Guest Blog

Tutoring is not just about altruism, but taking small steps to see real results

11 September 2020

Madina has been a volunteer with Action Tutoring making a difference to pupils in Birmingham since November 2019. Madina has shared her story for you to learn more about her experience as a tutor. We hope you enjoy reading about her Action Tutoring journey.

Madina, tell us a bit about what you do alongside volunteering.

I’ve just finished my first year studying for a degree in English, soon to start my second. I’m also currently working in retail part-time alongside my studies, which is definitely handy experience! Aside from that, I’m an avid reader and also enjoy making art. 

What first led you to Action Tutoring?

I first came across Action Tutoring at a careers fair at my university during welcome week. The volunteers’ passion was really evident as they explained what the role entailed and the enjoyment they gained from it. I was drawn in by the purpose behind the charity, in aiming to close the gap in educational attainment throughout the country. I was previously unaware of how the education of many can suffer due to not being able to afford private tutoring; providing an available voluntary service struck me as a hugely effective course of action. 

Why is volunteering important to you?

For a few years, I volunteered at Childline (NSPCC). I replied to emails and calls from a variety of young people, all with differing backgrounds, upbringings and experiences. The aim of the work was the safeguarding of children and young people, giving them a secure place to air their feelings, to express themselves and make themselves heard. It proved a very rewarding experience, which I feel is a crucial aspect in any voluntary work. Giving a portion of one’s time to help others or a wider community isn’t just about being altruistic. It’s about recognising where support is needed and taking action to contribute towards any improvements that can be made. For me, the knowledge that even a small step taken can lead to brilliant results is really what makes the volunteering experience so rewarding.

Describe a successful tutoring session.

In the week beforehand, we’re encouraged to plan whatever key skill we choose to cover – usually, this is up to the pupils and what they feel needs working on. A typical session goes along the lines of a warm-up, the main activity and then a plenary, where we summarise on the skill covered. Many sessions can go completely smoothly and according to plan, but I feel what makes it successful is the pupils’ engagement. It’s very normal for some pupils to be rather shy or nervous at the beginning. However, seeing them come out of their shell and being comfortable to voice any difficulties they may be having is what makes the sessions work so effectively. It really does feel successful when you realise the pupils are as motivated as you are. 

Describe a memorable moment from one of your sessions.One of my pupils, who had been struggling in grasping a key skillset, told me that she’d received praise in an English lesson after being able to finally demonstrate the skill. From that point forward, there was an evident improvement in her confidence; not only did she express herself better, but her work improved too. I’ll never forget her enthusiasm when she shared her achievement with me. It felt like I’d really made a difference, driving me to work further towards building the confidence of the pupils I work with. 

Tell us something that surprised you about volunteering with Action Tutoring.

I initially had the idea that tutoring was going to be one to one, so I was slightly surprised to find out that the sessions tend to be in groups. The challenge was trying to accommodate each of their needs in the weekly activities, attending to all of them without leaving anyone out. I found that the solution was to find a skillset that everyone could agree to work on, as well as keeping an extra eye on the pupils who needed more support. I also didn’t expect how fun it would be to work in a group dynamic, especially when it came to warm-up activities. Seeing how competitive they could be only five minutes into the session really set the bar for energy levels throughout the rest of the hour. 

What’s the hardest thing and the best thing about tutoring?

It’s often difficult to get the pupils to focus, especially if they’re easily distracted. However, it only means that I have to find more creative ways of maintaining their attention – this involves small breaks in between activities, or a break at the end if they just wanted a general chat to unwind. The best thing by far is seeing them enjoy the session. Nothing beats finishing on a positive note, with a solid plan on what they want to cover next week, and knowing that some progress had been achieved. It makes the struggles along the way worth it, seeing that they’ve been given the support they need and most importantly, that they get something valuable out of it. 

How has volunteering as a tutor contributed to other areas of your life?

