Equality

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)

Diversity and Inclusion at Action Tutoring

10 November 2022

As a charity that values and celebrates diversity and inclusion and champions opportunities for all young people, we always strive to create an environment of respect in which every individual is welcomed, valued, and empowered to be their authentic selves.

Diversity and Inclusion is more than simple policies applied in a workplace. It is a way of thinking and acting, so we can establish fairer working conditions for every employee.

What is Diversity and Inclusion in the workplace?

In order to best define diversity in the workplace, we have to consider all the different characteristics that we as unique individuals have; such as our race, age, gender and sexual orientation. However, we also have differences when it comes to our experiences, talents, skills or opinions.

Inclusivity enables us to explore these differences together in a healthy, positive and non-judgemental environment. It means understanding one another and embracing the differences, not just tolerating them.

The CIPD advises that an environment is inclusive when people feel valued and accepted in their team and in the wider organisation, without having to conform. To achieve these is an organisational effort.

Why is D&I essential? 

Equal access to opportunities for all people is both the right thing to do and a legal obligation under the Equalities Act 2010. It is important to continuously consider, so we don’t exclude any potential tutors or employees.

As a charity, we appreciate the power and importance of bringing different people together. When we feel included, appreciated and celebrated, we are more likely to unleash our potential.

What D&I policies and initiatives do we have at Action Tutoring?

We are committed to ensuring that all applicants are treated fairly throughout the recruitment and training process.

 We endeavour to make sure our content on our social media channels and website is accessible to everyone, for example by using plain English and avoid using figures of speech and idioms, and using text instead of graphics when sharing important informationYou can learn more on a previous blog about how inclusive communication is implemented in our organisation. 

Action Tutoring has a D&I working group, where staff members meet regularly and discuss different ways that we can improve the way we work together. It’s a free and open space for everyone to share ideas.

In our additional resources for volunteer tutors, we have included a Diversity and Inclusion tutor code of conduct in order to make sure that everyone is treated fairly and in accordance with Equal Opportunities policies. 

We have regular internal “Broaden Your Horizons” sessions to discuss and reflect on current issues that affect us all. Session content has included Black British history, “fatphobia” and linguistic differences between regions in England. 

We have conducted audits into the racial and gender diversity of authors and names used in our tutoring resources, have increased this diversity in some of our resources and have established targets to continue this work over time.

We believe that a true inclusive community doesn’t just have a diversity of people to display, but it has a diversity of people who are involved, supported, empowered and trusted by everyone else.

Interested in working for us? View our current vacancies. We do accept speculative CVs for our Programme Coordinator roles – you can click here to see a job description).

Or if you’re interested in volunteering as a tutor, click below!