To the left of the picture two secondary school-aged female pupils wearing purple blazers are sat at a desk with their backs to the camera. On the other side of a desk a young male tutor wearing a white t-shirt and glasses is sat. He is looking down at a laptop and explaining a concept to the pupils.

Relationships: Your most valuable resource for classroom success

Jo Meredith, Director of our specialist Tutoring Plus service, reflects on how to create the ideal environment for learning


  • Time to read: 5 minutes

Recently, I've been reflecting on my experience of the learning environments or conditions that suit me best. This, after almost 40 years in education, prompted me to do a deep dive analysis into the barriers that many children and young people (that I have worked with) have faced.

As educators, we are aware of the cliché that ‘behaviour is a form of communication,’ which is true, but it is often more complex than that. We all exhibit a variety of behaviours at different times and in different circumstances. We then interpret others’ behaviours based on our own experiences – cultural, social, societal, etc. – which are also complex.

My experiences have led me to the conclusion (and it is not rocket science!) that all forms of communication are greatly improved if supportive relationships are built. We all want to be loved, and need to be able to trust others.

Humans are social animals and need strong, supportive, and loving relationships to thrive. This got me thinking about those children and young people that we work with who have experienced trauma in their lives, and how we can moderate our approach to show integrity and authenticity in all our interactions. It is always helpful to know that anyone we interact with could have suffered trauma in their lives and to ensure that we build relationships through a trauma-informed lens. This means firstly being sensitive to the impact of trauma on others and yourself, and secondly, understanding this and using strategies to support yourself and others in regulating emotions during times of stress.

This enables us to understand that trauma is widespread. Many of us have a trauma story or narrative in our lives and as mentioned before, these experiences will affect how we perceive the world. Once we understand this, it allows us to think differently about how we interact with the people around us.

Here are my top three tips for developing supportive relationships with the young people that you may be working with.

Three top tips

Express care


Use language and physical cues that show genuine and authentic care. For example, active listening and empathy.

Share equally


Be clear that the tutor-tutee relationship is equal. Show the young person you’re working with that what they are saying is equally important and that the power dynamic is equitable, showing them that they’re valued.

Choices that empower


Provide the young person with options during sessions. Pose questions: “Which task would you prefer?”, “What do you need to look at next time?” Give opportunities to empower by using open statements, “It’s now your turn to show me what you understand about…”

If these aspects are included as part of a learning relationship, children and young people can feel valued, seen, and heard. And remember, consistency is key.


Icons courtesy of Creative Mahira

A tutor and a pupil smile during a tuition session.

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