Like many countries, the UK has long had a problem with social inequality and the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. Although the days of strict segregation and social identification according to one’s class has largely eroded over time, the remnants of the UK’s elitist society/culture is still evident in today’s society. One such example is in education, where the fight between grammar schools, private schools, boarding schools, public schools and the use of private tuition highlights the social advantages and privileges of the wealthy compared to the poor.
A tutoring agency however, seeks to address this imbalance by providing pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds with free private tuition lessons. The Facilitate4Me Change Practitioner of the month for September is…Tutorfair!!
Tutorfair is a philanthropic tutoring agency founded in 2012, with a mission to ensure that private tuition isn’t just available to those who can afford it. Through its non-profit charity, the Tutorfair Foundation, the company already operates a scheme where for every child who pays for tuition, free tuition will be given to a child who cannot afford it.
Now, Tutorfair has launched a new scheme whereby private tuition will be given for free to disadvantaged children via instant messaging on their mobile phones. The scheme is currently in a trial phase, with five London schools taking part before the decision is made whether to extend it. Tutors will be logged onto the system at peak homework times – between 4pm – 7pm on weekdays and 2pm – 6pm on weekends – and pupils can send their questions to the volunteer tutors.
Peter Kirkby, director of the Tutorfair Foundation, said, “There is a very well documented problem in the UK education system which is students from wealthy backgrounds achieve higher outcomes, and that leads to issues with social mobility. A volunteer with the necessary skills can improve a student’s grades in a few hours…for the first time, disadvantaged students from anywhere in the UK can access free tuition at the exact moment they need it”.
With increased competition for places at prestigious educational institutions, more parents than ever before are turning to private tuition to help their child achieve academic excellence. Research from the Sutton Trust found that almost half of secondary school pupils in London (48%) have been helped by a tutor, the highest number since records began. The Sutton Trust calls this an ‘educational arms race’ and some are deeply critical of parents who choose to spend their money on private tuition for their children. In an interview with the Evening Standard, Head of South Hampstead High School Victoria Bingham, warned that tutoring “robs children of the critical ability to surmount problems by themselves” and pleads with parents to ‘be brave’ and to not resort to private tuition as a first option. “It is better, academically not to have a tutor”, she says, “unless children are genuinely struggling”.
That may be easier said than done. With entry into many schools, colleges and universities becoming increasingly competitive and academic grades required to secure lucrative jobs on an ever northward trajectory, there is little or no motivation for parents who can afford to hire a private tutor and give their child a slight advantage, not to do so. Until colleges and employers shun high grades in favour of “critical ability to surmount problems” for themselves, the Tutorfair scheme to level the playing field in this “educational arms race” is not only admirable, but necessary. At the very least, it ensures that a lack of funds does not continue to become a barrier to the realisation of potential.
Faciliate4Me certainly hopes the trial is successful so many more pupils can benefit from the scheme!