Some claim it outsources maths teaching, but Chris Drage sees BrightSpark as common sense
With 30-plus students in class, most teachers, even those with teaching assistants, struggle to provide help on an individual basis.
Teaching in ability groups can help but at some point in a child’s school career she or he will require individual assistance and finding that extra one-on-one ‘quiet’ time can prove problematical. Enter BrightSpark Education with online maths tutoring.
Often it is simply a matter of a learner failing to grasp a fundamental concept or aspect of the work which later begins to shake his or her confidence as successive work appears progressively more difficult. Sometimes it is just a matter of boosting confidence and self-esteem within a learner. At that point parents, who can afford to, tend to enlist the services of a visiting tutor who will provide the necessary one-to-one tutoring to help.
However, the Institute of Education says that only 11 percent of tutor agencies in the UK require their tutors to have a degree in the subject they teach, and only 8 percent offer any training. As recent research shows that pupils using ICT to study key stage 2 maths, science and English, improve at twice the rate of the national average – why not use the services of a fully qualified online tutor?
From just £12 per hour (face-to-face costs a lot more), learners can log on to BrightSpark Education’s website to talk to a tutor using an internet voice connection (VOIP) and interact via a virtual interactive whiteboard. BrightSpark Education employs Indian-based tutors, all of whom are maths graduates or former maths teachers, fully trained in the maths curriculum at key stages 2, 3 and 4.
'The ease with which the system works is impressive'
Exam coverage includes: GCSE examination boards Edexcel, AQA (who are rumoured to be introducing its own tutoring service) and OCR and Independent Schools Examination Board for Common Entrance at 11-plus and 13-plus. It is flexible and supports the varied schedules of parents and students as it can be accessed from any internet connection at any time.
The ease with which the system works is impressive. No downloads are required nor any technical knowledge: just log on and learn from anywhere. Students can sign up for an account, choose a username and password, and buy one-to-one sessions from only £12-£15 per hour (that’s half the price charged by the most affordable tutor I know!) They can then book a session with only 24 hours' notice as tutors are available at any time, any day.
The content is broken down into bite-size topics to choose from, so students simply select what they’re working on in class or want to revise. Tutorials allow student and tutor to talk live and clearly with each other, work with engaging presentations on all topics, as well as draw, type and illustrate on the whiteboard. All sessions are recorded and logged into the students account for future revision, and BrightSpark tutors email students feedback to help chart progress.
Each session lasts up to one hour with a tutor. In addition to one-to-one tutoring, students can benefit from free, unlimited use of automated testing and presentations on all topics in the curriculum, accompanied by past papers and mark schemes for practice.
BrightSpark says that its tutors are all are mathematics graduates and maths teachers based in India, are fully trained in the UK curriculum and are fluent in English. They also point out that all their tutors have undergone full security checks, extensive training, and are working as full-time maths tutors, committed to a career in education. When I listened to several of them I did find that pronunciation and their verbal English was not 100 per cent in a couple of cases, but equate that with the multi-ethnicity of our own teaching force and, in a multi-cultural Britain, it does not pose a problem.
To ensure accountability, all sessions are recorded and logged into the student’s account, and are available to be reviewed for revision or quality assurance at any time. In addition, the tutors email feedback to parent and student after every session.
From the outset, BrightSpark has been working with classroom teachers to ensure that their tutors can also be employed as a teacher resource, using the BrightSpark tutoring system to integrate one-to-one tutoring with core classroom learning. Such is the flexibility that BrightSpark Education provides students with individual accounts and teachers with administrative control. The online tutors can then conduct individual sessions according to the class teacher’s chosen topics and timing. Feedback for each student is then emailed to the teacher, who is also able to review any session that a student has carried out.
'Every child has improved and become more confident in their maths ability'
Ashmount Primary School in Islington, north London is a mixed, inner-city school of 300 pupils that is on a mission to help children improve in maths. Its assistant headteacher and head of key stage 2, Rebecca Stacey, has, since March 2010, been piloting BrightSpark Education’s maths tutoring. She says: “BrightSpark Education’s specialist maths tutoring has made a real difference to pupil’s enjoyment and understanding of the subject.
“It complements my teaching by tailoring sessions to each child on a one-to-one basis, which would normally be too expensive for most schools and parents to employ. I can use the service for individual pupils who need extra help in the classroom as well as with the whole class. While improving their maths skills, it gives pupils the perfect opportunity to work online and improve their ICT skills! Many parents are planning to subscribe to it for their children to use at home, which will allow their children to study even more independently.
“Every child subject to the BrightSpark Education tutoring at Ashmount Primary has improved and become more confident in their maths ability.”
BrightSpark Education’s Online Mathematics Tutoring offers affordable maths tuition for both home and the classroom. By balancing teacher control with pupil autonomy it should help reassure parents and help cement the important home-school relationship. Above all, if receiving specialist tutoring provides learners with the feeling of being challenged and subsequently builds their confidence and self-esteem then it’s a winner in my book.
Ratings (out of 5)
Fitness for purpose 4
Ease of use 5
Value for money 4
BrightSpark Education Online Mathematics Tutoring
Online tutoring service for maths learners. Can be used at school and at home. Prices: from two lessons for £30 (£15 per hour) to £48 for package of four sessions (£12 per hour)
Tel: 0207 193 3660