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News & Insights 12 May 2022

Action Tutoring’s 10th anniversary!

On Monday, we marked ten years since Action Tutoring registered as a charity, with a celebration last night at a wonderful event in parliament kindly hosted by Alex Norris MP and with a guest keynote message from the Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza.

So much in the sector has changed in the last decade. Ten years ago, tutoring was very much a private industry, with limited access to it for those without the means. We were established to address that. But a decade on, tutoring has become significantly more mainstream, thanks both to charity efforts and of course the arrival of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). The NTP has certainly been an amazing opportunity for Action Tutoring to grow.

However, one thing I’ve consistently said since its introduction is that Action Tutoring was here long before its arrival, and we intend to be here as long as it takes the attainment gap is closed — that’s at the heart of the work we do. The NTP is an incredible opportunity to roll out the benefits of tutoring, which we have known about for years, on a significantly larger scale. Our long-term hope is that it can become embedded as a lasting feature of the education system.

10 year anniversary celebration event

Thinking back to those very early days of Action Tutoring, two seminal moments stand out. The first was a focus group with a group of enthusiastic teachers and potential volunteers crammed into my flat. This group, dreamed it had to be possible to level the playing field when it came to tutoring. We soon concluded that this idea to be successful, partnerships with schools had to be its heart.

That remains true to this day. The second moment was a few months on, during the very first ever tutoring session at a school in Peckham. It was on a Saturday morning and there were many nerves as to whether the pupils — and indeed tutors — would turn up. But they did. Once they were all settled, the Link Teacher and I looked at each other and just said, “Wow – This is actually working!

Their positive feedback afterwards convinced me of the imperative to replicate what was going on at a scale across the country.

And that’s exactly what we’ve done: by the end of this year we’ll have supported 26,000 pupils with the support of over 9,000 committed volunteer tutors from a fascinating range of backgrounds, with eight main areas of operation across the country.

Using high-quality volunteer tutors has always been central to our approach. We attract tutors from all manner of backgrounds, many of whom would have no interest in tutoring for financial reasons. They have so much to give and with the right structure and support, provided on our programmes, the quality of the interactions they provide is outstanding. Pupils are often amazed when they hear that our tutors volunteer for love. It empowers empowers them to think that people want to give up their time to help them succeed, as well as build social connections.

As one of our Link Teachers put it, “And all of your tutors volunteers? I think this is just the greatest act of kindness!” Pupils often reference the kindness of their tutors and how helpful they are, both key attributes that help to boost their confidence and in turn, their grades. One of our Year 6 pupils in London summed this up perfectly, “My tutor is very kind and she always helps me out. Whenever we get stuck on a question she will always be able to help us out. Tutoring really gives you a boost at school. You feel more confident.”

Whilst our ten-year milestone is certainly a moment for celebration there is much more to be done. We won’t be satisfied until we see a significant shift in the attainment gap, which sadly has only been further exacerbated by the pandemic. We know it doesn’t have to be this way — our own evidence and data tell us that — but there are many more young people to reach before we can to close it.

10 year anniversary celebration event

So what next for Action Tutoring?

We’re an aspirational organisation and we have four main priorities for the coming years that remain our goals, whatever the NTP may bring:

  1. Reach – We’ve demonstrated through our online programme and through pilots this year in new locations that it should be possible to deliver Action Tutoring in almost any school in the country. We want to significantly expand the number of schools we’re working with on this model outside of our current eight regions, to ensure we’re reaching young people that really need our support where programmes like ours are less available.
  2. Growth – Achieving a model that can deliver much more widely geographically gives us a springboard for further growth. We aim to be supporting 12,000 pupils a year in five years’ time.
  3. Impact – Being evidence based is one of our values. We want to keep building our evidence base of impact, especially for our online model and as we expand to new areas, so that we’re continually reflecting on what’s working and what could be better, learning and improving.
  4. Advocacy – We want to use our voice and experiences to ensure that the National Tutoring Programme leaves a lasting legacy and that tutoring for pupils facing disadvantage is permanently embedded in the education system to narrow the attainment gap.

To achieve all of this, collaboration – another core value – will be critical to success, with sectors partners, funders, schools and tutors and our wider network. We look forward to working with all of you over the coming years to achieve these aims, working together to ensure that no child’s future is limited by their background.

Now is the perfect time to get involved as we expand our reach!

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