It’s definitely helped me in gaining skills I wouldn’t otherwise have gained, such as improvements in my own style of communication. I’ve also discovered more efficient ways to be organised, which came from planning tutoring sessions. As they only last one hour, I’ve had to learn to adapt to tighter time requirements, which has subsequently led to getting more things done – especially when it comes to studying. It’s also made me realise how much I enjoy working with young people and being able to support them in their education. To anyone who is thinking of volunteering, I feel this is an amazing opportunity to help pupils reach a level of success, as well as tackling a prominent issue of inequality. 

Sum up your experience of volunteering with Action Tutoring in one sentence.

It’s been unforgettably rewarding and an experience that I would highly recommend to others! 

Start your journey towards an unforgettably rewarding experience as a volunteer tutor and apply now!

How I get pupils reading

17 April 2020

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

How to get pupils reading

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

how to get teenagers to read

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

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

David Foster Wallace, when asked in an interview

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

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

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

What motivates teenagers to read?

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

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

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

Written by: Richard Riggs

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

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

Super-speed, teleportation and laser vision cannot help with exams! How pupils can benefit from a REAL superpower: optimism

24 February 2020

When it comes to English and maths, even superpowers can’t save pupils from their dreaded exams! But, what if there were heroes that could educate and inspire them outside of the classroom…? Oh yes, that’s us at Action Tutoring.

It can be hard to motivate and inspire pupils. Thankfully, people study these things for a living and there are plenty of insights in the psychological world to help. Personally, I have come across many articles on learning which have influenced my approach. So, what am I talking about today? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Oh, right, it’s a book.

About a year ago, I read an interesting book by cognitive psychologist Martin Seligman called “The Power of Optimism.” In it, he proposed that a state of “learned helplessness” could be reversed by changing our thoughts. It really got me thinking. Can the way we choose to think change the automatic thoughts we have towards situations? Can optimistic views be learned? Is there benefit to having an optimistic view towards exams? The answer to all of these, according to some psychologists, is yes.

As tutors, you may have noticed that pupils can be overwhelmed by the prospect of upcoming exams, leaving them liable to put off revision as it can seem like an unsurmountable hurdle.  This is counter-intuitive for their success. However, inspiration and confidence-building could allow the pupils to engage actively with their studies and overcome this hurdle. This is where the superpower of optimism comes in. If pupils are programmed to think positively towards the papers, they are more likely to establish the growth mindset that is the hype in educational psychology today. If you haven’t come across this idea before,  then let me explain growth mindset. This mindset is the thought process by which a student believes that they CAN do better, that they are not where they want to be “yet.” Over time thought processes can shape our neural pathways (especially in our youth) which is a magical phenomenon known as neural plasticity. Our minds can be moulded and changed by our thoughts. By supporting pupils to view themselves, and their performance, positively, we can help change the approach they have towards their exams. They can be calm and confident instead of a nervous wreck, like I was in my exams. This is all interesting but… what good is it? How can it be applied to help pupils?

To promote a child’s interest in a subject, simply make the work engaging.  I know, easier said than done, right? It’s after school at the end of the day, the sun begins to set out of the dreary window and everyone wants to go home. My pupils once told me that their form of revision involved just reading their notes over …and…over…and… over… Yawn, I’m bored just thinking about it. And most importantly don’t forget to tell them that they are doing well and point out their improvements to them. The grades they need are achievable! So go forth my fellow tutors and bestow your pupils with the power of optimism. Just remember, with great power comes great responsibility.

The Importance of Tutoring

10 February 2020

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

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

the importance of tutoring

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

The importance of tutoring

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

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

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

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

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

Written by: Sam Steddy

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

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

Why I give my time to volunteer with Action Tutoring- Giving Tuesday

3 December 2019

The questions on the sheet blurred as tears of frustration rose in my eyes and I struggled to grasp the concepts needed to work out the answers. I was twelve years old and failing to understand how to work with negative numbers. Luckily, my maths teacher, realising I needed help with maths in general, had offered to let me stay after school to do some extra work.

Okay, come stand over here,” he said. “This is zero. Now take three steps forward and you are at positive three. Now walk backwards (subtract) four steps – how far are you behind the point of zero? Now if you were to add negative steps, would you go forwards or backwards?

When the inevitable lightbulb moment occurred, and I finally ‘got it’, the feeling when I knew I could grasp these difficult and new ideas was wonderful. It was like I had been given an incredible gift.

