How volunteer tutoring has shaped my outlook on life

7 December 2023

I initially heard of Action Tutoring through one of my lecturers. I am a third year BSc Sociology and Psychology student at the University of Greenwich. For my final year of university, I chose to complete a placement and wanted it to be in the education sector. From my experiences, I have often been on the receiving end of teaching and therefore wanted to expand on my knowledge of the teacher’s end and help inspire other students to learn.

Levelling the playing field in education

After hearing about Action Tutoring, I decided to conduct my research into the charity. Action Tutoring not only aims to help socio-economically deprived students but also creates a safe and equal atmosphere for pupils in primary and secondary to have the same level of access to education and therefore achievement as their non-disadvantaged peers. I believe social factors should never influence the access students have to a good education and opportunities should be equal.

For students who may face these difficulties, it is out of their control and often therefore presents knock-on effects when it comes to further education, for example gaining a degree. By becoming a part of Action Tutoring’s volunteer scheme, I aim to help all students have confidence in themselves and achieve academic success.

Why volunteering matters

Tutoring is giving me an insight into the teaching side of academics, but the main factor that motivates me to volunteer knowing the impact I can have on the students. Being able to provide them with a safe and supportive space that allows them to feel fully confident to push themselves and aim higher is such a big motivator for me. 

This is especially true, as I know a lot of people who would have loved to have this amazing opportunity presented to them. I can give the pupils hope and get them to believe in themselves. Volunteering should be something all individuals should participate in at least once in their lives, as the happiness you feel knowing you have made an impact will forever stick and guide your morals. Volunteering brings people together, contributes to communities, and creates connections It is beneficial for both those who volunteer and those on the receiving end of it.

Laura – student tutor

The power of games and peer instruction

I am a strong believer that education should be made fun, otherwise students will not pay attention., I always ensure that icebreaker games within the lesson – points for completing the work, hangman games, maths bingo – all of these engage the students and make them eager to learn. Personally, I believe that this is vital as otherwise, students aren’t able to engage as much with the information being taught and therefore cannot improve on the skills they are struggling with. 

Another way to have a successful session is to see if the students who understand the information can teach me or teach the students who are struggling with what they have learned. This has a positive correlation with retention when students are struggling, as often as a tutor I may not explain in a way that is easy for certain students to understand. As peers, they are more likely to know each other better than I do and may help explain it in the way they understand from my teaching. Through this, I can then test the students again to see if they are still struggling.

A memorable tutoring moment

Some of my English students had previously done a text that was quite difficult to understand, so I decided to use a difficult word from the session in a game of hangman. They initially struggled to figure out the word, however, when they finally realised what it was, the look on their faces was pure excitement! I was hoping they had remembered why I had chosen the word, which they did and were able to tell me the name of the text without looking back. They could even explain how that word was relevant and summarise the text. I was extremely proud of how far they had come and how much they were able to recall. It gave me a sign that I was doing a good job at tutoring, which further gave me confidence in teaching future sessions.

A pupil receives tutoring online

Seamless tutoring experience

The main thing I love about Action Tutoring resources is their accessibility. All training sessions, extra resources, and programme workbooks are stored via one app called Loop. It is a really effective tool when it comes to accessing training events, as it presents all upcoming training sessions with their timings on the main home screen.

There are opportunities to do smaller Bright Ideas training sessions in your own time, which makes it easier to manage, especially if the online sessions do not suit your availability. Lastly, you can directly download the relevant workbooks for your tutoring subject and year group – it includes answers and solutions to all the questions, making it even simpler when it comes to planning lessons effectively. 

As someone who tutors a minimum of 6 sessions a week, I expected difficulty in contacting Action Tutoring’s programme coordinators, however, each session, apart from 1, had a different coordinator. This not only makes it easier to contact them, but it also makes communication smoother, as there is no risk of getting mixed up with the sessions or the students that are being discussed.

Highs and lows

The hardest thing about tutoring is controlling pupil behavioural issues. Personally, I have only had these issues with virtual learning because online it can be harder for me to control and redirect to positive behaviour when they’re not in the room with me. If these moments occur, I attempt to engage them back into the lesson or provide them with a mind break if I believe this to be the reason they were acting up.

