Should there be a price on getting ahead at school? While the obvious answer may be no, the Sutton Trust’s new research shows that over a quarter of all 11-16 year olds have had private tuition at some point, and that these students disproportionately come from better-off backgrounds.
More needs to be done to support students from less affluent backgrounds to access the same kind of support. Inside the gates of The Access Project’s partner schools, we can see first-hand the tangible impact that our volunteer tutors have on the grades of our GCSE and A Level students. This type of one-on-one intervention outside of the classroom is a key driver of academic success for students and, as the Trust advises, the expansion of Tuition programmes like The Access Project can help level this playing field.
Why make tuition free?
At The Access Project, we’re clear that the work we do, providing free tuition to students from ‘low affluence’ households is hugely valuable as these students are statistically likely to get lower grades than their more affluent peers. With the average hourly rate for private tuition falling anywhere between £20-£50 (often hitting the higher end of the scale within the greater London boundary), it is unsurprising that for the parents of the 1,300+ students we work with each year, having that cost waived means that their children have access to provision that otherwise may cost between £800-£2000 per academic year; a figure that would be unaffordable for many.
So how do we continue to increase the amount of free tuition on offer? The Sutton Trust has recommended that both schools and government allocate more funding to one-to-one tuition and has also backed an increase in ‘an expansion of non-profit tuition programmes that connect tutors with disadvantaged schools.’ (Sutton Trust, 2019.) As The Access Project grows to work with more and more schools, we can see an increasing desire for interventions like ours that focus on attainment raising for individual students who, for various reasons, may have the odds stacked against them. The goal for our students is a top UK university; we know that one of the main barriers to accessing these institutions is attainment at GCSE and A Level. We hope to see more schools working with programmes like ours so that getting the grades needed to reach a top UK university is fair game, regardless of household income.
We are lucky!
We’re lucky to be able to get to know our students on an individual level at The Access Project and hear first-hand what having access to free tuition means to them. One of our year 11s recently wrote,
“I am from a background where my family cannot afford tuition. Being part of The Access Project gives me the chance to get into a top university and be successful.”
Part of our overall goal is to help students to believe in their ability to get to that top university; removing this particular financial barrier can make all the difference to these young people being able to visualise their own progress and take that next vital step in their education.
The Sutton Trust’s research feels to us like a positive step towards acknowledging some solutions to the financial barriers that we know so many students today are facing. Tuition can make all the difference to young peoples’ futures, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, so we hope to see more students like the ones we work with getting this type of support.
‘Being on The Access Project ‘gives us the same opportunity as those who can afford regular tuition.’ Yr 13 East Midlands Student
‘Being able to have the extra support needed to achieve our goals to reach university, especially for those who may not be able to afford tuition.’
Yr12 West Midlands Student.
‘The tutorials are free so it really helps the families that struggle’ Year 10 London Student
PRIVATE TUITION 2019, The Sutton Trust, 26th September 2019. https://www.suttontrust.com/research-paper/private-tuition-polling-2019/
Attainment Gap Report,, EEF, January 2018 https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Annual_Reports/EEF_Attainment_Gap_Report_2018.pdf