A spring in your step: running for a good cause

26 July 2022

This spring and summer, a number of our brilliant volunteers, staff and supporters have been swapping their sandals for trainers and shirts for running bibs, all in the name of a good cause: supporting children and young people to unlock their academic potential. 

Across four running events our fantastic supporters have raised over £3,400 to support Action Tutoring and our pupils. 

Running to support a cause you care about

The Hackney Half and ASICS London 10K saw a group of six runners per event taking part through our pre-booked charity spaces. Runners ran through the sights of the beautiful capital, with there being plenty of sun reaching them on both days and crowds of smiling supporters cheering them on. One of our runners said:

“It’s a pleasure to support a wonderful charity like Action Tutoring through a sponsored run. The work you do is really important and very much needed to support the children and young people in our society. I’m happy to be a part of it and help out where and when I can.”

But you don’t have to use one of our charity spaces to fundraise for us! Three of our Programme Coordinators in the Midlands entered themselves into the Great Birmingham Run, with two running a half marathon and the other opting for the 10K, raising over £700 between them.

Another of our wonderful volunteer tutors, who has been tutoring maths online at one of our partner secondary schools in London, had already purchased her space in the Edinburgh Marathon before deciding to dedicate her training and event run to support Action Tutoring, raising over £480.

Hannah O’Neill, Action Tutoring’s Partnerships and Fundraising Manager, says:

“As a charity every pound makes a difference to our work to close the attainment gap, and we truly could not do what we do without the kindness and generosity of others. It’s brilliant to have our volunteers and staff team come together and get involved in sport for a good cause. We’re so grateful for all that our supporters do for us. We’re really lucky to have them!”

Running isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but after the pandemic and a series of lockdowns, many have used running as a way of boosting their activity, meeting new people and working towards a goal. When you add the dimension of supporting a charity or cause close to your heart, it really increases that ‘feel-good’ feeling. It’s not just the event that matters, in fact, that’s just part of the journey.

Using your training ahead of the event to boost your wellbeing and exercise can be a brilliant way to increase your confidence and ‘personal best’ training records, giving you a reason to use your gym membership, or to get out into nature.

After the events we’ve had lots of volunteers comment that they’ve continued their running, with some even joining a local running group! Whatever your motivation for running for charity, you are making a difference, not just for yourself but for the beneficiaries at the heart of the cause. Now that’s a worthy reason to dust off your trainers!

We know more of our volunteers want to get involved in our sport-based fundraising events, but can’t always travel to London. Next year we’re looking to offer pre-booked charity spaces for additional running events, including in the north of England and the Midlands.

We’ll be in touch with more details closer to the time. In the meantime, if you’d like to fundraise for us, check out our fundraising page or contact our Fundraising Coordinator, Naomi, via naomi@actiontutoring.org.uk

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Action Tutoring encourages pupils to express themselves as part of Children’s Mental Health Week

3 February 2021

February 1st – 7th see’s Place2Be’s ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’ campaign in full swing, a week dedicated to raising awareness and educating adults and young people about the importance of looking after our emotional wellbeing from an early age.

This year’s theme is ‘Express Yourself’, encouraging children (and adults) to explore the different ways we can express ourselves, and the creative ways that we can share our feelings, our thoughts and our ideas.

At Action Tutoring, we are always looking to support pupils’ wellbeing, as well as their academic needs. It is important for us that, in addition to achieving a meaningful level of academic attainment at school, pupils are also able to develop as happy, healthy and well-rounded individuals.

1 in 6 children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition, and with more potentially struggling with lockdown, bereavement or bullying, there’s never been a more appropriate time to talk about children’s mental health. Young people have spent almost a year being in and out of school, often locked in for long periods and out for only short bursts of time, which has been enough to put adults’ mental health under duress, never mind children.

Encouraging children to express themselves could help alleviate some of these difficulties, and lead to improved emotional wellbeing.  So how can we help young people (and ourselves!) reconnect with the creative streak that lives within us all?

