Charity

A turning point for tutoring? The debate that brought our mission to the House of Commons

21 March 2024

This week, the House of Commons held a Westminster Hall Debate on tutoring provision in England. The debate itself is unquestionably a positive step. Politicians from across party lines acknowledged the transformative impact of tutoring. They highlighted its ability to close the attainment gap and boost pupil confidence. Action Tutoring was highlighted specifically for its work by MP Paul Howell.

Quote from Paul Howell (Conservative MP for Sedgefield): "Action Tutoring’s analysis shows that 65% of disadvantaged pupils pass their maths GCSE after attending at least 10 tutoring sessions with the charity. Action Tutoring pupils were nearly 13 percentage points more likely to pass maths GCSE than other disadvantaged pupils nationally. Those are significant interventions. I could continue, but what I want to say is that Action Tutoring’s work is indicative of so much of the valuable tutoring provided by volunteers and others. We must celebrate that work."

MP and Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education, Munira Wilson, proposed the debate. She proceedings arguing for the continuation of government-funded tutoring programmes for disadvantaged children. Quoting research from The Sutton Trust, Public First, and the Education Endowment Foundation, Ms Wilson urged the minister for education to “do battle with his Treasury colleagues” and find funding for tutoring.

Quote from Munira Wilson (MP for Twickenham, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Education): "Under-18s in England must retake GCSE English and maths if they do not achieve a grade 4 pass. In 2023, that resulted in a staggering 167,000 students having to retake maths and 172,000 resitting English. When combined, that is the highest number of retakes in a decade. We are setting those children up for repeated failure unless different help and support is provided."

Much of our advocacy work, alongside that of our colleagues from Get Further and The Tutor Trust was mentioned. Multiple case studies and the letter to parliament signed by over 500 schools all reinforcing the point that stakeholders including pupils, parents, and teachers all support continued investment in tutoring programmes.

Quote from Jonathan Gullis (Conservatve MP for Stoke-on-Trent North): "Education is the absolute bedrock to levelling up. It is the bedrock to making sure that life chances can be achieved. I have no fiscal rules when it comes to education, because I believe that if we shove all the money there, we will have better outcomes on health and work, fewer people needing to use the welfare state, better home ownership, better wages, and less poverty in our country. Education is at the epicentre of achieving that, and we should therefore be pouring money into the sector."

Shadow Minister for Education, Catherine McKinnell, criticised the government for neglecting the National Tutoring Programme (NTP) despite its potential benefits. She highlighted the significant learning gaps caused by the pandemic, especially for disadvantaged pupils. Despite improvements to an initially flawed NTP, schools likely can’t afford to keep it going due to a lack of continued funding.

Quote from Catherine McKinnell (Labour MP for Newcastle upon Tyne North, Shadow Minister for Education and Schools): "The Institute for Fiscal Studies has found that schools funding in England is already not increasing as fast as the cost pressures schools are facing. That means that the poorest schools are likely to struggle the most to find the cash for tutoring, and that our most disadvantaged pupils will miss out."

In his response, the Rt Hon Damian Hinds, Minister of State for Education, defended the decision to end funding for the NTP. Stating that the Government believes tutoring remains important and schools will continue to be able to use pupil premium funding to support it. This is a sentiment that was not supported by many members present.

Quote from Damian Hinds (Conservative MP for East Hampshire, Minister of State for Education): "Although the national tutoring programme was always a time-limited programme post-covid, tutoring will continue to play an important role and we know that the evidence shows that tutoring is an effective, targeted approach to increase pupils’ attainment."

What now?

Action Tutoring remains firmly committed to providing access to quality tutoring for all pupils who need it. We are actively exploring alternative funding options, including increased philanthropic support, to keep costs low for schools and continue offering our services.  However, this cannot replace the long-term, sustainable funding that is needed to truly embed tutoring within the education system.

