Education News

Seven connections to help us create change

22 July 2021

Learn about Action Tutoring’s conversations with local MPs this summer.

We know that what happens on programmes is important. But in an average session, do the pupils and their tutors feel how significant their actions truly are?

Extra marks are gained, concepts are grasped for the first time, new future chances open up slightly more each time a pupil turns up and tries. But beyond individual growth, what happens matters on a greater scale. Everyone involved in our programmes is part of a nationwide movement, where people show up in the belief that a great education can make a more equal society.

Sometimes an opportunity arrives to show pupils and tutors that their efforts are being noticed. At 12pm on Friday 2nd July our Programme Coordinator, Sam, was about to set up for the usual afternoon session at Heathfield Primary School in Nottingham. Things felt a little different, though; two journalists and a camera person were expected at the school reception. The Member of Parliament for Nottingham North, Alex Norris, and our Interim CEO, Jen, would soon be arriving.

Not long after our first programme launched in Nottingham in 2019, Alex agreed to visit an Action Tutoring partner school to see the work being done. When the pandemic closed school doors, the visit couldn’t go ahead. Alex still helped us to get the word out to others at a crucial time via his newsletter.

It was an exciting moment, then, to finally welcome Alex to a session at Heathfield Primary School in July this year. Sam told us about the atmosphere on the day. “The pupils buzzed with a mixture of excitement and nervousness at the opportunity. Their heads were down and focused despite copious distractions. Some were even more studious than usual in a bid to impress their local representative!”

This was a chance for everyone to celebrate the admirable effort pupils had made since November. Sam could see how motivated they were to show off their work and quiz the MP. “The challenging questions they posed to Alex were certainly testament of this, as well as their working-strewn whiteboards which they returned to me at the end of the session.”

Less than a week later, a similar moment was about to happen at Ark Victoria Primary Academy in Birmingham. The committed MP for Yardley, Jess Phillips, had already witnessed local tutors working with pupils at another partner school back in 2017. But this time, circumstances were quite different. At 8am on Thursday 8th July, just before Jess arrived, tutors were logging in from Birmingham, Cambridgeshire, Exeter and beyond, ready to lead a productive and joyful final session with the Year 6s at Ark Victoria.

Justina has been tutoring at the school since last November and helped her pupils formulate questions to ask Jess Phillips during the visit. “It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to volunteer and support the learning of year six pupils remotely, at a primary school local to me in Birmingham.

“Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic over the last year, my pupils have shown enthusiasm, been willing to learn and have continued to make progress. I’m really looking forward to next year.”

This was the last session for Year 6 at Ark Vitoria after a big year. Another exceptional tutor, Elaine, has been on this journey with the pupils whilst living elsewhere in the country. “As the school year draws to a close, I am really reflecting on how lucky I have been to be able to work with the pupils at Ark Victoria Primary. They have been so cheerful and worked so hard – a great reminder to try our best when sometimes things seem too difficult. I work with Action Tutoring because I want to help young people achieve their best and am always amazed by how receptive the pupils are to the tuition – they always make me want to do more.”

Action Tutoring is hugely grateful to Alex Norris and Jess Phillips for their time and support for these pupils. Their active interest in our work locally has provided a special end to a year of hard work by all involved in our programmes. It has also already helped Action Tutoring forge new connections in the wider community.

Action Tutoring reaches out to local leaders each year, to highlight the benefits of our work and seek support in raising awareness of what we do. This summer, Action Tutoring has met with seven MPs nation-wide to share the progress its pupils are making in their constituency, despite the additional barriers these pupils face. This seven includes two members of the House of Commons Education Select Committee. Programmes succeed because of the hard work of people in the community – whether that’s the young people themselves, volunteer tutors or the essential school team. These conversations have helped us celebrate and showcase these efforts. Going forward, we hope that deepening these connections will help us to sustain and grow the impact of our work for the unique and vibrant children and young people on our programmes.

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National Numeracy Day 2021: Encouraging maths skills for everyday life

19 May 2021

Wednesday 19th May 2021 marks National Numeracy Day, a national campaign that focuses on building a love of maths among school children and encouraging adults to become more confident with numbers.

At Action Tutoring, we understand the value of developing numeracy skills for everyday life. With the help of our dedicated volunteer maths tutors, we have delivered a total of 76,417 maths sessions to disadvantaged pupils across the country over the last ten years.

As part of National Numeracy Day, we spoke to two of our dedicated volunteer maths tutors, Ceri and Ediho, about the importance of developing numeracy skills, how tutoring can support young people with maths and why they decided to offer there help as volunteer tutors.

