One to one tuition

Moderate impact for high cost, based on extensive evidence.

What is it?

One to one tuition is where a teacher, teaching assistant or other adult gives a pupil intensive individual support. It may be undertaken outside of normal lessons as additional teaching, for example as part of extending school time or summer schools, or as a replacement for other lessons by withdrawing the pupil for extra teaching.

How Effective is it?

Evidence indicates that one to one tuition can be effective, on average accelerating learning by approximately five additional months’ progress.

Short, regular sessions (about 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week) over a set period of time (6-12 weeks) appear to result in optimum impact. Evidence also suggests tuition should be additional to, but explicitly linked with, normal teaching, and that teachers should monitor progress to ensure the tutoring is beneficial. Studies comparing one to one with small group tuition show mixed results. In some cases one to one tuition has led to greater improvement, while in others tuition in groups of two or three has been equally or even more effective compared to one to one. The variability in findings may suggest that the quality of teaching in one to one tuition or small groups is more important than the group size, emphasising the value of professional development for teachers.

Programmes involving teaching assistants or volunteers also have a valuable impact, but tend to be less effective than those using experienced and specifically trained teachers, which have nearly twice the effect on average. Where tuition is delivered by volunteers or teaching assistants there is evidence that training and the use of a structured programme is beneficial.

How secure is the evidence?

Overall, the evidence is consistent and strong, particularly for younger learners who are behind their peers in primary schools, and for subjects like reading and mathematics. There are fewer studies at secondary level or for other subjects.

In the UK, three recent evaluations of one to one tuition interventions (see Catch Up Numeracy, Catch Up Literacy and Switch-on Reading) found average impacts of between three and five months’ additional progress. In addition, an intensive coaching programme that involved one to one and small group tuition had an average impact of five additional months’ progress.

What are the costs?

Overall, costs are estimated as high. A single pupil receiving 30 minutes tuition, five times a week for 12 weeks requires about four full days of a teacher’s time, which is estimated to cost approximately £700 per pupil. Costs could be reduced by trialing groups of two or three (see Small group tuition).

What should I consider?

One to one tuition is very effective in helping learners catch up, but is relatively expensive. Before you commit to one to one tuition, have you considered trialing intensive support groups of two or three and evaluating the impact?

Tuition is more likely to make an impact if it is additional to and explicitly linked with normal lessons. Have you considered how you will support pupils and regular class teachers to ensure the impact is sustained once they return to normal classes?

Training is likely to be particularly beneficial when tuition is delivered by experienced and well-trained teaching assistants. What training and support have you provided?

Have any programmes you are adopting been evaluated?

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