Volunteer tutors could narrow attainment gap caused by school closures

A university student is calling on others to be like and become a volunteer tutor to help disadvantaged pupils falling behind due to school closures.

Nineteen 19-year old Sheffield student Rachel Adams wants others to join her amid fears the attainment gap could widen by 75% due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Rachel had just begun studying engineering at the University of Sheffield when she felt compelled to volunteer with Action Tutoring – a not-for-profit charity that works in partnership with UK primary and secondary state schools. After seeing the difference tutoring could make to disadvantaged children’s education, she was so inspired that she made the life-changing decision to switch degrees and become a primary school teacher.
“Having grown up in Great Yarmouth, a deprived coastal town in Norfolk where 20% of children are from low income families, I have witnessed firsthand the impact that deprivation can have on a child’s grades and future,” said Rachel. “When I saw the positive effects this charity was having on helping young people and children from disadvantaged backgrounds to reach their potential – especially in the key areas of English and maths - I wanted to do everything I could to give them my support.”
28% of the UK’s school pupil cohort are classified as ‘disadvantaged’, leaving them on average 18 months behind their non-disadvantaged peers by the end of secondary school – and the schools lockdown due to COVID-19 could widen the gap by 75%.
“After speaking to someone from Action Tutoring during the university’s freshers’ fair, I was immediately drawn to the idea that devoting just one hour of my time each week could make such a positive impact on children’s futures. I attended an inspiring training session that covered what to teach, how to tutor effectively, safeguarding and the required Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. Support from Action Tutoring has been excellent – the main message was: ‘you’re always going to be supported to support others’. Knowing that help and advice was always to hand really boosted my confidence. My fellow volunteers also continued to be a great source of peer support – we regularly shared ideas and discussed teaching techniques tried and tested!”
Workbooks containing all the necessary teaching materials are provided – complete with pre-prepared topics and questions aligned to the curriculum – making delivery straightforward even for those new to teaching.
“It’s incredibly rewarding to see pupils grasp new concepts and succeed! Often children facing disadvantage are held back by a lack of confidence or not being able to apply what they have learned, but not by a lack of intelligence. The individual attention they receive from tutoring can really boost their progress. Many people – including university students – could carve out an hour of spare time in their week to do something positive for the community. So, whilst we pause to reflect on our lives during lockdown, why not sign up to join Action Tutoring as a volunteer tutor?” she said.
The charity’s target is to build within the next few months a 1,500 strong workforce of volunteers, across the country, trained and ready to provide small-group, face-to-face tutoring once schools are in a position to welcome external visitors. Together, these volunteers can positively impact the life chances of the 75,000 children from disadvantaged backgrounds that currently leave school every year without basic qualifications in maths and English.

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