Insights

“You might wake up tomorrow a teacher!”- We speak to one of Action Tutoring’s very first tutors, 10 years on

31 March 2021

To celebrate 10 years of tutoring sessions, we spoke to one of Action Tutoring’s first ever volunteer tutors, Patrick Bidder, who tells us about his time tutoring on a programme and how the experience helped prompt a career change to becoming a teacher.

Patrick Bidder- one of Action Tutoring’s first tutors

Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do currently.

For the last three years, I have acted as Subject Leader for English at Tonbridge Grammar School in Kent. It is a terrific school, where very high achieving pupils are nurtured and encouraged to be curious and independent in their learning. I have loved the experience. I moved with my young family to Tonbridge from London for the job and to make the most of the beautiful countryside in the Weald. Teaching the International Baccalaureate English course has introduced me to new international literature and I’ve enjoyed exploring an amazing variety of texts with the pupils.

Why did you first get involved with Action Tutoring?  What were you doing at the time?  How did you hear about it?

Before my teaching career, I worked as Wealth Planning Solicitor in central London and it was during this period that I first got involved with Action Tutoring. Susannah (CEO and founder of Action Tutoring) is an old and close friend of mine, who knew I had always had a bit of a yearning to teach. When she suggested I take part, to get some experience of what teaching is like, I jumped at the opportunity and since then I haven’t looked back. Thanks Susannah!

How did you find the tutoring? What subject were you tutoring?  Where were you located?

For a few weekends, I tutored English GCSE pupils at Harris Academy Peckham. It was a very good experience, because it gave me a very realistic view of how difficult teaching is. I perhaps had a slightly naïve view of teaching, standing in front of a class, waltzing around with an open copy of Pride and Prejudice in my hand. The tutoring experience made me realise for the first time that this career is more about learning than teaching. It is not a performance – more about the nitty gritty of figuring out how children learn and progress. But don’t get me wrong, I still get to delight in literature every week!

What impact did you see the tutoring have on the pupils you were supporting?  How long did you support for?

It feels like a long time ago now! I am ashamed to say that I think I only spent a couple of terms supporting on a weekly basis. But in my defence, I think I may have been so inspired by the experience that I immediately applied for the Teach First Leadership Development programme. It then became a full time job! Teachers will often say that the highlight is the ‘light-bulb moment’ when pupils understand something for the first time. I actually quite like the bit before that. When you’re working with a pupil who is quietly and determinedly working towards that moment. Pupils are not always like that. Teaching is not always like that. But when it is, it’s a privilege to witness.

What was the best thing about volunteering with Action Tutoring?

The best thing was working with the pupils. Trying to find different ways to explain something and working towards a new understanding together. There was also a really clear goal to it – although English, and certainly life is not all about exams, when you were in the room with the pupils, there was a really positive atmosphere. They were driven and there to work hard to get the result they wanted!

What impact did the volunteering have on you? What did you learn?  What have you done since then?

It confirmed my decision to change career and become a teacher! I spent two years on Teach First at an excellent school in Peckham called St Thomas the Apostle College. I was a Head of Year 7 and 8 and enjoyed all the challenges and highlights of being a pastoral leader, before moving down to Kent where I’ve loved leading more on Curriculum and Teaching and Learning within the English department.

Have you followed the work of Action Tutoring since?  What do you think has helped the charity reach this milestone?  What has contributed to its success?

Yes, I know that the organisation has gone from strength to strength, expanding to new areas and reaching many more pupils. I also know that it played a big role in the setting up of catch up provision following the lockdown – so important for pupils across the country. I think the clarity of your charity’s vision has been vital and the focus of ensuring that the tutoring is rigorously planned and resourced. Maintaining the quality of the pupils’ experience means that I am sure you will go from strength to strength.

What would you say to anyone considering volunteering now?

Do it! It’s a very rewarding experience, and you never know…..you might wake up tomorrow a teacher!

What do you think the importance is of volunteering at this time?

No matter how hard teachers or pupils have worked, no matter how much we have used technology intelligently to connect from home to home, we cannot recreate the experience of being in a classroom. Inevitably, it is now crucial to support pupils with any learning they need clarified so that they can access the results and futures they deserve!

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Donate your 10

To celebrate 10 years of critical tutoring for thousands of young people, we are asking whether you can donate either £10 or 10 hours of your time (or both!) to support the thousands of young people we work with each year.

       

The impact of tutoring: Year 7 pupil Medina tells us about her experience on an Action Tutoring programme

24 December 2020

Medina – Year 7 pupil at Lilian Baylis Technology School, Vauxhall, South London

It’s been a strange year for Medina. With the national lockdown coming into force back in March, schools were made to close which meant she missed out on her final few months at primary school, including her SATs exams. That’s a lot to miss, especially for the pupils we work with at Action Tutoring who don’t all have the same access to online and at-home learning as some of their peers.

