Case Study: How Online Tutoring Helped a Norfolk School Overcome COVID Challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic had a profound impact on UK schools and hit historically disadvantaged students the hardest. That impact is still being felt today with many schools still managing the fall-out.

During the height of the pandemic, Tutor Doctor was approached by Downham Market Academy. The school, based in Norfolk, was looking for tutoring services to help disadvantaged students to accelerate their progress in the face of an incredibly challenging time.

Read on to discover how Tutor Doctor helped Downham Market Academy to address the problem and how we solved the multiple challenges that arose during the tutoring programme.

How COVID-19 Changed Everything

COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions of the pandemic presented so many challenges to schools throughout the country. Where once children and their teachers were able to share the learning experience in close proximity in the classroom, they were suddenly separated by distance and new and constantly changing rules.

Like other schools in the UK, Downham Market Academy needed to turn to online learning to deliver the school curriculum. The impact on students with regular learning needs was significant enough, but the school was also concerned about their disadvantaged students and helping them to stay on track.

These concerns led Deputy Headteacher and Director of Teaching and Learning, Nick Hewitt, to approach Tutor Doctor for help. He had heard good things about Tutor Doctor from a colleague, not least about our expertise in local tutoring and our ability to tailor our services to meet the needs of schools and individuals.

An Ambitious 9-Week Programme of Learning

Working closely with Nick and his colleagues, we learned that what was required was a fairly ambitious tutoring programme. We needed to provide a comprehensive programme of online after-school tuition to a broad cohort of Year 11 students in English, Maths, and Science. Not only that, but we needed to deliver a programme of 30 hours of tutoring each week.

After several briefing meetings with the school, we set to work on assembling a team of tutors to work with groups of 1-3 students after school for an hour. There would be two sessions per subject per day. With clear briefing from the Heads of Department, a 9-week programme was designed to encompass general learning in each subject, revision, and past paper practice.

How We Delivered the Programme of Online Tutoring

As all tutoring sessions needed to be delivered online to comply with COVID guidelines, we needed to choose the right online learning platform. Due to complications and safeguarding issues associated with Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other mainstream platforms, we decided to deliver all online tutoring sessions through Bramble. This platform was already trusted by many schools, was easy to use, and delivered the safeguarding assurances we were looking for.

Lessons We Learned Along the Way

Operationally, this was a challenging programme for both sides. The key was to continue learning and adapting along the way.

Some of the students on the programme were less than enthusiastic about attending additional sessions after school. Where under normal circumstances, there would be opportunities for teaching staff and tutors to encourage participation and attendance, COVID guidelines restricted these abilities significantly. We also encountered some connectivity issues and other technical challenges.

We learned early on that some students were just not going to engage with the online learning sessions offered to them. In these cases, new students joined the programme and were able to take advantage of the extra learning opportunities.

A Huge Success Despite the Challenges

We were delighted to hear that Downham Market Academy was very happy with the COVID-19 tutoring programme and that they would be very willing to run a similar online programme again if the need ever arose. Technology glitches and attendance challenges aside, the programme was a huge success.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions and the COVID year in general, it was difficult to measure the specific impact of the tutoring on the student’s grades. However, the school observed that despite the lockdown challenges, the engagement of students and parents vastly improved. The school also valued the support our tutors offered students and teachers.

“Exemplary service ensured that the programme not only ran with efficacy but also was a pleasure to take part in. As a school, we felt supported.”

– Nick Hewitt, Director of Teaching and Learning, DMA

How We Succeeded In Meeting the Needs of Downham Market Academy

Under normal circumstances, we would have loved to meet with students in person to carry out each tutoring session. For our purposes, Bramble proved to be the perfect platform to help the students of Downham Market Academy.

Here are a few other ways that we were able to help the students find academic success:

  • We adapted to the needs of the school and the students to rapidly deploy a robust tutoring program.

  • We helped the school to make the most of its available budget.

  • COVID restrictions thwarted our efforts along the way with non-attendance from some pupils. However, we countered this by introducing new students onto the programme so as to give the school the best return on investment.

Thanks to the frequency of communication between Downham Market Academy and Tutor Doctor, we were able to ensure online tutoring sessions ran to schedule and that there was a steady stream of students passing through the programme. While some tough decisions were made along the way, the team felt confident they were taking the best approach for all concerned.

Mr Hewitt and his team were superb to work with and we very much look forward to working with the school again in the near future.

Online Tutoring That Adapts to Any Situation

Nobody could ever have predicted the impact COVID-19 could have had on the education system and the impact it continues to have today. What was important in this situation was to identify and implement flexible solutions that could be adapted as guidelines and the needs of students changed.

If you are a school that needs help with online tutoring, Tutor Doctor offers a wide selection of tutoring services. We carefully match tutors to students to ensure the best possible outcomes. At Tutor Doctor, we offer school tuition support that can address a broad spectrum of educational needs and challenges. Get in touch with your local office today to get started.