Why is Black History Month important for Action Tutoring and its supporters?

20 October 2021

Action Tutoring supports disadvantaged pupils to reach their potential. Across the country, in the cities and regions in which the charity works, there is a higher percentage of Black and mixed heritage pupils classified as disadvantaged compared to their White peers.

Government data from 2020 shows the percentage of pupils eligible for Free School Meals (the Government’s indicator of disadvantage) by ethnic group. In the table we can see 24% of Black African pupils and 28% of Black Caribbean pupils were eligible for Free School Meals compared to 14% of White British pupils, of those receiving their GCSEs in 2020.

Pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds aren’t less able, but they have less access to the tools that support them to progress in school. This means they are not able to reach their full academic potential, significantly impacting their future prospects.

Disadvantaged pupils are, on average, 18 months behind their non-disadvantaged peers by the end of secondary school (EPI report, 2020). In fact, in the 2019 GCSE exams, only 25% of disadvantaged pupils achieved a grade 5 or above in English and maths, compared to 50% of all other pupils (DfE report).

In the Government’s household income data, published in 2021, Black households were most likely out of all ethnic groups to have a weekly income under £600 and as indicated above, children facing socio-economic disadvantage are less likely to achieve meaningful grades in their exams.

Tragically, the data above indicates that our education system is not able to guarantee all pupils the same outcomes and opportunities, regardless of their background or ethnicity, which is simply not fair.

Action Tutoring focuses on reducing the academic attainment gap at the end of primary and secondary school, so that young people’s circumstances don’t limit how much they can achieve academically.

Why history?

At primary school level, 6 out of 8 history topics in the Key Stage 2 curriculum focus on British history and at GCSE level a minimum of 40% of the course must be British history. These topics, recommended by the Department of Education, predominantly focus on White British history, often neglecting other perspectives and contributions which create so much of the diversity and richness in our country’s history.

The curriculum should put more emphasis on the negative legacy of the British Empire and explore much further how the British Empire created a cycle of exploitation which oppressed the Black, Asian and minority ethnic people under its rule.

Dominant narratives in the curriculum of the Industrial Revolution ignore that England ruled over 25% of the world in mid-late 1800s and early 1900s and exploited the natural resources in these territories to fund economic growth in England, whilst simultaneously taking over developing countries’ systems of governance.

The curriculum also doesn’t critique England’s continuing participation in the slave trade after they officially ruled it illegal in 1807, or how England exploited its empire for soldiers during WWI and WWII without guaranteeing them the same rights as White English soldiers.

The curriculum does makes references to the slave trade and civil rights movements in the USA. This is limited as it does not give an accurate picture of England’s involvement in the slave trade, and does not convey similar Black Power movements taking place in Britain.

“If you’re omitting different histories and narratives, you’re saying that these people aren’t part of this country, this nation, this heritage – or they’re not important enough to be taught as common knowledge,” says Melody Triumph, policy specialist at The Black Curriculum – a social enterprise that seeks to redress this imbalance by delivering programmes, training and campaigns about Black British history.

British children from minority ethnic backgrounds deserve to be taught about their history as much as White pupils. Expanding young people’s awareness of the rich history of our multicultural society will help to foster an accepting and less racialised nation. In our English tutoring resources, we have included Black British authors and have referenced the work of the Black Curriculum when reviewing and improving our workbooks because we believe this is essential to a fair and well-rounded education.

History is an important tool we can all use to make sense of our society today. It can help inform, empower and educate. If you want to find out more about Black British history, from the Black Tudors to Black Power movements in the 1980s, take a look at our resource list here and the Black Curriculum’s resources.)

Get on your running shoes – it’s time to make a difference

4 October 2021

After what feels like a long time of being inside our homes, for many, exercise events repopulating our calendars has been truly welcomed. The year 2020 saw the cancellation and postponement of events happening left, right and centre, but in 2021, the Asics London 10K and Hackney Half made a come-back, and all of us at Action Tutoring have been thrilled to incorporate these events back into our annual fundraising campaigns.