Originally, I wanted to give my time to volunteer with Action Tutoring because I wanted to contribute to society outside of work and was reading more and more about how inequality causes a large attainment gap between young people, which seems incredibly unfair. As a first-generation university student from a working-class background I have some insights as to how difficult it can be to achieve your best at school, especially when there are other external pressures that teachers may not be fully aware of or are unable to do anything about.

But, since I started volunteering with Action Tutoring, I now understand that this gift of learning is something that is bestowed on both the receiver of knowledge and the giver. It is incredibly rewarding to help the pupils learn new things and improve their skills, and their enthusiasm always makes me come away inspired for the week. It even inspired me to run a 10K to raise funds – something that I certainly found a challenge but helped me to strive towards a new achievement, something that the pupils are doing each and every day. The students are running mental 10Ks every day through their learning, and their teachers and tutors are the pacemakers.

I can’t recommend working with Action Tutoring enough – you get incredible support; the volunteer coordinators are so friendly and will bend over backwards to help you become a great tutor, and the students will teach you things about yourself you never even thought to ask for.

Elaine, after running the ASICS 10k to raise money for Action Tutoring

World Mental Health Day- The importance of staff wellbeing

10 October 2019

World Mental Health Day is a day for global mental health education, awareness and advocacy against social stigma. This year it will be held on 10th October 2019 and we will definitely be marking it as an organisation to boost the conversation on mental health. At Action Tutoring we have been doing a lot of work over the past year to increase focus on staff wellbeing and positive mental health. So many of us have been affected by mental health – according to the World Health Organisation, one in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. This is not something any organisation can or should ignore.

To me, it makes so much sense to prioritise the wellbeing of our staff. Healthy staff will perform better in their roles, have positive relationships at work, take fewer sick days, stay in the organisation longer and be much more engaged and motivated. But most of all, I want Action Tutoring to be a good, considerate employer that looks after our staff well. According to this book we spend around 80,000 hours at work, and this time can have a huge effect on our wellbeing. If our workplaces don’t prioritise our mental wellbeing, that can have big consequences.

According to Mental Health First Aid (MHFA):

  • Stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest cause of sickness absence in our society.
  • Mental ill health is responsible for 91 million working days lost every year.
  • Mental ill health costs UK employers £34.9 billion each year

Over the past year, there are a few ways we have tried to improve our staff wellbeing. These include:

  1. We have had an Employee Assistance programme in place for a few years however usage has historically been low. We have promoted this much more this year and have seen usage increase. One way that has particularly helped is through people openly talking about their experiences using the service and breaking down any taboos of accessing counselling or other support.
  2. We have trained two Mental Health First Aiders who, as well as being a safe person for employees to speak to if they are struggling, are also taking a lead on improving our communications and openness around mental health.
  3. We have introduced ‘Headspace for Work’, offering a subscription to the meditation app to staff, to help support their wellbeing. Research has shown 30 days of Headspace use lowers stress by 32%, and just 4 sessions reduces burnout by 14%.
  4. We have included staff wellbeing sessions at team away days, on weekly email bulletins, team meetings and as part of our induction process. We use these to promote what services are on offer, share tips for positive wellbeing and personal experiences.
  5. We have introduced a Staff Wellbeing Guide which includes a summary of all services on offer through Action Tutoring, some tips and advice for supporting our own wellbeing as well as those around us and links to local external services for all of our staff around the country

If you are interested in changing your workplace wellbeing culture, there are many places to go for free resources and advice. Mind, MHFA, Time to Change are just a few. I am so pleased with the impact this has had on our team and the feedback we have received, there are so many benefits and you will have a happier, healthier workforce as a result.

Collective Sustainability – Quality education

3 October 2019

This article is part of a series to explore how everyday citizens can support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) locally through the power of collective action.

Education for my sister and all!

This article will be a bit more personal than all the others for one simple reason: if I needed to pick only one SDG to support for the rest of my life, education would be it. As they say, if you want to find your passion, you do not need to look for it, it is already there in one form or another. Probably my younger sister could tell you even more about this, accompanied with some rolling eyes, as she was the guinea pig of my early teaching attempts. It was obvious which books I was trying to use to teach her, their first few pages were full of writing and crinkles, the rest pristine, as eventually she always went on strike. I had to convince her again and again, “just one more class, it will be fun, I promise!”

