The Tutorfair Foundation's big idea to change volunteer tutoring

January 23, 2020 by Hannah
Image Between 2017 and 2019, The Tutorfair Foundation developed and tested a new model for online tuition. By creating a platform for tutors to reach students all over the country, we wanted to reach students outside of major cities and provide a more flexible way of volunteering for all of the tutors who want to help but can’t find an opportunity to commit to regularly.

After running Tutorfair On-Demand for two years, it’s now gone into hibernation as we seek funding to improve, expand and then test the model at scale. This is our biggest, most challenging project to date and we love talking about it whenever we can. If you’re new to the idea, here’s everything you need to know.

The Problem


The UK has a Maths problem. Over half of adults lack the basic numeracy skills expected of primary school leavers and last year 29% of students who sit GCSE Maths fail to achieve a passing grade. For students eligible for the Pupil Premium Grant the problem is even starker, with over 40% failing to gain this vital  qualification.

Whilst, by many measures, standards in schools may be improving, it’s not the case that educational inequalities are reducing as a result. In fact, the opposite may be true. In 2019, the Children’s Commissioner was reporting that, since 2015, the number of students on free school meals (FSM) that leave school with ‘no substantive education’ has increased by 25%.
"The link between low income and low academic attainment is greater in the UK than almost any other developed nation." - Teach First (2016)

The root causes of educational inequality in the UK are many, complex and far-reaching. We have identified 3 major causes that we as an organisation have the power to change:

Many families can’t afford a tutor


The cost of private tuition means that low-income households can’t access one-to- one tuition – the intervention that has been shown time and time again to be most effective in improving outcomes.Most programmes designed to combat inequality will involve providing additional help during school hours. Whilst this can be effective, in-school support comes at the only time when many students already have access to support. Too often, when students leave school to go home there will be nobody there to help them – parent, sibling or tutor.

More than half of volunteers never get to help


Because we work in schools, so many of our willing volunteers either can’t get to one of our placements or will incur significant expenses in order to do so. This problem is universal for school-based volunteer programmes and makes scaling these solutions extremely difficult.

The Solution 


Tutorfair On-Demand is a revolutionary new platform delivering free 1-to-1 GCSE Maths support.

Now everyone can afford a tutor


In every way, our platform is free to use.It’s an app, free to download on any device, that will connect you instantly to a trained tutor who has the knowledge to help you. No installation, no complex setup.

Unprecedented access to help at home


The app is live 6-9 pm weekdays and 5-8 pm weekends. Unlike in-school programmes, this free intervention is designed to help students when they might have nobody else to turn to. By making our tutors available in these vital “homework” hours, students who don’t have family who can help them now have a lifeline they’ve never had before.

Any willing tutors can volunteer with ease


Our volunteers love it! Totally flexible volunteering. Sign up for the hours you’re free each week and tutor without major disruption to your routine – volunteer from home, work or uni.


Outcomes


Thanks to Nesta’s Click, Connect, Learn Fund, we were able to build an app on time and under budget.Over the course of the project, we’ve showed that the technology works, that we can get students using the app, that we can get volunteers engaged with the project and that there will be high demand from schools across many regions of the country.

So far, we’ve had 645 students use the app across 34 partner schools. We’ve recruited and trained 148 volunteers along the way to help them.

The Vision


Free STEM tuition for everyone who needs it. We think that’s a vision worth delivering. And we think we’re exactly the people to deliver it. We have seven years of experience managing an EdTech platform, all the while recruiting volunteers and working closely with school leaders.

With the requisite funding, we can deliver a revolution in the fight against educational inequality – an effective, impactful resource available for free to everyone who needs it.

In the lives of digital natives, geographical location and family income should no longer be barriers to academic success for children in the UK. Tutorfair On-Demand can be a much-needed lifeline for thousands of students in this country - a first-of-its-kind service that, one day, we’ll wonder how we ever lived without. We’re fundraising to make this vision a reality.

If you would like to support us on our journey (whether that’s donating to the project or through collaboration) we’d be delighted to hear from you. Get in touch with the team at foundation@tutorfair.com
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