Although sometimes tutoring can be hard, it also has a lot of benefits. Volunteering has positively impacted my overall life, often contributing to other aspects. I can carry myself with confidence, which presents more within my degree and therefore has a positive impact on my learning. Before volunteering, I was more reserved however this has since improved and now I can achieve my goals with more ease. My experience with Action Tutoring has been motivating and thrilling – it has developed my confidence in my teaching skills and allowed me to see the side of the education system that students rarely have access to.

Written by: Laura Shepherd

Overcoming my initial anxiety as an online tutor

21 April 2023

Teaching for the first time can be challenging. It is not as easy to adapt to and meet the needs of different pupils, who depend on you to instruct them.

When I first entered the education sector, I started out as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and for the most part, I didn’t have to actually lead lessons. I enjoyed supporting and working with pupils on a one-to-one basis, analysing where they needed help and targeting those gaps.

So when the option to volunteer with Action Tutoring as an English tutor as part of my university degree programme sprang up, I jumped at the opportunity. Tutoring children was something I had never actually done before, but I had experience working in close-knit groups as a TA. I wasn’t nervous in the slightest.

Conquering the doubts

The option for face-to-face tutoring in a community school was unavailable in my location and the only option was to tutor online. Apprehensive at first, I cautiously took on the volunteer role as an online tutor. 

A number of questions were spinning in my head: how do I get familiar with virtual learning software? How do I control pupil behaviour if it’s online? 

It was only after my first tutor induction session that I began to feel more at ease, as I was able to ask all of these questions and get answers. Action Tutoring provided me with further help with using the online software I’d come to fear – Vedamo.

Sense of relief

Never having used any online classroom software, or anything close to it before, the basic training on Looop really helped. It was simple and straightforward – the instructional videos were segmented into small 2-5 minute clips and it wasn’t overwhelming for a first-time tutor like myself.

After the training, I was given my login credentials for Vedamo and informed I could log in and practise any time I wanted. This was a relief, and I felt my anxiety slip away. Having access to Vedamo at any time allowed me to practise, and become comfortable and familiar with the different features of the learning platform. 

After speaking to my assigned programme coordinator, I was sent an Action Tutoring workbook via post a few weeks before my tutoring sessions began. The workbook covered all the lessons and included answers to all the learning activities that I would be doing with my pupils. 

Even more helpful, Action Tutoring also provided me with the online lesson templates, specifically made for Vedamo. All I had to do was simply upload the template on Vedamo and the lesson was live for pupils and myself to work with.

Volunteer tutor, Penelope Rudock

First online session

My first tutoring session was smooth. I uploaded the lesson template on Vedamo immediately and the physical workbook helped me with tips and tricks throughout the lesson.

Meeting pupils online was a new experience but felt exactly like I was in an actual classroom. The connection between myself and the pupils was not lost over online delivery and I could focus all my attention directly on interacting with my pupils on the screen.

Overseeing delivery

Another great relief for me was the fact that Action Tutoring has a programme coordinator in the classroom with the pupils during the session. This meant that if I had any concerns about pupil behaviour or technical issues at all, they could be resolved quickly. 

Everything I had originally worried about with regard to tutoring online has just withered away in this first lesson. The sessions after that only seemed to get better. 

After approval from my programme coordinator, I had total freedom to adjust the tutoring approach slightly to tailor the gaps of the pupils, which gave me some independence over the lesson delivery.

Consider volunteer tutoring

If you are feeling nervous or apprehensive about tutoring online, then I totally understand you. But, if you are anything like me, then Action Tutoring is the education charity to work with. They will understand and hear your concerns and approach your problems with care, consideration and training. 

The anxiety over online tutoring shouldn’t be a reason preventing you from trying it. Action Tutoring will help assuage all your fears and doubts. 

Remember, one of the most important things about online tutoring: no commute! Give it a try and see how it goes.

Author: Penelope Rudock

Passing on my love for learning through volunteer tutoring

16 February 2023

As far back as I can remember, I’ve had a real thirst for learning. I have vivid memories of my dad obliging in taking me, a far-too-keen seven-year-old, to WHSmith on a Saturday morning to get my hands on those KS2 English and Maths work booklets – the type where you could treat yourself to a gold star upon getting an answer right. I loved my time in school and always tried to achieve my best in class, whether it was my favourite or least favourite subject.

