A turning point for tutoring? The debate that brought our mission to the House of Commons

21 March 2024

This week, the House of Commons held a Westminster Hall Debate on tutoring provision in England. The debate itself is unquestionably a positive step. Politicians from across party lines acknowledged the transformative impact of tutoring. They highlighted its ability to close the attainment gap and boost pupil confidence. Action Tutoring was highlighted specifically for its work by MP Paul Howell.

Quote from Paul Howell (Conservative MP for Sedgefield): "Action Tutoring’s analysis shows that 65% of disadvantaged pupils pass their maths GCSE after attending at least 10 tutoring sessions with the charity. Action Tutoring pupils were nearly 13 percentage points more likely to pass maths GCSE than other disadvantaged pupils nationally. Those are significant interventions. I could continue, but what I want to say is that Action Tutoring’s work is indicative of so much of the valuable tutoring provided by volunteers and others. We must celebrate that work."

MP and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, Munira Wilson, proposed the debate. She proceedings arguing for the continuation of government-funded tutoring programmes for disadvantaged children. Quoting research from The Sutton Trust, Public First, and the Education Endowment Foundation, Ms Wilson urged the minister for education to “do battle with his Treasury colleagues” and find funding for tutoring.

Quote from Munira Wilson (MP for Twickenham, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education): "Under-18s in England must retake GCSE English and maths if they do not achieve a grade 4 pass. In 2023, that resulted in a staggering 167,000 students having to retake maths and 172,000 resitting English. When combined, that is the highest number of retakes in a decade. We are setting those children up for repeated failure unless different help and support is provided."

Much of our advocacy work, alongside that of our colleagues from Get Further and The Tutor Trust was mentioned. Multiple case studies and the letter to parliament signed by over 500 schools all reinforcing the point that stakeholders including pupils, parents, and teachers all support continued investment in tutoring programmes.

Quote from Jonathan Gullis (Conservatve MP for Stoke-on-Trent North): "Education is the absolute bedrock to levelling up. It is the bedrock to making sure that life chances can be achieved. I have no fiscal rules when it comes to education, because I believe that if we shove all the money there, we will have better outcomes on health and work, fewer people needing to use the welfare state, better home ownership, better wages, and less poverty in our country. Education is at the epicentre of achieving that, and we should therefore be pouring money into the sector."

Shadow Minister for Education, Catherine McKinnell, criticised the government for neglecting the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) despite its potential benefits. She highlighted the significant learning gaps caused by the pandemic, especially for disadvantaged pupils. Despite improvements to an initially flawed NTP, schools likely can’t afford to keep it going due to a lack of continued funding.

Quote from Catherine McKinnell (Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, Shadow Minister for Education and Schools): "The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that schools funding in England is already not increasing as fast as the cost pressures schools are facing. That means that the poorest schools are likely to struggle the most to find the cash for tutoring, and that our most disadvantaged pupils will miss out."

In his response, the Rt Hon Damian Hinds, Minister of State for Education, defended the decision to end funding for the NTP. Stating that the Government believes tutoring remains important and schools will continue to be able to use pupil premium funding to support it. This is a sentiment that was not supported by many members present.

Quote from Damian Hinds (Conservative MP for East Hampshire, Minister of State for Education): "Although the national tutoring programme was always a time-limited programme post-covid, tutoring will continue to play an important role and we know that the evidence shows that tutoring is an effective, targeted approach to increase pupils’ attainment."

What now?

Action Tutoring remains firmly committed to providing access to quality tutoring for all pupils who need it. We are actively exploring alternative funding options, including increased philanthropic support, to keep costs low for schools and continue offering our services.  However, this cannot replace the long-term, sustainable funding that is needed to truly embed tutoring within the education system.

Setback, not stopgap: Funding cuts won’t end the fight for equitable access to tutoring

6 March 2024

In disheartening news, the Government has decided not to renew funding for the National Tutoring Programme and the 16-19 Tuition Fund, as confirmed in today’s spring budget. While acknowledging the difficulties this presents for schools facing very significant budget constraints, we at Action Tutoring remain resolutely steadfast in our commitment to support pupils facing disadvantage. We predate the National Tutoring Programme and have a long history of providing vital tutoring support.

We believe every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, and that’s why we have been actively exploring alternative funding options. To this end, we will subsidise 60% of programme costs through philanthropic activities next year, significantly reducing the burden on schools and ensure continued access to this crucial support for disadvantaged pupils. We will soon release further details about our customised programme offerings for 2024-25. In the meantime, please share this information with any colleagues facing concerns about affording vital tutoring support. We stand ready to help more schools in the face of this funding gap.