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Ediho Lokanga

Ceri Bunnage

Why do you think feeling confident with numbers is important for young people?

E: Most people do not realise that mathematics is used in everyday life and that wherever we go, we deal with it in one way or another. Good numeracy skills are essential for shopping, saving, renting a house or taking a mortgage. We all need to master basic numeracy to solve some of the issues we face daily.

How do you use maths in your everyday life?

C: I use maths to manage my time, for example how long I will work and when I have time to relax, as well as when buying my food and deciding if I have the extra money to splurge on treats. I also use maths when planning trips – I think about what time I must leave to arrive somewhere at a particular time, based on how long it takes to get there.

What is your favourite maths topic?

C: My favourite maths topic would be algebra – I find that they are like puzzles that I can solve!

E: I like differential equations, as I can use these equations to help me solve mathematical and physical problems.

What made you want to become a volunteer maths tutor?

C: I wanted to be able to help the pupils that need that little bit of extra support in order to shine, just as I needed the same for English due to my Dyslexia and Dyspraxia.

E: I wanted to pass on what I know and what I have learned over the years. I am aware that many young people struggle with mathematics, so I felt compelled to try and help them with this. Above all, it is a joy to know that you are making a change in helping somebody achieve their ambition, become a better learner and master a new topic.

It is a joy to know that you are making a change in helping somebody achieve their ambition, become a better learner and master a new topic.

How do you think tutoring can help young people improve their numeracy skills?

C: I believe that there are many different learning styles and that not everyone benefits from regular classroom learning to the same degree. More focused learning like small group tuition can benefit some pupils greatly. There is also the fact that many pupils just need a bit of consolidation of their numeracy skills through repetition, which can be achieved through tutoring.

How can parents help support their children with maths?

C: I believe that a good way to support children with their maths is to have them use it in real life. For example, when shopping, they could be given a £5 note and allowed to pick their desserts, which can’t exceed that amount. This will give the children some joy (because it’s dessert!) but also means they need to do some maths to work out what they can purchase.

E: Parents need to be involved in the process of exploring and learning mathematics with their children. Young people should be encouraged to explore everyday mathematics and discuss real life examples as a family.

Any top tips for young people who struggle with numeracy?

C: For children struggling with maths, my suggestion is to split questions into smaller steps so that they are easier to work with. If you are struggling, smaller numbers can be easier to work with and though this makes the problem longer to work through, it can be simpler to solve.

E: Make sure that you always break down instructions before tackling any problems, talk to your parents or teachers about the best techniques you could use and be positive and optimistic that problems are there to be solved and that there are techniques that you can use to do this.

If you would like to support disadvantaged young people with their numeracy skills, apply now to become a volunteer maths tutor using the link below.

Become a volunteer

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.

DAC Beachcroft provide high quality volunteers to help disadvantaged pupils succeed at school

22 October 2020

Corporate partnerships are an important part of what allows us at Action Tutoring to make our programmes work effectively, helping us move closer towards our vision of a world in which no child’s life chances are limited by their socio-economic background.

In order to achieve this, we require high quality tutors who demonstrate good subject knowledge, strong communication skills and a real commitment to the pupils that they support.
Over the past three years international legal business, DAC Beachcroft, have engaged their staff to become volunteer tutors with Action Tutoring on our programmes in London and Birmingham.

This year, they have expanded this further to provide tutors in Bristol too. The DAC Beachcroft staff who volunteer with us range from recent graduates to senior partners and have delivered hours of invaluable support to disadvantaged pupils across our regions.

As well as the profound impact that these sessions can have on a young person, we find that the volunteers themselves often gain a lot from the experience through seeing the impact of their support directly; developing their skills and engaging with their local community.

Khurram Shamsee, a Partner at DAC Beachcroft and volunteer tutor for Action Tutoring has spoken about his time volunteering with us. Khurram said: “I’m really glad I signed up… I just think it’s a rewarding thing to do and I’ve got absolutely no regret about making the commitment.”


Action Tutoring would love to hear from other businesses or companies interested in promoting our volunteering opportunity to their employees, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.

Employees can either volunteer at a school near their home, or support as a team at a school near the office. This could include volunteering before or after school, during lunchtimes, or at the weekend. For employees, it’s a great opportunity to make use of their skills to benefit the local community.

If you are interesting in finding our more about our work with corporates, do get in touch with our Partnerships and Fundraising Manager, Hannah:

We’re back! In-school tutoring resumes and online programmes begin

9 October 2020

After nearly seven months, it’s great to be back in the classroom. Thanks to the support of our determined volunteer tutors, partner schools and staff team, Action Tutoring is thrilled to be delivering tutoring both online and in person to help disadvantaged pupils catch up.

