GCSE Results Day: Celebrating the successes of the Class of 2023

24 August 2023

Results day is one of the most critical days on the education calendar. Across the country today, candidates are receiving the outcome of the GCSE exams and considering the next stage of their lives – further education, training, or employment.

As an education charity that supports thousands of pupils in secondary schools each year, we appreciate firsthand the efforts and resilience of the cohort getting their results today. The pandemic dealt them a harsh hand, having to experience learning loss and disruption like never before in the last three years.

This cohort spent their years 8 and 9 learning through the Covid-19 lockdowns, with many reportedly struggling with post-pandemic school attendance and mental health challenges.

After years of hard work and determination in getting their learning right, the outcome is finally here. This morning, we visited schools in Merseyside, Newcastle, Bristol, and Sheffield to share in the excitement of results day and applaud the efforts of all the pupils we’ve supported through tutoring in the past year.

Let’s celebrate the successes and resilience of the Class of 2023!

The power of lived experiences

Rhiannan and Programme Coordinator Sophie Cowling
Rhiannan and Action Tutoring’s Programme Coordinator Sophie Cowling

At the Prescot School in Liverpool, Rhiannan and her family were excited about the outcome of her maths GCSE. Achieving a 4 in maths despite her learning difficulty with comprehending the subject is a win for Rhiannan, expressing her excitement about going on to study French, graphics, and 3D design in college.

“I can do what I want in college now that I have my maths GCSE. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Action Tutoring.”

Rhiannan

Rhiannan received maths tutoring throughout the 2022-23 academic year, attending 13 sessions with her tutor, Rajinder – who also struggled with maths comprehension in the past.

Rhiannan’s mother, Lorraine, said she owes her daughter’s success to the tutoring support from Rajinder in the past year.

‘They were bouncing off each other. Thank you all for your help with everything. I hope you carry on your work with this school because it does work – it’s been a godsend.

Lorraine

Tutoring made a difference

At the Longbenton School in Newcastle upon Tyne, Kwadwo is happy with his results. He secured a 4 in maths and shared his gratitude to Action Tutoring for the tailored maths support he received in the last year.

Kwadwo had a strong attendance record for tutoring sessions – turning up for 26 tutoring sessions in total last year and this year. He is excited about going on to sixth form to study product design.

“Thank you for helping me pass my maths GCSE.”

Kwadwo
Kwadwo

Good to have support

Hafsa and Frankie are beaming with smiles and ‘feeling great’ about their GCSE results at the Fairfield High School in Bristol. They are both proceeding to sixth form.

Hafsa is going on to read human biology, psychology, and criminology while Frankie pursues psychology, sociology, and photography.

“It’s good to have one-on-one support and more in-depth help. You don’t have to be ashamed for not knowing something, you can just say it to the tutor and they’ll help you.”

Frankie

Definitely worth it

Casper

At King Ecgbert School in Sheffield, Casper is pleased with his results. Having received English tutoring in 13 sessions last year, he scored a 4 in English language, a 5 in literature, and a 4 in maths.

“I’d say a big thank you. Going to those sessions really helped me and was definitely worth it. For an hour after school, it would be really easy to choose to skip it, but it could be the difference between a 3 and a 4.”

Casper
Chris

Looking upbeat after seeing his results, Chris at King Ecgbert was full of gratitude to his maths tutor.

“I’d say thank you to my tutor if they were here.”

Chris

Chris scored a 4 in his maths GCSE plus a 5 in English language and 6 in literature.

Be proud of yourself

The results and emotions in the schools we visited and across the country show that an incredible amount of hard work was invested by candidates into the GCSE qualification. All young people receiving their results today deserve immense credit for what they have achieved.

To the GCSE candidates and teachers: your achievements today are a testament to your spirit and perseverance during this unprecedented time in the history of education. Be proud of yourself and your hard work and remember you are worth more than your grades. 

Congratulations on this momentous day!

Action Tutoring wins £1,000 Movement for Good Award

9 August 2023

Action Tutoring has been selected to receive a £1,000 donation as part of Benefact Group’s Movement for Good Awards. This gesture was made possible by nominations from the public, showcasing the widespread recognition and support for the education charity’s valuable work.

Now in its fifth year, Benefact Group’s Movement for Good Awards aims to contribute over £1 million to various charities. Action Tutoring’s selection highlights its commitment to empowering young learners and making a positive impact on their education and life chances.

Expressing gratitude for this recognition, Head of Philanthropy at Action Tutoring, Hannah O’Neill said,

“We are immensely grateful to everyone who nominated us for the Movement for Good Award. It is heart-warming to see the public’s belief in our mission and our positive impact. This award is a recognition of the dedication of our team, volunteers, and supporters who work tirelessly to improve outcomes for disadvantaged young people.”

