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Volunteer tutors transform kids' lives

Words by Smiley Team

In 2012, Susannah Hardyman had an idea – one that aimed to support the hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged children in schools.

She created Action Tutoring, an education charity empowering volunteer tutors to work with pupils in need. “I was inspired after seeing the difference that targeted, extra tutoring support can make to young lives, following my experiences as a private tutor,” she tells Smiley News.

“At the time, I was also involved in volunteer youth work in my community in Peckham. I grew really frustrated that many of the young people I spoke to had big aspirations and dreams and wanted to do really well at school, but were lacking the opportunity to access the support that tutoring could give them.”

Susannah – who started her career in the charity sector, but occasionally in the evenings did some private tutoring work – has always been passionate about social justice. “It really bothered me that tutoring was the domain of those who could afford it and wasn’t reaching those who really needed it,” she says. 

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Action Tutoring started in Peckham, as a pilot programme with a local school. A funder became interested, and enabled Susannah to pilot it on a larger scale. Now, they’re offering tutoring sessions to 7,000 children across England. 

Tutoring for positive change

Over the past ten years, the charity has made huge progress and, by the end of this academic year, they will have worked with 26,000 pupils with the help of over 9,000 tutors since they began in 2012.

One pupil, Muhammad, who used their services, said to them:  “At the start of the year, I couldn’t even imagine sitting an exam in maths! It’s been difficult being in and out of school because of the pandemic. 

“Knowing you have that extra support has given me more confidence in class.

"It’s meant I feel safe about taking the things I didn’t understand in class and talking to my tutor about them in a space outside the classroom, which has been helpful.”

Volunteers make it happen

Susannah says they support their volunteers with resources and opportunities to improve their personal development and careers. “One of our first tutors, Patrick Bidder, was inspired to become a teacher after his volunteering experience,” she says. “Another former tutor from Turkey, Sabri sought asylum in the UK and got his first teaching experience here through Action Tutoring. Today, he is a maths and science teacher in North London.”

Volunteers are the lifeline of the charity’s impact work, says Susannah. “Our volunteers are an invaluable resource who drive our purpose and impact, and I am constantly inspired by their passion and commitment to improving the academic performance of young people,” she says. 

“We empower motivated volunteers, from all walks of life, to connect with disadvantaged pupils in their local communities or across the country. Our volunteer tutors are from different backgrounds and of different nationalities including university students, career professionals from different sectors of business, civil servants, and retired professionals.”

Volunteers do not need any previous teaching experience as Action Tutoring provides the required training, workbooks, and tailored support to help them succeed as tutors.

“Not only do they help pupils achieve better grades, but they also serve as positive role models by creating a supportive environment for pupils to feel confident and motivated to thrive at school and later in life.”

Inspired to act?

VOLUNTEER: If you are interested in changing the life of a young person with an hour of volunteer tutoring each week, find out more or send an email at: [email protected].

DONATE: You can donate to Action Tutoring to help them continue their work for disadvantaged pupils.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs

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