Pupils

Tutor spotlight: Eleanor Grandchamp – future children’s speech & language therapist

2 October 2023

Today we are shining a spotlight on an Action Tutoring volunteeer, Eleanor Grandchamp. Tutoring has been an instrumental part of Eleanor’s journey to becoming a children’s speech and language therapist. It inspired her choice of career, as well as being valuable experience that helped her land a job in a school and a spot on a competitive language therapy master’s course.

Eleanor Grandchamp

Please tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Eleanor and I have been a tutor and advocate for Action Tutoring since 2020. I currently work in a primary school delivering speech and language therapy and behavioural support to a named child. I am due to start my master’s in Speech and Language Therapy at Reading University in September. I hope to be qualified as a paediatric SLT (speech and language therapist) with my own clinic one day, delivering free sessions in schools in economically deprived areas of the UK.

I learnt about Action Tutoring at my fresher’s fair at the University of West England, where I joined a local tutoring programme in Bristol in my first year (2019). I chose to help different year groups every time: Year 5, Year 6, Year 7, and Year 11.

Because of this, when I graduated, I found a job in a primary school rather than secondary school as I had already found that my teaching style resonated more with primary school children and I wanted to develop that further. Without Action Tutoring, I would not have been sure what year group I enjoyed teaching the most.

How do you feel your tutoring experience has helped you in your current role and how has it helped you secure a place on a speech and language therapy course?

My current job as a SEN LSA (special educational needs learning support assistant) in a primary school is very similar to tutoring but on a one-to-one basis instead. Action Tutoring taught me how to follow a programme and personalise it for each child. My employer was impressed with how prepared I was to teach and this was due to my time tutoring every week with Action Tutoring. Having tutored on and off for 3 years both in person and online, I had a large amount of contact hours with schools and teaching, which is what I needed to qualify for my job role. 

Through working with Action Tutoring, I developed a passion for speech and language therapy. I saw how it impacted a child’s educational and personal development and researched ways to overcome this, such as becoming a paediatric speech and language therapist. 

When applying for my master’s course, the university was impressed with my dedication to tutoring during my own studies. It showed my dedication to improving the education sector in my local Bristol area.

What are your goals for the future?

My goals for the future have been inspired by Action Tutoring. Once I am a fully qualified paediatric speech and language therapist, I would like to offer free speech and language therapy training for the staff working in schools with children affected by these disabilities, or free speech and language therapy sessions for the children and their families. 

Similarly to tutoring, there is a long wait until resources can be accessed by the children and by then it may be too late or not fully provide what is needed to help them. I would like to be part of the movement Action Tutoring has started to create equal opportunities for all children regardless of economic background. to give them a fighting chance to achieve their goals.

Teaching Assistants Day: Recognising the vital role TAs play

29 September 2023

Teaching assistants, often referred to as TAs in the education system, support teachers with their work and help pupils with reading, writing, and learning activities in schools. TAs make up over a quarter of the workforce in schools, with a population of 281,100 full-time teaching assistants across the UK, as at last academic year.

From preschools to universities, TAs contribute significantly to the outcomes of young people and the overall quality of education. Their duties vary according to the education level they work in but generally include helping pupils with topics they’re struggling with, assisting SEND pupils who need extra support to complete tasks, helping teachers to plan learning activities, conducting assessments as well as supporting teachers in managing class behaviour.

National TA Day

Teacher recruitment agency, Teaching Personnel, introduced National Teaching Assistants’ Day in 2012 to celebrate and highlight the vital work teaching assistants do in our classrooms daily. Since then, the UK has marked National Teaching Assistants’ Day on 29 September with schools across the country celebrating their own TAs and nominating their favourites for the Teaching Assistant of the Year award.

The TA Experience

Action Tutoring’s marketing manager, Kellie Coyle recounts her experience as a TA in a primary school in Luton, north of London after completing university in Birmingham.

“I became a TA to help me decide whether or not I wanted to go into the teaching profession and commit to teacher training. I decided I didn’t, but loved the experience nonetheless.”

Kellie’s best part about being a TA was working in small intervention groups outside of the classroom.

“It was great to observe my groups enjoying the subject a bit more as a result of being able to go at their own pace and to see their confidence increase.”