The funds will be directed toward providing additional workbooks and training more volunteer tutors to support young people in maths and English. The donation translates into the equivalence of purchasing 166 workbooks or training over 300 tutors online.

Mark Hews, Group Chief Executive at Benefact Group, said:

“We would like to thank every single person who took the time to nominate a good cause as part of our Movement for Good Awards. We know that £1,000 can make a huge difference to the incredible work that charities do and we’re looking forward to seeing how this financial boost will change lives for the better.”

With the continued funding and support from organisations like the Benefact Group, Action Tutoring can continue making a significant difference in the lives of disadvantaged young people, fostering a brighter future for generations.

Action Tutoring provides tailored maths and English tuition to pupils facing disadvantage in Years 5, 6, 7, 10, and 11 to pass their SATs and GCSEs. Trained volunteers tutor pupils through weekly one-hour sessions, online or face-to-face in partner schools.

QBE Foundation partners with Action Tutoring to expand support

19 July 2023

In a bid to scale up access and impact of tutoring to over 12,000 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, QBE Foundation is investing more than £1.5 million in its partnership with Action Tutoring within the next three years.

QBE’s funding will significantly increase the number of disadvantaged pupils who receive tutoring support and enable the charity to reach more remote and hard-to-reach locations. The partnership aims to help narrow the attainment gap, which is at its widest in ten years at both primary and secondary levels.

With the government set to end the funding for the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) in 2024 and schools struggling with budget squeezes, the future of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds is at serious risk without funding support to keep catch-up interventions afloat.

Supporting young talents

“We want to create resilient and inclusive communities. We’re excited to partner with Action Tutoring because they do this through developing skills and supporting talent. It is wonderful to help children reach their full potential. Investing in them at an early age also offers fantastic returns.”

Grant Clemence, Chairman of QBE Foundation, said

Children from low-income backgrounds are on average 18 months behind their wealthier peers by the end of GCSEs. The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated existing education inequalities, hitting historically disadvantaged students the hardest.

Expand our support

Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring, believes the partnership will accelerate the work of the charity in education recovery and fight inequalities.

“Achieving good GCSEs in both English and maths is critical to young people being able to progress to further education, employment or training. This not only benefits their individual lives but creates a healthy workforce and ultimately benefits the wider economy. Skills shortage is a chronic problem for businesses. This funding aims over a five-year period to help us tutor twice as many pupils as we do today, and also expand our reach from urban to rural areas.”

Susannah Hardyman
A tutor teaches a pupil

Through the funding, Action Tutoring will partner with more state schools to provide maths and English tutoring to pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. The support will help more young people to make meaningful academic progress and open doors to higher education and employment opportunities.

The QBE Foundation has committed to a minimum of three years of funding with an annual contribution of at least £500K, with the ambition that the partnership and funding will extend to five years and beyond. QBE employees across the country will be able to volunteer to provide regular tutoring in local schools, using Action Tutoring’s structured programmes and resources.

Worthwhile partnership

Since the summer term, some QBE employees have already been volunteering as tutors on programmes in schools. Sophie Miller-Molloy, an employment lawyer at QBE who started tutoring pupils in Newcastle’s Tyneview Primary School remotely, said the ability to boost the studies and confidence of young people are her driving motivations.

“Taking some time out each week to volunteer and do something which is going to help someone else out in a meaningful way also gives me the boost to volunteer.  It’s part of my week that I look forward to the most. It’s such a great contrast from my day-to-day legal work,” Sophie said. “I’m really grateful that QBE partners with Action Tutoring and it’s great that QBE empowers its employees to participate in such a fantastic and worthwhile scheme.”

Sophie Miller-Molloy

Profound impact

This partnership will be a significant boost for Action Tutoring’s work, propelling the charity to expand its impact to rural areas and bolster the advocacy efforts to ensure tutoring is embedded in the education system permanently.

By harnessing the expertise of trained volunteers to provide high-quality small group tutoring, Action Tutoring will profoundly impact more children from disadvantaged backgrounds with this investment.

New report underscores tutoring’s impact on attainment, attendance and mental health

12 July 2023

Tutoring has a wide-reaching, positive impact on the academic performance, attendance and mental health of young people, according to new polling of parents, teachers and pupils in a new tuition advocacy report published today.

The report, The Future of Tutoring, is produced by Public First and commissioned by the Tuition Advocacy Group of the Fair Education Alliance to highlight the impact, progress, and challenges of tutoring from the perspectives of parents, teachers, and pupils, plus recommendations for effective tutoring for the future and a commitment to embedding it in the education system beyond the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), set to end in 2024.

