15th September 2020

The relationship between the Kumon maths programme and Key Stage 2 maths outcomes in England

This report analyses the relationship between the Kumon maths programme and Key Stage 2 (KS2) outcomes in 2019. We use the National Pupil Database linked with anonymous Kumon data to create two matched control groups.

Kumon is a large international provider of supplementary education, specialising in paid private tuition in maths and English. This tuition can be accessed from the age of two and up to GCSE and beyond, but in this research we consider only pupils in Year 6 completing their national curriculum assessments in 2019.

You can download the full report here.



Characteristics of Kumon pupils

In comparing our sample of 310 Kumon pupils with all other pupils finishing KS2 in 2019, we find that Kumon pupils:

  • Have higher prior attainment at Key Stage 1: A third of Kumon pupils are among the highest performing fifth of pupils nationally at KS1 in English and maths.
  • Attend higher performing schools: More than half of Kumon pupils attend schools that are in the top 30 per cent for their pupils achieving the expected standard in reading, writing and maths.
  • Are less likely to have identified special educational needs or disabilities: seven per cent of Kumon pupils have any identified special needs compared with 17 per cent nationally.
  • Are less likely to be eligible for free school meals and are more likely to live in affluent areas: five per cent of Kumon pupils are FSM eligible compared with 16 per cent nationally. 

All these characteristics are associated with higher maths attainment at KS2.

In addition, Kumon pupils in our sample are much less likely to have English recorded as their first language (51 per cent compared with 79 per cent nationally) and are much less likely to be White in comparison with the national population (41 per cent compared with 74 per cent nationally). The next largest Kumon group is the Asian ethnic group, with 27 per cent belonging to this group compared with 11 per cent of non-Kumon pupils.

Looking at their characteristics alone we would expect Kumon pupil attainment to be higher than average even without access to tutoring. There is therefore a strong case for applying matching methods to compare Kumon pupils with a group who are more similar to them. A caveat to this method is that while we know that our comparison group has not participated in Kumon, we cannot know whether they have participated in other tutoring programmes.

Attainment of Kumon pupils

We compare Kumon pupil attainment with other pupils before and after creating a matched comparison group. We find that:

  • When compared with all pupils before matching, Kumon participants who have accessed the programme for at least three months achieve, on average, 5.27 additional points in KS2 maths scaled scores. However this should not be considered a valid comparison given the substantial differences in characteristics between Kumon pupils and all pupils nationally.
  • Based on our best estimate after matching, Kumon pupil attainment in KS2 maths scaled scores is on average 1.80 points higher than their similar non-Kumon peers. Kumon pupils average about 110 points compared with 108 for their similar non-Kumon peers.
  • The difference between Kumon and non-Kumon pupils’ outcomes after matching is equivalent to 6.8 months of additional progress.

Ultimately this study finds that Kumon pupils who have accessed the programme for at least three months achieve about two points higher in KS2 maths scaled scores than similar non-Kumon pupils.

To put this in context, findings from the wider literature are mixed when it comes to estimating the impact of private tuition programmes that are not randomly assigned or targeted. These mixed findings are due in part to the differences in design and duration of tuition programmes analysed, but also largely to the difficulties of controlling for the characteristics that influence both access to tuition and attainment.

Through our matching method we have controlled as far as possible for these intervening factors, but nevertheless there remain unobserved variables such as parental engagement and other factors relating to the home-learning environment. This means that the additional attainment we find may be attributable to Kumon, but may also be partly attributable to these other factors.

Judging from their matched comparison group, it is likely that this sample of Kumon pupils would have achieved well without accessing Kumon tutoring. It is not known what benefit is conferred by this two point ‘bonus’ for pupils who would likely have higher than average maths attainment anyway. Future research could consider how this affects pupil performance in entry into selective schools, transition into KS3 and whether differences in attainment are sustained up to GCSE.