It’s the day that we’ve all been waiting for here at Action Tutoring: GCSE Results Day. The day when we finally see the results of the efforts of our 1370 pupils and 650 volunteer tutors from this last year, not to mention the hard work of their schools and dedicated teachers. Whilst it will take a little while to gather all the results, the team have been having an inspiring time this morning getting out to partner schools and speaking to pupils about their results.
Over at Saint Gabriel’s College in South London, where we ran a maths programme, 95% of the 21 Action Tutoring pupils achieved a C grade and an incredible 76% surpassed themselves to achieve a B, having all been on mid D grades at Christmas time. Head of maths Mia Chorfi said: “I am ecstatically proud and in awe of the hard work and commitment the girls have shown. They thoroughly deserve these grades.” On average, pupils attended 19 tutoring sessions, with several pupils managing over 25.
Tatiana was one such success story, reaching a B grade. Her proud Mum was there to share the moment, “I’m so proud and relieved!” she said. Tatiana arrived in the UK 3 years ago speaking very little English, but has managed to achieve over 5 A*-Cs including English and maths. She’s off to a college in Lambeth next to study for BTECs. Another B grade pupil, Amira, said, “I was determined to push and surprise myself to achieve and that’s why I kept coming to my tutoring sessions.” She’s now off to study A Levels in maths, Italian and French. Over at another South London school, Esmerelda was thrilled to get her C and is also now off to college, “Maths tutoring helped SO much!’” she told Elly, her Programme Coordinator. As more results come in, we’ll be evaluating them all and sharing our findings.
Whilst we always love hearing these stories, GCSE results day is also an acute reminder that the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers remains frustratingly high for the UK as a nation. We don’t know the figures yet for this year, but last year, across the country just 33% of pupils eligible for Free School Meals achieved 5 A*-C grades, versus 61% of all other pupils. Furthermore, in the UK the correspondence of parents’ wealth with a child’s educational attainment is among the strongest in the developed world.
I don’t believe it’s a lack of ambition or motivation that’s the problem, as we saw this morning. Week after week we see pupils turning up to their tutoring sessions at the end of a long school day, determined to give themselves the best shot of achieving the all important grades.
In the Spring term, we carried out a survey of over 400 pupils on our programme across 34 schools in our 6 cities, asking them about their future goals as they prepare to sit their GCSEs. What was striking was their ambition: 56% wanted to progress to A Levels. Only 1% wanted to go straight into work, with most wanting to get further qualifications under their belts first. Furthermore, 72% said they definitely wanted to go on to university or were strongly thinking about it. Overwhelmingly, they have the self-belief that they can achieve their goals: 90% stated that they believed that if they worked hard and put in effort, they could achieve the things they wanted to.
Strikingly, despite the fact that all of these pupils come from schools with a much higher than average percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals, 60% said they knew someone their age who had paid for private tutoring outside of school. The EEF research on the impact of tutoring suggests that tutoring can add up to 5 months of additional progress and our own evaluation last year showed that with 7-8 tutoring sessions, pupils made up to half a grade more progress than their non-tutored peers. It transpired through our survey that our pupils are not naïve about the impact tutoring can have either. 88% agreed or strongly agreed that tutoring would give them an advantage in their exams and 93% agreed or strongly agreed that tutoring gives you a chance to improve your grade.
With the Sutton Trust reporting that 44% of pupils in London and nearly 1 in 4 pupils nationwide now have private tutoring, the potential for this to contribute to the attainment gap is ever greater and the imperative to make the benefits of tutoring available where it’s needed regardless of background is ever stronger. We’re proud to be playing our part in this, alongside fantastic charities like Team Up and The Access Project, and with the backing of some amazing funders such as Impetus-PEF. But, we couldn’t do it without the support of our hundreds of volunteers, faithfully giving up their time to play their part in tackling inequality, and without the dedication of our brilliant partner schools and link teachers. Teachers do an incredible job, but inevitably if you are teaching a class of 30 you cannot give them the same attention as you can in a 1-2 session. Working with schools, we want to equip pupils with the knowledge, skills and confidence to achieve those crucial grades at GCSE that will enable them to progress to further education, employment or training; narrowing the attainment gap and ensuring a bright future for all regardless of background.
Educational inequality in the UK isn’t going to disappear over night. We know we can’t close the gap on our own – but we can certainly play our part and it’s one reason we’re proud to have recently joined the Fair Education Alliance, so that we can work more closely with others to make educational inequality history. However, as September brings a new academic year and a fresh start, we can certainly make a contribution and every teacher and volunteer across the country can be a part of that story too. We’ll be working with 1600 pupils in 50 schools next year and we need more volunteers than ever to ensure we can support them all. Please consider signing up as a volunteer, or suggesting our opportunities to others, to play your part in tackling educational inequality in 2016/17. Ambition is not the problem and with the right support and opportunities available to them, young people, regardless of background, can achieve.