London 10K

In the height of summer, on Sunday 25th July 2021, five brilliant runners made up of Action Tutoring staff and members of our volunteer community ran the Asics London 10k, raising over £1,400 for our work and pupils. CJ, one of Action Tutoring’s Training and Quality Coordinators, said:

“Running the Asics 10K for Action Tutoring was great fun for so many reasons! I’ve never been a speedy runner but I do enjoy it as a hobby and de-stressor, and having taken a long hiatus from big runs over lockdowns, it was nice to have a motivation to get going again. I was also very spurred on by my friends and family donating to my campaign, and it was a nice jumping-off point for chats with my network about Action Tutoring. Lastly, the day itself was great fun; I got to enjoy some live music, sightseeing and people-watching along the route (my highlights were a steel band, a bubble machine and a runner dressed as Spartacus) and meet up with some lovely Action Tutoring people after the race to go for some well-deserved chips!”

The pandemic has been challenging for us all, and some turned to trying new things and challenging their comfort zones. Heather Taylor, our Director of Finance and Operations, took up running as a hobby during the pandemic, and like CJ, challenged herself with the London 10K.

Hackney Half

As the weather began to cool down and leaves started to change around us, autumn was in the air. It was time for our staff and supporters to dig out their running shoes and Action Tutoring t-shirts again, in preparation for the Hackney Half, a half marathon which took place Sunday 26th September.

The Hackney Half takes runners through some key London sights, ranging from the Town Hall to the historic Broadway Market and Hackney Wick, with music and celebrations coined the ‘carnival of sound’ taking place across the running route’… just what the Doctor ordered after over a year of uncertainty and four walls! The team again consisted of Action Tutoring staff, including Adam, Director of Delivery, and a variety of Action Tutoring volunteers, with some even travelling from the Isle of Wight and Lancashire to support us! The event raised over £1,500, helping us to support even more pupils in need.

Mollie, one of our Partnership Coordinators, said:

“I got into running in the first lockdown in 2020. Only being able to leave the house once a day, I found running became a staple part of my routine and has now become crucial for my mental health. When the option for running the Hackney Half came up, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put my running to good use for an achievable challenge, whilst raising money for something I’m passionate about!”

Combined, our fantastic runners and fundraisers raised over £2,900, with each donation contributing towards supporting our work to close the attainment gap and help pupils catch up with lost learning through the pandemic. Did you know that £2,900 has the potential to provide 116 pupils with access to our online classroom for an entire academic year? It could also provide 290 pairs of workbooks for pupils and tutors for in-school programmes!

We’d like to thank all of our London 10K and Hackney Half runners for their dedication, training, perseverance and fundraising, in addition to all their generous donors who supported them, and us, through these inspiring events. Thanks also to Limelight Sports for their organisation of these runs.

Do you fancy a challenge for 2022? Get in touch with our Partnerships and Fundraising Manager, Hannah O’Neill, to secure your place at these two key events next year. Don’t fancy the run but you’re interested in making a donation to help our pupils? Contact Hannah:

Together, we can all be the difference that makes the difference.

A safe place for all: putting an end to discrimination against LGBTQ+ pupils

23 June 2021

Content warning: mentions of homophobia, biphobia, transphobia and mental health issues.

As part of Pride month, Action Tutoring Communications Assistant, Phyllida Jacobs, investigates the extent of homophobia and transphobia in schools and explores what can be done in the classroom to challenge these prejudices.

School should be a welcoming place where everyone feels included and respected. Yet for many LGBTQ+ pupils, this is not the case.

Research by Stonewall found that nearly half of LGBTQ+ pupils are bullied because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, with one in ten trans pupils being subjected to death threats at school. LGBTQ+ young people are more likely to suffer from mental health problems, and more likely to miss school due to bullying. Although this research also shows that the problem has slowly improved over the last ten years, there is clearly much more work to be done. 

Schools can play an important role in challenging homophobic and transphobic views that pupils may have picked up elsewhere. Many teachers work hard to challenge these prejudices when they arise. However, too often school can be a breeding ground for intolerance.

The discrimination faced by LGBTQ+ pupils in schools today can be traced back to the controversial Section 28. Between 1988 and 2003 (2000 in Scotland), this law prohibited the “promotion of homosexuality” by local councils. As a result, schools stopped teaching LGBTQ+ issues and often did nothing to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying. A generation of LGBTQ+ people were raised in a culture of silence, where their very existence was denied. After years of campaigning, Section 28 was repealed, but its effects can still be felt today. 