“This report, like many others, has again attested to tutoring as a central plank in education recovery efforts, with parents as well as teachers confirming the significant progress in the performance and confidence of their children receiving tutoring support. More than ever, long-term funding for the National Tutoring Programme is needed to make tutoring a permanent fixture in the education system in order to tackle the widening attainment gap and persistent absence, and to help chart a better future for all young people across the country.”

Susannah Hardyman, FEA Tuition Advocacy Group Chair and founder and CEO of Action Tutoring, a key sponsor of the report, said

Launch event

Robert Halfon (Minister of State for Skills, Apprentices and Higher Education and former Chair of the ESC), Susannah Hardyman (CEO of Action Tutoring and Chair of the Tutor Advocacy Group), Robin Walker (Chair of the ESC), Sarah Waite (Founder and Executive Director of Get Further), Abigail Shapiro (Co-founder and Executive Director of The Tutor Trust) 

The coalition led by Action Tutoring, Impetus, The Tutor Trust, and Get Further launched the report in Parliament Wednesday, with Robert Halfon, Minister of State for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education and Former Chair of Education Select Committee as guest speaker.

The event hosted by the Chair of the Education Select Committee, Robin Walker, convened over 120 policymakers, politicians, school leaders, and sector representatives, coinciding with the third-year anniversary of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP).

Before the event, Susannah Hardyman and Abigail Shapiro of The Tutor Trust shared the report directly with the education lead in the No.10 delivery unit.

Use momentum to transform tutoring

Speaking in the stead of the SoS of Education, Robert Halfon, former chair of the Education Select Committee and current Minister of State for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education said he personally benefitted from tutoring as a child and understands the transformation it can have first-hand.

“Tutoring doesn’t only help students academically but also increases their confidence, improve attendance, and impacts their relationships with other children. It’s not only about the subject knowledge but supporting every aspect of their lives. Let’s use the momentum built in the last 3 years to transform tutoring. We welcome recommendations in the Future of Tutoring report and will consider them carefully.”

Robert Halfon, who was a key champion of the NTP back in spring 2020

“Targeted assistance helped to bridge the gaps in my understanding to pass my maths GCSE successfully. Consistency in tutoring helped me establish my learning approach and get fresh perspectives from tutor. It instilled my confidence. I look forward to higher education in September and a future of endless possibilities.”

Naomi Spence, a graduate pupil

Bridging the haves and haves not

Naomi’s mother, Lorraine, also highlighted why tutoring should be accessed by every child.

“Should tutoring be the preserve of a select few? No. Tutoring is a bridge between the haves and haves not. Let’s support the call to action to keep tutoring in place permanently and to benefit all children.”

Lisa Walker-Collins, headteacher of Stroud Green Primary School

 “Yesterday, when the Year 6 results were released, Pupil Premium children representing 50% of the school population, outperformed the non-PP pupils and exceeded the national average for all pupils. Thanks to the support they received from tutoring. However, we cannot continue with tutoring for pupils who need it without proper funding. It is difficult on a tight budget like this.”

Lisa Walker-Collins, headteacher of Stroud Green Primary School

Ambitious manifesto

The report lays out a bold tuition manifesto proposal to the next parliament to commit to a funded Tutoring Guarantee that all young people in receipt of Pupil Premium or fallen behind in education, be offered a high-quality tutoring provision to help close the attainment gap and impact an estimated 1.75m disadvantaged young people.

The tuition advocacy coalition went the extra mile to garner cross-party endorsement with senior figures including Chair of the Education Select Committee Robin Walker MP, former Education Secretary the Rt Hon. Lord Blunkett, and Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, Munira Wilson MP jointly calling for its adoption.

“It is vitally important that children and young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, get the help they need to be able to succeed in life and play their part in improving the world around them. Tutoring is an intervention that is proven to help children catch up on lost learning and also supports their wider needs, like improving attendance and protecting mental health. Tutoring can play a central role in unlocking the ambition of England’s children if we deliver a Fair Tutoring Future.”

Dame Rachel De Souza, Children’s Commissioner for England, who wrote the report’s foreword said

“Tutoring is a vital and proven intervention for providing effective catch up support at school and, used effectively, it can make a huge difference for children’s life chances. I have seen some excellent examples of tutoring and hope that the lessons learned from the National Tutoring Programme can ensure that it is used even more effectively in the future. Embedding tutoring into the education landscape as we move forward will be vital if we are to close the gap in attainment for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Robin Walker MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee and former Schools Minister said

Key highlights from the tutoring report

Key tutoring findings - parent polling
Key findings - parents
Key findings - teachers
Key findings - pupils
Recommendations from tutoring report

Tutoring manifesto

The manifesto is proposing an increase in state funding from £150m to £290m a year, the removal of the requirement on schools to match-fund to access any funding, creating flexibility for schools to target tuition at pupils who need will benefit, and clear accountability for the delivery and reporting status of pupils.