Setback, not stopgap: Funding cuts won’t end the fight for equitable access to tutoring

6 March 2024

In disheartening news, the Government has decided not to renew funding for the National Tutoring Programme and the 16-19 Tuition Fund, as confirmed in today’s spring budget. While acknowledging the difficulties this presents for schools facing very significant budget constraints, we at Action Tutoring remain resolutely steadfast in our commitment to support pupils facing disadvantage. We predate the National Tutoring Programme and have a long history of providing vital tutoring support.

We believe every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, and that’s why we have been actively exploring alternative funding options. To this end, we will subsidise 60% of programme costs through philanthropic activities next year, significantly reducing the burden on schools and ensure continued access to this crucial support for disadvantaged pupils. We will soon release further details about our customised programme offerings for 2024-25. In the meantime, please share this information with any colleagues facing concerns about affording vital tutoring support. We stand ready to help more schools in the face of this funding gap.

The founders and CEOs of Action Tutoring, Tutor Trust and Get Further have worked in collaboration throughout this time, campaigning for tutoring to be accessible to pupils from all backgrounds. They have come together again to produce the following statement in response to the spring budget:

Today is a truly disappointing day for education in England. In the face of the evidence, the Government has chosen not to renew funding for the National Tutoring Programme and 16- 19 Tuition Fund.

Both were launched in 2020 with much fanfare, to address lost learning due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Tutoring was chosen, because, as ministers have repeatedly pointed out, we know it works. An evaluation of tutoring by the Educational Endowment Foundation has proved it. The aims of the programme were to build back from COVID-19, to embed tutoring in the education system, and to help tackle the attainment gap. We know tutoring has had an impact, but COVID-19 still casts a shadow over our education system, more time is needed to embed tutoring into the system, and the attainment gap is yet to be tackled. Indeed, former Education ministers Lord Blunkett and Robin Walker, and experts on social mobility such as Professor Lee Elliott Major and Alun Francis, the chair of the Social Mobility Commission, all believe tutoring for the poorest young people should have its own dedicated funding stream.

What is more, research has shown that 85% of parents believe tutoring had positively impacted their child’s mental health and self-confidence. In the face of a crisis in school attendance, there, too, tutoring has an impact: 68% of parents said it had improved attendance. Economic modelling has suggested a £4.3 billion benefit to the economy from the NTP between 2021-2023. For every £1 spent on tutoring, there was a benefit to the economy of £6.58.

In short, tutoring closes the attainment gap, makes society more equal and, properly invested, helps solve the crisis in productivity. Implementation has not always been straightforward, but 5 million courses later, we’re confident that the NTP and 16-19 Tuition Fund has made a real difference.

Between our three organisations, we have worked with over 50,000 pupils, from primary schools to colleges. We are acutely aware of the pressure schools face, and how stretched the Pupil Premium has become. In the absence of dedicated funding from the NTP and 16- 19 Tuition Fund, the Pupil Premium will be squeezed further, and there is no Pupil Premium post-16. Colleges, sixth-forms, and schools will be forced to significantly scale back or cease tutoring altogether, and four years’ worth of tutoring infrastructure is now set to crumble.

The NTP and 16-19 Tuition Fund had taken huge steps towards making tutoring accessible to all who need it, not just the wealthy. In its absence, an all too familiar story will continue: young people from low-income backgrounds will miss out.

We call for an immediate reversal of the government’s decision.

Susannah Hardyman (Action Tutoring)
Abigail Shapiro (Tutor Trust)
Sarah Waite (Get Further)

A powerful voice delivered: Petition for tutoring funding reaches Downing Street

9 February 2024

On 8th February, 2024, a resounding message was delivered to Downing Street. A message driven by data, backed by educators, and amplified by the potential of countless pupils. Action Tutoring CEO and founder, Susannah Hardyman and fellow representatives of the Fair Education Alliance presented a petition demanding the continuation of vital tutoring funding for schools and colleges.

