Evaluation of Third Space Learning’s Affordable Maths Tuition
Published: June 2022
Affordable Maths Tuition (AMT) by Third Space Learning (TSL) is an online tutoring programme that aims to reduce the maths attainment gap by recruiting and training maths tutors in India and Sri Lanka to make online one-to-one tuition more affordable to children in English schools.
Children who have had a social worker have significantly lower attainment than their peers. Evidence suggests that one-to-one tuition offers a good option to boost their educational attainment. However, tuition is typically prohibitively expensive.
AMT provides weekly online sessions in which tutors work one-to-one with pupils on maths topics. The virtual sessions are led by maths tutors in India and Sri Lanka trained by TSL to provide tuition based on the UK curriculum. Tutors provide feedback which informs regular reports that are available to pupils’ teachers, helping to guide them in class work.
This evaluation aimed to assess the effectiveness of AMT in improving maths attainment for children who have had a social worker in the past six years. The evaluation’s original design comprised both an impact evaluation and an implementation and process evaluation (IPE). However, the Covid-19 pandemic disrupted in-school activities and the primary outcome measure, KS2 SATs scores, was no longer available for the 2020/21 cohort, making the impact evaluation unviable. The IPE was retained as a means of understanding experiences of the AMT programme.
Findings from the evaluation suggest that the AMT programme offers promise for children with a social worker.
- Predominantly school staff and pupils perceived positive impacts of AMT, this included improvements in verbal reasoning, understanding of maths topics, ability to use new maths strategies, engagement, enjoyment and confidence in maths.
- Positive outcomes were thought to have been achieved through the one-to-one, personalised tuition provided by the programme in an engaging format.
- Where the programme was considered to have been less successful, this was generally attributed to content not being aligned with the learning needs and abilities of individual pupils or the school curriculum.
- Suggestions for developing the AMT programme included improving communication and information provision to school staff, greater involvement of teachers in the selection of tuition content, and a higher level of tutor consistency.
The AMT programme offered a welcome approach to supporting disadvantaged pupils with maths learning. The format and nature of the intervention (specifically a tailored online one-to-one tuition service) presented a positive approach to tackling educational disadvantage. The programme was well received overall, with school staff and pupils often highlighting improvements in maths engagement, enjoyment and confidence.
There were, however, several barriers to delivery, limiting the potential of the programme to impact pupils’ outcomes. These barriers were predominantly practical, with technical difficulties, lack of available space, staff resource constraints and pupil absence being raised by stakeholders. This was compounded by issues with awareness and engagement among some school staff, which limited their use of tools available as part of AMT.
It is also important to note that Covid-19 was a key barrier to key elements of success of the programme, including fidelity, acceptability and mechanisms by which outcomes were achieved. This was primarily because school closures put many students with a lack of access to technology and parental support for learning at home at greater disadvantage to progressing with their learning via the AMT programme.
The evaluation comprised several strands of work, employing both qualitative and quantitative methods in order to better understand and assess how AMT had been implemented and received. These work strands were:
- A review of tutor training materials and recorded online training sessions with tutors
- Observation of ten recorded AMT sessions
- Telephone interviews with maths leads/ teachers
- Online paired/ grouped interviews with 14 pupils in the intervention group
- Online interviews with ten AMT tutors
- Five online/ telephone interviews with Virtual School Heads
- Two telephone interviews with stakeholders from TSL
- Collection of cost data from participating schools
The evaluation ran from August 2020 until March 2022, with AMT session delivered to pupils to pupils between October 2020 and July 2021. Significant disruption to delivery occurred between January and April 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which led schools to close to all pupils with the exception of provision for vulnerable children and children of critical workers.
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