Jumping forward in time eventually teaching did come back into my life, not as a full time career but, through an initiative I started with my friends to teach presentation skills to children. I absolutely loved teaching, it was the highlight of my week. As soon as I left the classroom I started thinking of new ideas to make sure the children understood the concepts and enjoyed the class at the same time. I currently work for an online education company, with which I can indirectly contribute to the lifelong learning of thousands of people around the world!

Getting back to the roots

When I moved to London I left our initiative behind. Despite my job in education, I did miss hands-on teaching. My favourite subject at school was maths. I truly enjoyed those extra exercises and brainteasers, so it was quite an obvious idea to give the love of maths to others (‘cringe-factor’ 10 out of 10!). After a quick Google search I stumbled upon Action Tutoring, which is one of the largest education charities offering volunteer tutoring opportunities in the UK. They specialise in helping pupils who are from disadvantaged backgrounds and struggle with English and maths, but could not afford to pay for extra support.

After my induction training I found myself standing sleepily at 8am at the gates of a primary school at King’s Cross, with ten other volunteers. Initially, I thought that the hard bit would be to make up the exercises and cover the whole curriculum. This is not the case though, as Action Tutoring provides a top-notch exercise book, with some really engaging exercises and games. The more challenging bit is motivating your pupils. I mean for one thing I am not a morning person, but imagine the enthusiasm the pupils have at 8am for two subjects they are struggling in. However, the mood always lifted by 9.30am and the pupils leaving with a smile on their faces.

Maths – not an all-time favourite?

Especially not fractions. I broke out in sweats several times, trying to find a way to explain the topic so that it finally clicked. First, you try to describe it as you remember it from when you were 11. You draw a big apple pie and ask them to colour the slices in, “You see, 1/4 is the same size as 2/8. Easy!” Blank looks. Right, so they don’t like apple pies, that must be the issue, let’s try with pizza. Same look, this time with eyes wandering to the window. Oh no, oh no, I am losing him! Do something! Am I explaining it wrong? No this can’t be, I tried the apple pie AND the pizza! Clearly, he is a lost cause, maybe we should just practise converting grams to kilograms. No, come on, one last time.

And then you hear an “Aaaaaaaahhh”, which usually comes with a smile. A word that is so genuine that no one can fake it and it means that you can finally relax and breathe. Your job done for the day. With one of my pupils I had to wait for this moment for several weeks, and in those sessions she was yawning more than the number of exercises we solved. And then one day, she turned to me and said: “You know what? I don’t hate maths anymore, I actually like it now!”

Education in numbers

Just as we have seen with health and wellbeing, social disadvantage plays an important role when it comes to education outcomes as well. Already at a young age it affects school attainment as, on average, disadvantaged children are four months behind at the age of five, nine months behind by age 11, and 18 months behind by 16 years of age in England1. Later on, the scissor does not get narrower, as in 2018 only 20% of 18 year olds from the most disadvantaged areas entered full time Higher Education, which is higher than ten years ago. This figure for the most advantageous areas was 47%2. This is why initiatives like Action Tutoring are key to help these young people to fall behind with their education.

How could you get involved?

Action Tutoring runs its programmes in school terms, and you can join them for any term during the school year. They work in over 80 schools in London and another seven cities around the UK. A full-time job is not an issue as you can tutor just before work, to start your day on a high note!

1 Education in England Annual Report

2 UCAS End of cycle report

Reflections from a tutor: The Action Tutoring experience

17 May 2019

Written by Elaine Garrod

Elaine is a graphic designer working for KPMG and tutors English with Action Tutoring at Chelsea Academy.

It is generally said that moving house is one of the most stressful life events one can have. I dare say general advice would be not to take on other new ventures at the same time, if it can be avoided.

However, one afternoon last spring as I was heading to my work’s restaurant for lunch in a state of angst over my impending house move, I was approached by a man who was trying to recruit KPMG staff members to volunteer for a charity called Action Tutoring. I work for KPMG as a graphic designer and the company allows its staff time during working hours to volunteer with all sorts of charities and activities as part of its ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’.