For this love of learning, I’m both grateful and aware of my privileged position – as this is not always the case. Not all children are lucky enough to enjoy learning or to revel in the time that they spend in school, and there are many reasons for this. One of the biggest is that not all children begin at the same starting point in life as not all are able to easily access or utilise the tools that can support them through the education system.

Whilst I’ve never aspired to become a teacher or educator due to writing being my passion, in the six years since graduating from university with a Media and Communications degree and working as a copywriter and content specialist with charitable and educational organisations, I’ve seen from a distance the impact that the pandemic and budget cuts have had on pupils’ education.

In fact, the attainment gap between pupils facing disadvantage and their peers is currently at its widest for ten years, with just 43% of disadvantaged pupils meeting expected standards in reading, writing and maths at primary school.

It’s these stark statistics that encouraged me to do what I could to help give back and pass on my love for learning and language. After hearing about a friend’s experience volunteering with Action Tutoring, I applied to be trained as a volunteer tutoring English in late 2021.

By January 2022, I was supporting two Year 6 pupils to prepare for their SATs at a primary school in Newcastle and it quickly became the highlight of my week. Finding ways to engage the two boys in my group and demonstrate how important strong literacy and writing skills are, not just for school and exams, but to also get more enjoyment out of the content that they might play, read or listen to in day-to-day life was challenging at times – but it was a challenge I definitely relished.

Following their exams, I was delighted to learn in the summer that both pupils had gone on to surpass the marks they needed to ‘meet expectations’ – a real reward for both pupils, who I’d known had possessed the determination and ability to succeed. It’s also great that Action Tutoring shares with you this detail of how your pupils do in their SATs, as this gives you a real sense of fulfilment that you’ve helped to perhaps play a small role in this.

I then moved on and began tutoring two Year 5 pupils throughout the summer months, who I continue to tutor today – the girls are now just three months out from taking their Year 6 SATs. Again, it’s brilliant to see the progress that they’ve made in a relatively short space of time.

Perhaps my favourite thing about tutoring is that not only am I helping the pupils to learn, but they’re also helping me to develop professionally and personally.

They’ve helped me to strengthen my essential skills such as listening, facilitating discussion and giving constructive feedback. They’ve also filled me in on all of the curriculum changes since I was at school – what they’re currently learning or reading, and the reasons why they are important.

Last but certainly not least, they’ve also helped me to substantially improve my hangman skills – a game that is an ever-popular hit as a cool-down activity within our school’s sessions!

I’m grateful that Action Tutoring has provided me with this opportunity to pass on my own knowledge and love for learning to the next generation. After all, knowledge is power – but we must ensure that all children across the country are provided with an equal opportunity to succeed and achieve their dreams.

Author: Samantha Lade

Become a volunteer tutor with Action Tutoring and help disadvantaged children improve their academic strength and build a better future. With just one hour a week, you can volunteer to tutor pupils in English or maths at primary or secondary level, online or in-person. No previous teaching experience is required and we will provide you with all the resources you need.

How volunteer tutoring is helping me rediscover my purpose

2 December 2022

“When I grow up I wanna be… A builder? A ballerina? A butterfly?!”

I knew I wanted to be the next Darcy Bussell when I was five years old. Pretty sure I was ‘dancing before I could even walk’. Or is that just what my nan used to tell everyone?

I have recently been fortunate to start volunteer tutoring with education charity, Action Tutoring, through a university placement scheme, teaching GCSE English at a school in Liverpool. As a student at the University of Liverpool, I feel this is a perfect set-up for me.

At first, I was a bit sceptical. I thought a group of 15-year-olds would question whether I was on the right side of the classroom and if I should actually be joining them. As at only 20 years old, I might not seem old enough to be the one tutoring the class. That was my first worry, then came what if I am actually just not good at this at all?