Now, Medina has just completed her first term of secondary school, as one of the new Year 7s at Lilian Baylis Technology School in Vauxhall, South London. The year groups are in isolated bubbles, which means she hasn’t met any of the older children yet and the full secondary school experience is still to come – plus, there’s a lot of catching up to do.

Along with 19 of her classmates, Medina has been receiving personalised tutoring from one of our volunteers this term. Here, she tells us what it’s been like to get an extra hour’s support in maths from Abigail each week in this time of confusion and transition…

How did it feel coming to secondary school after missing the last six months of Year 6?

I was a little bit nervous because I thought I would forget everything. But I have a good long-term memory and I remembered a lot of the basics from my classes. I forgot a few things, though, and have had to be reminded in my classes now.

We’ve been giving you tutoring in maths. How did you feel about the subject when you got to Lilian Baylis?

My teachers have been good, but now we are learning more things that are harder and some of them do not make sense to me. But I’ve started learning and things are getting easier. Classes have refreshed my memory and I think I am getting better now. I was not as confident but now I feel more certain about my answers.

What’s your favourite subject?

Art is my favourite. It’s a way to express your feelings without talking. You can just put it on the page and tell people how you feel with colours and shapes.

What is your maths tutor Abigail like?

Abigail motivates me and even when I get answers wrong she helps me to get a good understanding about why I got it wrong. She understands where I go wrong and helps me so next time I get it right, and now I see questions that I know I can get right because she has shown me how.

Do you know what Abigail does when she isn’t tutoring?

She said she was a student at university but I can’t remember what she does. I think it’s medicine!

Why do you like her as a tutor?

She is very calm and doesn’t get upset when I get an answer wrong. She keeps working with me until I get it right.

What was she like when you first met her?

She was very nice and she asked me and my classmate what we were struggling with. She then made sure to bring those things up during the lesson. She’s very motivating!

Was there anything in particular you were struggling with that Abigail has helped you understand?

It was really good doing decimals with her. I didn’t know how to say which one is the biggest and the smallest off the top of my head but she’s helped me build my confidence doing that.

How do you feel when your tutoring session ends?

I feel very relaxed because I’ve done all this hard work that I know will pay off at school in my classes and assessments.

Do you know what you want to be or do when you’re older?

I don’t really know, but I really like skateboarding and writing. I’m going to have a workshop soon with a journalist from the Guardian. So I might want to be a journalist, but I’d also maybe like to be a chef. Cooking is like art – you can express yourself through the flavours!


This year, Action Tutoring is expanding to work with more pupils than ever whose education has been affected by the pandemic, including many more Year 7 pupils like Medina. We are proud and inspired by what our volunteers have done this autumn, whether socially distancing in schools or mastering virtual tutoring for the first time. We know so much will now be possible in 2021 but need more tutors to join us if we are to make the necessary impact on our pupils’ lives.

To make a difference to lives of young people like Medina, apply as a volunteer now and start tutoring in January, or become a partner school to see the impact that tutoring can have on pupils.

Partner as a school         Become a volunteer

 

 

Steering the Action Tutoring ship into 2021

18 December 2020

Action Tutoring Interim CEO, Jen Fox, reflects on her time at the charity so far, and looks towards leading the organisation to more exciting growth in the new year.

Growing up in the seaside town of Bray in the Republic of Ireland, you’d be forgiven for assuming I had at least some experience on the water. While I’m not one to shy away from a New Year’s Day swim, my time on board ships has been limited. And yet, I find myself drawn to the analogy: steering the Action Tutoring ship into 2021.

I joined AT back in September 2015, fresh out of teaching science in a secondary school in South London. Initially appointed as London and Curriculum Manager, I soon found myself learning about what it takes to run a successful education charity.

I was fortunate to cover Susannah Hardyman’s first maternity leave in 2017-18. During this year, Action Tutoring grew significantly, mostly due to an expansion of our programmes into primary schools. Perhaps it was this experience that influenced Susannah and the Trustees to welcome me back as Interim CEO for a second time around? I’m delighted, excited and proud to be part of the AT team in a year where our ambition is to double in size.

The destination has been set, the Captain grounded (with a new born!) and the crew more passionate than ever to make a difference. My job is to make sure that the AT ship stays on course.

Setting the destination has taken months of strategic and financial planning, but the confirmation of Action Tutoring as an approved Tuition Partner of the National Tutoring Programme removed any doubt that AT could spread the power of volunteer tutoring to more deserving young people this year.

