National Tutoring Programme statistics released: where do we go from here?

16 May 2024

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP) released its latest statistics today and it’s a story of mixed progress. An additional 655,288 tutoring courses were started by pupils this academic year, bringing the total over 5.3 million since the programme began – an achievement that shouldn’t be overlooked and highlights that it is possible for tutoring to happen at mass scale in the education system. 

Schools opting out?

However the statistics also revealed a concerning drop: a decrease in the number of schools participating in the NTP from 65.7% last year, to just 50.1% today. 

There are no reasons given for this decrease, however two possibilities come to mind for us at Action Tutoring. We know the significant pressure on school budgets and many will have been unable to cover 50% of the costs this year, with the Government decreasing their subsidy to 50% this year from 60% last year and 70% the year before. Indeed many in the sector have warned repeatedly of the struggle for schools to match the subsidy. 

Secondly the announcement that the NTP will end this year may have prompted schools to opt out of engaging, if it wasn’t going to be something they felt they could embed longer term. 

Pupil Premium participation: a more promising outcome

Tutoring for disadvantaged young people has increased slightly, reaching 50.4% this year (up from 47% last year). This still falls short of the programme’s initial target of 65%. With an equal match in participation of Pupil Premium and their wealthier pupils, sadly it is unlikely the NTP will have a significant impact on the academic attainment gap.

At Action Tutoring, nearly 70% of our pupils are eligible for Pupil Premium funding. We know it is possible to engage this cohort in tutoring and that it makes a significant difference to their outcomes.  

Looking ahead

While we recognise the hugely positive value of these pupils receiving this academic support, we know that there are thousands more who are missing out. The attainment gap is now at its widest since 2012. It is the pupils facing disadvantage who suffer the most from the limited engagement in this support. 

The NTP had the potential to be a game-changer in tackling the academic attainment gap. With its funding ending in July, we are calling on the next Government to see sense and commit to funding targeted tuition for disadvantaged pupils. This is a critical opportunity to level the playing field and close the achievement gap.

Action Tutoring: committed to making a difference

At Action Tutoring we are relentlessly focussed on supporting those who need it most. We have a decade of evidence to show that we are making a difference. Our fundraising efforts have ramped up this year to ensure we can heavily subsidise our programmes next academic year. We will keep costs as low as possible for schools, whilst not compromising on quality.

The need for effective interventions to tackle the attainment gap is significant. We are calling for support to ensure all pupils have the chance to succeed, regardless of their background.

Get in touch to find out more:

To find out more about partnering with us as a school, email:

If you are interested in supporting our fundraising efforts, email:

If you’d like to support us as a volunteer tutor, no previous experience required, visit our web page:

Tackling the challenges in education beyond GCSE results day

25 August 2023

The GCSE results are in. Over five million young candidates across the country who took their GCSE exams can now find out the outcome and possible options for moving to the next stage of their lives.

Getting to this point has certainly not been easy. In the last few years, young people and their schools have braved the storms of uncertainty and adapted to unprecedented challenges. We should not only acknowledge their academic achievements but also loudly applaud their unwavering determination and spirit through some very difficult years. 

The stark reality

The Covid-19 pandemic was the biggest ever disruption to education in history. Three years on, it still casts an unforeseen shadow over the academic landscape, creating an aura of uncertainty for GCSE candidates.

Facing multiple school closures spanning months, the struggle of catching up with remote learning (and indeed, the inequality of access to remote learning), changing examination formats, and declining mental health, these candidates have demonstrated adaptability and had to forge ahead through extremely choppy waters. 

Whilst we don’t yet fully know how this year’s GCSE results will break down specifically for disadvantaged pupils, we do know that last year the attainment gap was at its widest in over a decade. A few years ago, the Education Policy Institute (EPI) published research highlighting that on the trajectory at the time, it would take 500 years to close the attainment gap. More recently, the EPI has warned that at the current trajectory, it will never close. 