Don’t get me wrong, I did the training and the two-hour Zoom call had my undivided attention, but that is no comparison to sitting in a library with three 15-year-old pupils looking to you to offer them help and guidance. Safe to say, volunteering with Action Tutoring is a test for me to see if teaching is a profession I could genuinely see myself doing in the future. I mean, as soon as you say, “I study English at uni”, the question that usually follows is: “Do you want to be a teacher?”, so I thought I should give it a fair trial.

Of course, the tutoring resources provided by Action Tutoring have been helpful and all I have to do is work through them for an hour each week with assigned pupils. However, I feel like I wanted to provide more than that. I really wanted to walk into that school and change lives. Unsurprisingly it was a bit awkward at first but my pupil group is now doing extremely well. We’ve already come such a long way in the last five weeks we have been working together.

I never expected the sense of pride and accomplishment I would be feeling, not just for myself in keeping it together for over a month, but for the pupils experiencing academic progress. This opportunity has allowed me to contribute meaningfully to the education of young people, which has been so rewarding that I can’t even begin to express my gratitude.

student volunteering

To other undergrads out there, I can offer only words of wisdom based on my experience over the past several weeks.

I advise that you throw yourself into the whole tutoring experience – put time into preparing for the sessions, believe in your ability to teach other people, and revel in a chance to work on your social skills with the teens of today, which is a plus in itself.

Now I definitely don’t want to be Darcy Bussell, as glamorous as she is. Being a builder is out of reach as I complain about grating cheese, hence manual labour doesn’t seem to be the right fit for me. But you never know; when I graduate in eight months’ time, maybe I’ll go down the route of teaching to help young children achieve academic greatness, with a side of “Miss, when can we go home?” in there.

Author: Eve Wickham

Become a volunteer tutor with Action Tutoring and help disadvantaged children improve their academic strength and build a better future. With just one hour a week, you can volunteer to tutor pupils in English or maths at primary or secondary level, online or in-person. No previous teaching experience is required and we will provide you with all the resources you need.

Why I volunteer with Action Tutoring

12 September 2022

I once read a quote from Albert Einstein: “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what they learnt in school.”

That quote has stuck with me to this day and for the longest time I wasn’t sure why – until I began volunteering as a tutor for Action Tutoring.

However, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s turn back the clock and talk about why Action Tutoring exists. It may surprise you to learn that there is an educational crisis taking place in the UK.

Similarly to the pandemics, strikes, international conflicts and financial difficulties that have taken centre stage in recent years, this crisis will define our future as a nation. I am of course referring to the disparity in academic attainment that disadvantaged pupils face.

tutoring tips

The attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers

Did you know that a disadvantaged student is on average 18 months behind their counterparts whilst taking their GCSEs? How about that privately educated students (around 6% of the young population) make up 55% of the students at Russel Group Universities?

Most concerning of all is that in 2018, UNICEF ranked 41 developed countries by educational inequality – the UK came 23rd and 16th for primary and secondary schools respectively. This meant it was beaten in some categories by historically less developed countries – Chile, Bulgaria and Malta for example.

Some of these issues have only been heightened by a lack of teachers and the Covid-19 pandemic, with many disadvantaged school students unable to access their now electronic school work. As a result, thousands of pupils nationwide find themselves deprived of the equal education that they deserve.

This is where Action Tutoring comes in. Once a school is sponsored by Action Tutoring, trained volunteer tutors such as myself get the chance to help level the playing field. This is achieved through giving extra maths and English lessons to primary and secondary school pupils eligible for Pupil Premium funding, who aren’t achieving their true potential.

Whilst tutoring a group of pupils every week may sound extremely daunting, in actuality it went very smoothly. The training and lesson templates were very easily comprehensible, and the staff at Action Tutoring were very professional and helpful when any issues arose. Over time, the terrifying idea of tutoring pupils every week soon gave way to an immensely rewarding experience of seeing pupils grow in confidence, ability and critical thinking skills.

Furthermore, on top of this vital societal role, the tutors themselves benefit. The experience of tutoring gives you confidence, becoming a more capable public speaker and teacher. This is of course in addition to giving volunteering and tutoring experience, which is especially useful if you’ve considered a career in teaching as I have.