I didn’t have a tutor growing up, but I was lucky to have several teachers and family members who gave me the time and support structures that I needed in order to learn. I was the first person in my family to attend university, an experience that changed how I viewed the world. My mum (who graduated from the Open University two decades after having her family and while she was working full time) instilled a belief in me that education is transformative. I’m known for often concluding any debate about social, emotional or political problems by stating how they can be solved through education. I truly believe that is the case.

In a year overshadowed by a pandemic alongside continued school disruption, I’m certainly not expecting smooth sailing. However, I feel confident that any storms or course diversions ahead, whether they be treasure chests or mirages, will be weathered with ease.

I can say this because I know the crew we have. From the 64 employees to the 2000+ volunteer tutors and hundreds of supportive Link Teachers, I am confident that they will face whatever lies ahead with integrity and commitment. This will enable us to give as many disadvantaged young people as possible a better chance to succeed in the next stage of their lives.

If you would like to join us as a volunteer, apply now to start tutoring on a January programme.

 Become a volunteer

PC Spotlight: A day in the life of a Programme Coordinator

20 November 2020

With autumn term programmes well under way, Programme Coordinator for London, Rhys Handley, takes us through a usual day at work for the Action Tutoring staff keeping programmes on track.

Tutoring

I seem to have joined the Action Tutoring team at the most exciting time possible. The charity is currently undergoing unprecedented and rapid growth, thanks to funds from the newly-introduced National Tutoring Programme, meaning we can provide vital extracurricular tutoring to more disadvantaged pupils in more schools in more parts of the country than ever before. That’s where someone like me comes in – a Programme Coordinator; or Action Tutoring’s boots on the ground, so to speak.

Having volunteered as one of more than 1,000 tutors for the charity in the days before national lockdown, I was hired as a PC in August ahead of the new term. I had already met a few of my now-colleagues in my capacity as a volunteer, so I entered the role with the vaguest notion of what it requires – but I realise now that I had barely scratched the surface and was actually only witnessing the (very rewarding) end-result of juggling innumerable plates, assembling many moving parts, or however you’d like to put it.

So, what have I discovered in the months since – easily the busiest Action Tutoring has ever experienced – and what does that look like for me, and the ever-growing team of PCs working with our partner schools and volunteers across England, in the day-to-day?

Now that my programmes are all up-and-running (a full-time London-based PC like me can expect to have seven schools on their plate each term), a typical day starts pretty early. I’ll jump out of bed well before 7am, scoff a banana and throw back a coffee before hopping on my bike to a school for my first programme of the day. Morning programmes usually start around the 8-8.30am mark and PCs need to be there early.

Every school is unique and so each programme comes with its own ‘personality’, each packed with lively, attentive pupils supported by committed, resilient teachers and school staff.

 

For our in-school programmes, many of which are still running this term while following each school’s Covid-19 guidance, this is to make sure all our tutors arrive on time and can be matched up with their pupils promptly before the session starts. For our brand-new online programmes, it’s to make sure all the tech is up-and-running in good time so the pupils are able to interact with their tutors via our newly-minted online tutoring platform. In these sessions, the tutors are coming to the pupils from their homes and workplaces, so there’s a lot of fiddly factors for a PC to balance to make sure things go smoothly – it’s a new system with lots of kinks and quirks to get used to, as surely we’re all finding in this increasingly-online mid-pandemic world of ours.

Once a session is concluded, I’ll be back on my bike to my flat (Action Tutoring staff are working from home for the most part, like so many others) where I’ll settle in at the dining table with a piping hot cafetière of java to crack on with any number of intricate, but essential, administrative tasks. This usually includes answering emails and fielding calls from schools and tutors, helping out with volunteer training seminars on Zoom, plugging in and processing pupil attendance and attainment data to keep up on our rigorous record-keeping, checking tutor documents to clear DBS checks, and if there’s time, taking 15 minutes to catch up with some of my wonderful colleagues on a Google Hangout to check in and make sure everyone is doing ok.

You get to see these children’s ability, confidence, self-esteem and joy for learning grow in real time and, ultimately, that is the real privilege that comes with doing the job of a PC.

 

Two or three hours of this will fly by and then, after lunch, it’s back on my bike to an afternoon programme. Every school is unique and so each programme comes with its own ‘personality’, each packed with lively, attentive pupils supported by committed, resilient teachers and school staff.

All of those tricky admin tasks, which do tend to build up, are undoubtedly worth it because they all so clearly feed directly into that moment when a tutor is working with a pupil and you see them click on to something they’d been struggling to understand in class. You get to see these children’s ability, confidence, self-esteem and joy for learning grow in real time and, ultimately, that is the real privilege that comes with doing the job of a PC.

Same again tomorrow? Absolutely.

If you are interested in having a PC like Rhys coordinating tutoring sessions at your school, please enquire about partnering with us below.

Partner as a school