The man from Action Tutoring explained to me that the charity supports pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve a meaningful level of academic attainment, with a view to helping them progress to further education, employment or training. It does this by getting volunteer tutors to help pupils with maths and English. Despite the pressure I was under at the time, I agreed to become a volunteer tutor. Why, you ask?

I try to live Green Party values, be a useful member of society and do good in the community. In the Green Party, we promote equal opportunities and believe that every child has the right to a good education and the right to have the opportunity to reach their full potential, whatever their circumstances. Children from poorer backgrounds can face challenges such as having to care for younger siblings or sick/disabled parents. They might live in a crowded home and not have anywhere quiet and private to do their homework. They might not get enough to eat. Issues like these can seriously affect the time they have for studying and their ability to focus on their studies, not to mention their confidence and aspirations. I wanted to do something to help them.

To become a tutor you need to have at least ‘A’ Level in the subject you’re going to teach. I can therefore only teach English: as I tell my pupils, if we were in the maths classroom they would be teaching me!

The first steps were to apply for DBS clearance and attend an induction course with other new tutors where I learned some shocking statistics about how poorly pupils from less privileged backgrounds do in their exams compared to their more privileged peers. We were shown the workbooks we would use, although we were told we could use our own material and teaching aids too, so long as we ran them past the coordinator first. We were given a few rules regarding safety for ourselves and the pupils.

Soon after that, I was invited to look through the list of schools where tutors were required and apply for a position. I chose to apply to teach GSCE English to Year 10 and 11 pupils for an hour a week during term time at Chelsea Academy. There are primary school roles available too but they are at 09:00 and I’m not a morning person! The secondary school sessions are in the afternoon.

The benefits to the pupils are fairly obvious: the tutoring, which is one-to-one or in small groups can help them get better grades in their exams which will boost their chances of getting into higher education and a good job. However, there are also benefits for me.

Teaching English writing and reading comprehension makes a change from work for me and inspires me to think more creatively which is useful for my job, as is gaining skills and confidence in teaching as my job sometimes involves buddying apprentices. I find that helping the pupils to understand and analyse different types of text sharpens my own analytical skills and enhances my appreciation of what I read, be it a novel or a newspaper article. I’m always on the lookout for text that I could use for a good comprehension lesson so I read all the more attentively, looking out for interesting structures, forms, and language techniques. I find myself thinking back to books I’ve previously read and revisiting them to mine them for texts to use for a lesson. I’m re-learning a lot as I go along, and reading the different texts with the pupils is broadening the range of things that I read too. Another way in which it is good for me is that while I’m teaching I’m completely absorbed in it and focused on my pupils and their progress: I’m not thinking and worrying about other things (which I’m given to doing).

I was a little nervous before my first lesson as I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect from the venue and the pupils. When I arrived at the school I joined the coordinator and other tutors, who are quite a diverse bunch, in the foyer. Most of us were there early so we had time to chat amongst ourselves before being led up to the classrooms (one for English and one for maths) to meet our pupils. I was supposed to have two pupils but only one of them, a Year 11 girl, ever turned up. This was in May, so I only had her for about three sessions before she started her final exams; then we were introduced to our Year 10 pupils. It can be a little awkward at first until we get to know each other. I start off by asking them questions about what subjects they enjoy in school and what they want to do when they leave school, and I tell them a bit about myself, or get them to play a guessing game as to what I do for a living and so forth. Sometimes we then play a game like ‘Taboo cards’ as a warm-up before the lesson proper.

Although we are provided with workbooks, it’s advisable always to have a ‘back-up’ lesson as sometimes we are given different pupils due to absences. Rather than disrupt what I’m doing with my usual pupil, or what my temporary pupil is doing with their tutor in the workbook I find it’s better to do a ‘stand-alone’ lesson in these cases. I’ve found all my pupils to be polite, respectful and hard-working and I hope to continue tutoring for the foreseeable future.

If you’re interested in giving up some of your time to help disadvantaged pupils visit the Action Tutoring website:

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