Sarah Waite (Get Further), Abigail Shapiro (Tutor Trust) and Susannah Hardyman (Action Tutoring) deliver the signed letter to 10 Downing Street
Sarah Waite (Get Further), Abigail Shapiro (Tutor Trust) and Susannah Hardyman (Action Tutoring) deliver the signed letter to 10 Downing Street

524 teachers and senior leaders from 423 schools and colleges have signed the petition. All are united in their support for essential funding to ensure their pupils receive the academic support they need for success. After four years, the government is set to end funding for its flagship National Tutoring Programme (NTP) this summer. Boris Johnson launched the £1.5 billion programme in 2021 in order to address the national educational gaps exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

graph to show signatories by job title

The economic and social case for tutoring

This move comes at a critical juncture. The pandemic’s shadow lingers, widening the attainment gap and placing immense pressure on school budgets. However, research paints a clear picture of the transformative power of tutoring, proving it to be a powerful response to this challenge:

  • Public First highlighted a £4.3 billion net benefit to the economy from the NTP between 2021-2023. This substantial impact is driven by individuals who, through tutoring, enhance their grades and subsequently secure higher lifetime earnings.. This translates to 430,000 grade improvements, opening doors to further education, higher earnings, and a brighter future. For every £1 spent on tutoring, there’s a benefit to the economy of £6.58. 
  • Action Tutoring’s impact report brings the numbers to life: a 14-percentage point jump in maths standards for disadvantaged primary pupils, a 13-percentage point rise in GCSE pass rates for secondary pupils. All whilst simultaneously empowering confidence and engagement across the board for those who received tutoring support.

These figures aren’t just statistics; they represent lives changed, potential unlocked, and a more equitable society built.

One pupil’s plea for continued tutoring

In the midst of discussions about the potential end of vital tutoring funding, a poignant moment unfolded at a recent school visit by Labour MP Catherine West. When informed by his headteacher that the Government may not fund tutoring next year a, normally shy, 10 year year-old wanted to ensure he had a chance to speak to the “lady from parliament” with a message that resonated deeply:

Pupil speaks to MP Catherine West about the importance of tutoring

“I just wanted to tell you how good English tutoring has been for me. Sometimes I struggle with and feel quite anxious about my English, such as my vocabulary, and my tutor has really helped me. I speak a few languages at home and it really helps me be better at English.”

This wasn’t just a casual comment; it was a testament to the transformative power of tutoring. His message serves as a powerful reminder to policymakers: don’t let this story end prematurely. Don’t deny countless other children the chance to experience the transformative power of individualised support.

What can you do?

  • Share this message, raise your voice, and contact your representatives! For a template letter to contact your MP about funding extension, email us at hello@actiontutoring.org.uk.
  • Stand with the Fair Education Alliance and organisations like Action Tutoring in demanding a brighter future for all.
  • Donate or volunteer your time to tutoring programmes in your community.

Fuelling futures, month by month: how Payroll Giving powers Action Tutoring

5 February 2024

Payroll Giving Month February 2024 #PayrollGivingMonth

Every February, charities, Payroll Giving agencies, professional funding organisations, and companies come together to raise awareness of Payroll Giving.

Payroll Giving (sometimes known as Give as You Earn) is an easy and tax-efficient way of making regular donations to your favourite charities straight from your gross pay. There are many benefits to this form of giving, and at Action Tutoring, we advocate it as an efficient and effortless way to support our mission and help us tackle the attainment gap head-on. Read on to learn about Payroll Giving and how you can set it up in three simple steps!

Impactful giving

Supporting Action Tutoring through payroll giving allows us to continue our vital work across the country, supporting over 5,700 pupils to achieve their dreams. We believe that disadvantaged pupils do not lack the drive or ambition, but the resources to help them succeed academically. A steady donation stream coming in monthly allows us to plan ahead with this vital work, and a seemingly small monthly contribution can add up to make a real difference in a child’s life.  

£5 a month could provide online tutor training for a volunteer tutor

and £10 a month could provide a high quality workbook for a face-to-face pupil.

Image of a tutor and pupil at an Action Tutoring

Convenience and ease

Donating to Action Tutoring by a Payroll Giving Scheme is super easy and convenient! Donations are taken straight from your gross salary (before your tax is deducted) which provides you with immediate tax relief on your donations. 

Depending on your individual tax situation, you could receive tax relief on each one of your donations. Take the example of a high tax rate such as 40% to begin: on a £20 pledge you could reclaim £8 from your tax bill, effectively reducing your net contribution to £12. With Payroll Giving, regardless of whether your tax situation is higher (45% allows £9 tax relief from £20) or lower (20% allows £4 tax relief from £20), your donation will go further at less of a cost to you.

Image of a smiling tutor and pupil in an Action Tutoring session

Set up Payroll Giving today!

You can set up payroll giving by following these three easy steps.

  1. Check your employer is signed up to a Payroll Giving Agency, like the Charities Aid Foundation.
  2. Ask your payroll team to set you up on payroll giving. It’s as simple as ticking a box on your payroll system!
  3. Choose Action Tutoring as your charity of choice and set the amount you want to give each payday. No matter how big or small, your donation will make a difference.

Please share this with others too, by resharing the blog on social media and engaging with our content about Payroll Giving this month on Action Tutoring’s social media platforms, using the hashtag #PayrollGivingMonth.

Image showing how much a contribution can do for Action Tutoring. Pupil workbook = £5.99, Headphones for online learning = £25, Online training for 20 volunteer tutors = £62, 1 year of face to face tutoring for a pupil = £391
What difference can your donation make?

“Payroll Giving is a great way to support Action Tutoring. These donations enable us to plan ahead with our vital work. It’s a really effortless way for employees to donate to us and helps us reach more disadvantaged pupils that need our support to achieve their dreams”

Hannah O’Neill, Head of Philanthropy

International Week of Happiness at Work: Embracing the Joy of Work

21 September 2023

Happiness and work may seem like an unlikely pair, but our work lives occupy a substantial portion of our daily hours. How we feel during those hours at work has a profound impact on our overall well-being.

The International Week of Happiness at Work, which is celebrated annually in late September, serves as a timely reminder of the significance of happiness in the workplace and the role of supportive policies in shaping a positive workplace culture.

Why happiness at work matters

Research has shown that happy employees are more productive, innovative, and loyal. Crucially, they’re also healthier, both mentally and physically, and less likely to experience burnout. Organisations that prioritise employee happiness tend to attract and retain top talent.

How we build a happy workplace

We create a happy and healthy workplace when we meet the expectations and real needs of our workforce. We regularly check in to find out what employees think of Action Tutoring’s work culture and what we can improve. We’re pleased with their feedback:

100% of our team reported feeling proud to work with us in our latest staff survey.

During our most recent team retreat at the end of August, we asked a few of our employees why they love working at Action Tutoring. Here are some of their responses:

I love working for Action Tutoring because it’s not a place where you are afraid of challenging the status quo. We are there to make a difference. We are brave in tackling different things and trying new things out. I think it’s an even greater team to make all those things happen. I love that in my role I get to see everyone make this happen and just being a great team.

Jasmin Bemmelen, Head of People and Culture

It’s just so powerful to work with a group of people who care so much about the same cause. I feel really proud to be representing that cause and helping to make a difference each day.

Beth Carlow, Curriculum and Quality Manager

Every day I wake up and I feel like I’m making a difference. With school closures and the aftermath of the pandemic, it’s more important now than ever to support the pupils we work with. It’s great to be doing that in a collaborative environment, where we’re working together as part of the bigger picture. 

Molly Cottrill, Fundraising Coordinator for events, campaigns, and individual giving

There are a billion reasons why I love working at Action Tutoring. My colleagues are amazing and everyone is super welcoming but one of the biggest reasons is that we are a charity that really cares about impact and measuring the change we can make to close the attainment gap between the disadvantaged and the advantaged young people in English and maths.