“A reshaped and properly invested tutoring programme is not only essential for re-engaging young people post Covid but also to provide direct equality of access to essential out-of-classroom support.”

Former Education Secretary, The Rt Hon. Lord Blunkett, said

“Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds have fallen further behind their peers during the pandemic, and are at risk of staying there unless the government reverses its decision to remove its funding for schools and colleges to use tutoring. We stand by this call for tutoring to be fully funded so that schools can support the children who have suffered most during the pandemic to reach their full potential.”

Munira Wilson MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for education said

Continuing our advocacy work

Action Tutoring is proud to be at the forefront of this collective advocacy report and to be working together with other education charities to secure the joint cross-party endorsement of the tuition manifesto from members of the main political parties.

We look forward to building on this achievement by speaking on education panels at the Conservative and Labour party conferences later this year in partnership with the Education Policy Institute (EPI) and the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ).

We believe that it’s vital we engage policy leaders and continuously advocate for cross-party support for embedding tutoring permanently in our education system to positively impact the future of young people.

Deputy CEO shortlisted for prestigious Charity Times Awards

29 June 2023

Action Tutoring’s deputy CEO, Jen Fox, has been shortlisted in the Supporting Leader of the Year category for the Charity Times Awards. In its 24th year, the Charity Times Awards recognises and celebrates outstanding leaders and professionals in the charity sector.

Since joining Action Tutoring in 2015, Jen has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to making high-quality education accessible for all. Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring, said the nomination is a clear testament to Jen’s phenomenal leadership skills, resilient spirit, and drive for transformational positive change.

“We couldn’t be more delighted to have Jen’s skills and contributions recognised publicly in this way. Jen has transformed the delivery of our programmes, in particular developing our curriculum and tutoring resources, driving improvements in tutor training and ensuring impact remains at the heart of all we do.”

Susannah Hardyman

Rose to the challenge

Having worked across a multitude of roles in the last seven years at the education charity, ranging from Programme and Curriculum Director to Director of Transformation, Quality, and Impact, Jen has consistently modelled excellence in all of her work and relationships.

Appointed interim CEO twice before being promoted to Deputy CEO in 2022, Jen navigated the charity through one of its most turbulent academic years to date. During the Covid-19 pandemic with multiple school closures,  Jen rose to the challenge and was at the forefront of launching the online tutoring delivery in record time.

Jen and Susannah Hardyman at No. 10
Jen Fox and Susannah Hardyman at No. 10

Bedrock of support

Jen’s undeterred leadership and love for innovation and quality improvement have enabled us to make online tutoring delivery a permanent feature, build impact evidence, and support more disadvantaged young people in new geographies.

As a bedrock of support to our CEO in a fulfilling but tough sector, Jen has constantly maintained a laser-sharp focus on our mission to unlock the full potential of the young people we support.

“Jen is an inspiration for all of us to work with – always looking to challenge herself and the team to drive improvements and make a profound difference in the lives of disadvantaged young people and communities we serve.”

Susannah Hardyman

The 24th Charity Times Awards is set for 20th September 2023 at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, where the winners selected by an expert independent judging panel will be publicly announced.

Thank You Day 2023: An Ode to Volunteers

21 June 2023

Thank you to the unsung heroes of charity


When we think of superheroes, our minds often evoke images of capes, masks, and incredible superpowers. The true heroes among us aren’t necessarily blessed with X-ray vision or the ability to fly.

They are extraordinary ordinary people who selflessly give their time and efforts to causes that make a difference. Volunteers are the backbone of charitable organisations. They’re the ones who turn compassion into action, showing up day after day, ready to tackle any challenge. 

From feeding the homeless to cleaning up parks, from tutoring underprivileged children to rescuing adorable furry friends, these wonderful individuals are everywhere, making an impact, one selfless act at a time.

That is why we are joining the rest of the UK to mark the third annual Thank You Day on Sunday 2nd July. 

What is Thank You Day?

Thank You Day began with a handful of organisations looking for a way to say a huge ‘thank you’ to everyone who helped the nation through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since then the campaign has grown and an astounding 15 million people have taken part in Thank You Day celebrations. Last year, 61% said that taking part had made their communities feel more united.

The impact of small actions

It’s easy to get caught up in the notion that changing the world requires grand gestures or infinite resources. But small actions can create profound ripples of positive change.  Even the tiniest effort can make someone’s day a little brighter. 

