Could a tutoring blitz help disadvantaged kids bounce back?

Could a tutoring blitz help disadvantaged kids bounce back?

An investment of $1bn in school tutoring could allow students to catch-up from lost learning after the COVID-19 lockdowns, a new report says.

The new Grattan Institute report, ‘COVID catch-up: helping disadvantaged students close the equity gap’ calls on governments to send a battalion of 100,000 tutors into schools between now and Christmas to conduct intensive small-group sessions on reading and maths.

According to the Institute’s research, many disadvantaged students – those from the poorest 25% of families and rural areas – will have fallen further behind their classmates during the COVID-19 school closures.

Even where remote learning was working well for advantaged students, disadvantaged students are likely to have lost a month of learning on average during the six-to-nine weeks of school closures in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Tasmania, and the ACT.

The report says about one million disadvantaged students should attend tutoring sessions three-to-five times a week for up to three months, in groups of about three, either during regular school hours or before or after school.

Done well, these sessions could boost their learning by five months between now and the end of the year.

The tutors should be drawn from teachers and teacher aides who work part-time, but especially from young university graduates and pre-service teachers, who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 job and income losses.

Most tutors would work about eight hours a week. They could earn up to $6,300 over the six months.

While the $1bn investment is no small sum, the pay-off would be much larger, the report’s authors say.

Among the benefits, young tutors would have extra income during the recession, and would be likely to spend it quickly, helping stimulate the economy between now and Christmas. Disadvantaged students who gained extra learning would also earn more over their lifetime, boosting Australia’s economy in years to come.

The report also recommends governments spend $70m expanding successful literacy and numeracy programs, especially for students in the early years, and $30m on trials of ‘targeted teaching’ and extra support for student well-being.

“Our schools, teachers, and students adapted remarkably well when the COVID-19 crisis forced them to switch almost overnight to remote learning,’ lead author and Grattan Institute Education Fellow, Dr Julie Sonnemann, said.

However, Dr Sonnemann said the report shows that most students did not learn as much while at home as they would have in their classroom – and disadvantaged students were hardest hit.

“Our tutoring blitz plan is a win-win-win: the tutors get extra income, the economy gets extra stimulus and, most importantly, our disadvantaged students get the chance for a better life”.