By the end of next week, thirty-five face-to-face programmes (eight to ten weeks of tutoring sessions) and nearly 20 online tutoring programmes will have begun, with another 36 face-to-face and 22 online tutoring programmes beginning in early November.


Become a volunteer     Partner as a school


The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the education of young people across the country. Evidence has shown that disadvantaged pupils, like those supported by Action Tutoring, will be the hardest hit by the crisis. The absence of education, and other means of support at home, like private tutoring, has pushed disadvantaged pupils further behind and widened the attainment gap to an even greater extent.

In March 2020, as a result of the school closures implemented in response to the pandemic, we ceased delivery of our tutoring programmes. Over the following months, we focused our resources on campaigning for catch-up support from the government to help disadvantaged pupils, and on developing our online tutoring provision.

Now, back in schools, focus shifts towards the delivery of more high-quality tutoring, and ensuring that the experience remains a valuable and enjoyable one for both tutors and pupils.

Nargis Tailor, Programme Coordinator for London, facilitated the first online programme this week, which received a great deal of positive feedback from pupils.

She said, “It felt so lovely to be back in schools. After the initial rush to get pupils logged into their virtual classrooms, the Year 11s were totally absorbed in their screens.”

“The chatty and energetic pupils became unexpectedly shy for the initial 10 minutes when they met their tutors for the first time, but once the session had ended, pupils left inspired and keen to learn more. Some of the comments from pupils included ‘I’m learning already’ and ‘my tutor was so nice.'”

Hannah Ground, also a Programme Coordinator in London, observed a similarly positive response to the online format.

She said, “Most pupils at Sydenham School were able to jump straight into the virtual classroom, and quickly picked up how to use and navigate the platform.”

“Initially the room went quiet, as pupils listened to their tutors introduce themselves. As the session progressed, the pupils relaxed into the new experience and it was lovely to hear them joking with their tutors and engaging in the online material.”

She added, “I’m looking forward to seeing how their relationships and subject skills develop throughout the term!”


“Our tutor was really good and I am ready to start tutoring for the year!” 

Secondary school pupil from Sydenham School, London after completing her first online tutoring session.


While pupils have been responding well to the sessions after months out of the classroom, our volunteers, some delivering tutoring for the very first time, have been impressed by the impact that the experience has had on themselves as tutors.

Following her first session at Greenwood Academy in Birmingham, Programme Coordinator Sumayya Shaikh said, “The programme ran smoothly and the pupils and tutors looked like they got on incredibly well.”

“One moment that really stood out was a conversation with one of our tutors who had recently been made redundant. He said he was grateful for the programme, as he finally got to engage with people and pass on his knowledge as an engineer.”

“He said it’s the best he felt in a long time. I’m glad we are able to make a difference to not only our pupils, but also our tutors,” she added.

Online tutoring

With more programmes due to begin over the following weeks, we are looking for more volunteer tutors to join us to deliver tutoring sessions, both in schools and online. As a volunteer, your help could make a difference in allowing pupils to catch up on vital learning, that has been disrupted by the pandemic.

Apply below to become a volunteer tutor and support the education of pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in your local community and across the country.


Wellbeing at Action Tutoring: Mental Health Focus

25 September 2020

Action Tutoring mental health first-aider Mollie Vessey explains the ways in which the organisation strives to support staff wellbeing, with great emphasis placed on mental health assistance, and how this philosophy extends to the work we do with our pupils.

One of the first things that stood out to me when joining Action Tutoring as part of the marketing team was the focus around staff mental health and wellbeing. Joining the team, we had two members of staff who were trained as Mental Health First Aiders, however recently, three more members of staff, including myself, have also been trained.

According to the World Health Organisation, one in four people will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their life.

With this in mind, I think that a focus on positive health and wellbeing should be at the forefront of any organisation. There are many benefits of having a proactive approach to wellbeing in the workplace, such as increased productivity, less sick days and building better staff relationships.

One of the ways that we try to implement positive wellbeing at our organisation is a ‘buddy system’. The idea is that members of the team are paired with each other and are encouraged to meet as frequently as they want, to unload, unwind and support each other through the working day.

When it comes to tutoring, there are many ways that tutors can help pupils that goes beyond just the academic support. Though our mission is to help pupils achieve a meaningful level of academic attainment by supporting them with either their maths or English studies, tutoring can provide so much more.