We know that a key contributing factor to the disparity recorded in attainment between the different socioeconomic groups of pupils is the access to learning support and resources. The results these pupils will receive today are not simply a reflection of their ability but also a reflection of the challenging circumstances they are grappling with – less access to the same levels of support and opportunities as their peers.  All of these issues were of course exacerbated during covid, with the government’s flagship plan to address that the launch of the National Tutoring Programme. 

The power of tutoring

Young people in a tutoring session

As the leader of a charity that has provided tutoring support for young people facing disadvantage for over ten years, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’m biased towards tutoring. But I have reason to be: tutoring is a tangible and effective intervention, yielding significant academic improvements for pupils beyond regular school lessons.

Small group tutoring has been found to contribute an average of five months of academic progress to a child’s education, according to the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) – one of the key pieces of evidence that led to the government introducing the National Tutoring Programme to try and mitigate the covid damage.

Despite still being a big believer in the value of tutoring, I would be the first to say that I’ve had many frustrations with the implementation of the National Tutoring Programme over the last three years and still do: not least that it has lost its focus on supporting those facing disadvantage, group sizes have been increased beyond the evidence base, the administration has been complicated and in the context of extremely challenging school budgets it’s been hard to be sure the NTP is really providing additional support. 

But I’m certainly not giving up on the potential that exists for those facing disadvantage to benefit hugely from tutoring. A recent report by Public First, The Future of Tutoring, has shown that tutoring has spill over effects beyond academic performance, including increasing confidence, driving attendance, and improving the mental health of pupils.

For many pupils, it’s bringing the joy back into learning:

“I enjoy that our tutors teach us through games, learning and having fun”

a pupil on an Action Tutoring programme said

Teachers in schools with higher levels of deprivation were more likely to report the impact tutoring could have. Furthermore, the report revealed that parents are in full support of tutoring too. 81 percent of parents polled said tutoring should be available to every child in state school or college and 73% said this should be focused on those from low-income backgrounds.

Levelling the playing field beyond results day

For the NTP to embed longer term, funding is a key issue. Results of the teacher polling in the Public First report highlighted clearly that without continued ring fenced funding for tutoring, uptake would seriously diminish. Yet with the damaging effects of covid far from over, now is not the time to reduce the support available for those that need it.

That’s why the Public First report calls for a ‘Tutoring Guarantee’ – a commitment for all pupils eligible for the pupil premium who are behind in English or maths to be offered a course of high quality tutoring. This would benefit approximately 1.75m disadvantaged pupils per year. With those crucial English and maths qualifications in their pockets, the doors open for these young people will be significantly widened. The benefits of that on their lives as well as wider society cannot be underestimated. 

To the GCSE candidates and teachers: your achievements are a testament to your spirit and perseverance during this unprecedented period. Congratulations on this milestone!

Our future strategy: Narrowing the attainment gap and transforming the life outcomes of more disadvantaged young people

20 October 2022

It’s the beginning of a new academic year. For us at Action Tutoring, it follows our year of celebrating a decade of impact as a national education charity. Reflecting on Action Tutoring’s humble beginnings, I recall convening a group of enthusiastic teachers and potential volunteers ten years ago, crammed into my living room in Peckham, to reimagine tutoring in a way that levels the playing field.

We brainstormed on how to deliver tutoring to disadvantaged children who couldn’t afford the cost of private tuition. That evening, we agreed that for this to be successful, working with volunteer tutors and forging partnerships with schools had to be at the heart of the solution – which remains true to this day.

Before the very first-ever tutoring session on a fine Saturday morning in mid-2011, our nerves were on edge at the Harris Academy in Peckham. We were unsure if pupils and even tutors would turn up, but they did. Observing the first tutoring sessions and hearing the positive feedback from the pupils afterwards, it was clear to me that there had to be an imperative to replicate what we were doing at scale across the country.

With the support of generous funders and well-wishers, who caught sight of the vision and invested in it, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have supported 26,000 pupils with the help of over 9,000 committed, high-quality volunteer tutors from a fascinating range of backgrounds.

In the last ten years, tutoring has become a mainstay in the education system, especially with the pandemic exacerbating pre-existing education inequalities, compelling the Government to introduce the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) in 2020 to address the lost learning time and narrow the attainment gap. The NTP has been an incredible opportunity to roll out the benefits of tutoring – that we have known existed for years – on a significantly larger scale.

