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Group Tutoring Vs One To One: How It Compares For Cost & Effectiveness

Group tutoring and one to one tutoring are some of the best evidenced interventions to support students’ attainment, especially disadvantaged students, according to the Education Endowment Fund. This article aims to support teachers and school leaders to choose the right approach for their school and students.

As teachers and school leaders, we all want our pupils to make rapid and sustained progress in their school journey. When considering implementing tutoring in schools, there are two fundamental intervention options to consider: group tutoring – interchangeably known as group tuition – or one to one tuition. 

This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of group tutoring and one to one, looking at their effectiveness and impact on pupils, considering factors such as budget, time, flexibility and personalisation.

What is group tutoring?

Group tutoring is when a professional tutor works with a certain number of pupils and typically takes place in a tuition centre or classroom, very similar to a classroom we associate ourselves with. 

The number of pupils can vary, ranging from small group sessions being 2 or 3 pupils or groups of up to 4 or 5 pupils. 

It should be noted that whilst some consider groups of over 6 to still be group tuition, this is somewhat debatable and more accurately reflects group teaching. When groups become too big for focused attention on pupils and personalised teaching, the effect of the tutoring decreases. Additionally, if schools wish to use National Tutoring Programme funding, groups cannot exceed 6 pupils.

Within group tutoring, the tutor will focus on specific areas of the curriculum to deliver quality instruction focussed on the pupils’ areas of development. The small groups allow for group interaction and time for individual practice where pupils work at their own pace.

How effective is group tutoring?

A recent study by the EEF found that small group tuition has an average impact of four months’ additional progress over the course of an academic year in primary schools. Group tutoring is less effective for secondary pupils who averaged two months’ additional progress. 

Group tuition is also likely to be most effective when pupils are selected and grouped  carefully, for example all working on the basic fundamentals of maths, so that their specific needs can be targeted by the tutor. This requires accurate diagnostic assessment prior to tuition commencing and, if done well, this can be a powerful tool in closing the gaps for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and a strength in the Pupil Premium strategy. 

However, caution beckons here as should the group size increase more and more, the impact on student outcomes reduces as tuition will resemble more of a ‘normal’ classroom atmosphere and pupils will get less out of it.

The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

An in-depth review of the 6 most popular tutoring approaches for secondary schools for SLT and Maths Leads, including funding information for 2023.

Advantages of group tutoring

  • Personalised learning: While more difficult than it is for one to one tutoring, personalised learning for pupils is possible within small group tuition. It requires detailed diagnostic assessment, tutors are able to provide personalised learning within sessions. This also enables targeted provision for those who are quick thinkers and need small group classes to stretch their learning, as well as those who are currently lower attaining and require support to address gaps in their learning. 

    As identified by the EEF, low attaining pupils do typically benefit more from small group sessions, particularly if frequent sessions across the week are provided with consistency. However this can create timetabling complications – especially for those in secondary schools!
  • Opportunities for peer learning: Small groups enable the tutor to deliver an input using quality resources and equipment to engage the pupils in a purposeful learning environment. There is an opportunity for peer collaboration in tasks as well as personal, friendly competition – something which is not possible in one to one tutoring. 

    At GCSE and A level standards, the collaborative mentality and exploration into subject matter with fellow learners can enhance confidence, self-esteem and understanding.
  • Lower cost: For school leaders, there is an obvious cost implication that favours small group sessions. In most cases, the cost of small group tutoring, whether in person or online, is often a cheaper alternative to one to one tuition and schools can provide tuition for more pupils with fewer tutors.

    By taking tutoring online and recruiting/training a global team of Third Space Learning tutors, we’re able to provide one to one tutoring for schools for the price other providers charge for group sessions
  • Removes stigma: The EEF found that group tutoring reduces the potential stigma associated with tutoring, as pupils are with their peers.

Disadvantages of group tutoring

  • Impact: Less impactful than one to one tutoring and less effective in secondary schools (+2 months’ progress) than primary schools (+4 months’ progress).
  • Diagnostic assessment: Requires complex student matching to ensure students are working on learning objectives that they need extra support with and can work at a similar pace.
  • Group size: The larger the group, the more impact drops off (evidence suggests groups to be no larger than 1 tutor to 3 students).
  • Timetabling issues: For any provider or school, timetables can be a logistical nightmare. Even more so with small group tuition. Ensuring the tutoring programme is accessible for all pupils and that they are not missing vital elements of their studies whilst attending tuition can be a difficult task. You do not want to be providing tutoring services in one subject and creating difficulties in another!
  • Tutor training: Tutors typically require more training to be effective as group tutoring is more challenging to deliver.
  • Pupil confidence: Group tuition is not suitable for all children. Some children remain shy in small groups or may not react well to the enhanced attention of a small group and so do not like to give answers in front of their peers. 

    In circumstances such as this, one to one tuition would be a better consideration as whilst there is more focused attention, with a well matched tutor a pupil knows and trusts, they will feel safe and confident in discussing correct strategies, answers and misconceptions.

The one to one intervention supports individuals. I also like that pupils who might not be confident to speak up in class feel it is a safe space to say they are unsure of the learning that might be taking place.

Headteacher and Third Space Learning customer, London

How to make group tutoring a success

Group tuition can be successful – if you put the leg work in initially, it can pay dividends. However it requires planning and you must carefully consider size, space, subject matter and students. 

This means ensuring the group is targeted specifically for those who need it. In turn, this reduces the size of your group and keeps it as an effective small group intervention whereby the correct students are there and have been accurately identified through diagnostic assessment. Do not just invite low achievers as their subject knowledge, misconceptions and learning gaps in maths will vary greatly from one another. 

Carefully consider the content that the tuition will be covering and ensure the provider has the correct resources (that align with classroom teaching), the correct working space and the correct strategy to make the most out of every session.

What is one to one tutoring?

One to one tutoring is what, as educators, we would love to provide with regularity but in a class of 30, it’s physically impossible to give each pupil this kind of individual attention. That’s where additional one to one tutoring comes in. It’s when one qualified teacher, teaching assistant or professional tutor provides intensive, personalised learning to one pupil.

No matter how much of a good teacher you are, you can never get to 30 children and do 30 different pieces of work and that is what is needed. Because it is one to one and to their level, it is the best type of intervention you can have.

Angela Kershaw, Maths Leader and Third Space Learning customer, St. Augustine’s Academy

The provider for this will hold a valid DBS certificate and will support the learner with tutoring sessions to bridge gaps that have formed, address misconceptions, consolidate learning and/or stretch learning even further. 

With one to one tuition, there is space for personalised learning, giving focused sessions that build on individual strengths and development areas, whether in person or via online tuition. 

The EEF found one to one tuition to be a very effective intervention and that if short, sharp, regular sessions take place then the impact can be vast. Over 5 months’ progress can be made across a year with, on average, 6 months’ progress in the primary setting and 4 months’ progress in secondary schools. In contrast, the impact of group tutoring on pupil progress is 4 months at primary school and 2 months at secondary school.

Online one to one tuition has similar effects to in-person one to one sessions.

Tutor and pupil interacting on Third Space Learning platform during one to one online tutoring session
One to one tutoring allows for fully personalised learning adapted to student needs. The Third Space Learning platform is designed to engage students in their online one to one tuition and promote tutor and pupil interaction.

Advantages of one to one tutoring

  • Impact: With one to one tutoring, over 5 months’ progress can be made across a year with, on average, 6 months’ progress in the primary setting and 4 months’ progress in secondary schools. In contrast, the impact of group tutoring on pupil progress is 4 months at primary school and 2 months at secondary school.
  • Hyper personalised: Individual, focused attention for the pupil through personalised sessions is a huge advantage of one to one tutoring. As teachers and school leaders, we would want to ensure all our children achieve this in class but the reality is that it is not always possible. 

    One to one tuition provides the opportunity for pupils to work through a bespoke curriculum based on their individual learning gaps and misconceptions. It also works at the pace of the learner and gives ample opportunity for learning, application and personalised feedback, with few distractions.
  • Rapport: It is easier for tutors to develop a rapport with pupils and create a positive learning environment. This in turn increases pupils’ enjoyment of the sessions.
  • Pupil confidence: Once a positive learning environment has been established, pupils can benefit from the individualised support of their tutor in a low stakes environment. Pupils can make mistakes and learn from them, without worrying about other classmates.

The children have loved the personalised learning and having a one to one lesson with their tutor. It has been lovely to hear them explain their thinking.

Karan Johnson, Teacher and Third Space Learning customer, Moss Hall Junior School, Barnet

Disadvantages of one to one tutoring

  • Cost: This can actually be a red herring as a disadvantage. On the face of it, one to one tutoring costs more than group tuition, whether online or in person. However, one to one tuition can actually be more cost effective.There are also ways of reducing the cost of one to one tutoring, such as opting for online tutoring. 

    While the decision for schools may depend on their initial budget, the cost of one to one tutoring can be moderate and more effective in the long term, provided that schools are using experienced and effective providers and that impact is monitored regularly and accurately.

Third Space Learning is just as effective as bringing in a one-to-one tutor but it’s so much cheaper, so you can afford to have more children doing it. Plus, the children love it and they’re so enthusiastic about it! What’s not to like? It’s cheaper, the children do just as well and they really like it!

Clare Sealy, Headteacher, St. Matthias Primary School, London
  • Scale: One to one tutoring can be difficult to scale to a large group of students without multiple tutors, making it challenging to deliver in person. Online tutoring can help to combat this.
  • Pupil needs: One to one tuition is not for everyone. Some pupils feel pressurised in the one to one tutoring scenario and so may prefer the environment provided by small group tuition. However, this is also why finding the correct provider with high quality, trained tutors is essential to maximising the progress from tuition in the first place.

How to make one to one tutoring a success

One to one tutoring can be one of the most impactful interventions we can provide as teachers and school leaders. 

