This Wednesday, just over five years since Action Tutoring first registered as a charity and six years since the very first programme was run, I’ll be saying goodbye for a while and heading off to my next challenge – maternity leave and motherhood! I’ll be back next spring but for a few months at least, my life will be looking just a little bit different.
In the five years since Action Tutoring registered as a charity, the education landscape has seen considerable changes, not least through the policies and ideas of three different Secretaries of State for Education. The curriculum has been overhauled, a new grading system has been introduced for GCSEs, SATs exams for Year 6 have seen reform, school budgets have been cut, debates about the fair funding formula continue to go on and grammar schools are back on the agenda.
It’s been a challenging landscape for schools and teachers and here at Action Tutoring I’ve witnessed the struggles they have had to cope with, but also their continued passion and dedication to ensuring that young people, whatever their background, are given the best start in life. I’ve seen that passion also reflected in our staff team, board of trustees and hundreds of volunteers too, strongly believing that a child’s future shouldn’t be limited by their circumstances.
Through the turbulence in the education space, I think there has never been a greater need for organisations like Action Tutoring, offering schools valuable extra support that’s affordable, well structured, produces results and reaches those from disadvantaged backgrounds who need the help most. Certainly as the curriculum has become more challenging and the grading system tougher, extra support in the crucial subjects of English and maths has never been more needed for many pupils.
Five years on from our humble beginnings we now work with 50 secondary schools across the country, supporting 1,400 GCSE pupils a year, have launched a primary programme supporting Year 6 pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and have made strong strides in validating our impact through external evaluation.
Thanks to significant support from a number of key funders, particularly Impetus-PEF, we’ve been able to invest in system changes to the way we deliver programmes, to offer schools, pupils and volunteers a better service. Encouragingly, all of our key performance indicators show that this new model is working and is producing results.
- Rapidly expand the provision at primary to work with 33 primary schools across the country, ensuring more children from disadvantaged backgrounds start secondary school on a strong trajectory in English and maths.
- Continue to grow the numbers of secondary schools we work with, especially outside of London where we know the attainment gap is greater and fewer organisations like ours exist.
- Launch in Newcastle, for the first time, where four secondary schools are already signed up to work with us.
Alongside this, we’re also excited to have appointed a Curriculum and Training Manager to help maintain the quality of our resources and deliver excellent training and support to our volunteer tutors, ensuring our programmes across the country are of a consistently high standard. We’re grateful to Nesta and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport for funding to support this role and our expansion in Newcastle.
As we approach the June general election, education remains as fundamental as ever, ultimately preparing the next generation of young people to take their place effectively, and hopefully productively, in the world. What that looks like and how it is best achieved is of course where the debates still rage.
I am confident that there’s a strong place for Action Tutoring to contribute to this over the coming years: championing the need to make support available to disadvantaged young people and harnessing the goodwill, skills and abilities of fantastic volunteers to provide that extra help to schools that can make all the difference to pupils’ achievements and ability to go on to further education, employment or training.
For Action Tutoring, 2017-18 should be an exciting one of further growth and development, building on our existing programmes and extending into new areas. I look forward to being back next spring to join in with this once again.