During the six months that I’ve worked for Action Tutoring I’ve had the wonderful privilege of spending most of my time in some of the 80 schools we work with and I’ve been continuously amazed at the level of coordination, resilience and determination that is required to run a school effectively. In every school I’ve visited, I’ve observed unique approaches to education, all of which are entirely geared towards providing pupils the best start in life.
Action Tutoring exists to tackle educational disadvantage and this is something we can only achieve by working hand in hand with the schools that we partner with. Our partnerships exist to facilitate those relationships between our dedicated team of volunteers and the pupils that they work with, and it’s this crucial relationship that allows us to make the positive impact that we have in the very short time that we’ve existed.
Whether you’re a pupil, volunteer, staff member or school teacher, your experience with Action Tutoring will always be unique but we are all united in our aim: to ensure that the quality of our pupils’ education is not determined by their background.
This week, I visited Ashmole Primary School in South London and spoke to two of our pupils, one of our longest standing volunteers and the headteacher at the school, to ask them about their perspectives on Action Tutoring’s programme.
Adam Hickman is the Headteacher at Ashmole Primary School, one of the first primary schools to partner with us back in 2016.
Thank you for talking to us Adam. How did you first hear about Action Tutoring and what made you decide to partner with us to deliver maths and English tutoring programmes for your pupils?
Susannah Hardyman delivered a presentation to the Oval Learning Cluster – a group of local schools – at one of our termly headteacher meetings. Action Tutoring had been working in one of the secondary schools in the cluster and were ready to trial a primary programme which we were interested in. In 2014, Ashmole had been judged to be a ‘requires improvement’ school by Ofsted in part because of below national average results at the end of Key Stage 2, with PPG (Pupil Premium Grant) pupils in particular underperforming.
Ashmole staff had put in place a range of interventions and extra support for pupils and we saw the Action Tutoring programme as a way to complement what was already on offer. We were aware of the growing number of families who could afford extra tuition for their children and we wanted to ensure that as many of our pupils as possible – whatever their background – had the same opportunities to succeed academically.
What impact have you seen in the pupils that we have worked with?
In addition to the more obvious outcomes in reading, writing and maths which improved we have found that the opportunity to work 1:1 with another adult is of huge benefit to our pupils. For some, having another adult who is interested in them and the progress that they are making over the course of the year can really support their personal growth and their confidence as a learner. Developing the skills to work with new people who are not school staff but are within the safe and familiar confines of the school environment provides a real boost to their self-esteem before they head off to secondary school at the end of Year 6. In 2016 and in 2018 the progress scores for Ashmole’s Year 6 pupils were in the top 3% nationally and in 2016 the school was judged to be Outstanding in all areas by Ofsted.
Finally, in the six months that I’ve been working with Ashmole Primary School, the volunteer tutors and I have been amazed by the level of engagement the pupils demonstrate and the level of organisation at the school – can you tell us more about your approach to education at Ashmole?
At Ashmole, we believe that helping pupils to secure their understanding of the core curriculum – reading, writing and mathematics – provides them with the very best opportunities for future success. We balance that with a wide and varied extra-curricular offer including a fully-funded universal offer for all pupils to learn to play the violin or cello during their first three years in the school. We’ve also worked to develop partnerships with other world class organisations, such as the Southbank Centre, where pupils engage in a range of arts opportunities and The Surrey Oval, where pupils have weekly cricket coaching.
We have very high expectations of behaviour and support pupils to develop good behaviour for learning. This means that pupils identified for Action Tutoring are ready to make the most of this brilliant opportunity. We also ensure that members of the Ashmole staff team are always on hand to deal with any issues that might arise during the tutoring sessions and the admin team follow up on any pupil absences. Speaking with parents about the programme at an early stage in Year 6 helps to get them on board provides another opportunity to develop positive relationships between home and school.
Thank you Adam.
Moosa and Jennifer have participated in our English and maths primary programmes at Ashmole since October 2018. They are currently working towards their SATs examinations in May.
Hi guys, thank you for talking to us today. First, can you tell us about what you like to do in your free time and what you like about being in school?
Jennifer: I like to talk to my friends and I also like learning new things every day. My favourite subject is maths.
Moosa: I like to read and I like all the different subjects including maths.
You’ve been working with Action Tutoring for five months now. What are your tutoring sessions like? What’s the best thing about having sessions with Action Tutoring?
Jennifer: My tutoring sessions are very comfortable and my tutors are very nice. The best thing about having sessions with Action Tutoring is that I have 1½ hours to get my brain started.
Moosa: My tutoring sessions are fun and the best thing about having sessions is that you learn lots of new things.
Do you have any recommendations for pupils or tutors that will be working with us in the future?
Moosa: Never be late – if you’re late you will miss out on the fun activities.
Finally, what do you hope to do when you’re older and have your sessions with Action Tutoring helped you with this?
Jennifer: I want to be an actress. Action Tutoring helped me learn how to read better, so I can read a script!
Finally, I spoke to John Spencer who has volunteered with Action Tutoring since 2015, supporting us to deliver an incredible 32 programmes and 177 sessions of tutoring in that time.
Hi John. Why did you first choose to volunteer with us and what has encouraged you to loyally support our cause for so long?
It has always seemed unfair to me that school children whose parents can afford it can have private tutoring to improve their performance against others whose parents can’t. Action Tutoring is a way, on a small scale, to right that unfairness. I’m not surprised that Action Tutoring has grown so fast, as it seems to be meeting a widely-felt need. It does require a regular commitment from volunteers because it takes time to see what assistance each child needs and regular tutoring is more effective than one-off sessions. I have thoroughly enjoyed volunteering with Action Tutoring. The staff at Ashmole are welcoming and the children are serious and ready to learn.
In your experience, how has the Action Tutoring programme changed since you joined in 2015?
We seem to be getting a steady stream of keen undergraduate and postgraduate students from London colleges signing up to become volunteers. These recruits are well able to engage with the school students. The tutoring materials are being improved to put the sessions on a more effective footing. There is a varied and interesting programme of tutorials covering the primary syllabus, so as to supplement what pupils learn in the regular school classes.
What is the best advice would you give to those who are considering volunteering with us?
Go for it. You won’t regret it.