However, the support needed in the primary school was more than Kellie had imagined.

“My least favourite part was seeing that many pupils in the classroom needed this kind of support, and not being able to give them all that extra attention.”

Supporting pupils

The Challenges

Despite their impact, teaching assistants in the UK face a unique set of challenges. There is a crisis for teaching assistant recruitment and retention as a survey found that three-quarters had thought about leaving in the past year.

With the cost of living crisis, many TAs are struggling financially and being compelled to change jobs or take second jobs to supplement their income. This finding is captured in a new report by National Foundation for Educational Research. Teachers and school leaders in the report highlighted how the crisis is leading TAs to quit in favour of better-paid jobs in other sectors such as hospitality and retail as they offer either increased pay or more working hours. Since the pandemic, while most roles offer hybrid, remote, and other flexible working conditions, TAs don’t have the option of working from home.

Additionally, limited opportunities for professional development often leave them feeling undervalued and overlooked. Furthermore, the emotional toll of working with young people facing a myriad of challenges, from poverty to mental health issues, can be overwhelming. Many teaching assistants form deep bonds with their students and carry the weight of their struggles long after the school day ends.

Effective deployment of TAs

An Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) guidance report released in 2021, Making Best Use of Teaching Assistants, found that the typical methods of deploying TA did not yield positive results in terms of pupil attainment.

The report recommended more investment in the professional development of TAs to deliver more structured interventions to complement high-quality teaching and tutoring support in schools.

While it’s abundantly clear that TAs make meaningful contributions to their schools, it’s imperative to recognise that the key to enhancing pupil outcomes hinges on how they are deployed and upskilled to deliver interventions.

A nation’s gratitude

TA Day is a chance to shine a well-deserved spotlight on them and for schools, parents, and pupils to show their gratitude for the dedication and hard work of TAs.

As you reflect on the education journey of your own child or your own learning experience, remember the teaching assistants who played pivotal roles in shaping your path. Take a moment to appreciate their support, guidance, and the positive impact they’ve made on countless lives.

“My message to TAs as we celebrate this day is thank you for being that positive, friendly, crucial pillar of support for so many pupils – they will always remember you.”

Kellie

‘Thank You’ notes that melted our hearts last term

15 September 2023

One of the reasons why working with children is fulfilling is that you get to see them grow, learn and develop every single time. The endless energy, creativity and playfulness they exude always brings joy and excitement.

However, working with children isn’t all rosy. Sometimes we have to manage their energy, brutal honesty, and humour. But these challenges are outweighed by the rewards of watching pupils grow in subject knowledge and confidence.

At the end of each term or school programme, a heart-warming moment for many of our volunteers and staff is when pupils share inspiring and engaging thank-you notes of appreciation.

Here are ten of the remarkable notes of gratitude from pupils who were supported by our volunteers and programme team last term:

1. What a blast!

Thank you note from pupil

2. Experience the magic 24/7

Thank you note from pupil

3. Who wouldn’t like a PS5 as a reward?

Thank you note from pupil

4. Missing Kitty

Thank you note from pupil

A tell-all with express permission

Thank you note from pupil

6. Cheers to behavioural change!

Thank you note from pupil

7. They who laughs last, laughs best?

Thank you note from pupil

8. Choosing to learn over biscuits

Thank you note from pupil

9. The heart emoji keeps filling up

Thank you note from pupil

10. Football rivalry knows no boundaries!

Thank you note from pupil

Another amazing year together ahead

These words of appreciation and witnessing a pupil progress from strength to strength are why we do what we do. To all of our volunteer tutors, we want to say thank you for your selflessness and dedication. You make a real difference in the lives of children, and we are so grateful for your service.

With the 2023-24 new academic year starting in earnest, we look forward to another great year of supporting pupils together and some fun thank you notes.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer tutor, find out more in the link below.

International Literacy Day: Q&A with our Curriculum, Training & Quality Manager

7 September 2023

8th September is International Literacy Day – an annual celebration of the transformative power of literacy and to raise awareness of the need to increase literacy levels across the world.

Literacy, as defined by the National Literacy Trust, is the ability to read, write, speak, and listen in a way that enables us to communicate effectively and make sense of the world around us. 