Whether it’s a heartfelt smile, a warm hug, spending an hour to support a young person or a simple “How can I help?”, these unsung heroes understand that the impact of their actions extends far beyond what meets the eye. Their dedication, combined with their unwavering belief in the power of compassion, transforms communities and touches lives in truly immeasurable ways.

Volunteer tutors

The timeless gift of time

Imagine a world where everyone was too busy for kindness. Luckily, volunteers graciously donate their most precious resource – their time – to make a difference. Amidst their responsibilities and commitments, these extraordinary individuals carve out moments to lend a helping hand, becoming the living embodiment of the saying, “time is the most valuable gift.”

From organising food drives to planting trees, from tutoring pupils to comforting the lonely, volunteers invest their time to improve the lives of others. They are like time travellers, moving between the past, present, and future to create a better world for all. Their acts of kindness ripple through time, leaving a lasting impact that resonates with the souls they touch.

The magic of connection

Volunteers possess an uncanny ability to forge connections. They are the bridge builders who effortlessly bring people together, fostering a sense of community and belonging. In a world that sometimes feels disconnected, these unsung heroes have the power to create bonds that transcend barriers and unite us all.

Through their compassion, volunteers ignite a spark of hope in the hearts of those they serve. Whether it’s sharing stories, helping to solve difficult study questions, offering a listening ear, or simply offering a warm smile, they make everyone feel seen, heard, and valued. 

In an era dominated by screens, volunteers remind us of the magic that unfolds when we connect with our fellow human beings on a deeper, more meaningful level.

Tutoring session

A heartfelt thank you

So, here’s to the volunteers who keep the gears of kindness turning. Today, we express our sincerest gratitude for your unwavering spirit, your boundless energy, and your refusal to let obstacles dim your commitment to making a difference.

Thank you for donning your superhero capes without expecting recognition or applause. For reminding us that there’s always room for kindness and that we, too, can be part of something greater than ourselves. For being the quiet catalysts of change, selflessly working behind the scenes to create a better world.

To our extraordinary volunteer tutors, thank you for showing up at every session, even when the economic climate is now more challenging than ever. Thank you for spending an hour of kindness each week to support young people facing disadvantage to build a better future and brighten their lives.

As we mark Thank You Day nationally, let’s all reach out to these everyday heroes – volunteers, supportive friends, family, and colleagues to shower them with appreciation, and let them know that their efforts are noticed, valued, and cherished.

Highlights: Committee inquiry report on education recovery

7 June 2023

Today, the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee has published its inquiry report on Education Recovery in Schools in England. The report assessed the value and effectiveness of education recovery programmes in schools based on written and oral evidence.

Following the disruption to education by the Covid-19 pandemic with multiple school closures, the Department for Education (DfE) introduced a number of recovery initiatives to help pupils and schools to catch up, most notably, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP).

The Committee’s inquiry assessed the DfE’s management of the recovery programme, the effectiveness of the NTP in meeting its objective, and if the scheme was achieving value for money.

The report found that the DfE did not fully appreciate the ‘pressures schools are under as they seek to help pupils catch up’ with evidence of persistent issues of funding constraints, growing mental health needs among pupils and challenges with teacher recruitment and retention.

As one of the education charities that submitted written evidence to this inquiry, we believe in the potential of the flagship recovery scheme, the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), to help reverse the Covid-19 pandemic disruption in education. 

However, we believe that this progress can only be achieved if the NTP is mainly targeted at disadvantaged pupils, tuition delivery is of high quality, funding is increased and outcomes are properly monitored.

Swift action to close the attainment gap

The report revealed that the Department for Education believes it will take a decade to return the attainment gap – which is at its widest in ten years at primary and secondary levels – to pre-pandemic levels. 

“The 10-year timeline to witness pre-pandemic attainment gap level is too long and stands to ruin the life chances of millions of pupils across the country”

Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring

It recommended that the DfE publish a plan setting out how it will reduce the disadvantage gap as quickly as possible and the expected trajectory, building on good practice.

Without swift action to consolidate and implement multiple recommendations from this report and many others to improve the NTP, there will be far-reaching consequences of learning loss to this generation in schools.

It recommended that the DfE publish a plan setting out how it will reduce the disadvantage gap as quickly as possible and the expected trajectory, building on good practice. Without swift action to consolidate and implement multiple recommendations from this report and many others to improve the NTP, there will be far-reaching consequences of learning loss to this generation in schools.

High absence rate among the disadvantaged

In the autumn and spring terms of 2021-22, the average absence rate for all pupils was 7.4%, compared with 4.5% for the same terms before the pandemic in 2018-19. For disadvantaged pupils, the rate was 10.4% in 2021-22, compared with 7.2% in 2018-19.

It is alarming that persistent pupil absence continues to pose a significant challenge to schools and the well-being of pupils, especially the disadvantaged. Without pupils attending school, their outcomes are unlikely to improve.