Action Tutoring continues to actively advocate for its extension beyond 2024 to help close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers. Our long-term hope is that the NTP is embedded as a lasting feature of the education system.

What does the future look like for us?

As a highly aspirational and adaptable education charity, here are our five main priorities over the next few years, irrespective of the future of the NTP.

Reach: We want to increase the locations we work in, especially to reach more rural and coastal areas – ‘cold spots’ where finding tutors is more difficult and the attainment gap is wider. This means significantly expanding the number of schools we work with, outside of our current eight regions, to ensure we’re reaching young people that really need our help and in areas where there is much less availability of tutoring programmes like ours. We have calculated that there are over 5,500 schools we could be working with, just two hours from one of our current cities of operation.

Growth: There is so much need for our work, as the attainment gap remains stubbornly wide and as pupils continue to be impacted by lost learning from the pandemic. Adapting to a model that can deliver much more widely geographically gives us a springboard for further growth. Since the pandemic began, we’ve demonstrated that through our online delivery programme, it should be possible to deliver tutoring in almost any school in the country. After running pilots in new geographies this year, we aim for 30% of our delivery to be happening in ‘cold spots’ through our online model in three years.

We aim to support at least 10,000 pupils a year in three years’ time, rising to at least 12,000 a year in five years’ time. We want to be able to step up to the challenge of the attainment gap, which new data from the DfE indicates, by the end of Year 6, is at its widest since 2012.

Impact: We are proud of the record impact we’ve already demonstrated over the last few years but we want to go further. We want to drive efficiencies in our model to strengthen the impact and understand more about what elements of our model make it especially effective, all building towards a large external evaluation in five years’ time. Being evidence-based is one of our fundamental values and our priority is to keep building our evidence base of impact, especially for our online model as we expand to new areas so we’re continually reflecting on what’s working and what could be better.

Advocacy – Our role in advocacy work has been growing steadily since the pandemic. We will build on this inroad, using our experience and voice to ensure that there is a long-term legacy of the National Tutoring Programme and also, to ensure tutoring for disadvantaged pupils is permanently embedded in the education system to narrow the attainment gap. We will continue to grow our influence and contribution to policy-making with partners in the sector to positively shape young people’s futures.

Collective Fight

To achieve all the outlined medium to long-term strategies, collaboration, one of our core values, will be critical to our success. Internally, we will work together to optimise our unique talents to improve the operational and managerial performance of our programme delivery. Beyond our workforce, we will work hand in hand with sector partners, funders, schools and volunteer tutors and the wider network for the collective growth of the education sector.

I want to express my deepest appreciation to all current and former staff, tutors, and partners who’ve worked with Action Tutoring over the last ten years. I am grateful for your dedication, support and energy to help change the future of disadvantaged children.

You’ve been an absolute joy to lead and work with. I look forward to more successes with you over the coming years in this collective fight to ensure that no child’s future is limited by their socio-economic background.

Why fostering diversity must be at the heart of the community building and social cohesion

27 September 2022

In 2018, Sab, an acclaimed maths teacher, left Turkey to seek refuge in the UK for fear of political persecution in his home country. On arriving in London, he felt alone and alienated – a common experience for many refugees. After a few weeks in the UK, Sab felt the need to put his passion for teaching to good use and he opted to become a volunteer tutor with Action Tutoring, an education charity focused on helping disadvantaged pupils to progress academically.

Within months of being a tutor, one pupil described his maths tutoring sessions with Sab as “one of the best I’ve ever had.” Years later, Sab would go on to become a maths teacher in a school in London, helping hundreds of primary school children to comprehend complex maths concepts, inspiring them to take up careers in STEM, and guiding their futures positively.

This is just one of many inspiring examples of how talented individuals from diverse backgrounds can create social change and break the barriers of exclusion. This instance is a win-win situation: the pupils improve their knowledge in maths, get better grades and connect with a tutor from a different background while Sab feels a sense of community, belonging, and fulfilment in teaching children facing disadvantage. There are innumerable benefits for the nation if we can collectively learn from this story and attract individuals from different backgrounds and identities to contribute their skills to community building and development.

