Affordable Individual and Small Group Tuition: Secondary

The Tutor Trust is a Manchester-based charity that aims to provide affordable small group and one-to-one tuition, predominantly to disadvantaged pupils in schools in challenging communities. The tutors are university students and recent graduates, enabling tuition to be provided at a competitive rate on a not-for-profit basis.

This three-year evaluation assessed the impact of the Tutor Trust on the English and mathematics GCSE results of 1,029 Year 11 pupils. Tuition took place in the academic years 2011–2012 to 2013–2014. Students received different numbers of hours of tuition, and some received tuition in multiple academic years between Year 9 and Year 11. The evaluation also explored schools’ perceptions of the need for affordable tuition and their assessment of the quality of the service provided.

Qualitative fieldwork took place in eight schools and was based on interviews with senior leaders, classroom teachers, tutors and pupils.

The project was funded by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Manchester City Council and payments from participating schools. A separate evaluation of the impact of the tuition on the English and mathematics attainment of Year 6 and Year 7 pupils is available on the EEF website.

Key Conclusions

The following conclusions summarise the project outcome

  1. Due to the limitations of the study design and the absence of a high-quality comparison group, this evaluation has not provided a secure estimate of the impact of the project on academic outcomes.

  2. Participating pupils achieved slightly higher mathematics GCSE scores than pupils in the comparison group, and lower English GCSE scores than pupils in the comparison group. However, it is not possible to attribute either change to the tuition provided.

  3. Schools involved in the qualitative interviews were positive about the tuition, keen to work with the Tutor Trust again, and largely confident that the tuition was beneficial for their pupils.

  4. Teachers believed that there was a need for more affordable high-quality tuition, and that the Tutor Trust helped meet this need.

  5. It is recommended that the Tutor Trust continues to monitor tutor performance and identifies mechanisms to increase the consistency of tuition. Schools should be active participants in this process and classroom teachers need to be involved in the planning and management of tuition to ensure that in all cases tuition complements work in the classroom.

What is the impact?

  • In general, teachers in participating schools were positive about the tuition provided and a large majority of the senior leaders interviewed were keen to work with the Tutor Trust again.
  • Tuition was perceived to be most effective when tutors possessed strong pedagogical skills and subject knowledge; engaged and interacted successfully with pupils; and targeted sessions appropriately.
  • On average, pupils receiving mathematics tuition achieved slightly higher mathematics GCSE scores than pupils in the comparison group. On average, pupils receiving Tutor Trust English tutoring achieved lower English GCSE scores than pupils in the comparison group. However, it is not possible to attribute these differences to the tuition provided. Specifically, the absence of a high-quality comparison group made it impossible to rule out the possibility that the differences observed were due to differences between pupils who received tuition and those who did not. The quality of the comparison group was further compromised by being unable to use pupil-level information about SEN, EAL or LAC status in the evaluation. 
GroupEffect sizeEstimated months’ progressSecurity ratingCost
All pupils (mathematics)+0.05+1 months
All pupils (English)−0.16−2 months
FSM pupils (mathematics)+0.09+1 months
FSM pupils (English)−0.03−1 months

How secure is the finding?

Overall, the findings from this evaluation have very low security. The evaluation was set up as an effectiveness trial, meaning that it aimed to test the approach under realistic conditions in a large number of schools. Impact data were obtained from 24 schools for mathematics and 19 schools for English. However, limitations of the evaluation design and observable differences between the students in the intervention and comparison groups meant that it was not possible to establish a high-quality comparison group against which to assess the impact of the tuition provided. Consequently, the findings are deemed too insecure to assess the impact of the programme on pupil attainment.

The evaluation used a quasi-experimental design, which aimed to enable a comparison to be made between participating pupils and other pupils who were similar in terms of their demographic and socio-economic characteristics. However, it was not possible to control for a number of potentially influential variables, which the evaluators had planned to do. These variables were pupil-level special educational needs (SEN); English as an additional language (EAL); ethnicity; and looked after children (LAC) status. They were excluded from the final analysis due to a change in the level of consent required to obtain this data, which occurred after the data collection phase of the trial had been completed.

Security was further weakened by differences in the prior attainment of pupils in these schools and those in comparison schools. Although some differences were accounted for through statistical analysis, the presence of such marked differences indicated that the comparison group was unlikely to be of a high quality. In addition, it was not possible to identify with confidence which pupils in the comparison group would have received tuition.

Finally, it was not possible to take into account unobservable factors between pupils that received tutoring and those who did not, such as their motivation or the quality of the leadership in their schools. To overcome this weakness, an alternative design, such as a randomised controlled trial, would have been necessary.

How much does it cost?

The Tutor Trust charged £18 per hour of tuition in 2011–2012, irrespective of the size of the tutoring group. In 2012–2013, 1:1 tuition was charged at £18 per hour; 1:2 at £20 per hour, and 1:3 at £26 per hour. Based on groups of three pupils receiving 25 tuition sessions, the total cost is estimated at approximately £217 per pupil.