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Starting Up Maths Tutoring In Your School? Here’s What You Should Know

Maths tutoring is one of the most effective and most evidenced ways to improve attainment. In the past, the only children who benefited were those from affluent families who opted for private tuition. Now, maths tutoring is increasingly recognised by schools as an effective approach to tackle the attainment gap.

Looking to start up maths tutoring in your school? In this article, we guide you through the essential decisions you’ll need to make before your first session and how to make it a success once your maths tutoring begins. We include insights from our own experience as the UK’s largest provider of online one to one maths tutoring for schools alongside evidence and research to help you make an informed decision about your school’s tutoring approach.

Why is maths tutoring an effective intervention strategy for schools?

Maths is the most popular subject to be tutored in schools, followed closely behind by the sciences at secondary and A-level (Bramble). Why is this?

It’s not because maths is inherently ‘difficult’. It’s because in maths, unaddressed gaps are especially problematic. 

The nature of the subject is cumulative, meaning that concepts build on one another. If a child does not have a solid understanding of essential foundational concepts, they will struggle to keep up and fall further behind.

It’s for this reason that the link between KS2 performance and later educational performance, such as at GCSE level, is stronger in maths than any other subject, including English and Science.

The perfect maths tutors and maths tutoring programmes will identify, target and close gaps in students’ learning to allow them to progress. 

It has never been so important to address these gaps, and address them early, than in the aftermath of the pandemic. Maths has been the most affected subject in terms of learning loss caused by school closures and disadvantaged students have been disproportionately affected. It is these students who are unable to access private maths tutors and risk falling further behind without extra support.

“Maths skills have a profound long-term impact on both individuals and society, and early difficulties in maths tend to be compounded as pupils move through their education. This drives a particularly strong link between maths attainment at Key Stages 2 and 4. There is therefore an urgent need to tackle learning loss in maths, particularly at primary school level.”

‘A Space for Maths’ – Centre for Education and Youth
Read more: Exploring The Maths Attainment Gap In The UK
The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

Download this free guide for SLT and subject leaders to choose the right tutoring for their students, including funding and grant information.

Funding your maths tutoring in school

Here at Third Space Learning, we’ve worked with 3,000+ schools since 2013 to provide online one to one maths tutoring interventions. We’ve worked closely with senior leaders and maths leads to offer advice and support on how to fund maths tutoring.

Since the pandemic, the Department of Education has introduced additional funding streams that can be used to fund your maths tutoring. The following three are the most common used to fund maths tutoring:

  1. Pupil Premium: Per-pupil funding to help raise attainment for disadvantaged students.
  2. Recovery Premium: An additional boost to Pupil Premium to help disadvantaged students recover lost learning after the pandemic.
  3. National Tutoring Programme: Ring-fenced grant allocated directly to schools for tutoring. Third Space Learning has been a tuition partner with the National Tutoring Programme since it first launched in 2020.

The funding streams are not mutually exclusive. You can use some of these funding streams together to implement your school’s preferred maths tutoring approach. Learn more about your school’s tuition funding options here.

Tutoring Funding Summary: Downloadable guide for SLT

Tutoring Funding Calculator – see exactly how much funding your school will receive in 2023/24:

“Third Space Learning was an attractive proposition for us because the tutoring was one to one and because all the tutors were maths specialists. It was also a great way to use our Pupil Premium allowance.”

Catherine Prole, Deputy Headteacher St Michael’s Primary School, Trafford

Maths tutoring: 9 essential decisions before your first session

Once you’ve decided that maths tutoring is the right intervention for your school, there are several essential decisions you will need to make before your first session. 

1. Establish what you want to achieve from the maths tutoring

Start with the issue at hand. What is the problem you are trying to solve?

Establish the goals of your tutoring programme using your knowledge of your school, students and context, whether it is to increase confidence in maths, to improve exam technique, or to improve SATs or GCSE attainment. Ensure it is a measurable goal so you can reflect on its success. 


2. Choose who will receive maths tutoring

When choosing which students will receive tutoring, reflect on the areas of need at every stage. 

Even if your aim is to improve exam results, don’t focus only on your exam year groups. Due to the cumulative nature of maths, there are stronger links between early attainment and GCSE results. This means it’s important to plug learning gaps early so that they don’t widen as they move up the school – and it risks becoming too late to make progress in time.

At Third Space Learning, we offer online maths tuition and tailored programmes across KS1-KS4 to support students at every stage.

