COVID Intensive Learning Support Program: Phase 3 Evaluation Report
This evaluation was originally published 22 December 2023.
The COVID Intensive Learning Support program (COVID ILSP) began from a solid research and evidence base supporting small-group tuition as the preferred intervention for students falling behind in their learning. The department’s rapid response to students’ disrupted learning has been well-received by schools, principals, educators and students. Since its announcement in late 2020, the COVID Intensive Learning Support program has supported more than 290,000 students in targeted literacy and numeracy small-group tuition led by over 16,000 educators including 4,100 school learning support officers (SLSOs).
One of the successes of the program is that it has been responsive to the changing and often challenging learning landscape for students in New South Wales. Not only did the program operate during COVID lockdowns in 2021, it also addressed the ongoing disruption faced by schools during a series of natural disasters including floods and bushfires. The program has maintained its flexibility, allowing schools to make decisions about their implementation model and student participation, in response to their unique needs. With each year, the program has responded with new features and resources to facilitate the implementation of small-group tuition, including an online provision and support channels.
The evaluation has taken a 3-phased approach to evolve alongside the program. New data sources were identified and pursued through each of the 3 phases to provide additional insights into the program’s implementation and impact. As a result of rapidly changing circumstances, the evaluation has utilised data that was already available through existing channels, rightfully prioritising the needs of teachers over those of the researchers; however, limiting the conclusions that could be drawn about impact on student achievement.
Each evaluation phase has been developed to respond to the factors that impacted the previous data collection. Additional instructions were provided to schools and educators to improve the consistency of data collected through PLAN2 about students’ participation in the program. Similarly, a focus on the implementation of the program was included in the Phase 3 evaluation, with a comprehensive interview and school visit schedule. These measures have improved the quality of data collected for the evaluation of this program and have been directly fed back into the program team.
The positive response to the small-group tuition from schools, principals, educators and students has shown that this model of support is valued across the system as one of many opportunities for advancing equitable outcomes, opportunities and experiences for all learners in New South Wales.