Why reinstating confidence is vital for getting students back on track in further education
The last 18 months brought significant challenges for the education system – the effects of which will be played out in the years to come. Nowhere is this more visible than for young people retaking GCSE English and maths in post-16 education. These students, who were not awarded a grade 4 or above (a standard pass) this summer, have spent almost a third of their secondary education facing uncertainty. Some saw their GCSE exams cancelled for two years running, against the backdrop of repeated school and college closures, switches to and from online learning, and incidents of Covid-19 among their families, peers and teachers.
Having experienced all this, it is hardly a surprise that the confidence of these students would be affected. Analysis from surveys given to students retaking GCSEs in post-16 education at the start of this academic year suggest that over three-quarters worry that they will not get good grades in English or maths this year.
At Get Further, we believe that rebuilding this confidence is critical to ensuring that these young people experience the success they’ve missed out on to date. To rebuild this confidence, our charity matches young people to top tutors. Candidates who apply to join our tutor pool are screened not only to ensure that they have strong subject knowledge themselves, but that they can effectively communicate key concepts in English and maths to students who need extra support to close fundamental gaps in their knowledge. These young people gain the opportunity to ask questions one-to-one or in small groups to a trusted role model, and receive tailored support to build skills they previously struggled with. In turn, this reduces the worry that they might not make the progress they need.
But matching students to top English and maths tutors is just one part of our approach to ensuring confidence is rebuilt. Both our English and maths curricula and resources are carefully crafted by qualified teachers with a track record of success, incorporating different strategies that we know are effective for ensuring students experience success. The strategies include the principles of mastery teaching and high-expectations, in-depth consideration of how topics and examples are selected and sequenced, with in-built variation theory and spaced retrieval practice, and opportunities for purposeful practice.
The design of our curricula and resources is a key ingredient to ensuring that the tuition students receive is both of a high-standard and expertly delivered. All our tutors receive guidance in their tutor booklets with suggested, tried and tested approaches that draw students’ attention to key concepts (for example, multiplicative relationships in maths, and inference and reasoning in English) and highlight and head-off common misconceptions. We round off our approach by ensuring that all our tutors are trained by qualified teachers so that they understand the evidence behind the strategies that underpin the tuition resources, and feel confident in applying these in tutoring sessions. Tutors are then offered professional development opportunities to enhance their tutoring skills throughout the year.
Crucially, our impact data tells us that this approach is working to boost student confidence. Over 90% of students who we matched to a tutor last year agreed with the statement that they feel more confident in English or maths since taking part in Get Further. Three quarters gave a score of 8 or higher (out of 10) when asked how they rate the Get Further tuition resources, and 9 in 10 gave a similar score when asked how they rate their tutor. In thank you messages that students share with us at the end of the programme, changes to their confidence is a key theme. In the words of one student, Adesuwa, this summer: “I feel as though my maths has highly improved. [My tutor] really took their time with me on things I didn’t understand and helped me so much to build my confidence with my maths.”
To find out more about Get Further, or if you are interested in running a tutoring programme or working as a tutor in 2021/22, visit www.getfurther.org.uk.
Written by: Kate Straw
Published: 29th October 2021