Early on a bright December morning, the pupils of year 11 Conisborough College had the chance to meet their local MP. We were delighted to welcome Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East, when she came to visit one of our programmes in action. Since 2014 we have taken in a team of dedicated tutors to work with pupils of Conisborough College on their English and maths in the run up to their GCSEs, and we were keen to show off the fantastic work that’s been achieved.
Speaking with the pupils and tutors about their experience of the programme so far, Heidi heard how helpful the pupils have been finding the sessions, and how they have applied the skills they’ve built into their lessons in school. It was also a chance to reflect on the busy lives of all our volunteers, and to remember how appreciative we are of their commitment to our mission. Our tutors spend their weeks doing all manner of important things – we have a full time mum, an accountant, a deputy newspaper editor and a clinical scientist to name a few – and we’re continually inspired by how they manage to take time out of their lives to help the younger generation to succeed.
But when most of us are doing little more strenuous than lifting a cup of tea to our lips in front of Saturday Kitchen, they’re up and about teaching a group of 15 year olds how to calculate the circumference of a circle. Over in the English corner one of our pupils was very on topic, practising her ‘writing to argue skills’ in the form of a letter to her local MP, on her views of the NHS.
It was great to hear how impressed Heidi was with what we’re doing. She said, “It was a real pleasure to spend some time with Action Tutoring at Conisborough College. The one to one support they provide to pupils outside of school hours clearly makes an enormous difference to the confidence of the students and I am sure that will be reflected in the grades they get too. All too often this sort of tutoring is limited to those who can pay for it, so it’s brilliant to see willing volunteers matched up with students who want to learn but just need a helping hand.”
As Heidi mentioned, access to this sort of support is generally reserved for those who can afford a private tutor. The presence of such a lucrative business only widens the gap between the most disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers and we know that closing this gap requires a collaborative effort from those in education and in government.
We work in almost 40 different constituencies across the country – if we could show each parliamentary representative how we contribute to the education landscape in their area, we would be well on the way to ensuring the benefits of private tutoring are accessible to the many, not the few. Watch this space!