News & Insights 15 June 2020

Action Tutoring begins the testing phase of its online tutoring development

Action Tutoring is thrilled to have begun the testing phase of its online tutoring development this week.  Expanding its tutoring programme delivery to online, as well as in person, was already part of Action Tutoring’s strategic plans before the crisis hit, but the charity has now refreshed the timescales to enable it to deliver the provision much sooner. 

The charity currently supports almost 3,000 disadvantaged pupils each year, however just over 78,000 disadvantaged pupils across the country do not achieve English and maths at GCSE each year and could also benefit from this support.  These young people are less likely to achieve the grades they need to progress in life, but academic tutoring can help them to do this.  Action Tutoring has already developed an impactful face-to-face tutoring model.  By expanding its provision to be delivered online, it can ensure many more young people, outside of the cities where it currently operates, can benefit from its support.  The current pandemic has prompted Action Tutoring to accelerate the development of its online delivery, so that pupils can be supported as soon as possible even while social distancing rules are still in place. 

Susannah Hardyman, CEO and founder of the charity, said: “We are delighted to be ready to test our online delivery. The team has worked exceptionally hard to get to this point, in such a short timeframe.  This is an essential new offering for our charity, enabling us to bring tutoring support to even more disadvantaged young people across the country at a time when it is so needed.” 

Action Tutoring will be using this test period as a learning and preparation phase to ensure it is ready to roll out online tutoring more widely in the autumn. The charity has engaged six primary and secondary schools to work with over the testing period, across three different cities.  With support from over 60 of its existing inspiring volunteer tutors, up to 86 Year 6 and Year 10 pupils will be able to receive online tutoring over a five-week period.  

Pupils will be set up on computers in their schools or at home and receive tutoring from volunteers who are located anywhere across the country.  Tutors will be able to support up to two pupils at a time and the sessions will be delivered using the Vedamo online platform. Action Tutoring has invested in this diverse online platform which has fantastic functionality, meaning the provision will be as close to face-to-face delivery as possible.  Action Tutoring has already developed a suite of tutoring workbooks, for its pupils and tutors, to cover relevant maths and English topics.  These will be uploaded onto the platform for the tutors and pupils to use.  

This structure was decided to help mirror the charity’s face-to-face delivery as closely as possible.  By having the pupils located together, in school, it can ensure there are teachers and other staff members present to support with any issues and monitor the quality of the tutoring being delivered in a learning environment.  It also helps the pupils to feel supported and not isolated when receiving the help.  In the short term this delivery approach also allows tutoring to continue while external volunteers are prevented from entering the schools due to social distancing restrictions.  Action Tutoring will be providing noise-cancelling headphones and graphics sheets (maths-specific) for pupils participating. 

Action Tutoring will also be testing ‘at home’ tutoring with one of the participating schools.  Although the charity’s long-term aim is for pupils to all receive tutoring at school, by testing the product with pupils at home it ensures delivery can be adapted should the external situation force this. 

Action Tutoring is incredibly grateful to its six partner schools who have agreed to participate in the test phaset: 

Pakeman Primary School – London 

Bedminster Down Secondary School – Bristol  (home-tutoring)

Seaford Secondary School – Sussex 

Arts and Media School Islington – London 

Queensbridge Primary School – London 

Prendergast School Secondary – London 

Their support and patience will enable the charity to rigorously test its new platform and delivery methods to ensure it is fit for purpose in the autumn.

We have been delighted with the impact Action Tutoring has had on the progress of our Key Stage 4 pupils. We saw a marked increase in confidence and engagement from those pupils who attended the sessions. The support of tutors in a small-group setting has proved invaluable to our young people. We are therefore excited to be participating in Action Tutoring’s new pilot. This will ensure pupils will be able to get support during this time of remote learning.” Susan Service, Headteacher, Arts and Media School Islington, London 

Action Tutoring would not have been able to start this development without the financial support from generous public donations and fundraising efforts and some crucial contributions from other funders including: UBS, Wellington Management Foundation, The Fore and Nesta.  It is incredibly grateful for these offerings, particularly given the current economic pressures on organisations and society. 

“At UBS we recognise the difference that skills-sharing can make in overcoming disadvantage. That’s why we’ve supported Action Tutoring in their growth across London. We’re proud to support an organisation which strongly believes that no child’s future should be limited by their background, and which has developed a powerful programme to do something about it. Sadly the issue looks set to be exacerbated by the consequences of the global pandemic. We’re pleased that our grant will go towards ensuring that young people who need it most will continue to receive support through Action Tutoring’s new online offering.”

The charity is incredibly grateful for the inspiring volunteers who have generously given their time to support this pilot and to its passionate and dedicated staff team who have committed to delivering it.  The charity would also like to thank Impetus, the Access Project and the other organisations and charities who have contributed through their advice and guidance in the development phase.  

“I am delighted to be involved in Action Tutoring’s online tutoring test phase because it is an opportunity to try to remedy in a small way the damage done to children’s education by the COVID-19 school closures and also, if successful, in the longer term it could allow Action Tutoring to support many more disadvantaged pupils.  Preparing for tutoring has been a learning experience for me – it turns out that writing fractions on a virtual whiteboard is a lot trickier than on paper!”  Sarah, Action Tutoring tutor, London

This forms part of a wider pilot run by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Sutton Trust, Impetus and Nesta which is engaging four organisations, and their different online delivery models, to assess the potential for online catch-up tuition to mitigate against the impact of school closures on the attainment gap.  The outcomes from all four of these provisions will be independently evaluated by NatCen.

Action Tutoring will spend the summer months implementing its learnings from the testing phase and ensuring the platform is ready to launch, alongside its face-to-face delivery option, in the autumn.  It is keen to recruit as many volunteers as possible for both online and in-person delivery, to be ready for September, so that as many pupils as possible can benefit from tutoring support and together we can help make up for the time they have lost.  

To apply to join Action Tutoring as a volunteer tutor (either face to face or online), simply complete this short application form: