News & Insights 20 October 2022

Our future strategy: Narrowing the attainment gap and transforming the life outcomes of more disadvantaged young people

It’s the beginning of a new academic year. For us at Action Tutoring, it follows our year of celebrating a decade of impact as a national education charity. Reflecting on Action Tutoring’s humble beginnings, I recall convening a group of enthusiastic teachers and potential volunteers ten years ago, crammed into my living room in Peckham, to reimagine tutoring in a way that levels the playing field.

We brainstormed on how to deliver tutoring to disadvantaged children who couldn’t afford the cost of private tuition. That evening, we agreed that for this to be successful, working with volunteer tutors and forging partnerships with schools had to be at the heart of the solution – which remains true to this day.

Before the very first-ever tutoring session on a fine Saturday morning in mid-2011, our nerves were on edge at the Harris Academy in Peckham. We were unsure if pupils and even tutors would turn up, but they did. Observing the first tutoring sessions and hearing the positive feedback from the pupils afterwards, it was clear to me that there had to be an imperative to replicate what we were doing at scale across the country.

With the support of generous funders and well-wishers, who caught sight of the vision and invested in it, that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have supported 26,000 pupils with the help of over 9,000 committed, high-quality volunteer tutors from a fascinating range of backgrounds.

In the last ten years, tutoring has become a mainstay in the education system, especially with the pandemic exacerbating pre-existing education inequalities, compelling the Government to introduce the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) in 2020 to address the lost learning time and narrow the attainment gap. The NTP has been an incredible opportunity to roll out the benefits of tutoring – that we have known existed for years – on a significantly larger scale.

Action Tutoring continues to actively advocate for its extension beyond 2024 to help close the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their wealthier peers. Our long-term hope is that the NTP is embedded as a lasting feature of the education system.

What does the future look like for us?

As a highly aspirational and adaptable education charity, here are our five main priorities over the next few years, irrespective of the future of the NTP.

Reach: We want to increase the locations we work in, especially to reach more rural and coastal areas – ‘cold spots’ where finding tutors is more difficult and the attainment gap is wider. This means significantly expanding the number of schools we work with, outside of our current eight regions, to ensure we’re reaching young people that really need our help and in areas where there is much less availability of tutoring programmes like ours. We have calculated that there are over 5,500 schools we could be working with, just two hours from one of our current cities of operation.

Growth: There is so much need for our work, as the attainment gap remains stubbornly wide and as pupils continue to be impacted by lost learning from the pandemic. Adapting to a model that can deliver much more widely geographically gives us a springboard for further growth. Since the pandemic began, we’ve demonstrated that through our online delivery programme, it should be possible to deliver tutoring in almost any school in the country. After running pilots in new geographies this year, we aim for 30% of our delivery to be happening in ‘cold spots’ through our online model in three years.

We aim to support at least 10,000 pupils a year in three years’ time, rising to at least 12,000 a year in five years’ time. We want to be able to step up to the challenge of the attainment gap, which new data from the DfE indicates, by the end of Year 6, is at its widest since 2012.

Impact: We are proud of the record impact we’ve already demonstrated over the last few years but we want to go further. We want to drive efficiencies in our model to strengthen the impact and understand more about what elements of our model make it especially effective, all building towards a large external evaluation in five years’ time. Being evidence-based is one of our fundamental values and our priority is to keep building our evidence base of impact, especially for our online model as we expand to new areas so we’re continually reflecting on what’s working and what could be better.

Advocacy – Our role in advocacy work has been growing steadily since the pandemic. We will build on this inroad, using our experience and voice to ensure that there is a long-term legacy of the National Tutoring Programme and also, to ensure tutoring for disadvantaged pupils is permanently embedded in the education system to narrow the attainment gap. We will continue to grow our influence and contribution to policy-making with partners in the sector to positively shape young people’s futures.

Collective Fight

To achieve all the outlined medium to long-term strategies, collaboration, one of our core values, will be critical to our success. Internally, we will work together to optimise our unique talents to improve the operational and managerial performance of our programme delivery. Beyond our workforce, we will work hand in hand with sector partners, funders, schools and volunteer tutors and the wider network for the collective growth of the education sector.

I want to express my deepest appreciation to all current and former staff, tutors, and partners who’ve worked with Action Tutoring over the last ten years. I am grateful for your dedication, support and energy to help change the future of disadvantaged children.

You’ve been an absolute joy to lead and work with. I look forward to more successes with you over the coming years in this collective fight to ensure that no child’s future is limited by their socio-economic background.