Admit it; before you were involved with tutoring (or if you haven’t been involved with tutoring, then still), chances are you had (or have) a perception that tutoring is only for those students who can afford it.
The National Tutoring Programme is a great opportunity to shift the narrative on this, to shift tutoring into the spotlight, and to highlight the benefits tutoring can have for any student. As has been shown recently in the news, the lack of in-person education (or for many students, the lack of education full stop) up until September has been detrimental.
Urgent action is needed, and tutoring seems the way forward.
Why do those students who are most behind have the most to gain?
Well, chances are many of these students have missed out on learning simply because they haven’t had the resources to learn. 5 siblings sharing one mobile phone, slow or no internet connection, using a 15 year old laptop that can barely function; you name it, chances are students in the country have faced barriers to learning exactly because of these reasons. Considering how these students can best access resources is the longer-term solution but, in the short-term, tutors to personalize learning and plug these gaps is desperately necessary.
Disadvantaged students were behind anyway even before the pandemic, with the disadvantage gap between these students and their more socio-economically advantaged peers being 24 months by the time they sit GCSEs, and we won’t know for a while what the longer-term impacts of COVID will be.
Tutors aren’t there just to build knowledge though – tutors are there to build these students as individuals, to support students to develop their confidence and to have the skills to be successful at learning and participating in the world of work.
Tutors can unleash students’ potential and give students the feeling that they can succeed when no doubt many feel wearied and fed up with school.
What has tutoring offered me?
I never had a tutor per se, but I have been lucky enough to have many personal mentors. I wouldn’t have dreamt of having a tutor, let alone been able to afford one, but after seeing the impact of personal mentors, I can see why tutors are a missing and powerful piece of the education jigsaw puzzle. With online social mobility organizations like Zero Gravity offering free mentoring sessions to prospective Russell Group university applicants, all of a sudden the door to personalized learning has been swung open, and it has so much to offer.
I credit my Zero Gravity mentor with being one of the people who truly realized my potential, who gave me the confidence to succeed in my interviews at Oxford, and who I owe so much for being where I am today. I received 10 hours of personalized support; imagine what other students could achieve with six months or a year’s worth of tutoring. It’s great there are organizations like Zero Gravity out there who are offering this to students, and the expansion of other websites offering free tutoring in subjects is incredibly positive to see.
What about the tutors themselves?
This is where the Qualified Tutor programme comes in; by offering free scholarships to Sutton Trust Alumni, students who themselves will have overcome many barriers, they will have a unique perspective on learning and the power of tutoring. Increasing the diversity of the tutoring body as Qualified Tutor has done is highly commendable, and it will be exciting to see what impact Qualified Tutor can have on the quality of provision.
Many tutors, like me, are in it because they are passionate about changing the lives of students for the better by unlocking their potential. Tutors want to create a safe space to learn, they want to challenge their students, but most importantly they want their students to succeed. The Qualified Tutor 4-part course is great for picking up the core skills in these areas, or giving a fresh perspective for those like me who had experience before. Tutors take their work seriously, and so do Qualified Tutor about learning; I would highly recommend the course to build your tutoring toolkit.
Tutoring does have the ability to change lives, and I hope this power can be put to good use in supporting students to catch-up from the detrimental effects of COVID on learning.
Tutoring definitely changed my life for the better, and I hope all students will be able to access similar levels of support as I did; tutoring could be one part of a multi-faceted solution to the attainment gap. What the Qualified Tutor 4-part course offers is the toolkit for tutors to do exactly that; to unlock the fullest potential of their students. Tutoring should no longer be a niche offering which many don’t even get the opportunity to consider – tutoring needs to be available to all.
Thank you for your comment – in regards to the fair criticism that not everybody can afford tutoring, I entirely agree with that, and I have never had a paid tutor as I couldn’t afford it (I’ve had mentors as I explain, like from Zero Gravity). There are also a number of great organisations which are offering free tutoring by getting university students to volunteer to support disadvantaged GCSE and A Level pupils, and I think these sorts of projects can have an incredible impact (from personal experience, Zero Gravity was life-changing). What I am advocating for is for the use of free tutors, and for government schemes like the National Tutoring Programme as this makes tutoring much more accessible. This article was also about tackling the possible stigma to the use of tutors, and I wanted to look at the personal development role tutors can play as it is unfair to see tutors as exam-machines. In regards to getting into tutoring, I was very kindly supported by the Sutton Trust Scholarship for Qualified Tutor, and I think this is a great scheme as I think it is really powerful when tutors from similar backgrounds to these disadvantaged students provide learning support to them. That experience can help to build a trusting relationship between the tutor and the student. In regards to online learning, some students thrive off of it, but the overwhelming body of evidence suggests the disadvantage gap is growing which must urgently be tackled, and students definitely need devices to be able to learn with, so that would need tackling so that students can access tutoring. I hope this responds to some possible criticisms of the blog, and if there is anything you would like me to clarify please just comment below.