Understanding the fractures

Our society today is divided more than it has ever been in modern history, along the lines of deeply-partisan political and cultural wars, wealth, and class, with social media further fuelling these pre-existing divisions by creating a space for people or bots to easily project uninformed assertions, half-truths, and conspiracies, without reproach. Author and changemaker, Jon Yates, in his book Fractured painted a big picture of how our society is divided today and posed central questions about our current disposition: why are we so divided? What is driving us fundamentally apart and how do we knit ourselves back together?

Jon makes a logical case that shows that we are fundamentally predisposed to mostly connect with, seek out or socialise with people like ourselves, which creates an echo chamber that hurts any chances of learning new knowledge and reaching out to talents from other backgrounds. The People Like Me (PLM) syndrome, as Jon labels it, usually is not a result of the difference of opinion, but rather the distance between people and seemingly lack of understanding or consensus. He believes this phenomenon hurts our democracy, community-building efforts, security, health systems as well as the economy.

Jon provides a holistic solution out of the mire with the potential of uniting us to pursue the common good of society, which he called the Common Life. With the pandemic creating a unique opportunity to come together, we must recalibrate the way we build our networks by connecting genuinely with diverse people unlike us and fortifying the ties that bind us as a society, rather than feed the divisions. The more we spend time with others unlike ourselves, the more understanding, friendly, tolerant, and supportive we become.

The power of diversity

I have witnessed first-hand how Action Tutoring has blossomed with the support of our highly diverse pool of volunteer tutors who drive our mission of unlocking the full potential of every disadvantaged child to give them a better shot at life and the future. Recruiting volunteers of different age groups, nationalities, professions, cities, sexual orientations, genders, and abilities, we have striven to build a positive and inclusive pool of changemakers, representative of the wider communities and people we serve.

Pupils see their tutors as positive role models and matching them with volunteers from diverse backgrounds can help the child to develop better social skills, confidence, and career aspirations. Beyond the advantage of a broader range of skills and abilities, working with people from different backgrounds generates diverse ideas and fresh approaches to solving problems. Fostering diversity and inclusion helps us to thoroughly understand and respond to the particular needs of the communities in order to create more tangible and effective policies. Recruiting diverse volunteers has also encouraged people from similar backgrounds to be inspired to volunteer.

Education is key

Levelling access to high-quality education for every child, irrespective of their background, is a major way to reduce fractures and the People Like Me syndrome. Pupils from low socio-economic backgrounds often have less access to the tools that support them to progress academically in school. This means they are unable to reach their full potential and don’t do as well in their exams as their wealthier peers – referred to as the attainment gap.

One of the tools that help narrow the attainment gap and ensure all pupils get the same support is tutoring. Action Tutoring’s solution for the last decade to level the education playing field has been to use the power of volunteer tutors to bridge the gap and ensure that tutoring support can be accessed by every pupil who needs it, not just those who can afford it. This is why the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) is an incredible opportunity to narrow the attainment gap and roll out tutoring on a significantly larger scale, so it can be embedded as a lasting feature of the education system to reduce the existing inequalities.

If more diverse pupils progress academically, they are likely to build social mobility as they grow and contribute further to society, than if they fail to reach basic standards and have little chance of escaping the traps of inequality. The time to act is now. Let’s start building diverse networks and including people from different backgrounds in community and nation-building.

Action Tutoring’s 10th anniversary!

12 May 2022

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!

Watch the video below and learn more about the impact of our work.

Follow us on our social media pages and stay up to date with the latest Action Tutoring news!

NTP Announcement Response

31 March 2022

Action Tutoring are pleased to hear Nadhim Zahawi’s plans, announced today, to reform the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) and re-open procurement for a supplier for 2022-24. We welcome the proposals to simplify the programme, both for schools and Tuition Partners, and are delighted to see quality assurance identified as an essential role of the supplier. We appreciate and commend the Government for their willingness to take on board feedback about the programme and to act.

