Volunteer Stories

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

7 February 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time management and planning is essential

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

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

Brain breaks are your best friend!

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

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

The importance of non-verbal communicators

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog by Elsie Holmes

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

How Action Tutoring helps volunteers with their careers

17 January 2022

Volunteering with Action Tutoring is an excellent way to contribute in narrowing the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. But that’s not all! Joining our community of inspiring and passionate tutors is incredibly beneficial for our volunteers’ professional development, too.

By sharing your time, you are not only making a meaningful impact on disadvantaged pupils’ lives, but you are also gaining valuable experience and exploring more career opportunities.

How exactly does Action Tutoring help volunteers with their careers?

It is a great place to expand your networking 

Being a part of a volunteering community is an excellent opportunity for professional networking. You will encounter like-minded individuals who support your professional interests and who may be able to assist or guide you in your career. 

They could even end up being your future colleagues, or life- long friends; after all, you selected the same cause to volunteer for! Volunteering can also make social interactions much easier for those who may feel uneasy in social situations.

Charlie White, our amazing Communications and Policy Manager, was a volunteer tutor with Action Tutoring before she decided to join the team. Because of this, she understood what the charity was about, and was increasingly interested in its work.

Charlie subscribed to receive newsletters and job alerts. Upon seeing the communications role she knew she would apply, since she loves writing, design and problem-solving, and knows that great communication is a powerful change-maker.

Volunteering is a low-risk way to explore professional options and discover a new career path. Beyond its community-enriching benefits, it’s an excellent to gain hands-on experience in a field you are interested in, without the long-term commitment.

That’s what Phyllida Jacobs, our incredible Communications Administrator, did when she started to think about teaching as a career option. Volunteering with Action Tutoring, and seeing her pupils’ increased excitement around English, reaffirmed her enthusiasm for getting young people reading and writing.

It increases self-awareness and builds new skills

Charlie mentions how Action Tutoring’s commitment to its organisational values means that everyone is encouraged to stop and reflect.

Specifically, when asked how Action Tutoring helps volunteers become more self-aware, Charlie said that she’s had opportunities to expand her skillset and stretch herself.

Working with welcoming and open-minded people means you feel safe to make suggestions and take a punt on ideas. Our commitment to our organisational values means we’re all encouraged to stop and reflect. This has helped me learn more about what I enjoy and what I’m really good at.


When Phyllida started tutoring, she was struck by how organised and friendly everyone was. She was initially quite nervous, having never worked with young people before, but felt reassured by having a Programme Coordinator and a structured workbook to support her.

Action Tutoring provides a friendly and supportive environment, enabling genuine, engaging conversations with people who share similar interests. This is what our lovely volunteer Emma has to say about her experience:

Our fantastic Programme Coordinator in London, Maisie Alderson, started volunteering one hour of her time per week whilst working.

The initial tutor training provided her with an understanding of the organisation, its mission and how it runs. This sparked Maisie’s interest in working in the charity sector.

An opportunity to work on your resume and interview skills

Lastly, the process of looking for a volunteer position and sending an application is very similar to applying for a paid position.

Our volunteers complete an application form to demonstrate their qualifications and previous experience, and apply for an enhanced background check. In going through this process, Charlie could tell that Action Tutoring took quality and commitment seriously, and remembers wondering if she’d get the role.

Volunteering was incredibly rewarding for Phyllida, since the experience helped to secure her first job after university; at the children’s book publisher Tiny Owl. Volunteering is a great way to gain experience and confidence to support students through the tricky transition from university to the working world.

Action Tutoring totally changed Maisie’s mindset, and her career path. As a Programme Coordinator, she feels she is now doing meaningful work that will lead to positive change, and make a real difference in closing the attainment gap.

Identifying our skills, achievements, hobbies, and principles is the foundation of a successful career, as it leads to self-awareness. Tutoring requires volunteers to be patient, empathetic and caring. Do you want to build on these qualities? Volunteering can be a great way to develop and put your skills to the test.

Read more: One of Action Tutoring’s first ever volunteer tutors tells us how this experience helped prompt a career change to becoming a teacher.

“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!

Click to share patrick’s story

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.


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.

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 hannahoneill@actiontutoring.org.uk.

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!

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! https://actiontutoring.org.uk/get-involved/volunteer-as-a-tutor/

Tutor Spotlight

13 March 2020

Kevin started tutoring with Action Tutoring at a primary school in Dalston in
January 2018. He then joined Pakeman Primary School in Finsbury Park in May
2018, where he has tutored ever since. He has been an extremely reliable,
enthusiastic and warm tutor, only missing three out of sixty sessions! We
could not ask for more.
What has also been lovely to see is that Kevin has also made a good friend at
his first school in Dalston, who also joined him at Pakeman Primary School.
They have become the feared duo at our North London pub quiz socials, often
winning or being a close second.
We asked Kevin some questions about his time at Action Tutoring…
Three ways volunteering as a tutor surprised me:
“As a current maths tutor for Action Tutoring, it’s been really surprising to see how
what is expected of younger children has increased compared to when I
was at school in the 1980s. The lack of calculators is also a surprise to
me, as I was practically attached to one through most of my schooling.
The ‘quality time’ you spend with the kids really seems to make a
difference to their knowledge. Though for me, without any teaching
background, it’s also been an eye-opener seeing how important it is for
tutors to take on learning tips and tricks.
Lastly, it’s been a welcome surprise to find a new friend in my local area
through tutoring. Having someone else to talk to about tutoring and
what goes on week-to-week has been really beneficial.”
I knew I’d made a difference to my pupils when…
“Well, it’s been a relief that the test scores my children have received
after my tuition have generally been higher than when they began! But
the clearest examples have been when I’ve made targeted attempts to
improve their knowledge in a certain area, and then my own testing a
week or two later has seen some of the teaching and methodology I’ve
given repeated back to me. In other words, examples where things
seem to have ‘sunk in’ where weeks earlier it was very hard going. It’s
worth adding that I myself had previously learned tricks and tips from
Action Tutoring. Understanding something yourself is different to
explaining it to someone else.”
Three reasons why I keep coming back to volunteer as a tutor each year
“As someone who went to school in North London, and has seen how
hard it is for many children to progress (for a wide variety of reasons),
it’s been tremendously rewarding to give something back. Visiting
schools not far from where I lived has brought back lots of memories,
and working with the kids helps me feel young.
I used to really enjoy mentoring people I worked with, but now as a
freelancer, tutoring has plugged that ‘yearn to help learn’ gap.
You definitely feel appreciated by Action Tutoring and the children. You
feel you’re making a difference.”
A huge thank you to Kevin and his continued dedication to Action Tutoring
and helping tackling educational disadvantage. Here is what his Programme
Executive, Emma, at Pakeman Primary School had to say about him:
“What I love about having tutors like Kevin at a school for so long is that
it becomes routine. He always comes in in the morning, coffee in hand,
and says “alright mate” and it makes me smile every time. I would
genuinely miss his presence if he discontinued tutoring. Not only that,
but he always comes to me with his concerns and questions after a
tutoring session. You can tell he cares and gives his sessions a lot of
thought. He really wants to do the best by his pupils and that is all you
want as a coordinator. His pupils really enjoy working with him; they’re
always smiling but working hard. Aside from tutoring, I love that he is a
stalwart at our North London socials. He brings the same enthusiasm
(albeit with a large competitive spirit) to the socials that he does to his
tutoring sessions. Kevin’s great!”

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.  

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.

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