This first edition of our Curriculum Management E-bulletin deals with, first, reducing cover for absence and, second, one-to-one tutoring

Rarely cover
Since 1 September 2009 schools have been required to have ‘rarely-cover’ arrangements in place. This follows the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2009 and Guidance on School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (2009, DCSF). Discussions and policy changes on this go back a long way. The premise is that cover for absence is not an effective use of teachers’ time. The key words in the National Agreement on Raising Standards and Tackling Workload (January 2003) are that ‘teachers may cover only rarely, in circumstances which are not foreseeable’. Structures and systems have to be designed to reduce or remove occasions when headteachers and teachers cover for absent colleagues.

No-cover arrangements are meant to contribute to efforts to raise standards by relieving teachers and leaders of distracting and unnecessary duties. Obvious elements in this are making strategic use of supply teachers and timetabling for ‘floating’ staff members. Additional steps taken include:

  • Support staff being detailed to deal with specific pastoral/behavioural issues and run a network of guidance and care for students
  • Heads of year being replaced by course directors, made wholly responsible for students’ progress
  • Establishing ICT systems, such as Microsoft Class Server, allowing pupils to log into workstations, access their ongoing work or relevant exercises assigned by the absent teacher or team leader, and even receive immediate, software-driven feedback.

Expected benefits include:

  • Teachers having more time to spend on teaching in the classroom
  • Students receiving structurally organised pastoral and behavioural support
  • Results improving.

Further information is available via

Government’s, local authorities’ and schools’ websites tend to present an assertively positive, problem-free picture. But some headteachers have stated that school trips will be cancelled because supply cover costs will make the activities too expensive. And some teachers have expressed concern that it will be more difficult to be released from teaching to attend training and continuing professional development activities.

Neither of those ill-effects should arise, because school trips, training and CPD are foreseeable. Schools are advised to publish calendars and plans which allow for colleagues being asked to cover for pre-arranged events. The figure of 38 hours’ cover per staff member per year sets a limit on what is acceptable, given that planned-for events do require cover.

There is little up-to-date information about how things are actually working out: have you experiences to share?

One-to-one tuition
The One-to-One Tuition Programme is a government-funded initiative to help learners in key stages 2, 3 and 4 gain more confidence and understanding in English and mathematics. The focus should be on addressing barriers to learning and providing flexible support. Tuition might take place at the pupil’s home or in a town-centre location such as a library. Pupils can be funded for 10 hours’ tuition. And it is assumed two hours will be enough for the tutor to liaise with the class or subject teacher in each case.

A 50-page booklet (Developing one-to-one tuition: Guidance for tutors, 2009, DCSF: go to gives advice. The official view is that teachers’ use of APP (Assessing Pupil Progress) will determine targets which will be passed to tutors to work on with students who need to ‘catch up’.

It is expected that each pupil involved will be given an Individual Tuition Plan: the models provided are heavy with APP terminology. I suggest teachers, pupils and tutors may well need to get underneath individual learning difficulties and find a language and approach that is more accessible. Will you be able to achieve what the official advice does not do: look at barriers to learning from the pupil’s point of view? Will you be able to develop ways of working that enable pupils to find motivation and their own direction?

Here are questions designed to help tutors take stock and find ways forward which start with where the learner seems to be. The tutor might like to record initial perceptions and, over the ten sessions, update the information s/he gathers from both the pupil and the subject teacher, and so inform a final review.

 Student ……………………………………………………………………

  • What am I good at in this subject?
  • What do I want to get better at?
  • How do I know what I’m good at? Where can I see examples?
  • What helps me decide what to aim for? Where can I see examples of things I’ve aimed for?
  • What has helped me make improvements in the past? Where can I see examples?
  • Why do I want to get better at this subject? Who would I like to know about this?
  • Where can I see examples of the quality of work I’m aiming for?
  • What are some of the main features of the work I’m trying to achieve? What criteria will I use to guide my learning?
  • What will I do to understand and practise what I’m aiming for?
  • What do I want my one-to-one tutor to do to help me?
  • How am I going to keep track of what I learn here?
  • How am I going to use what I do here?

Teacher ……………………………………………………………………………
Student X………………………………………………………………………

  • What are X’s main strengths?
  • What are X’s priorities for learning?
  • How do I assess and record X’s progress?
  • What examples do I have of X’s making progress?
  • What are my main ways of helping X aim high and take the best next steps?
  • What do I expect X to aim for?
  • What are the crucial criteria to use in seeking and assessing progress now?
  • What do I expect the one-to-one tutor to do to help?
  • How do I want to find out about progress?
  • What difference can X’s one-to-one tutoring make to my teaching?

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2010

About the author: Dr John Blanchard is an independent consultant and author of Teaching, Learning and Assessment (2009, Open University Press): contact him via [email protected]