Today’s announcement is a positive step towards getting the NTP back on track and ensuring it achieves its potential. We urge the Department for Education to ensure that the programme maintains a core focus on reaching disadvantaged pupils, in line with its original aims, and encourages high engagement across the country to reach its ambitious targets.

Action Tutoring has built up a decade of experience providing impactful tutoring to disadvantaged children and young people across the country. We are proud to play our part in delivering the NTP. We look forward to working with the Department for Education and the future supplier to further strengthen the programme.

National Tutoring Programme target for poorer pupils removed

4 March 2022

Schools Week has announced that the target of 65% of Pupil Premium pupils participating in the National Tutoring Programme has been removed for Tuition Partners. This comes as a surprise since the 65% pupil premium requirement was initially a key performance indicator between the DfE and Randstad.

Below you will find our joint response with other Tuition Partners to the removal of the Pupil Premium target.

We are writing to you as a collective of organisations committed to the success of the National Tutoring Programme and with specific expertise in working with disadvantaged young people.

We are disappointed that the target of 65% of Pupil Premium pupils participating in the National Tutoring Programme has been removed for Tuition Partners, following the communication from Randstad today. We consider this a dilution of the core original purpose of the programme, to support disadvantaged pupils to recover from the pandemic. The programme now fails to focus on the disadvantaged pupils who need this support the most, which was its original aim. We believe that in the long run, this will only serve to widen the attainment gap further, surely a consequence no one would wish to see from the NTP.

The tuition partner KPI of 65% of Pupil Premium pupils still allowed schools the discretion to add pupils not eligible for the pupil premium, something we recognise was important and needed. It was a balanced approach to ensuring support was reaching those that needed it most, whilst rightly allowing schools some flexibility to adapt to their contexts.

We are concerned that this target has now been lowered due to Randstad’s apparent failure to deliver on the pupil premium target and to ensure uptake of the programme overall. The solution to that is surely not to then change a valuable and needed target, but to review the design of the programme and address Randstad’s ability to deliver the programme in line with the original aims.

We would urge the DfE to reconsider this change and to ensure that supporting disadvantaged pupils remains a top priority of the National Tutoring Programme.

Yours sincerely,

Susannah Hardyman, Action Tutoring
Nick Bent, Tutor Trust
Adam Alagiah, TalentEd
Paul Singh, Equal Education
Robin Chu, Coach Bright
Nathan Sansom, The Access Project
Aisha Washington, Get Further
Gina Cicerone and Janeen Hayat, Fair Education Alliance

Action Tutoring announced as an official National Tutoring Programme Tuition Partner

2 November 2020

If you cast your mind back to the warmer and lighter days of June, you might well remember that the government announced a large package of support to help children catch up on the lost learning from Covid-19, including announcing the introduction of a National Tutoring Programme (NTP).

Action Tutoring played an active role campaigning for this initiative, culminating in giving evidence to the government’s education select committee in early June on the impact of Covid-19 on pupils and how a programme like ours could be scaled up.

To get a programme of this size and scale off the ground inevitably takes time, but today we are thrilled to share that Action Tutoring has been approved as a National Tutoring Programme Tuition Partner.

We know the NTP received a large volume of applications, only taking forward a small number that met the quality and scale criteria and we are very proud to have made the final provider list.

Closing the attainment gap through tutoring

Long before the NTP was announced by the government, Action Tutoring’s mission was to make the benefits of tutoring available to those that couldn’t otherwise afford it, ultimately to help narrow the attainment gap and give pupils the best possible chance of progressing well to further education, employment or training. That’s always been our mission and the NTP doesn’t change that.

We believe though that what it does change is the public recognition of the importance of this mission, why it’s a good idea not just for the individual, but for society as a whole and the potential to scale it to have a national impact.

Since we registered as a charity in 2012 and particularly since we began working with Impetus in 2014 we have developed and refined an impactful, proven tutoring model that’s delivering results for children from disadvantaged backgrounds at risk of not succeeding in English and maths.

To do that hasn’t been easy. Understandably, pupils don’t always want extra lessons in a subject they are likely finding difficult. Schools have a lot of pressure and demands and making partnerships between schools and external organisation work well requires effort on both sides. Finally, none of our work would have been possible without the huge numbers of high quality volunteers signing up to tutor with us.