It is now mandatory for schools to teach LGBTQ+ content as part of PSHE, yet two in five pupils report never being taught about these issues. The Department of Education guidance leaves it up to schools to decide how and when the content should be taught, allowing many schools to minimise or ignore LGBTQ+ issues in the classroom. 

It’s clear that more needs to be done to prevent homophobic and transphobic bullying in schools, but in March 2020, the Government Equalities Office withdrew funding from LGBTQ+ anti-bullying projects. This must be seen as a worrying step backwards in the fight for LGBTQ+ inclusion in our schools. 

The strain of lockdown combined with recent negative media attention on trans issues has only made life harder for LGBTQ+ pupils. If we are to create a culture in which all young people feel safe to be themselves, urgent action is needed. Without proper funding for projects specifically addressing homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, and clear guidance on teaching LGBTQ+ issues, the great progress that has already been made will flounder.

Learn all about Stonewall’s campaign for LGBTQ+ inclusive education and how you can show your support here.

Volunteers’ Week 2021: Thanking our fantastic tutors

3 June 2021

Volunteers’ Week takes place 1st-7th June every year and serves as a chance to recognise the fantastic contribution volunteers make to our communities.

This year’s theme is ‘a time to say thanks’, giving an opportunity to thank every individual that has given up their time to help those in need, over what has been an exceptionally difficult year.

Action Tutoring would like to say a massive thank you to every dedicated volunteer tutor for all your support over the past year.

Your contributions have helped disadvantaged young people across England catch up on the learning missed as a result of the pandemic and given pupils a better chance of reaching their full academic potential.

What our volunteers have achieved this year

The past year has been a tumultuous one. The disruption to learning caused by the pandemic and subsequent school closures has impacted disadvantaged pupils significantly and; with the introduction of the National Tutoring Programme; tutoring has been key in attempting to make up for the time lost.

We are so grateful for the contributions of every single volunteer tutor. Your hard work has allowed us to deliver more tutoring sessions and to support more young people than ever before.

So far, this academic year, 2,485 Action Tutoring volunteers have delivered 23,098 sessions to disadvantaged young people across the country!

The impact our volunteers have made

We know that small group tuition is extremely effective in improving both pupils’ grades and their understanding of the subject. A study from the Education Endowment Foundation calculated that an intense programme of one-to-one tuition could add up to five months’ progress to a young person’s schooling.

Every session that is delivered, therefore, offers significant support to a pupil’s learning and so as this number increases, so does the chance of these young people being able to reach their full academic potential.

Action Tutoring Interim CEO, Jen Fox, said: “2,485 is a huge number. With more tutors than ever before, it’s no surprise that Action Tutoring has been able to double in size this year.”

“Our passionate, diverse, committed volunteer army means that almost 5,000 disadvantaged pupils have had the tutoring support they deserve this year.”

Become a volunteer

Moving forward

Our work in levelling the academic playing field isn’t finished. We need your help to increase the amount of tutoring that we are able to provide and to reach more disadvantaged pupils across the country.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor, please fill out our application form.

Student Volunteering Week: My experience as a student volunteer with Action Tutoring

11 February 2021

Eleanor, who is currently studying English Language and Linguistics at the University of West England, has been a volunteer with Action Tutoring since December 2019. Eleanor has shared her story for you to learn more about her experience as a tutor. We hope you enjoy reading about her journey.

I volunteer with Action Tutoring because I want to make a difference to children’s education, particularly now, considering the impact of the pandemic. This year especially, it feels so important to volunteer and help pupils whose education has been most impacted.

In my experience, you notice a difference in your pupils from the second tutoring session. They are usually a lot more comfortable with you and less shy. They may want to learn more about you and what you do for a living, too. During the initial sessions, my pupils would refuse to read the extracts given in the Action Tutoring booklets, and say they were embarrassed by their reading abilities. Now, they try to jump in to read before me, and pick lessons with longer reading chapters in a bid to further their skills. One pupil even experiments with doing different voices for characters now!

