With the help of our inspiring volunteer tutors, collaborative partner schools and supportive parents and guardians, Action Tutoring has begun delivering online tutoring sessions for pupils, who are currently learning from home as a result of school closures.
When schools closed at the beginning of January, Action Tutoring made the decision to continue running tutoring sessions to pupils based at home by switching as many online and in person programmes as possible to home-based delivery.
133 schools are already taking part in home tutoring this term and almost 550 pupils have already had their first session in lockdown, with many more about to get started. This means that, for the first time, our pupils will be able to benefit from extra academic support outside of the classroom.
The National Tutoring Programme officially approved Action Tutoring to offer online sessions to pupils at home. This means that we have satisfied their criteria that we can deliver this tuition effectively and safely.
Home-based tutoring is new for Action Tutoring and we know there will be some challenges along the way, as pupils access the technology from home and engage in learning outside the usual structure of the classroom.
However, after a successful pilot of this approach last year (as part of a national evaluation of online tutoring delivery), and a promising start this term, we feel on track to help pupils achieve valuable progress with their tutors at the most challenging time to their education.
Home-based tutoring explained
Action Tutoring pupils usually take part in the classroom, even if their tutor is joining remotely, but with schools closed, this is no longer possible. Pupils will now join the Vedamo virtual classroom from their homes, too.
As part of this switch, Action Tutoring’s programme staff have been working hard to manage the many logistical demands to ensure that tutoring can still take place. This includes liaising with all of our partner schools, as well as each parent or guardian directly, to seek permission for pupils to take part. These conversations also help us to make sure each pupil has access to the right technology and the adults involved learn important details about sessions going forward.
A responsible adult must be within listening distance of pupils throughout the sessions, and so communication with the adults at home is extremely important.
Action Tutoring has produced new materials specifically for parents, including online PDF and video guides, that outline what we do and give instructions on how to join tutoring sessions from home.
Despite no longer being in the classroom with pupils, Action Tutoring programme coordinators continue to oversee every programme, entering virtual classrooms to observe sessions and troubleshooting any technical difficulties that may arise.
Programme Manager for London, Nargis Taylor, said: “It has been really reassuring to see that the young people are able to have some consistency and normality whilst being unable to leave the house. It was lovely to see the pupils chatting away with their tutors. In many ways, it looked like most of the other school-based online tutoring sessions I delivered for pupils.
“Coordinating a home-based tutoring programme can require a bit more time as you need to liaise with each parent, as opposed to just one teacher. Ensuring the pupils have the right technology to join tutoring sessions can be tricky as well and you do occasionally experience some glitches with the technology, but we try our best to resolve these promptly so that pupils can continue with their learning.”
Impact on tutors
For tutors already volunteering with us online, there is little change in how these sessions run. They continue to use the Vedamo virtual classroom, already in operation for our existing online programmes, to deliver sessions remotely. Home-based sessions conclude with a virtual debrief for tutors, where they can ask questions and give feedback.
Sarah Searle-Barnes, a volunteer in Bristol, said, “I have tutored three pupils at home now (I was involved in the pilot study) and have found each experience worthwhile. I have found that the session enables the pupils to engage on a one-to-one basis with the tutor, without the distractions of other pupils in the room or the background noises of school.
“I also think that the pupils’ confidence and self-belief is bolstered by the one-to-one attention which has a positive impact on their learning.”
Response from pupils
So far, pupils have adapted to the home-based sessions incredibly well. Despite losing the familiarity of the classroom, where they would be surrounded by teachers, classmates and Action Tutoring staff, pupils have remained focused and have engaged well with the new format.
Pupil Premium Coordinator, Emma Boyd, said, “The pupils access the sessions in the exact same way as they do in school and so they know what to do and they just get on with it!
“I’m really pleased that this is an option for them and it will help them through the last stages of their GCSEs.”
The future of in-person tutoring
Action Tutoring made the decision to pause all in-person volunteering during lockdown. We plan to offer these opportunities again as soon as it is safe to. We are also considering ways to supplement any missed sessions later in the year, potentially with ‘booster’ days or extended sessions in the spring and early summer.
School closures impact pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds disproportionately, widening the attainment gap and putting them even further behind their peers. Our volunteers combat this inequality by giving an hour or more a week to boost pupils’ learning and confidence while at home.
Join us as a volunteer tutor and be part of our efforts when pupils need it most.
If you would like to tutor in person rather than online, we still encourage you to apply and sign up for training, so you can be ready to start as soon as schools reopen.
Your help will make a difference.