Once you have selected the best provider and tutor for your school’s needs, ensure tutors take time to build rapport with pupils and establish a supportive learning environment. With the right match, pupil confidence will rise, self esteem will increase and the knowledge gained through personalised learning and tackling misconceptions will close gaps and promote progress. 

Initial diagnostic assessment, regular feedback from the tutor and regular assessment will ensure an accurate learning journey that is always focussed on plugging learning gaps. This not only ensures value for money, but also value in time which, as we know, is always at a premium in the education sector.

Third Space Learning's diagnostic assessment which helps inform which sessions pupils will cover in their online one to one tutoring
At Third Space Learning, all pupils take a diagnostic assessment to identify the areas they will focus on in their tutoring.
Post session questions assess understanding after every session
to ensure their personalised learning pathway is always up-to-date and accurate.


Ofsted’s report into tutoring

Ofsted’s research suggests that effective tutoring can be a valuable tool in supporting students to catch up, following school closures and disruptions to learning due to Covid-19. However, this is provided that the tuition is personalised to meet the needs of the individual, delivered by quality, skilled and knowledgeable tutors and that the content aligns with students’ lessons in the classroom.

In short, Ofsted concluded that:

  • School-led tuition is the preferred choice among schools as leaders have more control over the hiring of tutors, delivery of the sessions and the content covered. However, this results in extra workload for the school.
  • Tutoring during the school day was more effective, particularly in secondary schools, and so efforts should be made for it to take place during school hours.
  • Where tutoring is delivered by high quality tutors, Ofsted saw that in over half the schools, it was delivered well and impactful.
  • Tuition was of higher quality when qualified teachers were involved. Weaker sessions were delivered by tutors who lacked sufficient training, resulting in poorly planned sessions with content poorly matched to student level.
  • Students were overwhelmingly positive about tutoring.
  • Many schools had not yet developed effective ways to assess student progress.
  • If planned accurately and in line with the school curriculum, tuition can be a powerful intervention.

What does this mean for my school?

  • Consider the resources available to you, including staff availability
  • Try to schedule interventions during the school day
  • Ensure all tutors have received training 
  • Consider how you will monitor and assess student progress
  • Ensure tutoring content and curriculum aligns with your school

Here at Third Space Learning, we’ve worked with thousands of primary and secondary schools over the last 9 years and have designed a programme with schools in mind that overcomes many of the challenges associated with using external tutoring.

We reduce the workload for teachers by handling the hiring and training of our subject expert tutors. 

Our curriculum and resources are carefully designed and reviewed by our academic team, made up of experienced former UK teachers. This ensures that the content and teaching approach aligns with what pupils are being taught in the classroom.

All pupils take a diagnostic assessment before they begin tutoring which informs their individualised learning journey, addressing their misconceptions and plugging gaps in their learning. The personalisation doesn’t end here; pupils complete post-session questions to track their progress and ensure future sessions are aligned to their individual needs. We provide on-demand reports for teachers so you can make sure the tutoring is making an impact on your pupils’ outcomes.

Conclusion

Group tutoring may be the right choice for some of your pupils but for most, one to one tutoring will make a larger impact on their learning outcomes and be a more cost effective intervention. Time and money are both priorities within school so it is important to make decisions that will have maximum impact. 

With maths in mind, it’s important that pupils have space to delve into mathematical concepts, are taught in a way that aligns with their classroom lessons and that misconceptions are addressed in real time, all of which are best achieved through one to one tuition. Online one to one tutoring offers a more affordable route to the benefits of one to one tutoring and may be the right choice for your school.

Do you have pupils who need extra support in maths?
Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of pupils 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 130,000 primary and secondary school pupils become more confident, able mathematicians. Learn more or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.

What are the benefits of group tutoring?

The benefits of group tutoring are that pupils are exposed to small group collaboration and socialising through work, thus building communication, discussion and listening skills around the tasks at hand. It can also be more cost effective for schools in the short term and as identified by the EEF, it can bridge the disadvantage gap if carried out well.

What are the different types of tutoring?

There are two different types of tutoring: one to one tuition or group tuition. They can both be delivered either in person or online.

What are the alternatives to group tuition?

The alternative to group tuition is one to one tuition, whether online or in person, and this is typically the option that provides the pupil with the most impact and gives a more personalised, focused tuition experience.

Primary school tuition targeted to the needs of each child and closely following the National Curriculum.

Steven Eastes
Steven Eastes
Steven is a former Deputy Headteacher with over 10 years' experience in the primary school setting. He is now running a successful private tuition business, is co-author of 'Talking Teaching with the Dynamic Deputies' and is one half of the Dynamic Deputies podcast. Alongside all of this, Steven also writes resources and blogs for Third Space Learning.
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The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

An in-depth review of the 6 most popular tutoring approaches for secondary schools for SLT and Maths Leads, including funding information for 2023.

Download FREE now

The 6 Most Popular Tutoring Approaches For Secondary Schools

Downloadable resource

An in-depth review of the 6 most popular tutoring approaches for secondary schools for SLT and Maths Leads, including funding information for 2023.

Download FREE now
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