Balancing tutoring with my studies is very easy for me. I choose to tutor on days where I am completely free or have the whole morning or afternoon off, as I like to walk in and enjoy the scenic route. Tutoring the morning sessions helps me get out of bed and is a motivating start to the day, and hopefully to my pupils’, too. Action Tutoring provides all of the tutoring resources, so all I have to do is familiarise myself with the lesson and deliver it. This makes it very easy and simple for me to go and teach, so it doesn’t negatively impact my studies in any way. I also try and choose to volunteer at schools nearby to me that are easy to get to (when in-school opportunities are available), in order to avoid missing any sessions or being late.

Become a student volunteer

Action Tutoring has definitely helped me develop in confidence and in learning different styles of talking to people; such as teaching register, talking to my tutoring peers, and talking to school staff and my programme coordinator. This will definitely help prepare me for teaching environments and future employment.

Volunteering during the pandemic has been good for my mental health. When I have been able to tutor in-school, it has given me a sense of normality where my pupils and I can forget about COVID-19 and just learn about English together (while still socially-distanced and wearing masks). I would recommend volunteering to anyone who is furloughed or unemployed, as it is really motivating to have a sense of purpose and to feel needed. I chose to tutor on face-to-face programmes, as I prefer the closer interaction and getting to go somewhere different during my daily week, rather than online tutoring, but when schools are open, Action Tutoring offers both options, so it’s flexible for everyone. 

Finally, I would personally recommend Action Tutoring to anyone who is able to spare an hour a week to go and help children in need. I think it’s important to remember how lucky we were to have a ‘normal’ school experience and any sense of normalcy for these children in school at the moment is so key and showing that despite what is happening around them, people are there to support them and wish them the best chance in their education. This to me is such a key motivator this year. 

Disadvantaged pupils have been hit hardest by the pandemic, and we want to help as many as we can catch up. Apply now to volunteer to tutor maths or English for just one hour per week.

Student Volunteering Week: Five reasons why I volunteer with Action Tutoring

4 February 2021

Megan Healey, who is currently studying English Literature at the University of Liverpool, has been a volunteer with Action Tutoring, making a difference to pupils in Liverpool, since October 2020. Megan has shared five reasons why she volunteers with Action Tutoring. We hope you enjoy reading about her journey.

There are so many reasons to volunteer as a student, but most of the time you find yourself coming up with excuses not to: you can’t find the right opportunity, it doesn’t fit in with your schedule, you aren’t sure if you’ll enjoy it etc. Having volunteered as a student with Action Tutoring last semester as part of a work placement module, I’ve decided to continue to volunteer with the charity. Here are the five reasons why I volunteer as a student.

1 – Giving back to the community

After spending a couple of years getting to know Liverpool, I decided that I wanted to give back to the community that has always been so welcoming to us students! Action Tutoring provided me with a way to support disadvantaged pupils in school, tutoring English study sessions to GCSE students. The extra support Action Tutoring’s pupils provides helps them build on the skills they learn in class. As volunteers, we offer pupils a space to go over any issues that they have with maths or English, helping them overcome any barriers so that they can achieve the grades they deserve. 

2 – Personal development

In addition to giving back to the community, the Action Tutoring volunteering programme allows students to develop crucial skills which employers find attractive. Working with Action Tutoring allows you to work on communication and interpersonal skills as well as your problem-solving skills as you work with the pupil to help them overcome any difficulties. The skills and experience gained through volunteering are completely transferable to any future job role, making it a valued opportunity.

3 – Because it’s rewarding

Personal development brings me to my next reason for volunteering because it’s rewarding. Not only does your development allow for more opportunities in the future, but volunteering makes you feel great. Spending time with the pupils and getting to know them makes seeing them progress extremely rewarding. Each week you notice positive changes in the pupils’ performance, and as they start to see the changes in themselves they gain more confidence. Not only does it boost their confidence but it boosts yours too! Being in a position where you are able to provide encouragement to someone, uplift them and help them develop makes you feel really grateful to be working as a tutor.

4 – Flexibility

Action Tutoring is perfect for students because the volunteering hours are completely flexible, allowing you to volunteer around your university schedule. I decided to volunteer three hours a week on a Monday and Tuesday as it fits in with my timetable. Whilst volunteering with Action Tutoring you’re able to join as many or as few tutoring programmes (weekly tutoring sessions) as you’d like, making it the perfect way to volunteer whilst you study. 