Our primary tutoring programmes include

  • Years 3-5 catch up
  • Year 6 catch up
  • SATs tutoring

Our secondary tutoring programmes include

  • Year 7 catch up
  • GCSE

“We used the programme for pupils that lacked the basic skills from primary that they needed to access the KS3 maths curriculum. Compared with their SATs results our Year 7s have made very good progress!”

Jackie Emsley, Teacher, Blackminster Middle School, Worcester

Schools are free to choose which students will receive tutoring funded by the National Tutoring Programme. However, the NTP recommends that schools prioritise their Pupil Premium cohort and students with other types of advantage or additional needs. 

In our experience as a tuition provider, most schools choose from the following students:

  • Eligible for Pupil Premium – In 2021/22, 46% of pupils who received tutoring through the NTP were eligible for PP
  • At risk of not meeting expected standard
  • Most impacted by the pandemic
  • Lacking confidence or motivation to learn in maths lessons

3. Choose what will be taught in the maths tuition sessions

Maths tutoring is effective but it can be costly, so it’s all the more important that it makes a real impact.

Curriculum alignment is a key principle of effective tutoring, as identified by the Education Endowment Fund. When choosing a tutoring partner or tutoring programme, use your professional judgement to interrogate the lessons and learning objectives to ensure that it is aligned to the national curriculum, school curriculum and the assessments and boards your students are working towards, such as SATs and GCSEs.

Here at Third Space Learning, all of our intervention lessons are curriculum linked and designed by qualified UK teachers and curriculum experts.

We align our materials with the national curriculum and then break it down into smaller steps – our KS2 curriculum is made up of over 500 learning objectives. We also align our programme with popular schemes, such as White Rose Maths, so what we teach mirrors what is happening in the classroom.

I do, we do, you do structure in Third Space Learning's one to one online tutoring
Through the course of a lesson students progress from guided to independent practice
via an ‘I do, we do, you do’ structure (adapted as appropriate to the age
of the learner from KS2 to GCSE).

The most effective tuition will be tailored to students’ specific needs. In order to identify those needs, you will need a sensitive initial diagnostic assessment to diagnose learning gaps and misconceptions. This will ensure that tutoring is focused on the areas that will have the greatest impact on student outcomes from the first tutoring session.

If possible, conduct assessments throughout the maths tutoring programme to ensure that the content being delivered remains relevant to the pupil and their individual learning gaps.

Read more: Maths misconceptions

At Third Space Learning, all students receiving tutoring begin with an adaptive online diagnostic assessment to establish their baseline knowledge. 

Each question is in multiple choice format, and for each question we’ve created one correct answer and three distractors. Each distractor reflects an answer a student could come to based on a specific misconception. This means we’re not only diagnosing where students are lacking in knowledge, but also what common misconceptions are holding them back. 

At the end of each session, students answer a quick series of questions independently. These post-session questions help us continuously update each pupil’s personalised learning journey, reteaching where necessary and progressing when they are ready.

Post session question for pupils after receiving one to one online maths tutoring with Third Space Learning
Third Space Learning’s post session questions help deliver
a personalised and up-to-date learning journey for every pupil.

4. Choose how it will be taught

It is important not only that the resources and lessons align with your curriculum, but also that the underlying pedagogy does.

For example, if your school teaches for maths mastery, ensure that you find a tutor who aligns with this. 

When looking for a GCSE maths tutor, you will want students to practise exam-style questions. But…

  • How are these being used? 
  • How will tutors ensure students are engaging with and fully understanding the questions?
  • How will they encourage conceptual understanding over procedural knowledge?

Maths can be hard and it requires students to be reflective, to persevere and to draw on a range of other metacognitive strategies. The best maths tutoring won’t ignore this – it will be embedded in their approach. 

The EEF maths report found that discussion and dialogue are hugely useful tools for developing metacognition. Maths tutoring, especially one to one tutoring, offers a unique opportunity for purposeful high-quality talk for maths that is not always possible in whole class settings.

Discuss with the tutoring provider their approach to learning and, if possible, request a trial session or to watch videos of live lessons to see this approach in action.

After just one term of tuition, every student on Third Space Learning’s GCSE programme will have worked through at least 48 exam-style questions, speaking to their subject expert maths tutor one on one for 540 minutes. During this time, students will be discussing their ideas, planning their approach and asking questions, all of which develop their metacognitive skills alongside their mathematical understanding.

Watch a GCSE session or primary session with Third Space Learning here.

5. Choose your approach (group or one to one)

Both one to one and group tutoring are effective interventions, however one to one tutoring is the most impactful delivery method and low attainers are particularly likely to benefit. This is because lessons are tailored to meet the needs of the individual student and misconceptions can be addressed as they occur.