  • Drama – you don’t have to be on the West End stage to engage with drama and performing. Whether acting out a scene from your favourite book, or recreating a scenario to act out with friends or family, drama is open to everyone. Drama can not only be a great way to release your curious and creative nature, but it can be also truly beneficial in helping children understand different situations. At a recent webinar, a mum explained how she’d been using role play scenarios to help her child understand what a ‘return to school’ would look like. They took it in turns to be the teacher and pupil, and even practiced social distancing in their home! What a fabulous way to help a young person understand what’s going on, or how things might be different moving forward, whilst also letting them be a playful child!
  • Art – we’re all spending way too much time looking at our screens, and too little time using our hands for anything other than typing. Grabbing a colouring book or some pens and paper might encourage a young person (or adult) to take a break from the virtual world. Why not draw a picture of how you feel right now and discuss it? This can be a great way to express how you’re feeling other than through speech, and with a bit of colour!
  • Dressing up – for lots of us, this year has consisted of pyjamas, work outfits and changing back into pyjamas when the clock strikes 5:30pm. Getting dressed up, even if it’s to sit in the house, can really boost how you feel about yourself. For children, letting them play dress up or wear what they want for the day might really help them express themselves and bring a bit of colour to the gloomier winter days.
  • Walking – a simple, but easy one. We all know walking is great for mental health, and after months inside it’s more important than ever. Walking can be creative – take a litter picker and clean up the streets, take photos of the lovely flowers or insects you see, or even take a new route to your usual walk. You could also simply walk and let your thoughts come to you naturally – nothing is more creative than original thought!

Identifying and responding to mental health concerns

Encouraging children to express themselves and talk about how they feel really is important, especially now. However, it’s also important to know what signs to look out for if the young people around us are struggling with their mental health and, crucially, how to support them.

In a national lockdown, children are bound to miss their usual structure, friends and family, which can lead to feelings like uncertainty, boredom and restlessness. This may also prompt uncomfortable or insecure feelings in their familial relationships, and subsequently, reactionary misbehaviour or misplaced hostility. Here are some tips on how to help and respond:

  • Listen – Find an opportunity to listen to what’s wrong, listen carefully to their answers and reassure them as best as you can to reinforce their stability and standing in the family.
  • Express – If they are reluctant to talk about their feelings, encourage them to write a letter or a diary entry to address their emotions. Journaling allows for self-reflection and relieves stress.
  • Routine – Build positive routines, such as healthy eating and exercise. Physical activity, whether indoors or outdoors, improves self-esteem,
    increases concentration and can improve academic performance!
  • Praise – Give lots of positive feedback and encouragement to their achievements, whether it be a piece of school work, a drawing they’ve done or even just tidying their room.
  • Support – Reach out to other parents and carers, or other friends and family, yourself. A problem shared is a problem halved, and talking is a great way to keep positive, motivated, and to be able to model this behaviour to your dependents.


“It’s important to remember that being able to express yourself is not about being the best at something or putting on a performance for others. It is about finding a way to show who you are, and how you see the world, that can help you feel good about yourself” – Place2Be

So let’s start watching out for the signs of anxiety or deteriorating mental health, remember how to get support and start expressing ourselves. Let us as adults be role models to help the younger generation express themselves as well. Children’s mental health should always be a focus, but let’s take extra care this week. Childhood is precious. Let’s protect it.

Action Tutoring would like to thank Place2Be for championing this brilliant cause with their  campaign and we encourage everyone to check out the resources on the campaign website



West Coast Runners raise over £5000 for Action Tutoring in relay race challenge

6 November 2020

Fundraising for Volunteer Tutoring

Across September 5th-6th 2020, a team of avid runners in Merseyside completed a 31 hour relay race, raising vital funds to support Action Tutoring in its mission to help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve a meaningful level of academic attainment.

The newly-formed running group, West Coast Runners, participated in The Speed Project DIY, an event adapted from The Speed Project, that usually sees runners in North America run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Speed Project DIY was created, enabling contestants from across the globe to participate in their own country.

West Coast Runners decided to bring this challenge to Liverpool, in direct support of Action Tutoring pupils.