5 – Maintaining mental health during a pandemic

Finally, the last reason why I volunteer with Action Tutoring is that it’s helped me maintain positive mental health throughout the pandemic and all of the lockdowns. The weekly online sessions have helped take my mind off of what’s been going on. Getting to take a productive break from studying has let me feel like I’ve accomplished something, which makes me feel good about myself. The positive energy that the pupils bring to the virtual tutoring sessions rubs off on me, leaving me feeling revitalised. In addition to providing a break from reality, the weekly sessions offer some form of structure, something we all lost when the pandemic started. The structure volunteering provides helps me manage my time, allowing me to feel more organised during a period of constant uncertainty. 

Become a student volunteer

Action Tutoring is an amazing opportunity that benefits the pupils from local areas whilst also develops your own skills. I completely recommend volunteering with Action Tutoring. 

Apply now to volunteer with us as a student, and help young people in your local community improve their English and maths skills, as well as getting great teaching experience and improving your own skills.

Action Tutoring encourages pupils to express themselves as part of Children’s Mental Health Week

3 February 2021

February 1st – 7th see’s Place2Be’s ‘Children’s Mental Health Week’ campaign in full swing, a week dedicated to raising awareness and educating adults and young people about the importance of looking after our emotional wellbeing from an early age.

This year’s theme is ‘Express Yourself’, encouraging children (and adults) to explore the different ways we can express ourselves, and the creative ways that we can share our feelings, our thoughts and our ideas.

At Action Tutoring, we are always looking to support pupils’ wellbeing, as well as their academic needs. It is important for us that, in addition to achieving a meaningful level of academic attainment at school, pupils are also able to develop as happy, healthy and well-rounded individuals.

1 in 6 children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition, and with more potentially struggling with lockdown, bereavement or bullying, there’s never been a more appropriate time to talk about children’s mental health. Young people have spent almost a year being in and out of school, often locked in for long periods and out for only short bursts of time, which has been enough to put adults’ mental health under duress, never mind children.

Encouraging children to express themselves could help alleviate some of these difficulties, and lead to improved emotional wellbeing.  So how can we help young people (and ourselves!) reconnect with the creative streak that lives within us all?

  • Drama – you don’t have to be on the West End stage to engage with drama and performing. Whether acting out a scene from your favourite book, or recreating a scenario to act out with friends or family, drama is open to everyone. Drama can not only be a great way to release your curious and creative nature, but it can be also truly beneficial in helping children understand different situations. At a recent webinar, a mum explained how she’d been using role play scenarios to help her child understand what a ‘return to school’ would look like. They took it in turns to be the teacher and pupil, and even practiced social distancing in their home! What a fabulous way to help a young person understand what’s going on, or how things might be different moving forward, whilst also letting them be a playful child!
  • Art – we’re all spending way too much time looking at our screens, and too little time using our hands for anything other than typing. Grabbing a colouring book or some pens and paper might encourage a young person (or adult) to take a break from the virtual world. Why not draw a picture of how you feel right now and discuss it? This can be a great way to express how you’re feeling other than through speech, and with a bit of colour!
  • Dressing up – for lots of us, this year has consisted of pyjamas, work outfits and changing back into pyjamas when the clock strikes 5:30pm. Getting dressed up, even if it’s to sit in the house, can really boost how you feel about yourself. For children, letting them play dress up or wear what they want for the day might really help them express themselves and bring a bit of colour to the gloomier winter days.
  • Walking – a simple, but easy one. We all know walking is great for mental health, and after months inside it’s more important than ever. Walking can be creative – take a litter picker and clean up the streets, take photos of the lovely flowers or insects you see, or even take a new route to your usual walk. You could also simply walk and let your thoughts come to you naturally – nothing is more creative than original thought!

Identifying and responding to mental health concerns

Encouraging children to express themselves and talk about how they feel really is important, especially now. However, it’s also important to know what signs to look out for if the young people around us are struggling with their mental health and, crucially, how to support them.