The founders and CEOs of Action Tutoring, Tutor Trust and Get Further have worked in collaboration throughout this time, campaigning for tutoring to be accessible to pupils from all backgrounds. They have come together again to produce the following statement in response to the spring budget:

Today is a truly disappointing day for education in England. In the face of the evidence, the Government has chosen not to renew funding for the National Tutoring Programme and 16- 19 Tuition Fund.

Both were launched in 2020 with much fanfare, to address lost learning due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Tutoring was chosen, because, as ministers have repeatedly pointed out, we know it works. An evaluation of tutoring by the Educational Endowment Foundation has proved it. The aims of the programme were to build back from COVID-19, to embed tutoring in the education system, and to help tackle the attainment gap. We know tutoring has had an impact, but COVID-19 still casts a shadow over our education system, more time is needed to embed tutoring into the system, and the attainment gap is yet to be tackled. Indeed, former Education ministers Lord Blunkett and Robin Walker, and experts on social mobility such as Professor Lee Elliott Major and Alun Francis, the chair of the Social Mobility Commission, all believe tutoring for the poorest young people should have its own dedicated funding stream.

What is more, research has shown that 85% of parents believe tutoring had positively impacted their child’s mental health and self-confidence. In the face of a crisis in school attendance, there, too, tutoring has an impact: 68% of parents said it had improved attendance. Economic modelling has suggested a £4.3 billion benefit to the economy from the NTP between 2021-2023. For every £1 spent on tutoring, there was a benefit to the economy of £6.58.

In short, tutoring closes the attainment gap, makes society more equal and, properly invested, helps solve the crisis in productivity. Implementation has not always been straightforward, but 5 million courses later, we’re confident that the NTP and 16-19 Tuition Fund has made a real difference.

Between our three organisations, we have worked with over 50,000 pupils, from primary schools to colleges. We are acutely aware of the pressure schools face, and how stretched the Pupil Premium has become. In the absence of dedicated funding from the NTP and 16- 19 Tuition Fund, the Pupil Premium will be squeezed further, and there is no Pupil Premium post-16. Colleges, sixth-forms, and schools will be forced to significantly scale back or cease tutoring altogether, and four years’ worth of tutoring infrastructure is now set to crumble.

The NTP and 16-19 Tuition Fund had taken huge steps towards making tutoring accessible to all who need it, not just the wealthy. In its absence, an all too familiar story will continue: young people from low-income backgrounds will miss out.

We call for an immediate reversal of the government’s decision.

Susannah Hardyman (Action Tutoring)
Abigail Shapiro (Tutor Trust)
Sarah Waite (Get Further)

From tutor to teacher: The role of tutoring in education careers

14 February 2024

Is tutoring being overlooked as a pathway to great teachers? Here at Action Tutoring, we see first-hand the positive impact tutoring has on teacher recruitment. A remarkable number of our tutors transition from passionate volunteers to dedicated teachers. In fact, 38% of tutors who are currently supporting us, expressed an interest in teaching when they applied. Surprisingly, even with our diverse range of volunteer backgrounds, including retirees and corporate partners, this academic year alone saw an incredible 1,004 volunteer applicants indicating their interest in pursuing a teaching career. This accounts for 57% of all the applications we’ve received.

These statistics tell a powerful story. They showcase not only the passion and potential within our tutoring community but also the valuable experience Action Tutoring provides as a stepping stone to a teaching career.

Quote from Action Tutoring tutor to teacher Luke: "[Tutoring] was a fantastic gateway into teaching. I learnt I enjoyed the teaching element and wanted to take it to the next level with formal training to take a career change. I have no regrets. I am now a teacher and this journey all started with supporting Action Tutoring."
Luke was on a career break after 10 years working in the energy industry when he started volunteering with Action Tutoring. After a year volunteering with us it confirmed for him that teaching secondary school pupils was the career path that was right for him.

Why is tutoring such a powerful springboard for teachers?

Real-world experience: Tutors gain first-hand experience interacting with pupils from diverse backgrounds, with a range of learning styles. New teachers also expressed to us that they value the experience of refamiliarising themselves with the curriculum. This hands-on exposure allows them to hone their teaching skills and develop classroom management strategies. Most importantly though, it allows them to discover the joy of hearing, “I get it!”

Flexible stepping stone: Tutoring offers the perfect balance of gaining valuable experience whilst working around existing commitments. This flexibility is ideal for those exploring teaching or seeking a gradual transition.