While group tutoring can also offer personalised learning, it requires complex student matching to ensure all students are working on learning objectives that they need extra support with. In addition to challenges in assessment and content planning, tutors of small groups typically require more training and tutoring experience to be effective as it is more challenging to deliver.

It is not only the cost of the intervention, but importantly the cost-effectiveness of an intervention that should be considered. Group tutoring can be up to 6 students. However, the impact of tutoring is significantly weakened beyond groups of 3. This significantly reduces the cost benefit of opting for group tutoring.

Looking for more guidance? Group Tutoring Vs One To One: How It Compares For Cost & Effectiveness

By recruiting and training high-quality STEM graduates and undergraduates in India and Sri Lanka, we’re helping to solve three of the biggest barriers to traditional in-school tuition: affordability, recruitment and scalability.

By taking tuition online, schools choosing Third Space Learning benefit from personalised, one to one tuition for roughly one third of the cost of traditional one to one. Sessions and training programmes are designed by UK curriculum experts, ensuring our programme is curriculum aligned and that tutors, lessons and resources are high quality.

6. Choose your delivery method (online or in person)

Research has found that in person tutoring offers no significant benefit over online teaching and the effects of both are similar. It therefore comes down to the needs and preferences of your context.

Here’s a summary of strengths and weaknesses for both to help you make a decision for your school’s needs.

In person tutoring

Table summarising the strengths and weaknesses of in person maths tutoring

Online tutoring

Table summarising the strengths and weaknesses of online maths tutoring

Third Space Learning’s online classroom has been designed with maths teaching in mind – it has an easy to use interactive whiteboard and quick click buttons to generate mathematical symbols. Our online maths tutors have a library of high quality curriculum aligned materials to support students.

Classroom tools designed by curriculum experts used in Third Space Learning's online maths tutoring
Third Space Learning’s tutors have access to a library of classroom tools and resources
that have been designed by UK curriculum experts.

Our friendly customer support team is on hand to troubleshoot any issues: from initial set up to live support during sessions. Schools are allocated a designated account manager so they’re supported by a familiar face throughout their journey.

Third Space Learning provides every school with free headsets throughout the duration of their programme. This means that you won’t incur additional costs or spend unnecessary time finding a reputable headset provider.

7. Choose who will deliver the maths tutoring – internal or external provider

There are benefits to both internal and external providers for in-school tuition and, again, the decision will depend on the needs of your context.

If you opt to use internal staff, consider which staff members will most effectively deliver maths tutoring and what support they will need to do so. For example, when teaching assistants deliver maths tutoring, it is most successful when it is structured and TAs receive high quality support and training from teachers with several years experience. According to the EEF, when TAs are not given this support, it can actually negatively impact students’ learning outcomes. 

Additionally, consider the additional workload on existing staff and the implications of using teacher’s non-contact time for tutoring or the need to find cover for teachers’ main lessons when they are used for tutoring.

Read more: Best online tutoring website

Advantages of using an external provider to deliver maths tutoring include:

  • Less impact on staff workload: Using external providers frees up your teachers to do what they do best
  • Easier to manage: A good external provider will take care of managing the intervention with minimal disruption to the school
  • Quality assured: Through the National Tutoring Programme Funding, schools can work with external tuition providers that have been quality assured by the DfE, including qualifications and DBS and equivalent checks
  • Better monitoring and reporting: It’s in an external provider’s interest to provide detailed progress reports to ensure you can see impact and continue to use them.

Our tutoring model is cost and time effective – up to 15 students can receive personalised, one to one online lessons at once and getting set up is quick and easy. We take care of the recruitment, training and administration of staffing.

Each school will be assigned a dedicated Account Manager who will:

  • Guide schools through the onboarding process;
  • Troubleshoot any issues that may arise;
  • Be on hand to ensure the smooth running of your tuition.
Third Space Learning's customer support team

8. Choose when to schedule maths tutoring sessions

You’ll need to decide both how long you’d like the tutoring programme to run and how long each session should be.

Research suggests that a 12-15 week programme is most effective. In our experience, schools using Third Space Learning rotate their cohort every 1-2 terms. Ongoing assessments and regular progress reports will help you to understand progress and prioritise students, swapping in and out students to maximise impact.

The EEF Toolkit found that frequent sessions that last up to an hour typically show the greatest impact. In our experience, hourly sessions once a week is enough time to maximise fluency and retention, while providing time for greater depth and to address misconceptions.

If the intervention is taking place during the school day, consider the timetabling to ensure that students do not miss out on the core curriculum. Equally important is that students are not always being removed from lessons they usually enjoy as this will have a detrimental effect on motivation and engagement in lessons. 