In a national lockdown, children are bound to miss their usual structure, friends and family, which can lead to feelings like uncertainty, boredom and restlessness. This may also prompt uncomfortable or insecure feelings in their familial relationships, and subsequently, reactionary misbehaviour or misplaced hostility. Here are some tips on how to help and respond:

  • Listen – Find an opportunity to listen to what’s wrong, listen carefully to their answers and reassure them as best as you can to reinforce their stability and standing in the family.
  • Express – If they are reluctant to talk about their feelings, encourage them to write a letter or a diary entry to address their emotions. Journaling allows for self-reflection and relieves stress.
  • Routine – Build positive routines, such as healthy eating and exercise. Physical activity, whether indoors or outdoors, improves self-esteem,
    increases concentration and can improve academic performance!
  • Praise – Give lots of positive feedback and encouragement to their achievements, whether it be a piece of school work, a drawing they’ve done or even just tidying their room.
  • Support – Reach out to other parents and carers, or other friends and family, yourself. A problem shared is a problem halved, and talking is a great way to keep positive, motivated, and to be able to model this behaviour to your dependents.


“It’s important to remember that being able to express yourself is not about being the best at something or putting on a performance for others. It is about finding a way to show who you are, and how you see the world, that can help you feel good about yourself” – Place2Be

So let’s start watching out for the signs of anxiety or deteriorating mental health, remember how to get support and start expressing ourselves. Let us as adults be role models to help the younger generation express themselves as well. Children’s mental health should always be a focus, but let’s take extra care this week. Childhood is precious. Let’s protect it.

Action Tutoring would like to thank Place2Be for championing this brilliant cause with their  campaign and we encourage everyone to check out the resources on the campaign website



Giving Tuesday’s #GiveBack2020 campaign encourages us all to take something positive from this year by making a difference

1 December 2020

As we move towards the final part of 2020, I think it’s fair to say that this year has been an unusual one. Since March, the coronavirus pandemic has dominated global attention, as the virus stretched health systems and threatened the lives of individuals across the UK and the rest of the world.

As a result of the consequent lockdown, pupils’ learning suffered significantly. Disadvantaged pupils were, on average, already 18 months behind their non-disadvantaged peers by the end of secondary school even before the school closures in March, and this is only likely to have worsened as a result of the disruption in school learning.

Partner as a school         Become a volunteer

After nearly seven months out of schools, our tutoring recommenced in early October 2020, with the support of the charity’s incredible and inspiring volunteer tutors, partner schools and staff team, all determined to ensure disadvantaged pupils can still succeed. We also launched our online delivery in schools, uniting pupils from across the country with volunteers to tutor them in maths and English.


Photo courtesy of Abbeywood School


The Giving Tuesday campaign is a global day of giving, where everyone, everywhere can do something to support the good causes that mean so much to them. This year, the focus of the campaign is on giving back, encouraging us all to take something positive from 2020 and make a difference at the same time. 

In line with this campaign, Action Tutoring would like to thank all its amazing volunteer tutors who are already giving their time to do something positive by helping pupils across the country. The work that they have done this year in offering disadvantaged pupils the support that they need to catch up and achieve their academic potential, helping us bridge the educational attainment gap in the process, has been outstanding.

We would also like to take this opportunity to encourage anyone who may be interested in tutoring pupils in their local area and across the UK to rise to Giving Tuesday’s challenge to give back, and support disadvantaged pupils by becoming a volunteer tutor.

Apply Now

Rosie and Mike, two of our current tutors at Sydenham School, told us about their motivations for volunteering and how their experiences as tutors, in the midst of a pandemic, have been so far.

For me, what has been rewarding in my tutoring Secondary English at Sydenham is when, after a couple of sessions, it becomes clear, during a recap task, that my pupil has definitely retained some of the key points that we discussed earlier. For example, when they are able to recall a number of language devices, and can give examples of them, which is a very important tool for ‘analysing language and evaluating texts’ questions. It’s great to see that the online method is working, and that the pupils are getting benefit from it.

“I think it’s always worthwhile giving tutoring support, but particularly so in the context of the current pandemic. With schools being closed earlier this year, there has been a higher risk of children falling behind and not reaching their planned grades. It’s therefore very good news that the online tutoring portal is being delivered successfully, and I do get personal satisfaction in believing that in some way I am able to help pupils regain ground.”
Mike Perrott, Secondary English tutor at Sydenham School

“It makes me so happy when I teach my tutees a trick to do some maths quicker one week and see them replicate the trick the following week, because it lets me know that my teaching is having an impact and is giving the girls more confidence to tackle difficult maths questions quickly and accurately. I have also found it massively rewarding to become a listening ear for the students and feel as though I have been a sounding board for many of their queries, such as GCSEs, mock exams, revision and university choices.