Our evidence to the Education Select Committee on persistent pupil absence contained helpful recommendations to tackle the issue including:

  • Sharing drinks and snacks during tutoring sessions to reduce hunger
  • Letters and text reminders to parents about upcoming sessions in the day
  • Parent information sessions about tutoring and its benefits
  • Incentives such as vouchers if pupils attend the majority of tutoring sessions
  • Certificate presentation and awards in assembly at the end of programme
  • Integrate attendance into the positive behaviour management system such as gaining points for their ‘house’ through attendance

The report charged the DfE to develop a better understanding of why disadvantaged pupils have higher rates of absence than others and take targeted action to reduce absence rates among them.

“Continuing to invest in ensuring the most vulnerable pupils show up in the classroom is critical to breaking the cycle of low attendance rates currently. Persistent pupil absence will give rise to a surge of problems in the future for young people if the root causes are not addressed.

Susannah Hardyman

Funding constraints for schools

Although the steep subsidy cut for the NTP has been reversed, schools are still grappling with funding constraints and budget squeezes. Schools that are struggling to pay 40% of tutoring costs this academic year will still struggle to make up for the 50% next year.

Additional funding commitment is needed long-term to ensure tutoring is sufficiently embedded in the education system widely and particularly for pupils facing disadvantage.

Increasing take-up of NTP

It is discouraging that 13% of schools did not take up the NTP and missed out on the benefits of subsided tutoring. The DfE must ramp up its efforts through a campaign to win the hearts and minds of parents and ​conscientise schools on the value and moral imperative of channelling the NTP funding towards those eligible for Free School Meals.

The report urged the DfE to do more to understand why some schools are not taking part in the National Tutoring Programme and take more effective action to increase participation.

We believe the Department should work with tuition providers with demonstrated impact to expand into cold spots and areas with low uptake to ensure that every disadvantaged child in the country, regardless of where they live, can access high-quality tutoring.

Applying recommendations

The recommendations set out in the Committee’s report also include progress reports on measures for 2030 attainment targets and funding intervention when schools struggle to bolster NTP uptake.

If the proposed solutions are applied, they will have a meaningful impact on closing the attainment gap and reversing the damage done by the pandemic’s disruption to education. The NTP can elevate its reach and impact to ensure it delivers on the intended objectives of the scheme, all in the best interest of disadvantaged young people.

Volunteers’ Week 2023: Celebrating and inspiring volunteers

30 May 2023

What is Volunteers’ Week 2023?

Volunteers’ Week is an annual celebration to recognise and appreciate the contributions of volunteers to our communities and promote the spirit of volunteering. 

Typically, it is marked from the 1st – 7th of June in the UK. It provides an opportunity to acknowledge and thank individuals who generously give their time, skills, and energy to make a positive difference.

During Volunteers’ Week, organisations, charities, and community groups often organise volunteer appreciation dinners, volunteer fairs, recognition ceremonies, and volunteer recruitment drives, among others.

The aim is to showcase the vital impact of volunteering on society and to inspire others to get involved.

This year’s theme: ‘Celebrate and Inspire’ seeks to show gratitude to volunteers and awaken the desire in people to take up volunteering.

Why do we celebrate Volunteers’ Week 2023?

Volunteers play a crucial role in supporting organisations, communities, and causes. Volunteers’ Week provides an opportunity to acknowledge and express gratitude for their selfless contributions.

By celebrating Volunteers’ Week 2023, the aim is to raise awareness about volunteering and its benefits. It encourages more people to consider volunteering and showcases the wide range of opportunities available.

Moreover, Volunteers’ Week fosters a sense of community and togetherness. It brings people from different backgrounds and organisations together to celebrate their collective efforts in creating positive change.

The role volunteers play in community building

Volunteers hold a vital position in community and nation-building. A case in point is the resilience volunteers demonstrated during the pandemic.

Covid-19 left holes but volunteers stepped in to fill the gaps in response

It begs the question: what would the pandemic have looked like with no volunteers? Those who were self-isolating would have missed out on food. Children who needed extra tuition more than ever would not have got the support they needed. The vaccine rollout would not have been as fast or efficient.

Generally, volunteers played a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their contributions were instrumental in providing support for healthcare professionals in hospitals, clinics, and vaccination centres. 

More specifically, they provided administrative support, testing, and contact tracing, distribution of essential supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to vulnerable populations, emotional support, and counselling services.

In education, we experienced a seismic shift towards remote learning with the closure of schools. Action Tutoring signed up a deluge of volunteers to assist pupils who were adapting to online learning. They provided tutoring and mentoring to ensure that pupils could continue their education effectively.