Nich Bull, Director of Finance and Operations
Staff of ActionTutoring
Action Tutoring team

A quick guide to our supportive policies

Here are some of our supportive workplace policies that we believe help to create a positive and healthy work environment:

  • Flexible work arrangement: We support employees to work on a flexible basis and tailor their work arrangements to their individual needs to reduce stress and increase job satisfaction. Flexible work arrangements include compressed hours (four working days), part-time compressed hours, access to co-working spaces in our hubs across the country, and remote or hybrid working.
  • Mental health support: We understand the importance of self-care, counselling, mindfulness, and meditation therefore we offer free Headspace app memberships for staff to access these services and share it with friends and family. Our Mental Health and Wellbeing working group also promotes mental health awareness through learning sessions and regular check-ins to create a more supportive work environment.
  • Recognition and appreciation: We encourage open appreciation and gratitude among staff to pat the back of any employee who has supported them or collaborated to achieve any goal, no matter the scope or value. Our Hero of the Month award is given to an employee(s) nominated by staff members for exceptional performance and recognition. The Hero of the Month is announced to all staff and receives a gift voucher as a reward of appreciation.
  • Work-life balance: We encourage employees to disconnect from work during non-working hours is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and happiness.
  • Inclusive and diverse culture: Fostering a workplace culture that celebrates diversity and inclusion also contributes to a happier workforce. We ensure all employees feel a sense of belonging and valued for their unique perspectives. The diversity, equity, and inclusion working group leads termly sessions to grow our consciousness of inclusivity and awareness of best practices.

Finding joy in work

We believe happiness in the workplace is achievable and worth pursuing. By creating an environment where employees can thrive and find joy in their roles and organisations can reap the benefits of increased productivity, talent retention, and overall success. 

So, let’s celebrate happiness at work not just for a week but as an ongoing commitment to the well-being and success of everyone.

Deputy CEO shortlisted for prestigious Charity Times Awards

29 June 2023

Action Tutoring’s deputy CEO, Jen Fox, has been shortlisted in the Supporting Leader of the Year category for the Charity Times Awards. In its 24th year, the Charity Times Awards recognises and celebrates outstanding leaders and professionals in the charity sector.

Since joining Action Tutoring in 2015, Jen has demonstrated an unwavering dedication to making high-quality education accessible for all. Susannah Hardyman, founder and CEO of Action Tutoring, said the nomination is a clear testament to Jen’s phenomenal leadership skills, resilient spirit, and drive for transformational positive change.

“We couldn’t be more delighted to have Jen’s skills and contributions recognised publicly in this way. Jen has transformed the delivery of our programmes, in particular developing our curriculum and tutoring resources, driving improvements in tutor training and ensuring impact remains at the heart of all we do.”

Susannah Hardyman

Rose to the challenge

Having worked across a multitude of roles in the last seven years at the education charity, ranging from Programme and Curriculum Director to Director of Transformation, Quality, and Impact, Jen has consistently modelled excellence in all of her work and relationships.

Appointed interim CEO twice before being promoted to Deputy CEO in 2022, Jen navigated the charity through one of its most turbulent academic years to date. During the Covid-19 pandemic with multiple school closures,  Jen rose to the challenge and was at the forefront of launching the online tutoring delivery in record time.

Jen and Susannah Hardyman at No. 10
Jen Fox and Susannah Hardyman at No. 10

Bedrock of support

Jen’s undeterred leadership and love for innovation and quality improvement have enabled us to make online tutoring delivery a permanent feature, build impact evidence, and support more disadvantaged young people in new geographies.

As a bedrock of support to our CEO in a fulfilling but tough sector, Jen has constantly maintained a laser-sharp focus on our mission to unlock the full potential of the young people we support.

“Jen is an inspiration for all of us to work with – always looking to challenge herself and the team to drive improvements and make a profound difference in the lives of disadvantaged young people and communities we serve.”

Susannah Hardyman

The 24th Charity Times Awards is set for 20th September 2023 at the London Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square, where the winners selected by an expert independent judging panel will be publicly announced.