The group, formed by Kelvin, Tom and Michael, raised over £5,000 for Action Tutoring – an incredible amount that was far beyond the team’s original target, and generously exceeded both their own and Action Tutoring’s expectations.

The runners mobilised support from across their networks, conducting interviews on BBC Radio Merseyside and appearing in news articles and snippets across a variety of Merseyside media channels. This inspiring article in Independent Liverpool details the team’s visions and actions for the race.

Fundraising for Volunteer Tutoring

Michael, a former Geography teacher and an extremely committed Action Tutoring maths tutor, who has supported Action Tutoring pupils across a variety of programmes in Liverpool, said:

“Liverpool’s pupils need organisations like Action Tutoring now more than ever. School closures disproportionately affect pupils from low-income households, whose parents [or guardians] lack the resources to deliver an entire curriculum from their living room. The charity relies on schools for 40% of its income, so they’re in real need of extra support right now.”

“They’re honestly one of the most evidence-based charities I have ever worked with. You would be amazed how few charities check whether what they’re doing actually works. Action Tutoring collects data on every pupil they support to evaluate impact and improve their service. Their resources and staff are fantastic. We’re really proud to be supporting them.”

Action Tutoring would like to thank the West Coast Running Team for their incredible and inspiring support and dedication, and the NSG group in Liverpool for their donations during the event. If you would like to contribute to the West Coast Runners fundraiser, please visit their GoFundMe page, or donate directly to Action Tutoring by clicking the link below:

Donate To Support

If you have a great fundraising idea and would like to support Action Tutoring in raising vital funds for their pupils, please get in touch with Hannah O’Neill, our Partnerships and Fundraising Manager, via hannahoneill@actiontutoring.org.uk.

Remember to save the date of the Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s largest match funding campaign, running from Giving Tuesday on December 1st – December 8th. Any donations made during this week will be ‘matched’, meaning one donation, double the impact!

Lessons in Lockdown

7 May 2020

I’m sure we can all agree that the words ‘unprecedented’ ‘uncharted’ and ‘unplanned’ have become part of our daily vocab. In fact, I’ll be surprised if pupils round the country aren’t including these words in all of their English writing tasks from now on… 

We’ve been asked to create a ‘new normal’. We’ve been called to adapt and learn new behaviours and ways of working, whilst also required to ‘unlearn’ habits that no longer serve the times we currently live in. And, for the most part, humans are pretty adaptable, and WOW! They are resilient. From NHS staff, to those stacking shelves in supermarkets, to our incredible young people whose futures seem to have been thrown into chaos – they’ve navigated it so well, and I think that calls for reflection.

I’m no William Shakespeare, and I won’t be penning a world famous or ground-breaking play during quarantine (King Lear). But I have been ‘observing’ life and gathering thoughts I can share with my pupils and tutors when I see them again (whether virtually or physically). 


1.Resilience, resilience, resilience – Whether it’s falling over in the playground and dusting their bleeding arm off, or trying to mentally remedy the fact they can’t sit the GCSE exams that they’ve revised so hard for, young people are true pillars of resilience. I’ll be reminding all my pupils how amazing and resilient they are, and we as adults should be encouraging them to give themselves a big pat on their back for that. Let’s give ourselves one too.


2. Every lesson counts – Knowledge is never wasted. Effort and determination are always worth it. The term ‘education is for life’ has almost become cliche, but why? It’s true. It’s a fact. Yes, exams are the ‘proof’ of your hard work, but I know that my effective communication skills come from the debates and discussions we had in English classes – not from the ‘compare and contrast’ question in my GCSE exam. In fact, every pupil and tutor session this year has probably been even more important and impactful  in light of what’s happened. Ok we’re not measuring impact in the ‘usual’ way. Well let’s throw ‘usual’ out the window. It doesn’t fit for ‘these times’ anyway.  Half the journey is ‘showing up’, so another pat on the back.