Beyond their selfless dedication, compassion, and support, volunteers were crucial in mitigating the impact of the pandemic. They provided the much-needed assistance to individuals, communities, and healthcare systems.

Volunteers needed

Why volunteers are needed now more than ever?

The voluntary sector has changed significantly in the last three years. While individuals have returned to pre-pandemic lives in many ways, the consequences of lockdown continue to have an influence on communities.

The cost of living crisis is widening inequalities. As a result, there is an increasing need for more support for disadvantaged populations with limited resources and fewer volunteers. As a result, charities are struggling to make up for the volunteer numbers.

The Community Life Survey found the proportion of people who had volunteered at least once a month in 2021-22 was 16%, down from 23% in 2019-20. 

Interestingly, the role of technology in volunteering is more paramount since 2020. Currently, virtual volunteering is the third most common way, with about 31% of all volunteering in the last 12 months done online or via phone, according to Time Well Spent 2023.

In education, the attainment gap is at its widest in a decade at both primary and secondary levels. Volunteers are needed more than ever to help disadvantaged pupils pass their SATs and GCSEs to open the door to better future opportunities

What to expect from Action Tutoring this Volunteers’ Week 2023

In marking Volunteers’ Week, here is a quick look at the ways Action Tutoring is celebrating the thousands of volunteers we work with to support young people:

  • Facebook Live event – Hear first-hand from some of our Programme Coordinators working with volunteers for positive change in the North West and the North East
  • Volunteer info session – Find out how you can support young people in schools by volunteering as a tutor for one hour per week
  • Celebrating our volunteers – We’ll share funny and heartwarming messages from pupils to volunteer tutors who are making a difference in their lives. Check out some of these uplifting messages on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok pages during the week.

Join the conversation – Share your memorable volunteering moments on social media and tag us @actiontutoring. Your post can win a heart and mind to start volunteering today.

Our evidence submission: Tackling persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils

25 May 2023

Since the onset of Covid-19, a significant challenge for schools and other education support organisations has been persistent pupil absence. When students frequently miss school or display a pattern of irregular attendance, it can have far-reaching consequences on their academic progress, personal development, and future prospects.

In March, Action Tutoring submitted written evidence to Parliament’s Education Committee inquiry into persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils. The parliamentary inquiry was aimed at examining the issue of severe absences, the factors causing it and to assess the likely effectiveness of the Department of Education’s (DfE) proposed reforms on attendance, particularly for disadvantaged pupils.

As an education charity and accredited tuition provider, our submission focused on pupil engagement in tutoring sessions – pre and post-pandemic, reasons for low school attendance, the impact of tutoring programmes for disadvantaged pupils, and ways to increase attendance and engagement in schools.

Tutoring attendance and engagement

The attendance figures for Action Tutoring programmes are slightly lower than before the outbreak, mirroring national patterns. Our data showed that the Pupil Premium cohort – children receiving Free School Meals who formed 72% of our beneficiaries – had lower attendance figures.

For primary schools in the autumn of 2022, attendance at Action Tutoring sessions was 82% for Pupil Premium pupils and 86% for non-Pupil Premium pupils. 

In secondary schools for the same term, attendance was 66% for Pupil Premium pupils and 72% for non-Pupil Premium pupils. 

Tutoring sessions for both primary and secondary take place outside the regular school hours.

The severity of persistent absence

Persistent pupil absence goes beyond occasional absences due to an illness or family emergency. It involves students who are consistently absent without valid reasons and hence miss a substantial number of school days, often exceeding the accepted threshold.

According to the Department for Education (DfE), a pupil is identified as a persistent absentee if they miss 10% or more of their possible sessions. Nationally, over 1.7 million pupils (24.2% of all pupils) missed 10% or more of their school sessions in Autumn 2022-23, up from 23.5% the previous year. This compares to 922,566 absentee pupils before the pandemic.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) School Absence Tracker has shown that the number of children who are severely absent remains at crisis levels and the situation worsens among pupils eligible for Free School Meals(FSM). In the 2021/22 academic year, the severe absence rate for pupils eligible for FSM was more than triple the rate for children not eligible for FSM.

Causes of persistent pupil absence

In our evidence submission, we mentioned that some of the causes of persistent absence may include:

  • poor mental health
  • illness including long-term illness or fear of infecting vulnerable family members with an illness
  • chaotic home lives or factors such as additional caring responsibilities
  • post-Covid fear of finding learning difficult, being demoralised, or feeling left behind 
  • lacking the confidence to engage in the classroom
Pupils in classroom
Pupils in classroom. Credit: Pexels/Yan Krukau

What needs to change

Tackling persistent pupil absence requires a multi-faceted approach involving collaboration between schools, families, and communities. As a tutoring organisation that provides additional academic help to pupils, below are some strategies we believe can help improve attendance and engagement with the young people we support.

