Responding to the ‘COVID catch-up’ report

Andrea ChesterLeave a Comment

School of Education summary by Richard Johnson


At RMIT and Deakin Universities I initiated a project entitled eTutor, which involved undergraduate teacher education students tutoring school students in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Malaysia online. I describe this pedagogy of tutoring in Joseph & Johnson (2020)[1]. I suggested to Andrea that we had an opportunity to work with schools and offer our students the opportunity to be online tutors during the Covid home schooling period. She was interested in the idea and through Kath, assistance was offered to RMIT staff who were also parents involved in home schooling.

Grattan Institute Report

Now, we have the Grattan Institute[2] recommending that 100,000 tutors be sent into schools between now and Christmas to conduct intensive tutoring. The focus would be on helping disadvantaged students recover learning lost during the lockdown, which otherwise would have compounded disadvantage. In terms of scale, they suggest that school students should attend tutoring sessions in groups of three, either during regular school hours or before or after school.

In essence the Grattan Institute report says to the federal government thatwe recommend big investments of $1.13 billion in small-group tuition programs. Disadvantaged students would receive regular short sessions in reading and maths, three or four times a week over a 12- week period. Tuition is expensive, but it can increase student learning by an additional five months over one or two terms of schooling.”

Moreover, they say “Young university graduates and pre-service teachers should be hired as tutors where possible, because they will be hit harder by the recession than older Australians and are likely to spend the extra income quickly, stimulating the economy.” In their view, most tutors would work about eight hours a week, earning up to $6,300 over the six months.

The accompanying press release [3]acknowledges that while “the tutoring blitz would cost about $1 billion…  the benefits to the economy would be much larger. The young tutors would have extra income during the recession… between now and Christmas. And disadvantaged students who gained extra learning would earn more over their lifetime, boosting the economy in years to come. Governments should also spend $70 million expanding successful literacy and numeracy programs, especially for students in the early years, and $30 million on trials of ‘targeted teaching’ and extra support for student well-being”.

Further, the Grattan Institute recommends that state and territory governments should:

  1. Give the catch-up funding to schools with clear guidelines about high-priority initiatives to consider.
  2. Encourage schools to focus on assessment of disadvantaged students’ learning on return to school, so that the right supports can follow.
  3. Promote the two high-priority initiatives; small-group tuition (up to $1.1 billion), and successful literacy and numeracy instruction programs ($70 million), especially for students in the early years of their schooling.
  4. Invest $30 million in small-scale trials of three promising initiatives: ‘targeted teaching’; teacher training in developing students’ social and emotional skills; and targeted behaviour supports.
  5. Give schools a list of ‘quality assured’ program providers and subsidise partners where appropriate.
  6. Direct $95 million of the funds (about 10 per cent) to rigorous evaluations of the initiatives to identify what works and how best to implement it.
  7. Invest in longer-term strategies to help close the existing equity gap in education, which is much greater than the gap caused by learning losses from the COVID-19 disruptions.

RMIT SoE Response

I propose that we consider

  1. working with our partnership schools to initiate an appropriate tutorial project involving our undergraduates;
  2. developing a short training package to prepare undergraduate students to be literacy and numeracy tutors;
  3. be prepared to respond to the Grattan Report being taken up and tendered out by Government and
  4. form a working group to study the Grattan Report and consider the above recommendations.

If you are interested in being involved in next steps please contact Richard.

[1]  Joseph, D. & Johnson, R. (2020 in press). “Studying abroad while staying at home in Australia: diverse intercultural learning and teaching through partnerships”, in Studies on Global Student Mobility, Routledge.

Please contact me for a copy of the chapter.

[2] COVID catch-up: helping disadvantaged students close the equity gap. Grattan Institute Report.

[3] COVID catch-up: helping disadvantaged students close the equity gap. Press release:

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