At the Foundation, we spend most of our time thinking at the scale of one project at a time, asking what can a handful of volunteers do for these students or this school? At this landmark moment in our journey, we want to step back and ask a bigger question: what have we done with our first 1,000 volunteers?
We asked the Foundation’s Director, Joss Serraillier, to give us his thoughts.
Why do so many tutors volunteer?
The effectiveness of one-to-one and small group tuition is beyond question. Every year, schools across the UK spend hundreds of millions on individualised support for their students, and in the private sector the market is booming. In London, as many as 40% of students have had a private tutor supplement their education. Every educator in the country can tell you the problem this raises for a society in which a child’s academic success is still so closely linked to their parents’ income.
In setting up programmes and recruiting volunteers, we have to answer a lot of questions. We’re asked about the practicalities and logistics of the placement; travel arrangements and timetables. We’re asked about age groups, class sizes and how to work with teachers. But we’re never asked why. Why do you do this? Why should I help? It’s plain that tutors understand implicitly both the value that they can add to the lives of students from less advantaged backgrounds and the rewards that they’ll get in return. And, therefore, they understand the Foundation’s mission.
Our opportunities remove the barriers between tutors and the students who need them the most – and that’s enough to turn the wheel. We receive volunteer applications every single day from tutors from a wide variety of backgrounds – all with a drive to learn, to grow, and to do what they can to help.
Where did it all begin?
The first tutor to volunteer for the Foundation was one of Tutorfair’s founders - Mark Maclaine. A market-transcending tutor with more than 20,000 hours experience, Mark volunteered with students at Central Foundation Boy’s School as part of a collaboration with The Access Project. He recalls that the most important outcome from the sessions was not in topics covered or questions answered, but in the shifting attitude he saw from his tutee towards their teachers.
Seven years later came number 1,000 – Janet. An astronomy Ph.D and butterfly enthusiast, Janet tutors A-Level physics at Oaklands School in East London. Already travelling up to London each week to tutor, Janet discovered the Foundation looking online for opportunities to tutor on a voluntary basis. You can read her thoughts on the rewards of volunteering here.
Who have we helped?
At the end of October 2019, Tutorfair volunteers have provided free tutoring to 9,419 students across many projects and partnerships. The projects are selected on the basis of students’ need. Any school in which more than 50% of the student population qualifies for Pupil Premium Grant is eligible for support from the Foundation, but not all projects have been school-based.
The Foundation also supports extra-curricular projects in areas of high deprivation and worked with students struggling with mental or physical ill-health, bullying or displacement.
What do we want to do next?
The Foundation is currently running a number of volunteer projects across London and Birmingham. If you would like to volunteer you can sign up here to find out more. We hope to reach our next milestone – 10,000 students helped – before the end of 2019/20 academic year.
Nesta’s pilot of Tutorfair On-Demand has come to an end and we are seeking grant funding to continue to improve and expand the service. If you would like to support our fundraising efforts in any way, contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To help us reach our next 1,000 tutors we want to step up our in-school programme in the New Year. We’re always on the lookout for fresh partnerships; for organisations who share our ethos and our aims and would either like to fund or to benefit from the work that we do at the Foundation. If you or your organisation would like to be involved with the work that we do, you can reach out to me directly at email@example.com.