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Tutoring the next generation through a pandemic

Student studying on laptop

Manchester students have been supporting disadvantaged pupils to stay on track in school during the pandemic as part of the National Tutoring Programme.

Back in March 2020, children, parents and schools had to quickly adapt to online learning as the COVID-19 pandemic started to take hold. Now, the National Tutoring Programme is aiming to close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils, enlisting the help of the Tutor Trust and University of Manchester students to achieve it.

Eliane Roll, a second-year English Literature and French student, and an advanced tutor on the programme, has been working with the Tutor Trust since starting university in 2019.

“Tutoring programmes are essential for the pupils because, as a tutor, you’re another adult that’s there consistently for them,” she explains.

“They know you care about their learning, and you’re someone they can rely on.”

Adapting to change

The University has worked with the Tutor Trust since 2011. Focusing on the Greater Manchester area, students work with schools to align their sessions with the curriculum and provide a fun and safe learning environment for those who are struggling.

Eliane has been helping students at the Co-op Academy Swinton with their English writing and language skills. She quickly adapted to the new digital way of working.

“With the new safeguarding measures that came in, you have to see an adult at the beginning and end of each session. It’s lovely because you get to say to them ‘your child has done brilliantly today’, and the parents are really thankful.”

“It helps to close the gap and gives them opportunities that, without this programme, they wouldn’t have,” adds Felicity Fagan, Assistant Head Teacher at the Co-op Academy.

“Because the topics are in line with what they’re studying in the classroom, you can fine-tune the skills they might be lacking or help students achieve their higher grade potential. It’s more personalised learning.”

Greater access and support

With the average cost of a private tutor around £25 to £35 per hour, this free-of-charge (for pupils) provision has helped pupils who may not have been able to access support to maintain and improve their learning in lockdown.

Pupils have received a mix of online and in-person teaching, with the Academy having up to 100 pupils physically attending each day, based on their circumstances.

Thanks to funding, the Academy was eventually able to supply their students with laptops, dongles and internet vouchers to help with their online learning. When it’s safe to do so, it hopes to adopt a blended approach, with in-person sessions for Years 7–10 at the school and online sessions for Year 11 in the evenings.

Benefits for students

The Tutor Trust aims to support 6,000 pupils this year, requiring 1,000 tutors. The University is supporting the current recruitment drive.

Stephanie Lee, Head of Widening Participation at Manchester, believes the programme gives students the chance to boost their skills. “Not only does this bring much-needed support to local schools but it also provides an excellent opportunity for our students to gain valuable experience and employment,” she comments.

Eliane agrees. She encourages anyone interested in teaching or developing professional skills such as planning, time management and relationship building to apply.

“It’s so interesting to be able to go and work with these young people,” she reflects. “You learn a lot about yourself.”

Alumni in the north of England and students who are interested in applying to become a tutor can on The Tutor Trust website

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