New EEF trial: low-cost tutoring can boost struggling pupils’ maths results by +3 months

Training university students and recent graduates to give disadvantaged primary pupils small-group tuition can boost their maths results by three months’ over the course of a year, according to the results of a large randomised controlled trial published today by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

105 primary schools with double the average numbers of disadvantaged pupils took part in the trial of the Tutor Trust’s affordable tuition model. Year 6 pupils (10 and 11 year olds) who were struggling with their maths were selected by their teacher to receive extra support from Tutor Trust tutors.

The tutors were all students and recent graduates recruited to support schools in challenging communities and pupils who are looked-after or eligible for free school meals. They were given structured training to help them plan tuition sessions, manage behaviour and assess pupils’ grades.

The pupils taking part in the trial received 12 hours of tuition, usually one hour per week for 12 weeks. Schools had flexibility over the timing of sessions and group size. The vast majority of schools opted for pupils to be tutored in groups of three, and for sessions to take place during school hours.

The independent evaluation by a team of researchers from Durham University and the University of York found that the pupils who received tutoring from Tutor Trust tutors made three additional months’ progress in maths compared with a similar group of pupils who were not tutored. They also found some emerging evidence that pupils with low prior attainment tended to benefit more from the tutoring.

Today’s findings are consistent with evidence from the Teaching and Learning Toolkit that highlights small-group tuition as an effective way of improving attainment. However, research by the Sutton Trust has highlighted inequalities in access to tutoring, which is likely to widen the attainment gap between poorer students and their classmates.

The EEF tested the Tutor Trust’s model to find out if it could be a cost-effective way to boost disadvantaged pupils’ attainment by giving them access to tuition. This was a large and high-quality effectiveness trial, which means it was designed to test the model under everyday conditions in a large number of schools.

The EEF previously commissioned a smaller evaluation of the Tutor Trust programme in primary and secondary schools in Manchester. The aim of these studies was to establish whether the Tutor Trust was achieving its aims, and to what extent the model was sustainable.

The EEF, Impetus-PEF and Tutor Trust are currently discussing how to bring the benefits of this model to a large number of schools.

Sir Kevan Collins, Chief Executive of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said:

Private tuition is often expensive, meaning those who can afford it are able to give their children a significant advantage over those that cannot. Today’s findings give us strong evidence of how to bring the benefits of small group tuition to those who can’t afford it.

The pupils taking part in our trial were given 12 hours of tuition from university students and recent graduates. The evaluators found that these pupils made three months more progress than pupils who didn’t get any extra tutoring. Schools should consider the Tutor Trust’s model as a cost-effective way to boost attainment for struggling pupils.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation and founder of the Sutton Trust, said:

Private tuition has grown rapidly over the past decade so that it is now a £2 billion industry. However, due to the cost which averages £27 per hour it is only better-off pupils who benefit.

Our trial which was conducted with disadvantaged pupils showed that private tuition is highly effective with this group with as little as 12 hours resulting in three months more progress. The challenge for the future is to scale up and bring the benefits of this model to a large number of disadvantaged young people.

Yvette Sullivan, headeacher of St Paul’s CE Primary School in Walkden, also said:

The Tutor Trust ensured that through effective communication with school, the correct pupils were targeted, either 1-1 or in small groups, in order to ensure a positive impact on the outcomes for them, in attainment, progress, and in confidence and enjoyment in their learning.

The tutors have been flexible, have dealt with our pupils sensitively and professionally, and have always been well trained, ensuring that since the trial we have continued to use the Tutor Trust to support our pupils’ learning and would recommend them to other schools.

Other EEF evaluations published today:

  • FAST, a parental engagement programme where parents and their children attend eight weekly 2.5-hour group sessions delivered by accredited FAST trainers, involving teachers and other members of the community.
  • IPEELL, where self-regulation and memorable experiences are used as a stimulus for pupils’ writing
  • Writing About Values, a project that uses writing exercises to try to increase the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.
  • Maths Counts, a programme of one-to-one support for pupils delivered by teaching assistants. 

Notes to editors:

  1. The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) is a grant-making charity set up in 2011 by the Sutton Trust as lead foundation in partnership with Impetus Trust (now part of Impetus–The Private Equity Foundation), with a £125m founding grant from the Department for Education. The EEF is dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement.
  2. Research by the Sutton Trust found that there are big socio-economic gaps in time spent on additional instruction outside of lessons. For pupils of the same levels of achievement, well-off pupils receive 2.5 hours more additional instruction than less well-off pupils.
  3. The annual Sutton Trust / Ipsos-Mori survey of 11-16 year olds on private tuition in 2018 showed that more than one in four young people in England and Wales have received private or home tuition, a figure which has risen by half since the Trust began collecting the data in 2005.
  4. The Tutor Trust aims to democratise one-to-one tuition and helps tackle educational inequality. They serve disadvantaged pupils by supplying schools with first class academic tutors - university students, recruited and trained by us. They are Britain's only professional, not-for profit tuition service for state schools in challenging communities.
  5. Impetus-PEF transforms the lives of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds by ensuring they get the right support to succeed in school, in work and in life. They find, fund and build the most promising charities working with these young people, providing core funding and working shoulder-to-shoulder with their leaders to help them become stronger organisations.