Something that stands out for me when speaking to volunteers about their Action Tutoring experience is the relationship that they build with their pupils. Watching a pupil become more confident in themselves and becoming better communicators, while developing other skills that will benefit them outside of the classroom, is a big part of what makes being a tutor such a rewarding experience.

If a pupil has come away with increased levels of self-esteem, confidence and positive feelings, that to me is a successful tutoring experience. Developing as people, as well as pupils, to become well-rounded young individuals who are prepared for life outside of the classroom.

If you would like to become a volunteer tutor and support one of our pupils, please fill out our tutor application form here.

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.

Sharing our 2018-19 Impact Report – why we’re determined to weather this storm

1 May 2020

We are thrilled to now be able to share our 2018-19 Impact Report. The situation is not what we were anticipating it would be for this release, but we still hope you enjoy reading through the publication and reflecting on our work.  

A big thank you to all of our wonderful volunteers, funders, partners and supporters for the part you have played in contributing to this success.  

We are humbled to share some positivity at this time. Reflecting on the report has made us even more determined to weather the crisis and ensure we are able to continue delivering impactful academic support to the pupils who will so desperately need it.  With your help we can. 

This pandemic will hit disadvantaged young people incredibly hard. This report shows how relevant and necessary Action Tutoring is in helping them get back to where they should be.

We are particularly proud of our outcomes last year when:

  • Of the primary school pupils we supported, 74% met the expected standard in reading and 81% in maths (12% and 14% higher respectively than the national average for disadvantaged pupils).  

  • Of the secondary school pupils who attended ten or more of our sessions, 61% achieved a grade 4 or above in GCSE English and 58% reached this level in GCSE maths, both exceeding the national average for disadvantaged pupils


All pupils supported by Action Tutoring were at risk of not achieving these standards when they began the tutoring programme. 

In 2018-19, 1,150 of our inspiring volunteers supported over 2,500 disadvantaged pupils in 84 schools across seven UK cities.

We have also recently completed a wonderful new short film, hearing from a few of our amazing tutors at a session last autumn, which we wanted to share here.  We hope you enjoy it!

We know the impact the school closures will have on our pupils is significant. These are pupils who are already struggling academically and the absence of education, and any other means of support, will simply leave them further behind. It is highly likely the attainment gap will widen further as a result of school closures.  

For these reasons it’s imperative that we, as a charity, can survive and continue supporting disadvantaged young people.

We are working hard to develop our online delivery and aim to have a small-scale pilot in place in the summer term. That way, we can be ready to roll out more widely in September. 

How you can help

Spread the word – we’re always looking for more volunteers to support our work and new schools to partner with. Please share our film and our social media posts, to encourage anyone you know who’s interested to apply to join us as a volunteer or email us to discuss partnering as a school.  

Fundraise or donate, either individually or as a team, to help us raise vital funds which will support our delivery and help us recover from the financial loss resulting from the crisis. Thank you for making a difference.

Sign up to our termly newsletter, if you haven’t already subscribed, to receive all the latest news from our charity. 

We’re looking forward to working with you all as soon as it is safe for us to do so. 


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.

How party manifestos can deliver fairer education this December

15 November 2019

As the election fast approaches, it’s unlikely education is going to be at the top of the list on manifestos or necessarily a priority in voting decisions. Yet, as Nelson Mandela so famously said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” So many other issues dominate the debate in this election. But failing to invest in and prioritise education not only damages the potential of individuals, but damages wider society too. We all stand to benefit from a strong, holistic education system, which in turn fuels employment, a strong workforce and a strong economy.

I’ve been chatting to the Action Tutoring team about what they think the next government should prioritise for education. Our staff spend a huge amount of time in schools up and down the country, they hear first hand from teachers and pupils on a regular basis and see all too often the challenges that both face. Here are a few highlights of what we, at Action Tutoring, would love to see in the parties’ manifestos and from the next government:

Increase funding for all schools and protect the Pupil Premium

No doubt this is the most obvious place to start! We see daily how hard teachers are working with stretched resources, but there’s no doubt that money helps and schools have been ever squeezed over the last few years. Schools should have the budget to ensure there is a safe, warm, comfortable place for excellent teaching and learning to happen. We’d love to see not only an increase in funding for schools, but in particular protection for Pupil Premium funding, with schools sufficiently well resourced so that the Pupil Premium really can be used to support those it’s intended for and not just to plug other gaps in the system.