“Our children need champions. Champions – who never give up on them, who understand the power of relationships and insist they become the best they can possibly be. That’s just what the volunteers from Action Tutoring are doing.”
– Lynne Gavin, Headteacher, Pakeman Primary School

But over the years, we’ve learnt what works and we’re excited to now be able to deliver that on a much larger scale, including expanding our geographical reach and significantly expanding our online tutoring.

Expanding Action Tutoring’s work across England

Our ambition through the NTP is to double our reach and the NTP is giving us the support to do this, and indeed the scale for other organisations too, to help us grow at a rate we couldn’t on our own in order to make the benefits of tutoring as widely available as possible.

Partner as a school     Become a volunteer

A recent Bloomberg article has highlighted the scale of the NTP as a great education experiment that could be the game changer needed for social mobility. At Action Tutoring, we certainly believe that has the potential to be the case.

There is fantastic evidence that tutoring works; that’s precisely why so many parents will pay for it for their children. But the tutoring industry will only be a driver of widening the gap in social mobility if it is not made available to those that can’t afford it too, especially those that are struggling most in their education.

That’s why Action Tutoring was founded and we’ve built strong evidence we can make tutoring work for disadvantaged pupils to drive results and close the attainment gap.

Action Tutoring commissioned an external evaluator, NIESR, to carry out an evaluation of the work we do with our pupils. The headline results, from this piece of work, suggested that:

  • The programme has a positive impact on GCSE point scores equivalent to 1/3 of a grade with just 5-6 sessions.
  • For those pupils who attend 7-8 sessions an additional 1/2 a grade progress was found.

For context, typically, in a whole academic year, schools would expect pupils to make one grade of progress outlining the impact tutoring, and in particular, our work has been having on disadvantaged pupils.

Now, through the NTP there is an opportunity for this work to be delivered on a significantly bigger scale.

The National Tutoring Programme must continue beyond next summer

In order for the benefits of the NTP to be embedded and make a game changing difference to social mobility, it will need to run for more than a year and while we’re delighted today to be beginning our journey as an NTP Tuition Partner, we hope it won’t be one that finishes next summer.

The NTP has been kickstarted by the need for covid catch up; with covid highlighting just how big the inequalities in our society are for children and young people. But prior to covid the UK already had one of the largest attainment gaps in the developed world and evidence from the EPI has shown that in recent years the progress to close that gap has slowed. If the NTP is extended, it has the potential not just to support covid catch up, but to actually help close the UKs attainment gap significantly further. Progress on that really would be something huge to celebrate, benefiting wider society as well as individuals.

So as this new ‘education experiment’ gets underway, we look forward to playing our part for the long term, to ensure that all pupils, regardless of their background, are supported to achieve the best they possibly can.

Partner as a school     Become a volunteer

For more information about the National Tutoring Programme, please visit our dedicated page.

Open up the doors

20 August 2020

This GCSE results day, CEO Susannah Hardyman explores how Ofqual’s exam grading system reproduced the long-standing disadvantage that Action Tutoring exists to tackle, and looks at the consequences of the government’s grading U-turn for this and next year’s school leavers. 

Unlike the A Level ‘fiasco’, as it is being widely termed in the media, this GCSE results day we know what’s coming – the government’s U-turn on Monday awarded centre assessment grades (CAGs) to pupils for both A Levels and GCSEs following outcries of injustice at the A Level grading system used.

Initially, instead of using CAGs, the government planned to use an algorithm developed by Ofqual for this year’s results. While overall this produced A Level results that looked broadly in line with last year’s, it didn’t take long to reveal that some big injustices lay under the surface. 40% of grades had been downgraded from the original CAGs submitted by schools and colleges, infuriating pupils and teachers, and when studied more closely it emerged that:


Why did this happen? The algorithm favoured smaller class sizes, where there were fewer pupils for teachers to rank, and also subjects with fewer entries like Classics. Both factors favoured the private school set-up and disadvantaged significantly larger colleges.


