We’re a learning organisation focused on levelling the inequalities we see in education, by ensuring every child who needs one, has access to a great tutor.

So, when our partners at the University of Manchester approached us to take part in a research-based social justice project to enable us to better understand the communities that our pupils belong to, we seized the opportunity.

The findings from the year-long place-based social justice research will enable us to make further improvements to our practices and delivery; enhance our professional skills and agency through developing action research skills, and allow us to think creatively about our responses to poverty, using the learning from this to shape our policies.

Dr Julian Skyrme, Director of Social Responsibility at The University of Manchester, said:

Third sector educational organisations play an increasingly important role in addressing poverty and social disadvantage through their programmes with young people. This is why we’re delighted to team up with the award-winning Tutor Trust to co-create new insights and methods that can be applied by all charities wishing to improve their understanding and approach to poverty through their educational outreach work.

The project is being led by Dr Carl Emery (pictured right) and Louisa Dawes (pictured left), both previously teachers in Manchester, who have vast experience of working with a range of regional and national policymakers and practitioners. Carl and Louisa work at the Institute of Education, at the University of Manchester, as Lecturers in Education and Social Justice. Their specialist areas are poverty, power and place with an emphasis on mental health and the power of language in positioning inequalities.

Together, they run the Local Matters* programme which advocates a different response from schools and community organisations to addressing the needs of children and families living in poverty. Local Matters operates across the Northwest of England working with local authorities and governing bodies as well as with the National Education Union.  The two were amongst the first guests on our new Tutorcast podcast in October and November, talking about their work with schools to improve the educational outcomes for young people living in the most disadvantaged communities in the North of England. 

Our conversations with them for the podcast prompted the initial idea for a place-based social justice research programme. Over the next 12-months, Tutor Trust, supported by the University, will carry out a series of critical seminars, attitudinal surveys, research training and action research activities. Staff and volunteers will critically explore what is known about poverty, both locally and nationally, and apply this knowledge to make changes to organisational practice and policy.

Dr Emery and Louisa Dawes believe the research will support the Trust in supporting the least advantaged young people:

“Too often policy makers and practitioners see poverty as having a simple beginning, middle and end. It is viewed as something that can be fixed if we all just 'do better'.

We are delighted to be launching this programme with Tutor Trust to use research to really explore what poverty looks like locally and how Tutor Trust and the university can respond to this through the needs of local people, local knowledge and resources.”

Tutor Trust Co-Founders Nick Bent, Chief Executive, and Abigail Shapiro, Executive Director, welcome the opportunity to take part in the project.

This is a vital piece of research that will, we hope, make our tuition even more impactful and relevant to the communities and young people we serve. We want to be involved in research that is shaping policy and practice, and to lead the way in demonstrating what high-quality tuition should be and deliver.

“We have taken part in various ground-breaking research trials over the years, including two Randomised Control trials, the first of which helped inform the framework for the National Tutoring Programme.

“We are excited to see how this latest project takes shape and what we learn from it – I think there is huge potential for it to have a positive impact on our tuition. And not just for us, but perhaps even more widely in education. If we all have a greater understanding of the challenges some of our tutees are facing – and that our tutors too may have faced – we can better structure our tuition to meet their needs and make an even greater impact on pupil outcomes.”

*You can find out more about Local Matters on the NEU website.