“When I heard about this programme, I immediately thought that it was a great idea and wondered why I had never heard about it before! At school, I was a bit of a nerd and actually really enjoyed maths; hearing about an opportunity to share some of the tips, tricks and skills that I had learnt really incentivised me. As I am currently at uni, my GCSE days were not that long ago, so I felt really encouraged to get involved – I feel I’m someone with a useful perspective on GCSEs and how to work hard for them. Additionally, when I realised that this programme was as much about academic development as it was about boosting the confidence of the pupils and making them believe in themselves, I needed to get involved because I feel this is often a forgotten aspect of education.”
Rosie Webb-Jenkins, Secondary maths tutor at Sydenham School

If you are unable to commit to becoming a tutor right now, or would prefer supporting our mission financially, we invite you to donate via the link below.

Donate To Support

West Coast Runners raise over £5000 for Action Tutoring in relay race challenge

6 November 2020

Fundraising for Volunteer Tutoring

Across September 5th-6th 2020, a team of avid runners in Merseyside completed a 31 hour relay race, raising vital funds to support Action Tutoring in its mission to help pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds achieve a meaningful level of academic attainment.

The newly-formed running group, West Coast Runners, participated in The Speed Project DIY, an event adapted from The Speed Project, that usually sees runners in North America run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Speed Project DIY was created, enabling contestants from across the globe to participate in their own country.

West Coast Runners decided to bring this challenge to Liverpool, in direct support of Action Tutoring pupils.

The group, formed by Kelvin, Tom and Michael, raised over £5,000 for Action Tutoring – an incredible amount that was far beyond the team’s original target, and generously exceeded both their own and Action Tutoring’s expectations.

The runners mobilised support from across their networks, conducting interviews on BBC Radio Merseyside and appearing in news articles and snippets across a variety of Merseyside media channels. This inspiring article in Independent Liverpool details the team’s visions and actions for the race.

Fundraising for Volunteer Tutoring

Michael, a former Geography teacher and an extremely committed Action Tutoring maths tutor, who has supported Action Tutoring pupils across a variety of programmes in Liverpool, said:

“Liverpool’s pupils need organisations like Action Tutoring now more than ever. School closures disproportionately affect pupils from low-income households, whose parents [or guardians] lack the resources to deliver an entire curriculum from their living room. The charity relies on schools for 40% of its income, so they’re in real need of extra support right now.”

“They’re honestly one of the most evidence-based charities I have ever worked with. You would be amazed how few charities check whether what they’re doing actually works. Action Tutoring collects data on every pupil they support to evaluate impact and improve their service. Their resources and staff are fantastic. We’re really proud to be supporting them.”

Action Tutoring would like to thank the West Coast Running Team for their incredible and inspiring support and dedication, and the NSG group in Liverpool for their donations during the event. If you would like to contribute to the West Coast Runners fundraiser, please visit their GoFundMe page, or donate directly to Action Tutoring by clicking the link below:

Donate To Support

If you have a great fundraising idea and would like to support Action Tutoring in raising vital funds for their pupils, please get in touch with Hannah O’Neill, our Partnerships and Fundraising Manager, via

Remember to save the date of the Big Give Christmas Challenge, the UK’s largest match funding campaign, running from Giving Tuesday on December 1st – December 8th. Any donations made during this week will be ‘matched’, meaning one donation, double the impact!

500 years to close the gap – we need a new approach to make education fair: reflections from the Labour Party Conference

26 September 2019

September is always a flurry of political activity and news, as party conference season gets underway. This year, I had the privilege of sharing about Action Tutoring at a fringe event at the Labour Party Conference, hosted by the Fair Education Alliance (of which Action Tutoring is a member) and the Education Policy Institute.  A recent EPI report has highlighted the worrying trend that the rate at which the attainment gap is closing has stalled, especially at secondary level, predicting that at the current rate of progress, it could take 500 years to close the gap[1]. In response, the FEA is calling for a new, collective approach to tackling the attainment issue, the crux of our debate and discussion. Fellow panelists included MPs David Lammy, Tracy Brabin (shadow minister for early years) and Emma Hardy, plus Emma Knights, CEO of the National Governance Association. Excitingly, it was standing room only, with so many people wanting to engage with the topic.

