Remote learning has been pushed to the forefront of education in recent months as every part of the education system has been disrupted by COVID-19.
It’s unclear what the future of education will look like but an encouraging silver lining that has emerged from the crisis is how many institutions have been able to stay on top of the demands of their pupils and students by embracing technology.
Tutoring has played a key role in this effort at a group and one-on-one level. It’s likely that even as COVID-19 moves on, tutoring will remain a central part of our education system. Here’s why.
Education throughout the UK has been turned on its head by the threat of the Coronavirus.
Schools were shut across the UK on 20 March and, apart from the children of key workers, most children will not return until after the summer holidays. Universities too have had to close and upgrade their admissions and examination process. Increasingly, these institutions are taking to e-learning, with top institutions, such as Harvard University, moving all teaching online in the coming academic year.
The system as a whole has struggled to cope – and it’s been forced to adapt and change.
Tutoring organisations and individuals have emerged to meet the demands of pupils and students who have been left in the lurch by the closing of their primary source of education. As a result, demand is booming, boosting Britain’s private tuition sector, worth an estimated £2bn.
Recent research from the Education Endowment Foundation proved the value of tutoring, showing how one-to-one and small-group tutoring was a cost-effective way to help pupils, especially those who were falling behind. Regular, 30-minute sessions, 3 to 5 times a week over 6 to 12 weeks could add up to 5 additional months’ worth of educational progress.
It’s also important to note how tutors can encompass a range of activities, not just academic studies. Pupil and student mental health has been under pressure during this period, and so it’s important that tutoring schemes also provide education in sports, arts, culture and wellbeing, and schemes like this are planned to be rolled out across the UK this summer.
Tutoring use cases are many and can be matched to the needs of all pupils and students.
Not a perfect solution
The increased use of tutoring firms does raise some difficult questions.
Most pressingly, many low-income families may not have access to a computer or the technology to be able to make tutoring a seamless part of their children’s education. This barrier to entry can make it difficult to access any service, even if it is a low price or even free. It’s also a solution that doesn’t necessarily help students who suffer from learning difficulties.
Further, some parents are reluctant to move their children to online tutoring, with some unwilling to continue with tutoring for their children unless the service can be provided in person. This is less of an issue at university level, but trust online and value for money is still an issue.
Playing catch up
Recognising the shortfall in educational facilities for those who have missed school, the UK government recently announced a £1bn fund to help children catch up.
Encouragingly, the most disadvantaged pupils, those who have been unable to perhaps afford tutoring until now, will have access to tutors through a £350m programme from September. Primary and secondary schools will be given a further £650m to spend on one-to-one or group tuition. Early years providers and colleges for 16 to 19-year-olds are not included in the plans.
In more positive news, the Sutton Trust, Education Endowment Foundation, Nesta and Impetus have jointly launched an online tuition pilot to support disadvantaged pupils. One of the models being piloted involved the Tutor Trust – a not-for-profit charity which trains university students as tutors in core subjects – who provide one-to-one tuition in state schools.
Schemes like these prove the valuable place that remote tutoring will play as the world slowly returns to a new normal.
The new normal
With many pupils not returning to school until September at the earliest, and many universities moving online for the 2020/21 academic year, demand for online tutoring will continue to rise.
It’s also possible that a ‘second spike’ in COVID-19 cases may close schools and universities again. In this situation, institutions will need to seamlessly pick up virtual tutoring. What’s more, other pandemics may arrive sooner rather than later, so contingency plans involving tutoring should be put in place now, ready to be activated should the need arise.
It’s also fair to assume that many parents, pupils and students may embrace remote learning to avoid having to either gather in groups or travel to a place of learning. Homeschooling, via remote tutoring, will become a central part of education’s ‘new normal’.
As we all know, the world has changed and, likely, changed for good. Education is no exception and so it’s important that solutions that suit a post-COVID-19 world are integrated now. Tutoring is one of those and it looks set to play an even more important role in education of the future.
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