The use of university students to support tutoring of socially deprived children

I’ve outlined (in my answer to 1b) the acute impact of the loss of 1-to-1 teaching hours on children in socially deprived areas, who do not have the wealth, the physical environment or the family members to support their education through this difficult time. These families also lack the financial ability to make up this loss of teaching hours themselves, without the financial resources or social capital to access private tutoring. There is also a limited window to fix this before the educational impact on these children cannot be undone. The number of teaching hours required to enable these children to catch-up is huge, and the existing teaching and tutoring capacity in the public and private sectors to undertake this work is insufficient. Even if the work could be contracted out to firms, it would be more costly than my proposed approach below and would require an army of tutors to undertake this work. Fortunately however, there is a large number of university students who, by definition of being accepted onto university courses, have achieved a high degree of academic excellence already. Therefore, my proposed solution is to initiate a scheme to support university students to provide 1-1 tutoring to the most effected children whose learning has been impacted the most by this pandemic. The response is proposed to focus on those children from socially deprived areas, using the commonly recognised measure of whether a child receives free school meals as a proxy indicator of whether they should be eligible for this free tutoring programme and whether they fall within the groups that should be targeted. Traditional tutoring remains in place and can be accessed, as it is now, by those who can afford it. There are additional benefits to this proposal. University students have also been impacted by this pandemic and will find themselves entering a job market impacted by Covid with a heavy debt burden which can delay individuals’ ability to achieve aims in life which many take for granted, such as paying for weddings or purchasing their first home. I would not expect students to provide tutoring services for free but would expect tutoring would be flexible enough to fit around existing university commitments. While a specific tutoring ‘curriculum’ could be provided, students would be expected to be sufficiently proficient in the relevant subject matter to respond to individual children’s needs. Should sufficient university students not be available, it should be possible to provide Group based tutoring although the potential benefit to children could decrease. While directly paying students for any tutoring they undertake is one possibility, an alternative measure of financing this would be by forgiving elements of student debt or by paying part of their university fees – potentially through the student loan mechanism. This would enable students, who will be entering the highly competitive post-Covid labour market, to do so with a lesser debt burden, freeing them up to contribute more spending in the post-Covid economy. An assessment could also be made on whether such payments should be taxable or whether the Treasury would be willing to forgive the tax on these payments to make the scheme more attractive. It’s possible that these student tutors may also get a taste for teaching. While application for teaching training has rocketed at the current time, there is no guarantee that this will be maintained and that the difficulties recruiting teachers, particularly for STEM subjects, will not return. These tutoring assignments would also provide examples of work opportunities that the university student generation could utilise when entering the job market. They may be further benefits as well, which would assist social mobility. Should students from wealthier families tutor students, a benefit would be the possibility of students from socially deprived areas being granted access to social networks that these children previously would have no access to. This may provide future opportunities for social mobility to improve outcomes for children in this generation. By providing an early glimpse into what the world of work may expect of them, children may find it less difficult to ‘fit in’ to industries which predominantly recruit from other environs. Such a scheme would likely need either central or regional co-ordination – perhaps at a Council level – but could be promoted nationally, and through schools and universities themselves. I realise this proposal would require additional work to assess its viability but I firmly believe there are multiple potential benefits to this proposal which are worthy of further consideration.




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