Curiosity, Connections & Cause: Inside our three-day offsite retreat

4 September 2023

After a year of working from far-flung locations across the UK, the staff of Action Tutoring converged in the heart of London for three days as part of our annual offsite team retreat at the end of each academic year. 

During the period, we strengthened our bonds, reflected on the outgoing year’s experiences, reaffirmed the importance of our work to give children from disadvantaged backgrounds a better future, and discussed our strategy for the incoming academic year.

One team, one dream

Day 1 of the team retreat was hosted at the Westminster Foundation’s office and the sessions were dedicated to reflecting on the data and lessons of the past year, renewing and building new connections with teammates, and shattering the digital barriers that had defined a lot of our interactions all year.

In the welcome address, the CEO and founder of Action Tutoring, Susannah Hardyman, asked us to focus on three key themes during the team days: cultivating curiosity, building connections, and understanding our cause.

Reviewing the data for the outgoing year 2022-23, Action Tutoring has supported 5,743 pupils from 140 schools across the UK. Susannah emphasised the need to keep the right balance between recruiting volunteers and the demand for tutoring from schools, in sync with the charity’s strategy of expanding reach, impact, growth, and advocacy over the next year.

“Let’s continue to work together as a collective to be that ray of light for disadvantaged pupils and the schools we work with.”


The ‘Pitch & Present’ session sharpened the pitching skills of staff who are the best advocates for our cause. The practical session focused on improving the way we speak about our work and its impact when interacting with potential volunteers, partners, and funders, as everyone learned ‘the power pose.’

Throughout the day, there was teambuilding and camaraderie through engaging activities, hilarious icebreakers, and breakout sessions where we laughed, learned, and shared experiences. The rapport that had developed virtually over the year became all the more genuine when we could high-five each other in person.

Building a safe space for all

In the warm ambiance of the Netley Primary School and Centre for Autism,  the second day of team retreat was marked by introspection and learning more about improving our diversity, equity, and inclusion strengths plus a heartfelt conversation with members of the charity’s Board of Governance.

Hannah Wilson of Diverse Educators facilitates session
Hannah Wilson of Diverse Educators facilitates session

Hannah Wilson of Diverse Educators brilliantly facilitated the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) workshop to grow the consciousness of our own identities, build our confidence on key issues, and develop our competence in showing up, standing up, and speaking out when it matters. The training was engaging, reflective, and resourceful in helping to understand protective identities, existing gaps, intersectionality, and simple actions anyone can take as an ally of inclusion.

Out of outer margins

The Board Member Roulette saw six members of Action Tutoring’s Board –  Mark Shadrack, Peter Baines, Anna Paige, Jo Conduit-Smith, Sara Selvajarah, and Andy Ratcliffe – answering questions from staff, sharing their life stories and digging deeper into the motivations beneath their leadership roles, in two rounds of breakout group sessions.

“Without tutors, I would not have the life I have today. It’s really important the impact you have. Taking disadvantaged young people out of outer margins and giving them the best positive outcome. You make a difference.”

Sara addressing staff in a breakout group during the board chat roulette
Board members speak to staff ahead of the chat roulette

The team also had a taste of policymaking as the Policy working group members led the manifesto development session. Staff brainstormed concrete solutions to the challenges in the education sector and suggestions for policy proposals that can transform education. From early years through post-16 education to colleges, staff shared interesting policy proposals that will certainly get leaders in Westminster talking when published on our website and social media channels in the coming weeks.

In memory of Adan

The second day ended with a ‘very fun teambuilding activity’ – Lego brick building. The teams had one goal: reimagine and build an ideal school out of Lego, with each incorporating a part of their school life they enjoyed most. The blueprint of school structures we constructed in teams will blow your mind. 

The Lego bricks were originally purchased by one of Action Tutoring’s volunteer tutors, Adan, for his professional coaching and team-building work. Adan had offered to run a pro bono session with the Action Tutoring team, but sadly died before the activity took place. Following his death, Adan’s family got in touch to see if we could make use of the Lego or donate them to a school. We were delighted to have the chance to remember and honour Adan by using his Lego for the teambuilding activity and it will now be donated to Netley Primary School, which hosted us for the second day.

A team's Lego school blueprint
A team’s Lego school blueprint

Fine-tuning the team’s rhythm

On the final day of the offsite retreat, we were back at the offices of the Westminster Foundation to understand each other’s roles better, refine sub-team strategies for the year, upgrade our safeguarding knowledge, and fortify our mental health and well-being for the year ahead.

Our ‘A Day in the Life…’ breakout sessions allowed selected staff to share insights about their roles, and daily routines and answer questions from the team. The safeguarding team followed with an engaging practical demonstration of good practice in handling related issues that crop up during tutoring sessions.

The brainstorming period that followed was for departments and subteams to finalise their objectives and strategy for the new year, enriched by the insights and lessons of the previous years. 

The final session by the mental health and well-being team underscored the relevance of talking to someone when necessary, using well-being tools to improve focus and reduce stress, cultivating the culture of daily reflection and showing gratitude. The activity framed the team’s dynamic and positive energy and brought our team days to an inspiring end.

Grown stronger

Sam Alexander is our senior data and evaluation officer based in Liverpool. He said connecting with colleagues face-to-face for the three day team retreat has been exciting and enjoyable.

“I found true value in the sessions and there was a hundred percent engagement from everyone. For me in an I.T. role, connecting to people face to face is really great and also helpful for the new starters as well.”


As we boarded trains to return to our far-off locations, we knew we were taking much more than memories with us. We carried a renewed sense of unity and purpose, a vivid reminder that personal connections and shared experiences are the lifeblood of a thriving team fighting for the worthy cause of supporting disadvantaged young people in education.

For Rachel Taylor, a Programme Coordinator in Sheffield, the team days have been helpful for her personal development and understanding of the charity’s wider goals.

“Everything has been well delivered and with targeted learning. The mental health conversations and breakout sessions showed how everyone on the team is open, kind, and honest.”


We returned to our hubs with a newfound zeal, ready to tackle the challenges and opportunities of the year ahead, fortified by the bonds we had solidified in the vibrant heart of London.

Whole team
Whole team