The easy parent and teacher guide to optimise online tutoring

Parents Teachers
13 April 2023
Kristina Altoft is Head of Assessment Services at Pearson 
Is your child or pupil booked for a block of online tutoring sessions – or is this an idea you have in mind for this year and beyond? Since Pearson started offering online tutoring in of 2020, we’ve supported over 9,000 pupils from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4, increasing their assessment scores by an average of two-thirds across the programme.

As we enter our third successful year, I’m delighted to share some top tips to help you optimise online tutoring sessions so you can support your child or more learners with the benefits it brings.

Lay foundations first

Fran Sutton has been a KS1 and KS2 tutor with Pearson since the beginning. She stresses the importance of laying firm foundations before sessions start, through early and clear communication: The first thing is to put the learner’s mind at ease by explaining that the tutoring sessions are there to enhance their learning, assuring them that their tutor will be experienced. Let them know that their first session will be an introduction to the tutoring platform, as well as a friendly get-to-know-you session with their tutor.” 

Teachers and parents alike can help further minimise any apprehension from pupils by explaining to them:

  • Where learners need to be for their sessions – will the sessions take place at school or at home
  • Who will be there for support – teachers or parents
  • What they should do if they need more support during sessions

Talk to their tutor

Pearson tutors are all fully qualified teachers, and able to answer any questions – or address potential concerns – before sessions begin, and for the duration of the programme. Adele Key, Deputy Headteacher at Woodlea Primary School, explains how an online face-to-face meeting with tutors helps her learners make better progress: After providing some background information on the children, the tutors are able to pitch the work at just the right level for each child using high quality resources, and sessions can be married up with concepts that are being taught in class, with pupils’ confidence significantly improving.”

Parents are also welcome to make contact with tutors if appropriate – especially if it is decided that tutoring sessions should take place at home. By keeping dialogue open, and working in tandem, everyone can share information that might affect the child’s learning that day, better support any unique needs, and generally remain informed of progress. 

Check the tech

A simple point, but a crucial one: in advance of every session, make sure pupils’ camera and microphone are working – and that firewalls are not blocking the tutoring platform, as this can sometimes be a stumbling block.

The tech is there to support teachers and parents too, with full recordings available of every session. As Fran Sutton explains, We also send up to 500 words to teachers following every session, detailing what has been covered, what the plan is for next steps, anything we want to revisit, plus any issues, highlights, etc, allowing you a full look at how things have gone.” Meanwhile, learners can use the session recordings to help them revise.

Advise on adaptations

One of the biggest benefits of online tutoring is its flexibility. As tutor Deborah Parsons explains: With tutoring I can give my students a personal experience. I can tailor my sessions to the students’ needs, include content that is of interest to them, favourite football teams, cycling and Marvel comics have all featured in my tutoring sessions recently. I can make my sessions interactive and engaging too, including games and puzzles. All of this helps to create a unique relationship where each student feels relaxed and ready to learn.”

That flexibility also extends to scheduling. As fellow tutor Nicola Beaverstock says to teachers: Don’t worry if you need to reschedule due to an unforeseen clash, these things happen. Talk to your tutor. I try to be as flexible as possible, changing the time or date where I can, or moving a session that is no longer convenient to the end of the block.”

Listen to learners

Lastly, we recommend all teachers and parents listen to learners throughout the process. Take time to ask what they are enjoying, what they would like to do more of, how they feel they are progressing and so on. Not only will this demonstrate your interest in their experience, and give them space to share views, it is also an opportunity to pass helpful comments back to tutors and tutoring providers, further personalising the pupil’s experience. 

The comments we’ve had from children to date about tutoring have been inspiring, many along the lines as this recent pupil’s: It doesn’t feel like classroom learning – it’s fun.” Our tutors look forward to more of the same as they work with young people across key stages, subjects and abilities, in locations throughout the UK.