Online learning ‘crucial’ to UK’s education catch-up plan

The National Tutoring Programme, a government initiative to help pupils hardest hit by school closures, must include online learning, says Whizz Education’s Richard Marett

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) must include online learning as it bids to help schools address the impact of Covid-related school closures.

That’s according to educational supplier, Whizz Education.

“We are facing a challenge of unprecedented scale,” said Whizz Education CEO, Richard Marett. “Schools have a mountain to climb unless the government urgently rolls out virtual tuition alongside human tutoring.”

A government-funded initiative, NTP is slated to ‘make high-quality tuition available to state-maintained primary and secondary schools’ over the 2020-21 school year, ‘providing additional support to help pupils who have missed out the most as a result of school closures’.

Design and delivery of the programme is initially being led by a collaboration of five charities – the Education Endowment Foundation, Sutton Trust, Impetus, Nesta and Teach First – supported by the KPMG Foundation.

“A mixed approach that combines virtual and human tutors will save the time and energy of teachers, prevent burnout, and increase the sustainability of educational relief efforts at a fraction of the cost of the current proposals, which focus mainly on human tutors,” added Marett.

“It costs £700 to tutor one child for 12 weeks but virtual tutoring can produce comparable results for around £150.”

As we reported recently, there has been a 50% rise in online learning during the pandemic.

From the archive: “Technology hasn’t gone far enough in changing teaching” – Whizz Education’s Dr Junaid Mubeen featured in our comprehensive look at how edtech has – or hasn’t – impacted pedagogy

Marett suggests that products such as his own company’s Maths-Whizz should be part of the solution to the education crisis.

Used by around 250 UK schools, it offers AI-driven, tailor-made virtual tuition. In a submission to a government select committee inquiry into Covid-19, Marret wrote:

“The feedback we receive from schools and families informs us that products like Maths-Whizz should feature in contingency planning and will ensure the resilience of the education sector in case of any future national emergency, if properly funded and integrated.

“Our technology has lessened the educational burden of Covid-19 on students and teachers over the past few months, according to our data and parent and teacher testimonies. Most notably, our data shows a usage spike by UK users in the weeks immediately following the closure of schools on 23 March with an increase of 50% in the time spent using Maths-Whizz between the last week of February and the last week of March.”

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