Tackling education inequality with the Tutor Trust

Wednesday Tutor Trust tuition photo 1

At Impetus we find, fund and build the most promising charities tackling education inequality in the UK. We back interventions that improve the attainment outcomes of young people from disadvantaged backgrounds because we know how important attainment at school is on their future prospects.

Young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are 40% less likely to pass GCSE English and maths than their better off peers, and only 44% of young people receiving Free School Meals (FSM) pass their English and maths GCSE compared with 72% of all other pupils.


Mission alignment with Tutor Trust

Founded in 2011, Tutor Trust’s approach to the issue of educational inequality is straightforward yet powerful – providing high-quality tutoring to students in need of extra support. Based in Manchester, Tutor Trust expanded its reach to West Yorkshire and Merseyside, targeting children aged 7 -16, predominantly from disadvantaged backgrounds and had strong ambitions to increase the proportion of Pupil Premium pupils they serve.

Tutor Trust provides small group tuition, working closely with pupils to improve attainment as well as confidence. A 2018 Randomised Control Trial (RCT), funded by the Education Endowment Foundation, found that primary school children who received tutoring from Tutor Trust made three months’ additional progress in maths, making a strong case for the power of tutoring.

The value of our partnership with Impetus is in its consistency – from helping us with our impact-driven direction, to supporting us to promote our tuition programmes and help us to build relationships with new partner schools over the years.

- Ed Marsh, CEO, Tutor Trust

Our journey together began in 2019, when Tutor Trust joined the Impetus portfolio as a Focus Phase investment, meeting the criteria of having a promising, evidence-backed programme aligned to Impetus’ mission and with the potential to scale, along with stable leadership and finances.

From the outset, it has been a mutual partnership. The RCT results provided a strong proof point from which senior leaders in the organisation could make big strategic decisions about the development of the charity and develop a structured process through which to grow and scale. Tutor Trust were keen to benefit from Impetus’ impact management expertise with a number of education charities as they sought to increase their focus on driving pupil outcomes and to bolster the quality of programme delivery.

- Abigail Shapiro, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Tutor Trust

Building ‘High trust, high challenge’

At Impetus we invest the time, kindness, integrity and honesty needed to build and sustain long-term relationships. This focus on developing high trust allows for high challenge, helping our colleagues, partners and supporters to be our very best selves in pursuit of our mission.

Central to the support we offer in the first year of investment is an intensive 4-day ‘Driving Impact’ (DI) process that allows people from all levels of the organisation to look at the big questions: the who, what, why and how? It helps to clarify what the organisation will not do, creates accountability for meaningful outcomes, informs and bounds future decisions and produces a clear articulation of its mission. With these objectives agreed we can build organisations that deliver transformative and lasting impact for young people.

The DI process helped Tutor Trust to clarify its mission and refine the programme model to ensure focused delivery targeted on young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. Together we defined a clear impact plan and committed to investing in performance management and finance systems, and improving internal controls.

Tutor Trust Driving Impact workshop, 2019
Tutor Trust Driving Impact workshop, 2019

The power of coalition

Impetus reaffirmed its commitment to Tutor Trust by reinvesting in the organisation for a further three years, again providing unrestricted funds and bespoke strategic support. This Build Phase focused on leadership transition, as the CEO and Co-Founder Nick Bent prepared to step down, as well as sales strategy to help Tutor Trust market their tuition programme and secure new school partnerships, marketing and communications support and an evaluation of pupil outcomes.

But the path to success is never easy. At this time, the Covid pandemic hit and the issue of lost learning really came to the fore as the majority of schools moved to online teaching, with varying degrees of success.

Dismayed by the potential impact the move to remote learning could have, particularly for children facing barriers like access to technology or quiet places to work, or additional caring duties, Impetus, the EEF and partners were able to leverage their expertise to advocate for additional provision for students most at risk of losing out on learning

The result was the National Tutoring Programme (NTP), a first of its kind intervention by the UK government, which provided an initial £350 million ‘catch-up fund’ for individual and small group tutoring to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Tutor Trust successfully applied to become a delivery partner, working with 209 primary and secondary schools across Greater Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire to support more than 5,700 pupils in the first year of the programme alone. In the second year of the NTP, Tutor Trust increased their support to 6,730 young people across 198 partner schools.

A report from the Department for Education highlighted overwhelming satisfaction from school leaders on the NTP. They strongly believe it has a positive impact on pupils’ attainment (78%), confidence (78%), and ability to catch up with peers (76%).

However with changes across the system as the pandemic developed and with Ministers changing too, the programme has been less successful than hoped and is scheduled to come to an end in 2024.

For Impetus and Tutor Trust this posed two issues: the first to prepare for the ending of the NTP which for Tutor Trust posed a large income stream and would have implications on it as an organisation. The scaling down of NTP funding and policy changes allowing schools to use NTP funds for internal tutors posed significant hurdles to Tutor Trust’s plans, to which Impetus was able to respond by providing strategic insight to help it to navigate these challenges, adapt its model, and continue its growth trajectory.

The second, a fundamental belief in and commitment to tutoring, and the need to advocate for its continuing as an intervention. With Government keen to ensure tutoring is embedded in the school system, Impetus has worked collaboratively with Tutor Trust and others to advocate for the future of tutoring, and identify policies to deliver on this vision.

