Undergraduate students at the University of Exeter will tutor disadvantaged students whose learning was disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is part of a pilot scheme set up by the institution where students are given training in order to help boost education recovery efforts in England’s schools.
The undergraduates have been assigned to a school, where they teach small groups of up to three schoolchildren once a week.
The project is being run independently to the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), the government’s education recovery policy, which offers subsidised tutoring to children whose learning has been affected by Covid lockdowns and school closures.
The scheme was developed by Lee Elliot Major, professor of Social Mobility at Exeter, in collaboration with local headteacher Lindsay Skinner.
He said: “This is part of our efforts to recover in terms of education post-pandemic, to address some of the stark learning gaps that have emerged.
“One of the issues the NTP has struggled with is supply of high-quality tutors. All these universities have lots of young, highly qualified people.”
This scheme comes after recent Department for Education (DfE) figures showed the widest gap in GCSE grades between disadvantaged pupils and their well-off peers in a decade, with school leaders predicting that spending cuts will exacerbate the situation.
Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Significant investment in a coherent plan for education recovery is badly needed if this gap is ever going to close. Instead, it seems likely that the government is going to reduce spending on education even further.”
Currently, the Exeter scheme is focused on boosting literacy among 11- and 12-year-old pupils. However, the aim is to involve more pupils and undergraduates in the next academic year and expand the selection of subjects.
Exeter is reportedly looking to trial a model for the scheme in which students are paid for their services. The undergraduates in this trial have received credits toward their degrees.
If the scheme is successful, the team behind it hoped that it will be replicated at other universities and schools around the country.
Robert Halfon, Minister for Skills, Apprenticeships, and Higher Education, said: “This is a fantastic initiative, and I am hugely grateful to the University of Exeter for their proactive support to help catch up children in their community. Tutoring is a key component to our catch-up strategy, and this is a great example of how students can help to play their part.”