A Year in the Life of a 1:1 Tutor

By Bamford, Ruth | NATE Classroom, Autumn 2010 | Go to article overview

A Year in the Life of a 1:1 Tutor


Bamford, Ruth, NATE Classroom


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Having claimed my teachers' pension a bit early (and how glad I am I did) I found myself in the fortunate position of being able to work part-time. Last September I was given the opportunity to take part in the government programme offering 1:1 tuition to school students. For those who are unfamiliar with the scheme, here is the official blurb.

'The one-to-one tuition programme provides additional support for pupils not achieving their full potential in either English or mathematics, despite other intervention methods. The tuition is designed to focus on a specific 'blockage' in a child's learning and provide an intensive burst of individual tuition.' (DCSF)

Sounds good, doesn't it?

It sounded more than good, so I started in a local secondary school, taking five students a day for ten weeks. Thinking I would start small, I agreed to do two days a week of this and see how it went. There is planning time allowed of two hours for ten hours of tuition for each student so it worked out that I was in school for six hours a day. After two terms of this I accepted another day, so that I have now had 35 KS3 students receive their 'intensive burst' through my tender hands, giving me the experience to review and comment on the system.

The official blurb also gives guidance on the type of student who should receive tuition and I copy it here (sic) so you can see if you understand it! Thank goodness I only have to teach the students, not select them.

For pupils working at National Curriculum levels who:

* Are a Looked After Child (from a specific LAC allocation).

* For all other children who

--entered the key stage behind expected levels and/or

--are not on track to make the expected progress.

* Priority given to pupils in vulnerable groups who would particularly benefit from this kind of support.

* It is designed to help children not achieving their full potential, despite other intervention methods.

* It must not exclude pupils because they are considered harder to reach and/or are considered to have behaviour issues.

(DCSF)

Session one takes the form of getting to know the students, their home backgrounds and anything that might impact on their learning. They tell me what they perceive to be their strengths and weaknesses and I discover that this does not always agree with what their teachers think! I always ask the question, 'Is there anything you would like to be able to do but find difficult?' The answer to this is often 'spell better' which destroys the myth that students don't care about spelling anymore. During this session I hear the student read aloud; ask them to write a couple of sentences about their hobbies and check the first 16 common spellings. I discover, to my surprise that 50% of my students are left-handed. There is a research project waiting for someone. We then discuss possible targets, which I later put in writing and we both sign. There is another bit of paperwork requiring completion during the first session--the student evaluation. This is a strange set of questions and the students have to mark their responses along a positive to negative line. One question is, 'How confident do you feel about putting your hand up in class?' Almost without exception my students reply (sensibly in my opinion), 'It depends if I know the answer or not.' At the end of the sessions they have to complete the form again and I suppose the idea is to see if their self-esteem and attitude have improved, or even possibly their English.

The system requires each student to have three targets so, following discussion with their English teachers, I make a reading, writing and spelling target for each student, relating them to AFs (assessment focuses) where possible. In my naivety, my first sets of targets were rather optimistic and not very SMART. I would choose, 'to write sentences of varying lengths (simple, compound and complex) using the full range of punctuation correctly'. …

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