  • Sharing drinks and snacks during tutoring sessions to reduce hunger
  • Letters and text reminders to parents and parent information sessions about the tutoring and its benefits
  • Incentives for pupils such as vouchers or free tickets to the end-of-year prom if they attend the majority of their tutoring sessions
  • Pizza parties at the end of the programme
  • Award ceremony or presentation of certificates in assembly at the end of the programme
  • Reminders earlier in the school about their tutoring session and/or picking them up from their last lesson into tutoring sessions
  • Integrate attendance into the positive behaviour management system such as gaining points for their ‘house’ through attendance

New DfE’s solutions to tackle persistent absence

Last week, the DfE published a notice on new plans to drive up attendance rates and attainment in schools.

  • Expand the Attendance Hubs programme with nine new lead hub schools to support up to 600 primary, secondary, and alternative provision schools
  • Expand the presence of Attendance Mentors in areas of the country with the highest levels of pupil absence from September

The proposed solutions are to build on the existing attendance strategy which includes guidance for schools, attendance data dashboard and the work of the Attendance Action Alliance.

Collaborative approach

Persistent pupil absence poses a significant challenge to schools and the well-being of students. If the issue is not addressed, the nation risks creating a lost generation which may give rise to a surge of problems in the future.

By implementing a collaborative approach that addresses the underlying causes, provides support, and fosters a positive school environment, we can begin to tackle this issue effectively to help every child to reach their full potential.

Tutoring subsidy cut reversed but schools need more funding

24 May 2023

The Department of Education (DfE) yesterday announced a major change to the planned subsidy reduction for the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) next academic year.

Originally, the current 60% subsidy support to schools was scheduled to drop to 25% beginning in the autumn term of next year. However, the DfE has reversed that policy decision and agreed to raise the subsidy to 50% for every pupil in receipt of the NTP for the academic year 2023-24.

We’re pleased that our concerns about the steep subsidy drop-off for the NTP next year have been listened to and the subsidy is being increased from 25% to 50% next year. However, we remain concerned that the reality is that schools that struggled to pay 40% of tutoring costs this academic year will still struggle to afford 50% next year.

Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring

The Government introduced the national tutoring programme in the autumn term of 2020 to help pupils, especially those facing disadvantage, to recover from lost learning experienced during the pandemic school closures. 

In the first year, the DfE funded 75% of the programme per pupil with schools expected to finance the remaining part. The subsidy was tapered to 70% in the second year before being reduced to 60% in the current third year. It was set to drop further to 25% next year until yesterday’s reversal announcement.

Fund allocation remains unchanged

Nonetheless, the DfE is not increasing the funding amount schools will receive next year for the NTP as it forecasts less demand and lower uptake of the scheme.

An amount of £150 million will be available to schools next year, despite calls for an increment in cash to cushion schools as they struggle with their already stretched budgets.

Furthermore, the overall amount of funding schools will receive for tutoring isn’t increasing, and given the current financial pressures on schools, we are concerned that this means that fewer pupils will be reached that could really benefit from the support

Susannah Hardyman
Tutoring session

Limited impact in practice

With schools getting no extra funding, the DfE is banking on hopes that fewer pupils will receive tutoring next year but that more schools will at least make use of the funding available. In practice, the subsidy reversal without an increment in tutoring cash will have a limited impact on the number of pupils who receive tutoring in schools.

For instance, in a school that has 50 pupils in receipt of Pupil Premium:

This year they received £162 per pupil premium pupil (60% of £18 an hour x 15 hours) each. For 50 pupil premium pupils, this would give a school £8,100, which would enable 50 pupils to get 15 hours at a 60% subsidy.

However, next year schools will get £67 each per pupil premium pupil (25% of £18 an hour x 15 hours). Using the same example, a school with 50 pupil premium pupils would receive £3,350, enabling 25 pupils to get 15 hours at the newly announced 50% subsidy.

More needs to be done

The increase in subsidy to 50% next year is very welcome to ensure that schools stand a chance of continuing to access tutoring. However, with the nation recording the largest attainment gap in a decade last year and schools struggling with budget squeezes, more still needs to be done to ensure that pupils in receipt of pupil premium and those below the expected standards reap the full benefits of tutoring.

At Action Tutoring, we’re pleased that our fundraising and philanthropy efforts mean we can support schools further beyond the NTP to ensure tutoring really is reaching those that need it most and minimising the barrier of financial pressures on schools.

We believe additional investment is needed long-term to ensure tutoring is sufficiently embedded in the education system widely and particularly, reaches those that need it most.

Susannah Hardyman

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