A tutor writes as a pupils looks on. A second pupil is focused on their writing.

Episode 10: Equitable recruitment at Tutor Trust

At Tutor Trust, our purpose is to ‘transform lives through tutoring’. This applies across the whole charity, and not only to the pupils we serve but also to the people we train to tutor with us: we are committed to tackling inequality in education, which is just as present at university as it is in school. 


  • Time to read: 5 minutes

Every day we work with young people from a range of backgrounds who need additional academic support, but who would not otherwise have access to an amazing tutor.

We know that tuition has an equally positive impact on our tutors, enabling them to develop vital skills for their future careers. We realised that many university students, from similar backgrounds to our tutees, were not confident in applying to tutor with us.  In this academic year, we are determined to make our tutor recruitment more equitable and representative of the areas we serve. So, we developed our Widening Participation (WP) Programme for prospective tutors and are committed to tackling inequality in education, which is just as present at university as it is in school. 

Working in collaboration with the respective WP and Access teams at our long-term partners at the University of Manchester and University of Leeds (Manchester Access Programme and Access to Leeds) we piloted a programme this year to address that gap, and provided conditional interview offers to students who engaged with these schemes. 

Our programme has been so successful that, in line with Social Mobility Awareness Day, we’re delighted to announce that we will be rolling out the programme with all our university partners from September 2023.

What is Widening Participation? 

Widening Participation (WP) is an umbrella term for a variety of schemes that aim to increase the number of people from underrepresented backgrounds entering higher education, creating a more diverse and inclusive student community. We are all too aware that a young person’s school experience isn’t indicative of their future potential, and this is why an essential element of our scheme is to offer conditional interviews to people attending university through an access or widening participation scheme and who may have missed out on our required grades or experience. 

Our analysis has shown that tutors who participated in a WP Scheme have the same acceptance rate at interview, as the total interview population. So, we know that the quality of our interviewees isn’t decreased by our conditional interview offers.

As well as benefiting tutees, our tuition impacts our tutors too. They develop vital skills that they can take into their future careers, and many report feeling more confident and organised as a result of their tutoring. 

Meet our tutor, Lucy

Lucy Wharmby, an English Tutor studying her MA in English Literature at the University of Leeds, entered higher education through an access programme and has since gone on to study at a postgraduate level. Since she started tutoring in September, Lucy has worked with 24 pupils across our Leeds Primary and Secondary schools, seeing them weekly and helping them to progress with Reading and English.  

For Lucy, equity in education is at the heart of her work. She has also completed her teacher training through the Teach First Leader Development Programme, as well as a PGDE at Birmingham City University

I am dedicated to tackling educational inequality and widening the participation of disadvantaged groups. My aspiration is to work in university outreach, championing students to access higher education. I fully believe that education is the key to social mobility and transforming life outcomes.”
Lucy Wharmby, Tutor

Our impact

As part of our commitment to quality and learning, we monitor our tutors’ performance through checks and observations. This enables us to see the impact our tutors are having on young people first-hand and allows them to have their hard work recognised. 

The data collected this year has shown that our tutors who have engaged with WP schemes perform better than average in these observations. 

For our University Partnership Manager, Professor Will Simms, access and widening participation is a subject very close to his heart.

“I was born and raised on a council estate in Bristol and have first-hand experience of the barriers that many young people have in accessing the transformative potential of education. Coming from that background I also learnt the value of both solidarity and generosity, I would not be where I am today without the support of many members of my community. These values are shared by Tutor Trust and this initiative is another example of our commitment to young people.

“Being born and educated in Moss Side, Everton, or Harehills should never be a barrier to a fulfilling life and career, and this year's pilot has shown that tutors from these backgrounds have made an important and transformative impact on the lives of young people across the North.”
Will Simms, University Partnership Manager
It is absolutely vital that we maintain and increase our focus on recruiting tutors who come from a ‘widening participation background’. Having attended a school which failed Ofsted and was in and out of special measures I vividly remember the feeling that University wasn’t for people from schools like mine. 

“One of the most important things that Tutor Trust does is to break down those barriers to universities, making sure that people can have access based on ability rather than privilege. Providing those role models is a critical part of the work that we do and will only become more important in the years to come.”
Ed Marsh, Chief Executive Officer

As an organisation that above all aims for equity in education, it is important to us that our recruitment process is as fair and accessible as it can be. If you’re a student from a background similar to the young people we support, please read our information for applicants. Here you can also find additional support for help with your application and interviews. Alternatively, read some of our Tutor's real -life stories or contact University Partnership Manager, Will to have a chat.

University collaborations

If you’re a university looking to collaborate with our programme to give more opportunities to your students, you can email Will Simms directly.

Contact Will

Our latest Tutorcast episodes

Tune in on Spotify and read a deep dive of each episode.
Itinerary and programme of the University of Manchester Local Matters conference

Episode 14: Local Matters: Poverty and Place wrap-up

This episode reflects on the groundbreaking ‘Local Matters’ research project in partnership with the University of Manchester's Education department. Styled Poverty and Place at the Tutor Trust we look at it's impact on the organisation.