So, at the end of my tutoring experience I can confidently say that both my pupils and I benefitted from it, and are better equipped to face the challenges that the world may throw at us in future. This neatly brings me back to my Albert Einstein quote; because long after the equations and language techniques fade from pupils’ minds, they will still benefit from their education.

Blog written by Henry Roberts

My experiences as a student volunteer with Action Tutoring

9 August 2022

In May 2021, Georgia from Durham University started volunteering with Action Tutoring, an education charity which connects volunteer tutors with pupils across England who are facing disadvantage.

pupil premium

Since delivering her first tutoring session over a year ago, she has supported ten pupils across primary and secondary level with the development of their reading comprehension skills, helping them to become more confident in their academic abilities whilst enhancing her own leadership and communication skills along the way.

As her fourth term of tutoring has drawn to a close, she would like to take the opportunity to reflect on her tutoring journey so far and to share some of her experiences as a student volunteer.

Interested in learning more about volunteering while you’re studying? Click the button below to find out more:

How did your first tutoring session go?

Before my first session, it’s fair to say that I was nervous! Whilst I had worked with young people before, I had no previous tutoring experience and therefore did not know what to expect from the session. How would I keep my pupils engaged? What would I do if my session didn’t go to plan?

Read more: Nervous about your first tutoring session? These tips will help!

However, with the support of my Programme Coordinator and the training and resources provided by Action Tutoring, I soon eased into my role as a tutor and left my first session feeling confident that I could make a difference to young people within my community.

The session templates provided by Action Tutoring were particularly helpful to me as a new tutor, as they saved me from having to find my own resources and plan the session from scratch. Instead, I simply had to decide how best to deliver the template provided, meaning that I could dedicate more time to building a rapport with my pupils – a vital part of the initial sessions.

How was your interaction with your pupils – was it challenging or did it come naturally?

At first, my pupils seemed nervous and reluctant to engage with the activities I had planned for the session. However, by spending some time getting to know my pupils and telling them a bit about myself, too, I was able to make them feel more comfortable in my presence and more willing to contribute to our sessions.

We got to know each other through a combination of icebreaker tasks and English-based games, which helped to facilitate discussion. In addition to this, I made sure to ask my pupils a few simple questions about their favourite books, films and sports so that I could learn a bit more about their personalities and interests (and tailor my tutoring sessions accordingly).

Having now worked with four different groups of pupils over four programmes, I find that whilst interaction with certain pupils comes more naturally than with others, all pupils benefit from you taking the time to get to know them so as to establish a comfortable learning environment.

What was your biggest surprise about volunteering with Action Tutoring?

When I first joined Action Tutoring as a volunteer tutor, I assumed it would be difficult to motivate my pupils to want to learn given the challenges they had already faced at school – how wrong I was!

In my experience, most pupils enter their first tutoring session with an open mind and are willing to give you as their tutor the chance to support them in improving their core English/maths skills. During the first couple of weeks, pupils often just want to listen and learn from you whilst they build up the confidence to contribute to sessions.

Once they feel comfortable, they start to engage more proactively in group tasks and discussions, even expressing their own opinions on the topics covered in sessions. This was certainly the case with the group of Year 5 and 6 pupils from a primary school in Birmingham I tutored for two terms last year.

In each session, they participated enthusiastically in the tasks at hand, asking perceptive questions about the texts we read in class and even competing to be the first to give a correct answer or finish a task. They consistently showed enthusiasm, drive and intellectual curiosity, and it was wonderful to see them develop both academically and socially over the course of the programme.

Would you suggest more people volunteer? Why?

Most definitely! Volunteering with Action Tutoring has been an incredibly rewarding experience which has enabled me to make a valuable contribution to the fight against educational inequality.

I have also developed valuable skills in leadership, organisation and communication through my role as a tutor, which will be useful for my future employment.

Whilst I joined Action Tutoring to make a difference in society and to gain experience beyond my university studies, everyone’s circumstances and reasons for volunteering are unique – so whether you are employed and hoping to bring some variety into the working day, or retired and looking for a new challenge, there are so many benefits to becoming a volunteer tutor with Action Tutoring.

