it.
My charity The Tutor Trust is one of the NTP’s 33 Tuition Partners helping to deliver quality tuition to primary and secondary schools across Bradford and Leeds.
Our team is based on the campus of the University of Leeds and we have good partnerships with Leeds City Council, the two dioceses of Leeds and local multi-academy trusts like Dixons, Abbey Grange and Co-op Academies.
The NTP is a Government-funded, sector-led initiative with the simple aim of making high quality, heavily subsidised expert tutoring available to disadvantaged pupils affected by coronavirus. I know, and have seen first hand, the ability to make a real difference to disadvantaged pupils in our area.
Like all teachers, we believe every child should have an equal chance to achieve their potential. But we all know life is not equal, and that includes access to private tutoring. We are here to change that at this crucial moment. We know there is strong evidence that tutoring can make a profound difference to a pupil’s self-confidence, aspirations and academic achievements. That is precisely why I believe tutoring should be accessible to every child who needs it, regardless of background. That is why I co-founded The Tutor Trust: to provide state schools with a professional, affordable and convenient tutoring service.
There is no shadow of a doubt that educational inequality needs to be tackled now more than ever, both for the sake of fairness and the sake of our future economic prosperity. There is, sadly, an additional North-South dimension to some education challenges, and that is why it is right to champion the work of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership and Leeds-based charity SHINE Trust.
Our work can be part of a wider solution to make sure Yorkshire’s educational recovery isn’t forgotten.
So far the NTP has enrolled more 11,000 students across Yorkshire as part of the national effort. That means 11,000 pupils will have access to high quality tutoring to help them learn as the effects of the pandemic begin to bite harder.
Of course, the NTP is neither perfect nor the single solution to solving educational inequality, but I have seen for myself the positive impact it is having on our schools and a generation of pupils who have already been so badly affected. I urge all teachers to check it out.
The NTP is not a short-term gimmick, nor is it a sticking plaster to the region’s educational woes. It has already reached more than 100,000 pupils, has enrolled more than 14,000 tutors and is working with thousands of schools up and down the country. The Government has also already committed to funding it for the longer term.
Now we have to make sure pupils across our region have every piece of support available to help them to reach their full potential.
Nick Bent is co-founder and CEO of The Tutor Trust.
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