Primary School Children Can Be Teachers Too, Says Durham University
Primary school children can make great tutors for their peers or younger pupils, according to new research.
Results from a project in Scotland show reading and maths levels can be boosted when children are mentored by classmates or older pupils. The two-year trial, led by Durham University, studied 129 primary schools and found children as young as seven to eight years old could benefit from a tutoring session as short as twenty minutes per week.
Peter Tymms, professor of education at Durham University, said: “Expensive policy initiatives have often had little effect on learning. The tutoring scheme requires some organisation and a little bit of training but it’s an inexpensive scheme to implement in that it involves no fancy equipment."
The scheme involves one student tutoring another - known as peer tutoring. The children are usually of different academic abilities or ages. Cross-age tutoring was found to be especially effective in age groups with two years' difference.
Researchers hope the scheme will be implemented across educational areas nationwide. The trial found older pupils boosted their skills and knowledge by becoming tutors and tutees benefitted greatly from the one-to-one learning.
Durham worked alongside Dundee and Fife Council to conduct the research which is published in the 'School Effectiveness and School Improvement' journal.
According to the report, the peer tutoring is equivalent to about three months progress in both maths and reading and larger than the impact of national strategies, while coming at "a fraction of the cost".
Nora Conlin, a Fife education officer, backed pupil tutoring as an "extremely effective way" of boosting learning in schools.
"We wanted to engage schools in reform to improve students' attainment using a sustainable model", she added.
During the tutoring trial, teachers were trained to help organise and monitor the sessions. Burntisland Primary School was one of the institutions which took part in the trial.
Gillian Hepburn, a teacher from the primary, said the children at the school enjoyed learning with their peers.
"They understood more words and said they enjoyed reading more", she said. "We have decided to keep using paired reading because it develops children's motivation to read and encourages a positive attitude towards reading."
Mr Topping added: "It can be easily embedded into teachers' practice. More than 90 per cent of teachers reported the project worked well."