Guest blog by our student volunteer Georgia Allen

Five things I’ve learnt while on placement with Action tutoring

7 February 2022

Student Volunteering Week is an annual event that celebrates the impact of student volunteers. This year the week will be taking place from 7th – 13th February 2022. This is a brilliant opportunity to demonstrate how social action creates positive change.

Our student volunteers inspire us, and so we wanted to share some of their stories this week. Elsie volunteered with Action Tutoring for one term as part of a university placement module.

university placement

I am a third year English Language student studying at the University of Liverpool. Whilst on placement with Action Tutoring this year, I have had the privilege of tutoring a handful of pupils aged 9-12 in English, at three schools across the country, both online and face-to-face.

My university placement with Action Tutoring has been highly rewarding, and I would love to encourage more students to be part of this experience. In case you are unsure, here are five of the most invaluable lessons I’ve learned from my time tutoring.

The importance of communication, and how you communicate with the pupils

Using an online platform can sometimes bring technical hurdles, meaning that clear, loud, and upbeat speech is more important than ever ensuring a successful and well-understood lesson. One of my Programme Coordinators explained to me the importance of pitch when speaking to the pupils.

Different pitches can indicate whether they are receiving praise for their hard work, or whether they are being reminded to maintain concentration. Name use is another important communication technique, particularly during online sessions. Using the pupil’s name shows that you are taking an interest in what they have to say, indicating that you value them as an individual.

Time management and planning is essential

I knew that becoming a tutor would mean improving my time management skills to fit around university lectures. Action Tutoring provides great templates for each week, which have everything you need to lead the session. I would advise reading through these templates thoroughly in advance, especially the texts.

It is important to remember time management within the sessions, too. They can progress a lot faster or slower than expected, depending on how well the pupils are understanding the content, so it is important to know when to adapt a lesson to suit this. Always have additional activities prepared for the end of the session in case you finish with spare time!

Brain breaks are your best friend!

A great session should always involve a brain break. That’s what my Programme Coordinator taught us; to combat attention levels dipping half way through the session. A brain break is a short activity which moves the focus away from the lesson content, to a more fun and often fast-paced game or challenge.

My pupils really enjoyed hang-man or memory games, but other ideas could include word-bingo or scrabble. I learnt that using trickier words from the text within the games was a great way to solidify a new word into the pupils’ vocabulary.

The importance of non-verbal communicators

During my placement with Action Tutoring, I learnt how important other factors; such as enthusiasm, body-language and confidence; are to engaging and building rapport with children.

Eye-contact is a really great way to show a pupil you are giving them your full attention, valuing what they have to say, and checking their understanding.

A pupil is more likely to lose attention if you are not giving them regular eye-contact, and this works well alongside using their name too. Pupils may also give off non-verbal cues which indicate if they are understanding the session, so be sure to look out for your pupil’s body language and enthusiasm levels.

The importance of tutoring and the impact it has on the pupils

All of the pupils I tutored improved their English skills as we progressed through the weeks. It was amazing to watch their confidence levels grow as they became more comfortable in challenging themselves and building upon skills gained from previous sessions.

They enjoyed themselves as well. One pupil told his teacher after a session that he thought tutoring was ‘going to be boring…but it was actually really fun!’ This kind of feedback is what makes tutoring so worthwhile.

Blog by Elsie Holmes

We offer in-person tutoring programmes and for those with busy schedules, our online programmes are available so you can still get involved and be a part of our mission. Join our inspiring volunteering community today!

How I get pupils reading

17 April 2020

Richard Riggs is Head of English in a London boys’ school and has been teaching for 15 years. We asked him for his thoughts on how to get pupils reading for pleasure.

How to get pupils reading

I have lost count of the times that I have been told at parents’ evening that someone’s teenage son or daughter has stopped reading. If you look at the research on this topic you generally find two things: firstly, that children should not be forced to read – they should engage with it autonomously; secondly, that in most cases when children are given the choice to read they choose not to. Even enthusiastic younger readers tend to read substantially less by the time they reach their teenage years.

how to get teenagers to read

Reading is important for so many aspects of children’s development, not least empathy. In fact, this is my favourite quotation on the importance of reading:

‘I had a teacher I liked who used to say good fiction’s job was to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. I guess a big part of serious fiction’s purpose is to give the reader, who like all of us is sort of marooned in her own skull, to give her imaginative access to other selves. Since an ineluctable part of being a human self is suffering, part of what we humans come to art for is an experience of suffering, necessarily a vicarious experience, more like a sort of “generalization” of suffering. Does this make sense? We all suffer alone in the real world; true empathy’s impossible. But if a piece of fiction can allow us imaginatively to identify with a character’s pain, we might then also more easily conceive of others identifying with our own. This is nourishing, redemptive; we become less alone inside. It might just be that simple.’

