2020 has brought immense new challenges for every organisation. Through special levels of commitment and innovation, many navigated the difficulties that the pandemic and lockdown brought this year, with some adapting their models for the better.

Tutor Trust has had just as unique a year as anyone as we pursue our mission of ‘transforming lives through tutoring’ across the North of England. In this piece, we’ll look back at what happened and everything we accomplished in the most unexpected year in our charity’s history...

The year started promisingly, with the welcoming of new staff members, and an invitation to speak at an event put on by our partners at the EEF in Westminster. We moved into March with a massive achievement, as we recruited more tutors than ever in a single recruitment round, with a total of 176 joining us.  March was also set to be our busiest month of the year in schools, with nearly 1,000 hours of tutoring taking place each week across Greater Manchester, Leeds and Merseyside.

But despite this setting us up to reach more pupils than ever in 2020, the spread of COVID-19 sent the country into a lockdown and all our work was put on hold. With schools closed, our usual services were paused - a promising academic year of work was ended prematurely.

It quickly became clear that school closures were having the greatest impact on disadvantaged pupils, and so Tutor Trust worked tirelessly to come up with a way of reaching those that needed our support. After a month of rapid innovation, we launched our first ever programme of online tutoring, working with 85 pupils across 6 of our partner schools for a 12-week programme.

We received tonnes of essential support from other organisations in delivering our ambitious online plans. The Northern Powerhouse Partnership provided laptops to disadvantaged pupils on our Alternative Provision programme, The Right Angle, in May. We became the first charity to partner with the Hg Foundation, who agreed to fund a hybrid model of face-to-face and online tutoring. We were incredibly proud to be part of a national pilot of online tutoring, thanks to our friends at the Education Endowment Foundation, together with Sutton Trust, Impetus and NESTA. This enabled us to tutor a further 90 pupils online – with over 75% being eligible for Free School Meals –  through this ground-breaking pilot. Tutor Trust were now fully effective in delivering online tutoring and ready to help pupils wherever they worked from.

Our shift to online didn’t stop with tutoring: in May, we began to provide training for our tutors through a series of online video tutorials; in June, we began recruiting tutors again entirely remotely and set up a complete new programme of online training. Over the summer, we reviewed and built our resource bank for tutors, resulting in the state of the art Thinqi Library.

Tutor Trust appeared more and more in the press as our work developed in lockdown, from the Yorkshire post, to the Evening Standard, to BBC News at 6.  We also featured in The Economist and our Co-Founder and CEO Nick Bent was interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s PM and Today programmes.

We were delighted when our Alternative Provision work was recognised by the Fair Education Alliance, who named us in their Scaling Award winners for 2020. 

Our hard work over the summer term and summer holidays put us in an amazing position for the new academic year. Our office team grew and we continued to recruit more of the highest-quality tutors. As the new term got under way in September, Tutor Trust were working in more schools and getting ready to deliver more tutoring than ever before during an autumn term. In October, we published our 2020 Impact Report.

Then, on 2nd November, we were officially announced as a Tuition Partner of the National Tutoring Programme (NTP). This incredible opportunity would allow us to grow rapidly: over 4,500 pupils will be tutored this year, some online and some face-to-face, across Merseyside, Greater Manchester and Leeds-Bradford.  To help counteract the damage to education caused by COVID, we are doubling the number of pupils we had planned to serve in 2020/21.   

We had joined national conversations all year about a ‘national tutoring service’ and impactful catch-up schemes for pupils; in the end, it was our model that formed the basis of the NTP’s plans, and our hard work earned us a special place at the heart of its delivery.

With the first term of the academic year drawing to a close, we are enthusiastically planning for 2021. We will be able to provide a vital intervention to disadvantaged pupils across the North who missed out on learning during lockdown. Our ‘COVID-proof’ model and our NTP Tuition Partner status make us confident we will have a huge impact in tackling the attainment gap in 2021.

As an active member of the Fair Education Alliance, we have also lobbied successfully for the National Tutoring Programme to be extended for a second year in 2021/22.

Our capacity and quality are increasing constantly. We owe a massive thank you to all the partners, funders and supporters that made our work possible this year. We must also acknowledge the patience and hard work of our tutors, both online and face-to-face, throughout these uncertain times. Above all, we must congratulate our office team, whose creativity and resilience allowed us to adapt so swiftly during such a challenging time and to ensure we kept on ‘transforming lives through tutoring’.

Thank you to everyone for your continued support – have a wonderful Christmas and New Year!

To find out more about our work in the 2019/20 academic year, check out our annual Impact Report.