3. ‘Usual’ is old news – We’ve been called to work, live and learn in ways we didn’t know possible. We will return to ‘normal’ at some point (whatever ‘normal’ is), but we shouldn’t lose this adaptive and flexible flair we’ve all started to master. So I’ll be bringing this energy to the young people I work with and mentor – never again will I accept ‘but I don’t usually do it like this….’. Usual is out, and ‘having a go’ is in! A pat on the back for flexibility.



4. You can make a difference from a distanceWe’re all inside, but that hasn’t stopped people learning, growing, developing and ‘giving back’. Not being physically in school is no reason to not pick up a book. And no face-to-face contact is no reason to stop volunteering; so many of our tutors have already expressed interest in our online provision, and that is the definition of ‘making a difference from a distance’. You guessed it, it’s another pat on the back.


So there they are – the ‘Merseyside Musings’ – as I’ve affectionately named them (just in case this is a world famous and ground-breaking blog one day). Unlikely, but even Shakespeare started somewhere. 

These young people are going to need more guidance and support than ever. So, what lessons will you be taking from lockdown?


  • Hannah O’Neill, Programme Coordinator for Liverpool

Fear and Limiting Beliefs: How Your Pupils Might Have Stopped Before They Even Started

13 December 2019

A good friend of mine recently bought me a fantastic book called ‘The Student Mindset’ by Steve Oakes and Martin Griffin, a “30-item toolkit for anyone wanting to learn anything.” The book does exactly that – provides creative techniques and activities, combined with thought-provoking questions, all underpinned by the psychology and academia surrounding successful mindsets and behaviours. Plus, it discusses fear and anxiety – a topic that’s been playing on my mind over recent weeks (ironic, I know).

Fear, motivation and confidence usually come into focus closer to exams, but fear needs to be acknowledged, addressed and neutralised ASAP; then you can start making meaningful progress. I’ve been noticing fear since the start of term; pupils’ nervous faces, pale complexions and aggressive head-shakes at my “how were your mocks?” questions; tutors quietly quaking in the reception area ahead of meeting their pupils for the first time. Most fears are small and unnecessary, but they can have huge consequences on our mind, motivation and action.

‘The A B C of fear’

Drawing from the work of psychologist, Albert Ellis’, work (1957), the book highlights three barriers people face when attempting to learn something new, all underpinned by fear.

  1. Activating Event” – an event that triggers fear, e.g. Year 11 pupils are told at the start of the year that this is going to be their hardest year of school so far and thus a lot rests on their grades, such as college and university.
  2. “Belief” – a limiting belief is created that reduces or obliterates motivation, e.g. over their school years, pupils have acquired the belief that they’re not intelligent and will never achieve the right grades.
  3. “Consequence” – g. pupils immediately feel GCSEs are too hard for them and they’ll never achieve. They switch off and stop trying, working far less hard than in previous years.

So how could we address these embedded beliefs and barriers and turn them into something positive? Ellis suggests “disputing” one’s limiting beliefs by asking questions, such as “what event or conversation has caused me to have this belief?.” Personally, I draw three rings on a piece of paper (diagram below): the inner ring with the question “when did I decide I wasn’t good at X?”, the middle “what have been the consequences of this?” and the outer ring “what 3 pieces of evidence tell me the belief is not true?” (Ellis calls these “energising alternatives.”) The purpose is not to dive deep inside the pupils’ psyches, but for them to realise that, at some conscious or unconscious level, there was a pin-point when they formed a belief about themselves and their ability, triggered by fear, and stopped taking positive action as a consequence. Most importantly – that limiting beliefs just aren’t true and can be changed! You don’t have to like a subject to work hard, but fear puts us off. We are only human, as they say!


So what’s my gift to you?

  1. Observe your pupils: is there a continual pattern of fear or lack of confidence that is preventing you from making meaningful progress? What activity can you do, or question can you ask, which will help acknowledge and address this fear?
  2. Observe yourself: how can you draw on times you’ve experienced fear (algebraic fractions still haunt my dreams…) and use this to support your group?
  3. And finally: have a look at ‘The Student Mindset’ by Oakes and Griffin. Buy it, borrow it, research it. I’ve got a plethora of mindset books, and this one is up there with the best.