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1st February 2019

Weathering the ‘perfect storm’ in education

The Tutor Trust is just one of many charities helping disadvantaged pupils achieve their educational dreams
Weathering the ‘perfect storm’ in education
The changing face of tutoring. Photo: The Tutor Trust

An Oxfam report recently described a “perfect storm” of hardship experienced by many across the country as austerity has led to lower spending on key public services gradually since 2010. Education sits near the top of the list of areas most harshly affected by cuts, with schools nationwide forced to cut staff and increase class sizes in the wake of ever-changing targets and expectations. Private tuition has never been more present in our society, but with the work of charities like The Tutor Trust, high-quality tuition is becoming increasingly available to all.

The harsh reality of this country’s education system is all too apparent – a quarter of secondary schools are running at a deficit and funding will have dropped by 4.6% since 2015 as of next year (The Guardian). Evidence from any source points to a crisis, but as the targets for grades rise and exams increase in difficulty, schools, pupils, and parents alike find themselves struggling to keep up. The infinitely-edged sword of austerity only furthers these issues, as those from suffering poorer communities fall behind those more affluent who have the luxury of affording private tutors.

The private tutoring industry is now worth an estimated £2bn and can be found in all parts of the country as parents seek to give their children the best possible advantage in a hyper-competitive education system. Private tutoring centres, such as Explore Learning which has 139 centres across England, come at a great cost to many families but are equally seen as a necessity as schools cut back in services while rolling on greater expectations.

Explore Learning exemplifies the new form of private tutoring we see frequently today, with branches mainly in shopping centres offering tuition for one to six pupils at a time. It’s far from the somewhat antiquated image of a one-to-one tutor in a luxurious family home drilling times-tables into a middle class 5-year-old’s head, but tuition remains far from accessible for all.

Services such as Explore Learning carry substantial fees, with a £119 per month subscription fee plus a £50 registration fee which allows up to nine sessions a month. Despite wider consumption and appeal of these tutoring services, there still remains a great need for the democratisation of addition education provision, as the advancement of this existing system leads to huge gaps in attainment across social classes and families living beyond their means in an attempt to bridge the gaps.

The work required to change the face of tuition on a national basis is huge, but charities such as The Tutor Trust are making crucial steps to bring high-quality tutoring to those who need it most and would otherwise have no access to it.

Now into its eighth academic year, The Tutor Trust is a Manchester-based organisation set on helping the transformation of the attainment and aspirations of disadvantaged young people across the country. They offer one to three tuition in primary and secondary schools as well as Further Education colleges and centres for alternative education provision.

A recent EEF (Education Endowment Fund) report praised The Tutor Trust as an excellent provider of tuition, hailing their services as “gold standard” and a “cost effective way to boost attainment for struggling pupils.” The report showed an average 3 months extra progress in maths after just 12 hours of tuition, with an increase of 52% more students tutored achieving their age-related expected grades following tuition.

In its mission to transform tuition and the culture surrounding it, The Tutor Trust specifically aims to provide tuition for those students deemed most in need of it. Pupils are three times more likely to be on free school meals than the national average, and 58% of tutees receive Pupil Premium in comparison to just 28% across England.

The process of democratising tuition has still maintained evidently high standards and at a much lower cost. Private tuition averages at £27 per hour, whereas The Tutor Trust’s intervention studied by the EEF came to just £9.33 per pupil per hour, none of which was paid by the students’ families.

Even in a wider context, organisations such as The Tutor Trust can provide great benefits to a community. Many of the tutors are local university students, which provides young, motivated mentors for children to look up to and emulate, while also helping university students unfamiliar with Manchester become more ingrained in local communities.

One student tutor commented: “Working for The Tutor Trust is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. It can be challenging at times but those challenges are always worth it when your students achieve their goals and open up opportunities for themselves they never could have imagined.”

Student tutors are passionate about the work they do and the services provide, with the charitable and equitable ethos of The Tutor Trust a major selling point. As an organisation it’s ever-growing, recently receiving a £500,000 grant from the Department of Education to establish a network of alternative provision tuition. This desired transformation in tuition and the wider culture of education is charging ahead, with the work of organisations like The Tutor Trust at the forefront.

If you want to further the mission of The Tutor Trust and support young, disadvantaged people across Manchester, applications to become a tutor end February 8th and can be found on their website.

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