Support and guidance: With training and guidance throughout their experience, tutors are offered invaluable insights and feedback. This supportive network also enables them to navigate through any potential difficulties with the experienced Action Tutoring team on hand every step of the way.

Shared passion: Action Tutoring works closely with schools and communities to ensure our tutors deliver high-quality, impactful learning experiences. This provides a fulfilling and purpose-driven foundation for aspiring teachers.

Quote from Action Tutoring tutor to teacher Katherine: "Life changing in all the best ways! The positive experiences I had with Action Tutoring confirmed that teaching was the career I wanted to pursue, particularly in the primary setting. My programme co-ordinator and other volunteers on the programme shared their own experiences of teaching with me and, as a result, I chose to apply to the PGCE course I am currently on."
Katherine was studying sociology at the University of Durham when she started volunteering with Action Tutoring. Tutoring helped Katherine affirm her beliefs that she would like to become a tutor. She is now studying for a PGCE at Cambridge University.

Discovering new passions

Our volunteer tutors sometimes start without an interest in teaching before discovering a new passion. One such story is Gemma, a journalist for ten years, who began tutoring with us in East London. After a few months, she found it so enjoyable that she decided to give up her journalism career and re-train. Or Patrick, a lawyer for eight years, who realised working with young people was much more meaningful. He re-trained as an English teacher with Teach First and is now an Assistant Head in Kent, following years in an inner-city London school.

What could this mean for the future?

A national initiative could seamlessly connect aspiring teachers with the diverse and enriching experiences they need to take the next steps. A well established collaboration, weaving together the expertise of Initial Teacher Training (ITT) providers and tutoring organisations could unlock unimaginable potential. ITT providers could encourage prospective applicants or those waiting to begin their training towards high quality tutoring organisations to increase their experience and in turn, these organisations can point those who’ve declared an interest in teaching in the direction of different teaching routes, alongside supporting them with feedback, training and ongoing development. 

One of our partnerships that is already bringing this to life is with Now Teach. Now Teach promote our volunteer opportunities as a way to experience the classroom environment before embarking on their teacher training. Every two months, we collaboratively host an information session for those interested in committing to a teacher training course. The result is a wealth of passionate, dedicated tutors volunteering on our programmes, as well as tangible classroom experience for career changers who might never have had the opportunity to work with children before. We also promote Now Teach as a route into teaching to our volunteers who have indicated an interest in this career route, in bi-yearly emails.

At Action Tutoring, we’re already seeing the huge potential of the tutors to teachers trajectory. Investment into structures that establish these pathways between ITT providers and tutoring organisations, could go a very long way to potentially thousands more passionate and talented individuals entering into the teaching profession each year, equipped with the practical skills, mentorship, and real-world understanding gained through tutoring.

Join the journey

A powerful voice delivered: Petition for tutoring funding reaches Downing Street

9 February 2024

On 8th February, 2024, a resounding message was delivered to Downing Street. A message driven by data, backed by educators, and amplified by the potential of countless pupils. Action Tutoring CEO and founder, Susannah Hardyman and fellow representatives of the Fair Education Alliance presented a petition demanding the continuation of vital tutoring funding for schools and colleges.

Sarah Waite (Get Further), Abigail Shapiro (Tutor Trust) and Susannah Hardyman (Action Tutoring) deliver the signed letter to 10 Downing Street
Sarah Waite (Get Further), Abigail Shapiro (Tutor Trust) and Susannah Hardyman (Action Tutoring) deliver the signed letter to 10 Downing Street

524 teachers and senior leaders from 423 schools and colleges have signed the petition. All are united in their support for essential funding to ensure their pupils receive the academic support they need for success. After four years, the government is set to end funding for its flagship National Tutoring Programme (NTP) this summer. Boris Johnson launched the £1.5 billion programme in 2021 in order to address the national educational gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

graph to show signatories by job title

The economic and social case for tutoring

This move comes at a critical juncture. The pandemic’s shadow lingers, widening the attainment gap and placing immense pressure on school budgets. However, research paints a clear picture of the transformative power of tutoring, proving it to be a powerful response to this challenge:

  • Public First highlighted a £4.3 billion net benefit to the economy from the NTP between 2021-2023. This substantial impact is driven by individuals who, through tutoring, enhance their grades and subsequently secure higher lifetime earnings.. This translates to 430,000 grade improvements, opening doors to further education, higher earnings, and a brighter future. For every £1 spent on tutoring, there’s a benefit to the economy of £6.58. 
  • Action Tutoring’s impact report brings the numbers to life: a 14-percentage point jump in maths standards for disadvantaged primary pupils, a 13-percentage point rise in GCSE pass rates for secondary pupils. All whilst simultaneously empowering confidence and engagement across the board for those who received tutoring support.

