Prior to the pandemic, the attainment gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils already presented significant challenges, and lockdown school closures in 2020 only served to widen this inequality. But by switching to an online tutoring model, Action Tutoring was able to help thousands of young people from low-income backgrounds continue their education, despite significant disruption.
In March 2020, all of Action Tutoring’s face-to-face delivery in partner schools was forced to stop, and the charity was painfully aware that this would push many pupils further behind their peers in terms of academic achievement.
So the charity brought forward plans for an online version of its service. In the summer of 2020, Action Tutoring began a small pilot with six schools before rolling this out across its nine main regions in the autumn.
The charity was then selected as a partner for the government’s National Tutoring Programme, which provided the funding for significant expansion, including growth in the size of the staff team from 27 to 70.
Online delivery also meant the charity was able to recruit a wider range of volunteers, and it attracted more retired volunteers and people working in the corporate sector.
When schools closed again in early 2021, Action Tutoring was in a position to deliver home-based tutoring for the first time, meaning it could continue to support 70% of those pupils it had been helping in schools.
Although changes to assessment methods during the pandemic made it harder to conduct progress checks, those pupils who were supported by the online programme achieved similar results to those in previous in-person cohorts.
In 2020-21 Action Tutoring was also able to reach more students, supporting over 5,400, compared with around 2,000 the previous year.
Awards judge Yvonne Field said Action Tutoring’s application was “very lucid and expansive on their internal pivoting as an organisation and what they had to do to redesign materials, attend to their organisation, furlough staff, and then deal with the implications of that.
“Also, they were working from the hyper-local level through to the national level, in that they were influencing government policies and plans around online learning. That was really impressive.”
Judge Martin Edwards commended the speed with which Action Tutoring pivoted and scaled up. “They delivered 61,000 sessions and 86% of these took place online over 2020 and 2021. And they recorded the same amount of academic progress shown by children in 2020 to 21, as in 2018, which is amazing.”
CC Reg no. 1147175