Susannah Hardyman speaking at the Labour Party Conference


Each panelist had five minutes to make an opening statement on the topic. Tracy Brabin kicked off by highlighting the importance of the early years in laying foundations for children, drawing attention to the loss of Sure Start and the lack of a universal offer for nursery hours.[2] She called for 30 free hours of nursery education for every child, re-investment in Sure Start and upskilling of the nursery workforce.

David Lammy shared openly his own experience of beating the odds to become the first black student at Harvard, but expressed huge concern that so many of his peers were left behind, citing entrenched, systemic issues as a key reason for this. He made a strong plea to stop tinkering at the edges on the issues of social mobility and for more radical change, breaking entrenched privilege.

Emma Hardy, an ex teacher, drew attention to the causes and roots of inequality and poverty stating that we can’t just fight fires in education without tackling these. She also highlighted issues in the system of teacher retention and off rolling by schools, as key issues that need urgently addressing. Emma Knights cited evidence from a recent NGA survey about the importance of Pupil Premium funding and that it’s played a key role in focusing governors’ minds on the attainment gap. She expressed concern at crumbling public sector services, when they are so important for schools to be able to work with.

The Action Tutoring story I shared I hope served as one concrete example of a programme that can work to tackle the attainment gap. There was clear surprise in the audience when I highlighted just how many pupils now receive private tutoring,[3] something I believe only exacerbates the attainment gap. I drew attention to other examples of good practice that do seem to be working, including the story of the London Challenge, which saw London’s schools go from some of the worst in the country, to the best. However, my concern is that what’s working is patchy, best practice isn’t being widely shared and the right funding often doesn’t exist to replicate what’s working. However, I’m an optimist, and I do believe that if some of these issues could be overcome, then the attainment gap could be drastically reduced: it doesn’t have to take 500 years to close.

It’s long struck me that for the Action Tutoring programme to work, so many wider factors are in play to ensure success – the support of good link teachers in our partner schools to help with pupil engagement and programme delivery, support from parents to ensure pupils attend sessions and pupils also need to be in a good place to learn when they arrive at sessions. That means having foundations of good nutrition, stable housing, parental support and so on. Sadly, far too often these basic factors are not in place for the pupils we work with. We can’t address all of these complicated issues as one organisation, but we can be a piece of the puzzle that works towards better outcomes. That’s one of the reasons I support the FEA’s call for a collective approach to tackling the attainment gap. I concluded by highlighting the need for that collective approach to include:

  • A holistic approach to the whole child – schools need basic foundations of good nutrition, stable housing and family support for teachers to build on and to give pupils the right footing to engage and learn.
  • High quality, well trained teachers for all pupils, which isn’t happening consistently at the moment but is surely foundational for any child’s education.
  • Specific, targeted, evidence-based intervention for those who need it, put in place early enough to realistically make a difference and ideally to catch issues early.
  • And finally, funding, to enable the above to happen.

At the end of the presentations, there was time to take a few questions from the audience, which included how parents could be better supported, support for SEN children, the importance of raising self-belief and aspirations and school accountability structures. The discussion also considered whether the language of social mobility is helpful, with many preferring to talk about social justice instead. Funding was inevitably touched on, with little doubt that this of course makes a big difference to what can be achieved.

There seemed to be concluding consensus from the panel that complex needs have to be addressed by a range of services and schools can’t do this on their own. Given the complexity of these needs, we have to think more holistically about both children and families, which is where a joined-up, multi-stranded, collective approach can have potential. I certainly hope Action Tutoring can continue to be a key piece in this complicated jigsaw and approach, helping to unlock potential for young people up and down the country, while working closely with others to achieve that goal.

Overall, it was a huge privilege to be part of such a prestigious panel, to engage with such a thought provoking discussion. Thank you to the FEA and EPI for hosting it and for putting such an important topic on the agenda.

[1] At present, disadvantaged pupils finish year 11 (GCSEs) over 18 months behind their wealthier peers.

[2] At present, children aged 3 are entitled to 30 free hours of childcare but only if parents are earning a certain amount, so it is of greater benefit to parents in work.

[3] The latest Sutton Trust research reports 40% of 11-16 year olds in London as having private tutoring and 25% nationally.