On the joint advocacy effort, Ben Gadsby, Head of Policy and Research, Impetus said:

The Tutor Trust’s unique position as the best evidenced tutoring charity in England gives them an obligation to speak up on these issues. It’s always risky to critique a high profile programme you rely on for a large portion of your income, but they have stepped up to the plate.

The work we have done together with Action Tutoring and Get Further to keep tutoring on the policy agenda is a great example of what collaboration should look like. While the success of advocacy work always relies on more than hard work, all the parties should be proud to have established themselves as sector leaders.

Co-investment

Impetus’ co-investment strategy is a unique way to leverage our existing relationships to bring in vital additional funds for portfolio charities, and enabling real growth in our reach and impact. In 2022 Tutor Trust was selected for co-investment by our partner Centrebridge, providing unrestricted funding for the organisation.


Pro bono strategy support

Impetus boasts a world class pro bono network made up of more than 40 companies and we were pleased to be able to offer Tutor Trust strategy development support from our pro bono partners.

In 2019 it received consultancy support from OC&C to develop an ambitious growth plan to significantly contribute to closing the attainment gap in the North West by 2022, with plans to increase their footprint by 75% to 4,100 young pupils with a funding model that balanced earned and charitable income.

More recently a project with Bain consultancy supported Tutor Trust’s operational and strategic planning, examining different sales and marketing approaches, including post-sales engagement and retention; engagement and contracting with schools, including flexing to meet schools individual needs; and the use of AI in sales, marketing and impact measurement; empahasising the organisation’s unique postion in the UK for proving impact through RCTs.

Overall, the aim is to improve service delivery and maintain quality of provision while enhancing efficiency, so that many more children can benefit from individiualised support.


Building a partnership

Abigail Shapiro, Tutor Trust Co-Founder and Executive Director said of the Impetus - Tutor Trust relationship:

Since our beginning, we’ve been aware of Impetus and the impact that they would have on us as a charity and the young people we serve. We’re really proud of our longstanding partnership with Impetus and really value the interactions we have with them.

The peer forums they offer give us the opportunity to come together with other charity leaders and really get an insight into how others may be approaching challenges and situations and learn from each other.

Reflecting on the partnership, Srinivas Manchikanti, Impetus Investment Director said:

The wonderful thing about our unique funder-partner model is that we get to invest in charities we really believe in both financially, through unrestricted funding, and practically through dedicated development support, which is very dependent on strong interpersonal relationships.

Through our journey together we have identified four crucial components to a successful partnership:

  • The power of collaboration: The collaboration between Impetus and TTT exemplifies how strategic partnerships can be powerful catalysts for social change
  • Adaptability is key: The ability to adapt to changing external conditions is crucial for sustained impact
  • The importance of impact measurement and management: Rigorous evaluation and monitoring of programmes to ensure the quality of delivery is essential for refining program effectiveness and demonstrating value
  • Long-term commitment: Addressing deep-rooted social issues like educational inequality requires a long-term commitment and a willingness to invest.

Impact by results

The Tutor Trust's impact is evidenced by positive evaluations from RCTs. The charity has demonstrated a consistent increase in the percentage of students from disadvantaged backgrounds it has supported, tutor quality improvements, and robust data analysis capabilities.

Since entering the Impetus portfolio five years ago, Tutor Trust's reach and income has increased significantly, despite a slight fall in 2022-23 as a result of a tapering of NTP funding and a tightening of school budgets. Overall since FY19 reach has increased with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27%, and income has increased with a CAGR of 33%.

Reach and income since portfolio entry in 2019

Tutor Trust has grown to a position of real strength, setting out five strategic priorities for the period 2022-25, including expanding its reach to more schools, broadening its pool of tutors, making tutoring accessible for the most vulnerable through the Tutoring Plus offer (which offers more specialised support for Cared for Children, young people at risk of exclusion, persistent absentees and young people in alternative provision (AP) settings) and replicating quality and impact at scale.

Tutor Trust take the lead and guide schools with their experience and knowledge of the tutoring process. The complicated and information-overloaded NTP is made simpler and more personal by working with them.

- Anna McDiarmid, Pupil Premium and Catch Up Premium Lead, Pinehurst Primary School, Liverpool.

The organisation’s plans for future are bold, and there will be challenges ahead. There is pressure on the entire third sector with charities across the board facing external challenges including recruiting and retaining staff. There are budget strains, with the effect of inflation on running costs compounding fundraising challenges as donors in turn are stretched. Crucially, school budgets are tightening, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warning that the Department for Education no longer on track to ‘restore per pupil funding to 2010 levels in real terms’.

Tutor Trust will pursue their ambition to reach new groups of young people through diversified and bespoke tuition programmes, and engage with university students from similar backgrounds to the pupils they work with - all while maintaining the high quality of tuition they are known for. Impetus is committed to helping them to do this, particularly with fundraising and sales support to ensure the organisation continues to thrive amid a changing funding landscape.

The success of our partnership is down to its foundation, on a shared mission to support young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to reach their attainment potential. Tutoring is one of the most evidence-based and cost-effective interventions available to achieve that goal.

But the ultimate measure of this partnership's success is its impact on students. Tutor Trust's programmes have shown significant positive outcomes, particularly in maths and English, and students who have participated in its sessions demonstrate improved academic performance, increased confidence, and a greater love for learning. That alone, is success.

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