These figures aren’t just statistics; they represent lives changed, potential unlocked, and a more equitable society built.

One pupil’s plea for continued tutoring

In the midst of discussions about the potential end of vital tutoring funding, a poignant moment unfolded at a recent school visit by Labour MP Catherine West. When informed by his headteacher that the Government may not fund tutoring next year a, normally shy, 10 year year-old wanted to ensure he had a chance to speak to the “lady from parliament” with a message that resonated deeply:

Pupil speaks to MP Catherine West about the importance of tutoring

“I just wanted to tell you how good English tutoring has been for me. Sometimes I struggle with and feel quite anxious about my English, such as my vocabulary, and my tutor has really helped me. I speak a few languages at home and it really helps me be better at English.”

This wasn’t just a casual comment; it was a testament to the transformative power of tutoring. His message serves as a powerful reminder to policymakers: don’t let this story end prematurely. Don’t deny countless other children the chance to experience the transformative power of individualised support.

What can you do?

  • Share this message, raise your voice, and contact your representatives! For a template letter to contact your MP about funding extension, email us at hello@actiontutoring.org.uk.
  • Stand with the Fair Education Alliance and organisations like Action Tutoring in demanding a brighter future for all.
  • Donate or volunteer your time to tutoring programmes in your community.

Action Tutoring transforms lives: Unveiling our Impact Report 2022-23!

17 January 2024

Imagine a world where educational equity unlocks not just individual potential, but also fuels economic prosperity. Today, that vision takes a significant step forward with the release of two reports: Action Tutoring’s seventh Impact Report and Public First‘s research into the Economic Impact of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). These reports showcase the undeniable two-fold impact of tutoring: enriching lives and empowering economies.

Our Impact Report shares our key highlights and draws attention to the attainment gap, which is now at its widest in 12 years, and our robust foundation of evidence that proves we are a meaningful solution to help close it.

Why do these reports matter? 

More than just numbers and data; it’s a testament to the 1,743 passionate volunteers who have poured their hearts into 58,880 hours of transformative tutoring for 5,743 pupils facing disadvantage. It is the tangible proof that investing in tutoring works and tells a remarkable tale of economic impact.

Headlines from Public First’s Economic Impact Modelling Release

  • £4.3 billion: The net benefit to the economy from tutoring in two academic years, demonstrating a benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of 6.58. This significantly exceeds other programs, such as adult apprenticeships (BCR 4.7).
  • £3.06 billion: The economic contribution of maths tutoring, delivering exceptional value with a BCR of 7.73
  • 430,000 grade improvements: Of these improvements, 26,000 achieved a “pass” (Grade 4) in maths, and 36,000 in English, who otherwise were not expected to. This significantly increases their chances of accessing further education, employment, and higher earnings, highlighting the substantial long-term economic benefit of tutoring.

This isn’t just about boosting numbers on a spreadsheet. It’s about building a stronger, more equitable society where everyone has the chance to contribute and thrive.

The headlines from our Impact Report

  • Closing the achievement gap: National averages for primary school pupils facing disadvantage (or eligible for pupil premium) who received 10 or more tutoring sessions with Action Tutoring saw a 14-percentage point jump in maths and a 7-percentage point gain in reading standards. That’s more than just numbers – it’s lives changed forever.
  • Empowering potential: In secondary schools, our support boosted maths GCSE pass rates by nearly 13 percentage points, giving countless pupils the keys to unlocking their dreams.
  • Building confidence and engagement: Pupils rated their tutors’ clarity at 8.1 out of 10, while teachers acknowledged the overall positive impact of Action Tutoring on pupils with a resounding 8.7 out of 10. This speaks volumes about the positive ripple effect we create.

These achievements aren’t just personal victories – they’re the foundation for a more prosperous future.

How can you join us in building this brighter tomorrow?

Schools: Partner with Action Tutoring and watch your pupils soar, while contributing to a stronger local economy.

Funders: Invest in a solution that delivers both individual and societal rewards.[Website link]

Volunteers: Share your knowledge and passion, become a mentor, and fuel the engine of economic growth.

Everyone: Spread the word, advocate for educational equity, and be part of the change. [Website link]