David Foster Wallace, when asked in an interview

I often use this in my first lesson with a sixth form group, to try to get them to think about what reading might be for beyond ideas about exams or the literary canon. 

At my school we have tried to engage with the dip in reading amongst teenagers by bringing in a certain amount of enforced reading. This is not necessarily in line with the research on the topic but if I, as Head of English, have to make a choice between teenagers reading or not reading then I feel it is my duty to push for the former to happen.

As such, we ask children to read at least one book every half term and in the holidays, including four novels over the summer; all of this is on top of the normal school work and whatever novel or play they might be studying in English. These books are class readers chosen by the teacher during term time; in the summer holidays the boys are allowed to choose four from a list of ten – one of which should be a classic like Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone or Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s Lady Audley’s Secret.

What motivates teenagers to read?

We are fortunate to have the money to buy books (tragically, many schools do not, of course) and we have put a lot of effort into finding novels which we think will appeal to teenage boys. Whilst there are some modern novels which they enjoy (Jonathan Coe’s The Rotters’ Club, for example, or Andrea Levy’s Small Island) it’s interesting that some older writers still have a strong appeal, from Agatha Christie to John Le Carré. In fact, the mystery/detective genre and books in a series (such as Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy) are the things most likely to motivate teenagers to read. 

You will find that some schools have a rather canonical approach to reading but my general belief is that if teenagers are reading at all you are winning the battle – regardless of what they are reading. Although I would love a class of 14-year-old boys to read Jane Eyre or Great Expectations (and sometimes they might), I’m very happy if they are enjoying Skippy Dies by Paul Murray or Life: An Exploded Diagram by Mal Peet.

If they take pleasure in those novels now, then there is a very good chance that they will go on to become adult readers, with books embedded in their lives.

Written by: Richard Riggs

Are you a primary or secondary school in England? 97% of schools would recommend Action Tutoring to another school. You can partner with us and our motivated tutors will help the disadvantaged pupils of your school by providing personalised and sustainable academic support. This way, pupils can learn to enjoy the process of learning and reading.

Do you have a passion for English and would like to help children from low-income households to improve their writing skills, read more and have better grades? Get involved today and make a difference.

5 things I love about the work we do at Action Tutoring

14 February 2020

What do I love about being part of Action Tutoring’s mission?

For a wholesome, educational take on Valentine’s Day, I’ve pulled together a list of five things I love about the work that we do and the young people we support at Action Tutoring.

action tutoring work

The curiosity and humour of the young people we work with

Be they primary or secondary pupils, the children we support never fail to put a huge grin on my face. They are resilient, hard-working, ambitious, and deserve the very best we can give them. Whether it’s first thing in the morning, or the last thing at the end of the day, I’m always touched when my pupils – who have so much on their plates and so many different pressures and deadlines – still find time to ask me how I am, tell me a joke, or share a story. We may be there to tutor maths and English, but the relationships we build bring it all to life.

Being part of so many different school communities

I have felt privileged to learn from and deliver programmes in a whole host of different schools across London. Staff have welcomed me, let me observe their teaching, and collaborated to make Action Tutoring a success for their pupils.

Each teacher is committed to developing and championing their young people academically and pastorally – it’s amazing to see what a difference their care makes to each child!

The diversity of our volunteers

I have been lucky to meet, train, and work alongside so many inspiring people from all walks of life, and see the myriad gifts and skills they bring to us and to our young people. Each volunteer on our programmes brings with them new avenues for connection and new approaches to learning – many have studied outside the UK too, and their perspectives enrich ours. Watching positive working relationships grow between our tutors and pupils is one of the most rewarding parts of my role, and underpins the academic growth of our young people.

