The Channel 4 documentary ‘Indian Summer School’ marks a resemblance to our Action Tutoring programme. The food, the climate, the working hours… okay, so not quite. However, the aim at the centre of the documentary is very similar. The Indian summer school offered an opportunity to young people in need of passing their GCSEs. The programme documented a six-month journey of five British boys who had failed to achieve pass grades in their GCSEs and this was their opportunity to try once more after studying at the Doon school, the Eton equivalent in India.
The programme stated that “the worst performing group in British education, are white working-class boys.” We know that parental income very often determines education outcomes. That is why Action Tutoring was birthed and continues to work with pupils who could be most impacted by tuition. This, as the Doon school was about to find out, does not come overnight. Progress can be patchy and many barriers to learning arise. Some of these barriers could be seen through the Doon boys’ experience. There can be distractions. Disengagement. Avoidance. Lack of motivation. Low expectations. These reasons are not restricted to the Doon school’s experience. However, sending such pupils to the Doon School was an idea. So how does it compare to what we do at Action Tutoring?
Some pupils at the Doon school engaged with the studying better than others. This is something Programme Coordinators and tutors witness every week. One boy, Jake, in India explained his choice to engage with his lessons. Plainly he said, “today I’m either going to work hard, or hardly work.” His choice would determine his day, and if the same choice is made day after day, or week after week it would determine his education and prospects. However, each pupil faced challenges during studying. This is life, and as one teacher put it, it is part of our DNA to rise and overcome challenges we face.
The Indian Doon school encouraged some pupils to develop resilience and determination. Another pupil, Jack, remarked that the “kids here even study in the playroom” and he started to see what happened in a new environment. Likewise, Ethan decided to write an article in the Doon School magazine and Jack, who faced embarrassment and fear to read aloud in class due to his dyslexia, ended the three-part programme reading a speech to his whole school. The time spent there offered a space for them to grow in confidence, receive support and praise, direction and discipline.
Our weekly sessions offer the same journey. They enable our pupils to meet with tutors who can share their life experience, education and time. The teachers at the Doon school believed in them, developed a rapport and spurred them on to learn. Week on week, I witness our volunteer tutors do the same, very often for 9 months or longer during the academic year. In the Doon school, it was clear there were high expectations for their pupils with a 100% pass rate. The teachers had this expectation of our British boys also. “Are they beyond hope? Not at all. But they do need to find themselves”. We too must have this expectation.
One of the key jobs a tutor has is to find the other key ingredient to help a pupil succeed; ‘What motivates the pupil to want to achieve that grade?’. It could be employment, further study or other types of training. In the Doon school, Jack wanted a C in English to become a chef. Harry wanted to join the army. The individual catalyst to motivate a pupil to study begins in the pursuit of a dream.
Now we are in the exam period and have spent a year working closely with pupils weekly in Maths and/or English GCSE and of course the SATs. The pupils and tutors have grown together, and it is now time for the tutors to hand the baton fully over to their pupils to sit their exams and implement the skills and knowledge gained throughout the year with the support of Action Tutoring.
We don’t have the budget to send all pupils to India. Even Channel 4 only managed 5 pupils. We don’t need to, as Action Tutoring offer 1700 pupils tuition each year, at an ever-increasing rate. This looks like an amazing and sustainable opportunity to me. Whatever happens, we must always have high expectations, discover the ingredients for motivation and always be there for them. Should we send pupils to study at the Eton of India? Or better still…run an Action Tutoring programme!