Leaders will need to be flexible in their approach to avoid this, for example by rotating tutoring sessions times or holding sessions during form time. If holding sessions before or after the school day, permission and buy in from parents is critical to ensure attendance!

As in-school tutoring specialists, we’ve designed our programme with schools in mind. Time slots are available throughout the school day. When schools sign up, they can choose which work best for them and are able to change their regular slot at any time. School holidays and half-term breaks are built into our programme to reduce the number of missed sessions.

Teachers are reminded of upcoming sessions 48 hours in advance and if students know they won’t be able to attend, teachers can contact our friendly customer service team who can cancel sessions and issue a credit to be used in the future. With less than 24 hours notice, absent students can be swapped with another.

How to make your maths tutoring budget go further

Tutoring is an effective use of your budget but it can be costly. You’ll want to make sure you’re getting maximum value for your money. Here are a few ideas to make your budget go further and to make the greatest impact on your students:

1. Go online

Online tutoring typically has lower overhead costs so it is often cheaper than in-person tutoring. Research has found the effects are similar, so you can save on costs without affecting impact.

Traditionally, there have been concerns over the quality and engagement of online options but online tutoring is becoming the preferred approach by students and teachers, likely due to the considerable shift in the online learning landscape during the Covid-19.

2. Provide support for multiple students at one time

The more students you can support at one time, the more cost-effective your intervention strategy will be.

Group tutoring will support this but once groups become larger than 3 students, impact reduces greatly. One to one tutoring allows for maximum impact on pupil progress but can traditionally be both more expensive and more difficult to organise, especially in-person when you are juggling timetables and room availability.

Online one to one tutoring enables multiple students to receive tailored support at the same time, in the same room.

3. Prioritise personalised learning

Tutoring is most effective when it is targeted on closing learner’s individual gaps. If tutoring is not doing this, you risk wasting budget and time on an intervention that will have little impact on pupil progress.

To personalise learning in tutoring sessions, it is necessary to first identify learner gaps through a sensitive and thorough diagnostic assessment. This will inform what content needs to be covered in sessions and what content students are already secure in.

It is possible to provide personalised learning journeys in group tutoring sessions but will require careful grouping and planning to ensure students share the same learning gaps. One to one tutoring lends itself best to personalised learning.

Read more: Assess KS2 Learning Gaps

4. Choose interventions that save time

Along with the actual delivery of sessions, tutoring requires time and resources spent on careful planning and organisation, including:

  • Recruiting and training staff to deliver the intervention
  • Diagnostic assessment before students start
  • Designing and sourcing tutoring material tailored to the needs of the students being supported
  • Managing scheduling and attendance
  • Reviewing and assessing pupil progress
  • Communicating progress with class teachers
  • Reporting, for example on the use of funding and impact on attainment

If these elements are taking up hours of the maths lead or SLT’s time, it is not a cost effective tutoring strategy. 

Online tutoring options can be time-effective as certain elements, including reporting and assessment, can be automated. Schools using Third Space Learning have on-demand access to pupil reports and each school receives a dedicated Account Manager to support through their contract, including any help they need completing reports, such as the NTP year-end statement.

The Department for Education found that the additional time for administration needed to implement tutoring in schools was a key challenge for senior leaders, who cited recruitment as a key issue. This is an issue facing maths in particular which, as you will be well aware, is one of the hardest subjects to meet teacher recruitment targets.

Here at Third Space Learning, we combat difficulties in recruitment by tapping into the global talent market. 

Our tutors are all STEM university level graduates and undergraduates based in India and Sri Lanka. We recruit and train subject experts who must successfully pass a rigorous training programme designed by UK curriculum specialists and former qualified teachers with extensive teaching experience working in UK schools. Once tutors begin delivering sessions, they receive regular feedback, training and CPD to continue developing as educators.

5. Look for added benefits

If you opt for maths tutoring with an external partner, look out for added benefits that will help your budget go further. This might include:

  • Lesson resources
  • CPD
  • Technology

At Third Space Learning, premium access to all our Maths Hub resources, including worksheets and ready-to-go lessons, is included at no additional cost for schools signed up for one to one primary school tutoring.

Third Space Learning's online maths hub, free for all schools receiving maths tutoring with Third Space Learning.

We also a have a free secondary maths resources library where you can download free GCSE maths revision resources, including maths revision guides, GCSE maths worksheetsGCSE maths practice papers and videos to support GCSE students and teachers. This means all pupils in a school can benefit, not only those receiving tutoring.

