The theme of this year’s World Mental Health Day is Mental health is a universal human right. This aligns with our belief that tutoring can improve the mental wellbeing of young people, as well as help with attainment. In ‘The Future of Tutoring’ report, which we worked on earlier this year with our sister organisations, teachers reported that tutoring led to increased confidence, better pupil engagement in the classroom and reduced anxiety. This was backed up by 85% of parents who said tutoring had positively impacted their child’s confidence.

There’s no denying that young people are struggling – the fallout from the pandemic continues and now the cost-of-living crisis is also impacting youth wellbeing. In February this year, Action for Children’s research showed that one in six 5–16-year-olds are likely to have a mental health problem, a figure that has risen by 50% in the past three years, and nearly half of children from low-income backgrounds worry about money.

Last month, the Fair Education Alliance launched their Fair Education Manifesto. One of the recommendations of the report was “Rebalancing our systems to value skills and wellbeing alongside attainment.” This highlights a need to prioritise the mental health of young people if we want them to succeed. 

As director of our Tutoring Plus offer, this is a priority for us, as we provide specialised support for Cared for Children, young people at risk of exclusion, persistent absentees, and young people in alternative provision (AP) settings.

Over the past year, we've seen more young people who have been nominated for the programme because they are not regularly attending school. In 2021/2022, attendance for pupils that we are working with in Tutoring Plus was 79% - at the end of 2023/2023 this was 67%. There are many reasons why a young person may not consistently attend school, including (but not limited to) disengagement with education, trauma, turmoil in family circumstance, instability in the home, involvement in activities outside school, unmet needs, or undiagnosed SEND. For some of these young people, tutoring provides a valuable way to reengage with education. 

The additional needs of these young people means that we need to look at a bespoke provision. Our tutors and coordinators build strong links with staff in school and parent and carers. This is crucial in maintaining attendance and engagement. Rather than our usual model of tutoring in groups of 1:3 we work with these young people in a 1:1 setting, enabling our tutors to really build the trust of the young person that they’re working with and start to work with them on developing their confidence and resilience. Our focus is on developing the Whole Child, to ensure that these learners can reach their full potential and have the tools available to help them progress further in the future.

Given this landscape of increased mental health issues among young people, we have broadened our offer to provide increased support. Our new Time for Me programme for 7–11-year-olds combines tutoring and mentoring, so that pupils can have access to a positive role model and raise their aspirations as well as receive academic support. To prepare, we’ve partnered with Haili Hughes, Principal Lecturer in mentoring at the University of Sunderland, who delivered training in mentoring to all Tutor Trust staff- some of our colleagues have received additional trainers to upskill the tutors who will be delivering the Time for Me programme.  

This programme has been carefully designed to ensure that tutors can dedicate enough time to working with pupils on their wellbeing as well as providing academic support. The programme is an 18-hour block rather than our standard 15 hours and in this time tutors will:

  • Motivate reluctant learners and build relationships based on trust
  • Coach learners
  • Use active listening to ask the right questions
  • Close the loop with reflective activities 
  • Access a workshop on mentoring on our Thinqi training platform 

Our genuine desire to increase positive mental health outcomes is demonstrated by us using the Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale, alongside pupil, school, and parent/carer feedback to measure the impact that we have hopefully had on learners’ resilience and confidence. Our tutors are crucial to the success of this and the life changing opportunities it can provide for young people who are most likely to need support with their health and wellbeing.