Early intervention to close the attainment gap

Although Action Tutoring works with children in Year 5 and above, we’d advocate to see early intervention made more of a priority by the next government. We know that the disadvantage gap has already opened up before children even start school and that high-quality early intervention can make a big difference to a child’s learning and attainment down the line. Yet the full allowance of 30 free hours of childcare is only available if parents work at least 16 hours per week and is not yet universal. Surely an easy way to make a difference here would be to open up the 30 hours of nursery provision, regardless of whether parents are working or not, to make sure children facing disadvantage are not left behind.

Further commitment to reducing teacher workload

Here at Action Tutoring we hugely admire the teachers in our partner schools. They work so hard to make a difference for their pupils. Yet, we see how stretched they are in so many directions and the toll that their workload takes. There has been much said recently about reducing teacher workload and it’s something the current Education Secretary has expressed a commitment to continuing to work on. We want to see this priority reinforced, so that teachers can focus on the real reason that most come into the profession: to make a difference to children and young people. We think a reduction in workload would make a big difference to teacher recruitment and retention too, another pressing issue in education.

I want the government to commit to increasing budgets to allow for additional funding for CPD for teachers. So many training opportunities don’t exist anymore and CPD for teachers is at the worst I’ve ever seen it in my career. Quality-first teaching makes the biggest difference to all learners – that’s what the government commitment should be.”

– Assistant Headteacher at an Action Tutoring partner school, Brighton

Invest in pupils’ wider wellbeing

Since Action Tutoring started in 2012, we’ve seen a significant increase in concerns raised by both teachers and volunteers about pupils’ mental health and wider wellbeing, with teachers now warning that pupils’ mental health is at a crisis point. We think this is an issue the next government cannot afford to ignore, with greater investment needed in CAMHS to ensure shorter waiting times for referrals, plus better support for teachers to deal with these issues. Teachers can’t do everything and we would advocate for more services, such as each school having an in-house counsellor to support pupils’ wellbeing.

The next government must recognise the importance of investing in our youngest citizens. This will only be achieved through investment in the provision of outstanding outcomes for pupils that include their mental health and wellbeing alongside their academic standards. Schools need to be fully inclusive, including with the expectation of zero exclusions, funded adequately to be able to educate all mainstream pupils with sufficient additional SEN [Special Educational Needs] provision across the country. Education ministers need to value more the excellent work of Ofsted and all the staff who work across the teaching profession.”

– Headteacher at Action Tutoring partner school, South London

Post-16 opportunities

Post-16 education isn’t Action Tutoring’s main focus, but we certainly hear a lot about it from teachers and charity friends working in the post-16 space. Further Education has been poorly funded in recent years, with many considering it at crisis point. The current government pledged an additional £400m but reports say this still leaves colleges 7% down on their 2010 figures: clearly more is needed if this is an area the UK wants to take seriously. And we absolutely think it should: young people leaving secondary school are at a critical point in their lives and the right qualifications and support can set them up to flourish personally and contribute to society.

It’s not all about what happens post 16 though; careers support varies hugely from school to school and is often not introduced until late into the pupil’s school journey. We would love to see a commitment to a qualified, well-trained careers advisor in each school working with pupils right from Year 7.

Support evidence-based practice

There is now some fantastic evidence available about which practices and interventions are most effective in schools and how disadvantaged pupils can best be supported. But this evidence-based approach needs to be more widely adopted and shared. The EEF have made great strides in that, but we want to see a commitment from the government to facilitate schools to form networks, share the most effective evidence-based approaches and learn from those schools experiencing success in tackling disadvantage.

Keep pupils at the heart of decision making
Our final message would be this: keep pupils at the heart of decision making, not results. Too often, Ofsted and league tables can incentivise schools to make decisions based on results rather than the experience and development of the individual pupil. Recent stories of schools excluding those pupils predicted to get poor results is an example of this, although thankfully it has already been cracked down on. Each pupil is an individual with huge worth and value, and we want to see that cherished and the best decisions made for them, whatever that might be and without fear of the system.

“Protection of the Pupil Premium funding should ensure that disadvantaged pupils have access to wider opportunities within school and are able to receive the academic care and attention they need to help them become the happiest and healthiest versions of themselves. There’s too many disadvantaged young people who are missing out right now because of school funding cuts. Change is possible, and it needs to happen soon.

– Hannah, Action Tutoring Programme Coordinator in Liverpool

In the UK we are lucky to have a brilliant, free education system that many around the world can only dream of. But it is not yet serving disadvantaged pupils as it could be and there is plenty of room for improvement. The Action Tutoring team’s theme for the year is ‘Doing Good Better’ and we would love to see the next government adopt this in its education policies: commitment to making our education system even better and ensuring that it really does benefit every pupil, from pre-school right through to life-long learning.

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