Being literate is crucial for everyone, both young and old, as it’s a gateway to a world of knowledge and empowers individuals across their lifetimes to make informed decisions. For children, it’s the foundation for all learning, fueling their dreams and aspirations. For adults, it’s a lifeline to personal development, better opportunities, and financial stability.

According to UNESCO, an estimated 763 million youth and adults worldwide still lack basic literacy and numeracy skills, with two-thirds being women. In England, 6.4% of adults representing 7.1 million people have ‘poor literacy skills.’

To mark International Literacy Day, we’ve asked our Curriculum, Training, and Quality Manager, Bethan Puig Nieves, a few questions on why literacy matters and what actions everyone can take to support it. Before joining Action Tutoring, Bethan previously taught secondary school English in multiple countries including Spain, Cuba, and the UK.

Curriculum, Training and Quality Manager, Bethan Puig Nieves on Literacy Day
Curriculum, Training and Quality Manager, Bethan Puig Nieves

Why is literacy important today more than ever in education?

Being able to read confidently and communicate effectively are skills that form the foundation of success across all areas of the curriculum. Literacy is one of the vital tools to which pupils facing disadvantage might not have had as much access, which means it is all the more important that we emphasise the importance of being literate in education, and embed the development of these skills in everything we do.

Beyond education, how can literacy help people’s lives?

Being literate allows us to make sense of the world around us: it helps us to manage our finances, understand the job market, relate to a wider range of people, support the development of others, and evaluate the validity of what we see and hear in the media. All of these are essential for a happy and fulfilled life, especially in the world we live in today.

How does Action Tutoring ensure that the young people we support build on their literacy levels?

Literacy skills are embedded throughout our resources and workbooks. Examples include the discussion of ideas in texts, and working through word-based maths problems and tasks which improve the quality of writing for a range of useful purposes. Moreover, small group tutoring creates an environment where pupils who might not always get a chance for a detailed conversation with an educator will have the time to do so. This builds confidence, self-esteem, and communication skills – all vital for a successfully literate life.

As the world celebrates Literacy Day, what is your message or call to action for everyone?

Being literate is not a given, even in today’s world – those of us who have been able to learn to read, write, and communicate have huge advantages over those who haven’t. Literacy is also something that we can work on throughout our lives. Volunteering with Action tutoring is a great way to celebrate the privilege of literacy – by helping young people to build on what they can already do, equipping them with life-enhancing powers of communication and self-expression.

Building a more literate world

There have been significant strides in promoting literacy worldwide with many countries having improved its levels through enhanced access to education and innovative teaching methods. However, there’s more work to be done. 

Additionally, the digital age has ushered in a new era of the subject. Digital literacy is now as crucial as traditional reading and writing skills. It involves navigating the digital landscape and harnessing technology for personal and professional growth.

In a literate world, opportunities are more abundant, voices are heard, and barriers to economic growth are dismantled. Therefore, it’s a shared responsibility to ensure that every individual, regardless of their background or circumstances, has the chance to access the transformative power of being literate. 

Together, through concerted efforts in education and policy, we can create a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

GCSE Results Day: Celebrating the successes of the Class of 2023

24 August 2023

Results day is one of the most critical days on the education calendar. Across the country today, candidates are receiving the outcome of the GCSE exams and considering the next stage of their lives – further education, training, or employment.

As an education charity that supports thousands of pupils in secondary schools each year, we appreciate firsthand the efforts and resilience of the cohort getting their results today. The pandemic dealt them a harsh hand, having to experience learning loss and disruption like never before in the last three years.

This cohort spent their years 8 and 9 learning through the Covid-19 lockdowns, with many reportedly struggling with post-pandemic school attendance and mental health challenges.

After years of hard work and determination in getting their learning right, the outcome is finally here. This morning, we visited schools in Merseyside, Newcastle, Bristol, and Sheffield to share in the excitement of results day and applaud the efforts of all the pupils we’ve supported through tutoring in the past year.

Let’s celebrate the successes and resilience of the Class of 2023!