Further outcry ensued when it transpired there was no clear plan for an appeals process, with a lack of clarity on A Level results day on whether appeals would have to be paid for by schools and pupils (which would put those who are better-off financially at an advantage). Ofqual initially published appeals guidance on its website on Saturday, only to rapidly take it down again a few hours later.


This blog from our friends at the The Access Project – a charity that works to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to get into top universities – described the challenges faced by pupils that had not been given the grades they’d hoped for as they battled through the clearing process. These students suddenly found themselves in the midst of disappointment, having to advocate for themselves and argue their case to admissions tutors, a skill that many would not be equipped with if they didn’t have strong support from teachers and families.


The U-turn on Monday to award CAGs at GCSE and A Level has resolved some problems. I believe that given the circumstances and concerns that had emerged, it was the right thing to do. However, there is no doubt that other issues have been created, as highlighted brilliantly in this piece by Maria Neophytou, Interim CEO at Impetus, one of Action Tutoring’s largest funders. Evidence shows that disadvantaged pupils are more likely to have grades under-predicted by their teachers, so CAGs still can’t guarantee a fair result – a concern flagged very early in this process and a key one for Action Tutoring. Universities now face a huge challenge as more pupils than ever receive the grades they need to secure places, creating a huge pressure on admissions. Deferring may be the answer for some, but it will not be straightforward filling their year out in the middle of a recession. This also creates more pressure on places next year.


Inequality in education in the UK is not a new problem. That is exactly why Action Tutoring has existed since 2012, to tackle the attainment gap, with successful results. Lockdown has exacerbated these inequalities whilst also bringing them to the public’s attention. But, as Chair of the House of Commons Education Committee, Rob Halfon MP, said this week: This is a long-term problem which was hiding in plain sight in GCSE results before this year’s extraordinary events. It requires a long-term, targeted solution to tackle the persistent disadvantage.” 


Ultimately all of this matters because pupils’ lives and futures are at stake. Grades make a difference to where you can study, the course you can take, the jobs you might be considered for. It was a favourite mantra of my headteacher at secondary school, emphasised at the start of every September while informing the whole school assembly on that summer’s performance, “Grades open doors,” – they may not be the only thing that gets you through the door, but they give you a fighting chance of getting it open. When I was dropped off at university by my parents, feeling totally overwhelmed and unbelievably lucky to have been offered a place at Cambridge, the college had this beautiful huge door that opened up to the grounds. My mum looked at it and said, “See – Mrs Freeman was right. Grades opened doors.”  Yet, last Thursday, it must have felt to many pupils that Gavin Williamson was slamming the door firmly shut.


It’s precisely because grades open doors that GCSE results day matters so much. For pupils to progress into further education, employment or training, they need at least to meet national standards in English and maths. Action Tutoring focuses relentlessly on those at risk of just missing out on these pass grades, because without them, prising those doors to opportunity open becomes much harder. It would have been a travesty if GCSE pupils had faced the same results day as those picking up their A Levels last week, with all manner of longer term consequences for disadvantaged pupils who were more likely to be downgraded by the algorithm.


With the government having made the decision to trust teacher judgment (and now looking set to rely on school based assessment for BTECs too, albeit with a very last minute change affecting half a million pupils), given the incredible circumstances we find ourselves in this year I would much rather risk grades being over-inflated than underestimated, with everything pupils have already been through. For anyone moving from Year 11 to the next stage in their life, getting back into learning again since school closures in March will be an enormous challenge and the job market will not be favourable for young people for a long while to come. Giving them the benefit of the doubt with their grades would seem to be the least we can do to help them with their next step, rather than risking giving them grades that under score them.


Whilst at Action Tutoring we had to say an abrupt goodbye to our Year 11 cohort, we are looking forward to getting back to what we love doing in September: running tutoring programmes, building pupils’ confidence and seeing their satisfaction as they finally grasp concepts they’d struggled with. With the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) on the horizon, the unprecedented need for catch-up support and now the option to run our programmes online, we know it’s going to be busier than ever. We are calling for the National Tutoring Programme to be extended beyond one year. Pupils need and deserve sustained support and the NTP could have the real potential in the long run not just to help pupils catch up from lost learning from covid-19, but to work to close the attainment gap in the UK further. However, we can’t deliver on our mission without the hundreds of volunteers that sign up to tutor with us every year. Would you or someone you know consider being one of them, or spreading the word to others? You really can help to open those doors for pupils, at a time when it’s never been more needed. 


