Charity calls for tutoring to urgently close the attainment gap

  • New figures published today show Care Experienced people are less likely to gain qualifications than their peers
  • Charities say now is the time to invest in young people’s potential
  • Calls for Scottish Government to replicate new scheme created for English and Welsh pupils

New figures released by the Scottish Government show 65% of Care Experienced Young People leave school without even one National 5 qualification. [1] The figures, which are released by the Scottish Government annually, show a maintained disparity in educational outcomes for young people in care. Leading advocates for children and young people have called for the Scottish Government and local authorities to provide tutoring to bridge the attainment gap.

The Volunteer Tutors Organisation says that tutoring is a cost-effective solution to help close the ever-widening attainment gap. The charity has spent forty years matching trained tutors with school children who have barriers to learning as a result of complex backgrounds and additional support needs.

VTO’s direct experience, working with children and young people, reinforces recent research from the University of Glasgow [2] and MCR Pathways [3] that suggests young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to have been left behind during COVID-19.

Barbara Oliver, Operations Manager Volunteer Tutors Organisation said:

“Of the 330 children that we were supporting before 16th March, we have been successful in transitioning 84 on to virtual one to one tutoring. The barriers that we have faced are immense. Some family homes are so digitally disadvantaged that online tutoring just is not possible.

“There has never been a time when our support has been required more. What is important, and has been at the heart of VTO at all times, is the human contact and interaction with the young people we support. This is critical because consistent relationships make the difference. That’s why we are calling on the Scottish Government and local authorities to take every action in their power to make sure every child who needs a tutor can have one.”

The UK government has invested £350m in a National Tutoring Programme (NTP) for the most disadvantaged pupils in England to access tutoring from October [4].  A further £650m will be given to primary and secondary schools to spend on one-to-one or group tuition for any pupils they think need it. No such scheme exists in Scotland and the charities have called for this to change ahead of the announcement for the programme for government.

A spokesperson for Who Cares? Scotland said:

“Throughout the pandemic, we have been providing Care Experienced people with digital technology, with many worried that they are falling behind on their education. Families are struggling to keep their head above water in the current economic climate and this can be felt more strongly by Care Experienced people. The recent conclusions from the Care Review [5] tells us that if given the right support, at the right time, Care Experienced people can excel.”

“We believe that investment in tutoring will create the necessary scaffolding to support Care Experienced people back into education and stop the attainment gap from being too entrenched.”

Barry Black, a researcher from the University of Glasgow, has produced research on the impact of the poverty-related attainment gap in Scotland. In particular, the data reveals that the poverty-related attainment gap will likely grow at a larger rate over the 2020/21 academic term than would be usual in a ‘normal’ year of schooling. This is due to the switch to integrated online learning and the challenges this presents for the provision of technology and support for learning. He said:

“Lockdown is already threatening to worsen inequalities across the board severely, not least the attainment gap. Care Experienced Young People are a key group who will have been negatively affected, compounding existing policy failings.

“There is a growing consensus that targeted tutoring could go some way to addressing some of the ‘learning loss’ over the past several months. This is particularly important for those sitting qualifications in the coming academic year.

“We cannot forget that even before this crisis around 60% of pupils in care did not leave school with even one National 5 qualification. It is a national embarrassment.

“There is a great opportunity here to implement a positive systemic change in the education of young people in care – in emerging from lockdown and beyond. I hope the Scottish Government take it.”

Ends

For more information contact: Kenny Murray, kmurray@whocaresscotland.org, 07903215855

Notes to Editors

[1] Educational Outcomes Looked After Children, Scottish Government: https://www.gov.scot/binaries/content/documents/govscot/publications/statistics/2020/09/education-outcomes-looked-children-2018-19/documents/education-outcomes-looked-children-2018-19/education-outcomes-looked-children-2018-19/govscot%3Adocument/education-outcomes-looked-children-2018-19.pdf?forceDownload=true

[2] University of Glasgow Research on impact of lockdown, June 2020: https://policyscotland.gla.ac.uk/attainment-and-disadvantage-in-scotlands-schools-the-impact-of-lockdown-briefing/

[3] MCR Pathways Research, July 2020: https://mcrpathways.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/MCR-Lockdown-Survey-Report-29th-July.pdf

[4] UK Government Coronavirus Catch Up Premium: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-catch-up-premium

[5] Care Review Promise Report, February 2020: https://www.carereview.scot/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/The-Promise.pdf

With thanks to Scottish Local Authorities, funding partners and donors who make our work possible.