How to make maths tutoring a success in your school

Once you’ve decided on the essential elements of your maths tutoring strategy and decided how to best make it work in your context, you can move on to the next stage: ensuring its delivery is a success. 

Here are three key themes we’ve identified in schools with the most successful tutoring programmes: 

  1. Focus on attendance
  2. Make maths tutoring engaging
  3. Create a sustainable tutoring model

1. Focus on attendance

Student attendance is the most fundamental requirement for successful implementation of tutoring – there is no point spending time and budget on maths tutoring that is poorly attended.

Here are some of the most successful measures implemented by us as providers and the schools we work with to promote good attendance to tutoring:

  • Prioritise relationships between tutors and their students: This is a low-cost approach that can have real impact on attendance. If a positive relationship and learning environment is established early, students are far more likely to attend.
  • Reminders to students: This is especially important for larger schools and secondary schools. Students have busy lives and many are experiencing managing their own schedules for the first time. Reminders could be in school diaries, as emails, in-person – however it’s sent, make sure the message gets received!
  • Parental buy-in: The EEF found that where tutoring programmes include sessions for parents or carers, this secures buy-in and improves attendance and engagement.
  • Appoint a tutoring rep: This will raise the profile of tutoring in school and reduce stigma.

Learn more about how we improve attendance to our tutoring sessions: 7 Strategies To Drive Attendance And Engagement In Secondary Tutoring

2. Make maths tutoring engaging

Even if students are attending sessions, if they are not engaging with the programme, tutoring will have little impact on outcomes. 

Here are some ideas to drive engagement in your maths tutoring sessions:

  • Select the right kind of tutoring for student needs: Many of the challenges with engagement can be addressed before the first lesson by identifying the needs of your students and selecting the best approach.

    For example, some students might need behavioural or socioemotional learning interventions before attempting academic interventions. Other students may be better suited to one to one over group tuition, and vice versa.
  • Interaction and purposeful talk: All teachers wish they could give every pupil in their class individualised support and interaction, but in a class of 30 students this is often impossible.

    Maths tutoring offers a unique opportunity to discuss mathematical concepts in a supported environment. Ensure tutors are trained in making the most of this and can draw out even the least engaged students’ ideas. 
  • Prioritise relationships between tutors and their students: As teachers, you will be well aware of the importance of positive relationships with learners. Each and every tutor will have their own strategies to establish this but ensure it is embedded and prioritised.

3. Create a sustainable tutoring model

For a tutoring programme to be successful, it’s important for schools to consistently monitor and evaluate the impact of tutoring, and adapt as necessary in response to challenges that inevitably arise.

In the EEF tutoring report, it was identified this as a key principle of tutoring and suggests that monitoring can include:

  • Observations
  • Staff, pupil and parent feedback
  • Attendance data
  • Assessment data

Data gathered from this can then inform future planning and any changes that are needed to support the success and ongoing participation and engagement in tutoring.

Maths tutoring FAQs

How much do maths tutors cost?

The Department for Education estimates that in-school tutors cost on average £18 per hour per pupil, however prices vary greatly depending on delivery method and group size.

What is the best way to tutor maths?

The best way to tutor maths is to first identify learning gaps and misconceptions and to use this information to plan and deliver personalised learning to address these. This will require a sensitive diagnostic assessment and on-going assessment to continually assess progress and personalise each learning journey.

Is it worth getting a tutor for GCSE?

Yes. At secondary school, small group tutoring can result in an additional 2 months’ progress. One to one tutoring is most effective, resulting in an additional 4 months’ progress. However, it can be even more impactful to start tutoring at KS3 and earlier to address gaps early.

Do you have students who need extra support in maths?
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly online 1-to-1 lessons and maths interventions designed to plug gaps and boost progress.

Since 2013 we’ve helped over 150,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians. Find out more about our GCSE Maths tuition or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.

Subsidised one to one maths tutoring from the UK’s most affordable DfE-approved one to one tutoring provider.

Meriel Willatt
Meriel Willatt
Third Space Learning
Content Team
Meriel edits a lot of the content that you see on the Third Space Learning blog and once in a while, she gets the chance to write articles about maths education and how Third Space Learning can help students and teachers.
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The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

Download this free guide for SLT and subject leaders to choose the right tutoring for their students, including funding and grant information.

Download Now!

The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

Downloadable resource

Download this free guide for SLT and subject leaders to choose the right tutoring for their students, including funding and grant information.

Download Now!
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The Ultimate Guide to Effective Maths Interventions [FREE]

Find out how to plan, manage, and teach one to one (and small group) maths interventions in Key Stage 2.

Includes a 20 point checklist of techniques to improve your one to one teaching.

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