The power of lived experiences

Rhiannan and Programme Coordinator Sophie Cowling
Rhiannan and Action Tutoring’s Programme Coordinator Sophie Cowling

At the Prescot School in Liverpool, Rhiannan and her family were excited about the outcome of her maths GCSE. Achieving a 4 in maths despite her learning difficulty with comprehending the subject is a win for Rhiannan, expressing her excitement about going on to study French, graphics, and 3D design in college.

“I can do what I want in college now that I have my maths GCSE. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Action Tutoring.”

Rhiannan

Rhiannan received maths tutoring throughout the 2022-23 academic year, attending 13 sessions with her tutor, Rajinder – who also struggled with maths comprehension in the past.

Rhiannan’s mother, Lorraine, said she owes her daughter’s success to the tutoring support from Rajinder in the past year.

‘They were bouncing off each other. Thank you all for your help with everything. I hope you carry on your work with this school because it does work – it’s been a godsend.

Lorraine

Tutoring made a difference

At the Longbenton School in Newcastle upon Tyne, Kwadwo is happy with his results. He secured a 4 in maths and shared his gratitude to Action Tutoring for the tailored maths support he received in the last year.

Kwadwo had a strong attendance record for tutoring sessions – turning up for 26 tutoring sessions in total last year and this year. He is excited about going on to sixth form to study product design.

“Thank you for helping me pass my maths GCSE.”

Kwadwo
Kwadwo

Good to have support

Hafsa and Frankie are beaming with smiles and ‘feeling great’ about their GCSE results at the Fairfield High School in Bristol. They are both proceeding to sixth form.

Hafsa is going on to read human biology, psychology, and criminology while Frankie pursues psychology, sociology, and photography.

“It’s good to have one-on-one support and more in-depth help. You don’t have to be ashamed for not knowing something, you can just say it to the tutor and they’ll help you.”

Frankie

Definitely worth it

Casper

At King Ecgbert School in Sheffield, Casper is pleased with his results. Having received English tutoring in 13 sessions last year, he scored a 4 in English language, a 5 in literature, and a 4 in maths.

“I’d say a big thank you. Going to those sessions really helped me and was definitely worth it. For an hour after school, it would be really easy to choose to skip it, but it could be the difference between a 3 and a 4.”

Casper
Chris

Looking upbeat after seeing his results, Chris at King Ecgbert was full of gratitude to his maths tutor.

“I’d say thank you to my tutor if they were here.”

Chris

Chris scored a 4 in his maths GCSE plus a 5 in English language and 6 in literature.

Be proud of yourself

The results and emotions in the schools we visited and across the country show that an incredible amount of hard work was invested by candidates into the GCSE qualification. All young people receiving their results today deserve immense credit for what they have achieved.

To the GCSE candidates and teachers: your achievements today are a testament to your spirit and perseverance during this unprecedented time in the history of education. Be proud of yourself and your hard work and remember you are worth more than your grades. 

Congratulations on this momentous day!

‘Thank You’ notes from pupils that warmed our hearts in spring term

26 April 2023

We can think of thousands of reasons why working with children brings us joy, purpose, and fulfilment. But what’s even more heart warming is when the children you support recognise your impact on their lives and share inspiring thank-you notes of appreciation. Thank you, tutors!

Despite the odd challenge of managing children during sessions, their boundless energy, honesty and humour keep us all going.

Watching pupils grow in subject knowledge and confidence is even more motivating for our volunteers who spend an hour each week to help them improve their English and maths skills.

With summer term just beginning, let’s throwback to some of the remarkable words and notes of gratitude some pupils shared with our volunteers and programme team in schools last term.

1. Being a child’s favourite grey-haired person is indeed a compliment!

2. Sometimes, playing is learning and learning is playing. Finding the best approach for every child is essential.

3. Appreciation in poetry

Aww! Now, who’s cutting onions?

4. Group high-5 for Brenda

5. World’s best!

6. The best tutor award goes to…

7. Is there anything like positive anger?

8. Tutoring goes beyond knowledge. Changes behaviours and attitudes too.

9. Levelling up

10. Certainly a good use of time!

Why we do what we do

These words of appreciation and witnessing a pupil grow from strength to strength are why we do what we do.

Why not join us and shape a child’s future by volunteering an hour a week to help them improve their academic performance in English or maths?