Action Tutoring is a national education charity, which recruits and trains volunteers as English and maths tutors to work with pupils in primary and secondary school. Committed to educational equality, their mission is to support disadvantaged young people to reach a meaningful level of academic attainment. 90% of the pupils they support are eligible for the Government's Pupil Premium funding and are considered disadvantaged. Their pupils do not pay for the tutoring they receive, and they would not be able to afford private tuition.
Prior to the pandemic, all of Action Tutoring’s sessions were conducted in-person, however developing its provision to deliver tutoring online, as well as face-to-face, had been part of Action Tutoring’s long-term vision for some time. Grace Jenkins, Curriculum and Training Manager at Action Tutoring says,
“We knew that online tutoring would help us reach pupils in more remote communities, whilst offering our volunteers enhanced flexibility. The pandemic accelerated these plans, as disadvantaged pupils were left without adequate support during lockdown. The attainment gap has widened as a result of this period of school closures. Even before the pandemic, disadvantaged pupils were on average already 18 months behind their non-disadvantaged peers by the end of secondary school. Projections suggested school closures would widen the existing attainment gap and studies suggested it could widen by as much as 75%.”
Action Tutoring knew they needed to train their tutors on how to use their online resources and newly developed virtual classroom. However, the team didn’t have the capacity to deliver this themselves, so they needed to find a way to train huge numbers of volunteer tutors, without a member of staff needing to do it physically.
With around 800 tutors that needed training in just a couple of months, Grace and the team knew they needed to act fast. They needed to find a solution that would enable the tutors to be able to complete the training at a time that suited them, to increase engagement and take-up rates. They also wanted the option for tutors to be able to complete the training across multiple sittings. They initially trialled using a series of webinars. Grace says,
“In the summer of 2020, we trialled using webinars to train around 50 tutors on how to use the virtual classroom and its associated tools. The webinars lasted 45 minutes and were run by two members of staff. Feedback from our volunteer tutors was that the webinar training covered a lot of ground but didn’t provide a thorough enough introduction to online tutoring. Volunteer tutors said they wanted to be able to review the information shared in the webinar at a later time that suited them, and they wanted to be able to watch videos of tutoring sessions in the virtual classroom.”
Based on the feedback, Grace and the team knew they needed to provide more than just webinars to give the volunteer tutors the training they needed. Grace says,
“We decided to trial Looop, after the platform was recommended to us from Bookmark Reading. We loved the simplicity of the platform and that it allowed us to create training for online tutoring in a very tight timeframe. Looop’s functions were so easy to get to grips with. We also loved the Analytics function, since we wanted to monitor volunteers’ engagement and ensure they’d completed the training before they began tutoring pupils in the virtual classroom.”
They decided to experiment with pathways, that were initially shared internally with staff to gather feedback and then shared with volunteer tutors to complete before their first online session. Grace explains,
“We created a compulsory pathway for our volunteer tutors to complete before their first online session, which consisted of 14 resources. The pathway contained quizzes to help consolidate learning, PDF leaflets for the tutors to download and videos demonstrating how to use the online tools. New tutors were added to the pathway daily and completion rates were monitored using the analytics function.”
Looop’s in-app Analytics function allowed Grace and the team to monitor which volunteers were completing the pathways, in real time. They also utilised the Campaigns function to trigger automatic follow-up reminder emails to ensure their volunteers weren’t forgetting to complete the pathways they’re enrolled in.
Since launching the training in September 2020, Action Tutoring have trained over 2,500 volunteer tutors. Grace says,
“Using Looop to train our online tutors has been a hugely successful initiative. Engagement and completion rates have been so high that we have created additional, optional pathways for our tutors to upskill them in specific areas and enhance their teaching practice. These additional pathways have been automatically shared with tutors after completing the compulsory training, using the Campaigns function.
We are aiming to have created 10 optional pathways on Looop by the end of this academic year for our tutors to develop their pedagogy and practice. Topics will range from Behaviour Management to Unconscious Bias. We’re hoping to be able to start storing our tutoring resources for volunteer tutors on Looop too, so that the platform can be used as a library for resources. We are also looking at moving some of our induction sessions for new staff on to Looop so that the sessions don’t need to be delivered by staff members.”
If you’re interested in volunteering as a tutor or partnering as a school with Action Tutoring, please visit their website.
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