Having such supportive, committed colleagues

This job comes with joys and challenges aplenty, but carrying each of us through is a tide of support from our co-workers. The Action Tutoring team – spanning eight cities – is a network brimming with bold and creative ideas, care for how one another are, and complete dedication to the pupils we serve. There are spaces for debate and reflection (and lots of laughter), and I have learnt so much from shared wisdom and feedback from my peers. We strive for better each day, inside and out.

Fostering a deeper connection with my city

Working in the charity sector has allowed me to see different facets of the city I live in, and the places where policies and lived experiences meet one another. I have learnt about and travelled more of London; I have observed in small pockets of the city the relationship between national politics and the individuals it affects; and like colleagues of mine all over the country, I have seen glimpses of the next generation’s potential. I feel more connected to the chaotic and wonderful place I’ve called home for the last five years, and with that comes an ever greater desire to see its youngest flourish.

Read more: How Action Tutoring helps volunteers with their careers

If you’re looking for a way to give back to or connect with your local community, nurture yourself and others, or are interested in joining the team, consider supporting Action Tutoring in a whichever way you feel you can. Donating, tutoring, marking, fundraising, promoting… if you’re keen to help, we’d love to know.

Written by: Anna Warbrick

The Importance of Tutoring

10 February 2020

Every September, a joke goes around university campuses that we have our first day of school coming up. Next year will be my thirtieth first day of school. 

When I took up my current position as a lecturer, I wanted to set aside some regular time to volunteer. An education charity was an obvious choice. I chose Action Tutoring because their aim is to help those pupils who would gain the most from a little extra guidance outside of their regular classroom.  

the importance of tutoring

If you haven’t set foot in a school this side of the 2008 economic crash — as I hadn’t before I began volunteering — you can’t imagine how different today’s primary and secondary school pupils’ experiences are from what you might remember. More and more, I’ve come to realise how lucky I was. I’ve stayed in education all this time because studying came naturally to me, I enjoyed it, and it remained an option to me. I went to excellent primary and secondary schools, all for free. While I learned a lot (with thanks to my teachers), I didn’t appreciate why my peers might find studying more difficult. 

The importance of tutoring

One of the first things you realise when you start tutoring is that there could be any number of reasons a student is struggling, but it’s never being ‘bad’ or just not being able to understand a subject.

My academic field is linguistics, so when I volunteered for the first time and realised that every one of my tutees comes from a home where English is an additional language, I knew that I’d be working with some very intelligent pupils.

By the age of ten, some have learnt English as a third language, and are now studying a fourth in school (together with a second alphabet). This is an achievement for which most adults would laud others. It does mean, though, that my tutees’ parents might not be able to help them with their English homework, or that they’re particularly attuned to the UK’s preoccupation with testing, for example, Spelling-Punctuation-and-Grammar (which, if you were to ask a semi-professional opinion, are as much a test of a rigid writing style as anything else).

So now I spend an hour or two on Friday mornings reading with two or three pupils, working on their vocabulary and comprehension skills. Over the term I’ve taught them, my tutees’ confidence with reading has grown, but I should attribute that to the teachers who work with them every day.

If there’s one thing I know they’ve learned from me so far, it’s how the best strategies for playing Hangman work: vowels are the best letters to ask for first because, if you study phonology, you’ll know every word is broken into syllables, and every syllable in English contains a vowel. After that, continuant sounds like n and r link the vowels to other consonants. And at all times, keep an eye out for complex, but predictable strings of consonants like str or spr at the beginning of a word, or suffixes like -ing at the end. Hopefully, my tutees will put this knowledge to better use in the future, but if they move from Hangman to Scrabble, or to cryptic crosswords (once they get to my age, maybe), I’ll be only too pleased.

Written by: Sam Steddy

At Action Tutoring we believe that tailored and personalised academic support can help pupils improve their subject comprehension and increase their confidence. Our incredible volunteers are committed individuals who believe in equal education opportunities for everyone and their support helps lower the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers.

If you would like to find out what our pupils and volunteer tutors have to say about their experience with Action Tutoring, you can read our success stories here.

Next Page »