Pupils 'can help teach each other to read and do maths'
Children as young as seven can help teach each other to read and do maths, research suggests.
A two-year study of 7,000 pupils in 129 primary schools in Scotland suggests pupils benefit from tutoring each other in regular, short sessions.
These involve two pupils of different academic ability and sometimes different ages.
Assessments at the beginning and end of the programme showed peer tutoring had a consistently positive effect.
The research, led by Professor Peter Tymms, head of Durham University's School of Education, suggested cross-age tutoring in groups with two years' difference was the most effective.
He said what was happening was an extension of the natural way that children of different ages learned from each other.
"If you get one child to try to teach another child they learn by doing that teaching.
"Some seven-year-olds can ready pretty well and some cannot but they understand the mechanics of it and the older children understand the mistakes that are made.
"The ones who do the tutoring also gain in confidence and in self-esteem as well."
He added: "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."
But Prof Tymms is not suggesting it should replace good quality teaching.
He said schools should see this as another way that teachers could work, adding that it could work well with younger children too.
Prof Tymms said peer tutoring was not a new technique in itself, as individual teachers sometimes discovered its benefits and used it in an ad hoc way.
But what his study, carried out with Fife Education Service and Dundee University, did was apply it in a systematic and organised way throughout schools.
Gillian Hepburn, a teacher at Burntisland Primary School in Fife, which took part in the study, said her pupils enjoyed reading more and did so more frequently at home as a result.
She added: "They understood more words and read words more accurately. They benefited from having the support of another child in addition to the teacher."