Susannah Hardyman, CEO.

COVID-19 set to further widen attainment gap between the UK’s 28% of disadvantaged children and their more affluent counterparts in state education warns charity CEO

2 April 2020

Susannah Hardyman, CEO of education charity Action Tutoring discusses COVID-19 and the impact of school closures on children from less well-off backgrounds. 

March 2020 marked a seismic shift in education, with schools nationwide closing their doors to all but the children of key workers and the most vulnerable, whilst grappling to implement online solutions in a bid to provide effective teaching and learning to pupils. The shift also prompted unprecedented demand from affluent parents for private tutoring – an industry with an annual income of over £2bn – keen to shield with online support their children from spring/summer learning loss.

But what about the 28% of pupils in state education deemed as disadvantaged – pupils who may not have access to high bandwidth broadband to facilitate remote learning and likely won’t have space to work in which to work easily in cramped accommodation.  Currently every year 75,000 disadvantaged children leave school without basic qualifications in English and maths. Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds are not less academically able, but lack of access to tools and resources means currently only 41% of this group pass English and maths GCSEs, compared to 69% of all other pupils.

Motivation is also set to prove a challenge. We all know that it is far easier to engage with a pupil in person than it is to motivate them to work online, especially if their parents are not available to support and encourage them or that child is struggling academically. Forcing attendance of online sessions will, I believe, be highly difficult to enforce or even encourage. 

Sadly, it seems inevitable that the current national crisis will further widen the attainment gap. While many schools are doing all they can now to mitigate this, and are proving themselves in so many ways as the fourth emergency service, disadvantaged children are going to need more support than ever before to catch up in the months to come. That support will no doubt need to take many forms, but tutoring is a well known, effective intervention that can play a big role in raising attainment.  

As a key provider of school-based intervention programmes incorporating tutoring solutions provided free to disadvantaged pupils, Action Tutoring is calling on the government to provide catch up funding for disadvantaged pupils once schools are back to normal business in addition to the Pupil Premium funding. This could enable schools to provide extra support such as additional tuition for disadvantaged pupils – who are already 18 months behind their more affluent counterparts by the end of secondary schools – to help prevent them from falling even further behind. In the short term, Action Tutoring, along with other organisations, are lobbying the Department for Education to provide laptops and broadband access to those that need it to facilitate home learning more easily.

Whilst exams may have been scrapped for this year, learning is for life and not just for exams. Good standards in English and maths in particular are crucial to progressing well in further education, employment or training. Schools will be and are doing all they can safely to alleviate the immediate impact of the current crisis on their pupils. This crisis has seen an incredible outpouring of community spirit, whether through food banks or local groups setting up to look out for their neighbours. But COVID-19 is going to have a long lasting impact on society. 

Volunteers and charities will be needed more than ever before, backed by the government, to help schools pick up the pieces and enable their pupils, whatever their background, to flourish in every way. The immediate volunteer and charity efforts are hugely encouraging but as many are saying, this is going to be a marathon not a sprint. Those efforts are surely going to be needed for a long time to come.

Over the last few years Action Tutoring has built up healthy reserves, which we are very thankful for at the moment. We are also grateful to our many funders who are standing with us through this period. However, we are facing a loss of income due to not being able to deliver in schools. Therefore, any donation would be very gratefully received to help us compensate for this and ensure we can be in a strong place to be ready to support our pupils as soon as we can safely do so. 

We also hope to engage many more volunteers to ensure we can help these pupils get back to where they should be.  

Apply here to volunteer or visit our fundraising page to donate – thank you for making a difference in a very challenging time.

We are also working hard to prepare an online offering of our tutoring model.  It’s still early days, but please do register your interest here if you would like to hear more about these developments.

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