Funding for projects to bring online tutoring to disadvantaged pupils announced

Nesta and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport tackle educational inequality through three new projects

Austin Clark | 7th Sep 17

Innovation foundation Nesta has announced that three projects have received funding from its Click Connect Learn fund.

The fund is an initiative supported by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that was launched in November 2016 to support innovative organisations to develop online volunteer-led tutoring for disadvantaged pupils in England.

Nesta research shows that access to volunteer tutors improves the educational attainment of students from deprived backgrounds, helping them to progress through education, employment or training.

Click Connect Learn aims to use digital technologies to bring tutoring to disadvantaged students and students in rural areas with a shortage of potential volunteers. The areas chosen to pilot these technologies were selected by grant recipients as areas of deprivation where there is the potential to increase career and educational aspirations.

Whether delivering free GCSE maths tutoring via instant messaging for students or arranging French conversation exchanges for students in rural Peterborough, each organisation is tasked with delivering a full programme in the 2017/18 school year and will be supported over 18 months to do so. The programme aims to demonstrate the potential of online tutoring and enable many more students and schools to take it up in the future.

The Click Connect Learn grantees are:

  • TutorFair Foundation (£149,700) – Provides an ‘on demand’ tutoring service for GCSE Maths via an instant messaging platform that can be accessed from both mobile and desktop devices. This provision of free tuition is done through using volunteer tutors to make it accessible to students from disadvantaged backgrounds, rural and coastal schools. The project aims to reach over 750 students by December 2018.
  • The Access Project (£113,000) – Through a new online volunteer tuition programme, the Access Project aims to improve disadvantaged young people’s prospects by enabling them to access academic tuition and increase their chance of securing a place at university. It works with secondary students, targeting schools with high pupil premium numbers. The funding will be used to prototype then launch an online academic tuition programme with at least 50 students by September 2018. Volunteers are to be recruited in cities which have a high graduate demographic and to work with young people from outside of London.
  • Whole Education, Language Futures (£113,400) – Language Futures combines digital resources and language proficient volunteers with project based learning, peer collaboration and the expertise of Modern Foreign Languages teachers, to provide highly personalised learning support. The project will take Language Futures into the digital world for the first time –  training volunteers in online tutoring to address the shortage of volunteer tutors in its schools in rural Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. This will tackle issues of finding mentors for all requested languages, consistent mentor attendance, and travel.

Amy Solder, project lead on the education team at Nesta said: “Online volunteer-led tutoring has huge potential to improve educational outcomes for disadvantaged pupils. We have a great opportunity to use digital technology to even out the playing field. Where a young person lives no longer needs to dictate which educational resources they can access.”

Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, added: “We want all children, regardless of background, to benefit from a good education. Click, Connect, Learn will help equip disadvantaged pupils with the knowledge and skills they need to fulfil their potential and to compete in a competitive jobs market.‎

“Our £72 million Opportunity Areas programme will also create more opportunities for young people in social mobility ‘coldspots’ across the country, ensuring that best practice is spread far and wide.”

Since 2013, Nesta and the Office for Civil Society have been working in partnership to increase the availability of volunteer-led tutoring within schools, in order to increase education attainment. Their partnership on the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund included three grants to tutoring organisations, mobilising 4,500 volunteer tutors to help 8,500 students with impressive results. For example, Action Tutoring demonstrated in an RCT (the gold standard of evaluation) that tutored students increased their GCSE grade by a third. They have also published a schools-led model of volunteer tutoring.