Top of the class

| News | Training

Metropolitan and Tutors United teamed up to deliver free children’s tutoring sessions five years ago. Now their partnership is up for a Third Sector award.


Do fractions and spelling have anything to do with social housing? Metropolitan thinks so.

Over the last five years, it has worked with non-profit organisation Tutors United to deliver more than 2,000 hours of free tutoring to young residents in London and Cambridge.

Funded by Metropolitan, and led by university students recruited and trained by Tutors United, the after-school Maths and English boosters target 9-11 year-olds. Closely linked to the national curriculum, the classes are raising academic levels and aspirations in communities where, traditionally, few go to uni.
The partnership – which is nominated for a Third Sector Award – is delivering real benefits, considers Metropolitan’s Lesley Watson, Neighbourhood Investment Programme Delivery Manager.

“Educational attainment is a challenge in many of the London boroughs in which we have stock,” she says. “English is not the first language for many of the children – or their parents – and many families cannot afford any extra support.
“We want the children to aspire to go to university or into further education. These sessions encourage that desire and are a positive way to engage with the children.”

Joel Davis was inspired by his own schooldays to start Tutors United in 2013, after his A-levels.
“My school had a high percentage of children who had free school meals,” explains the CEO. “Many families lived in social housing and were on lower incomes. They couldn’t pay for private tutors, at £35 or so an hour, which meant that some children fell behind. I wanted to create a solution.”
He remembered how, at the age of 14, he had tutored his dyslexic cousin, raising his attainment level from 3 to 4 in a year. “I wondered what people more qualified than me would be able to achieve,” he says.

Metropolitan was the first housing association to buy into his concept of tutoring small groups of primary school pupils in community centres.
He developed the idea at a free Metropolitan and Young Foundation business training programme, at the end of which he was able to pitch to a receptive Metropolitan panel.

“We didn’t offer a tutoring service before, but Tutors United was an organisation that fitted our aims and purposes,” says Lesley. “We were keen to give it a try.”

A pilot took place in Hackney for 12 children. “It was really successful,” says Joel. “Demand was high and there was a long waiting list. English and Maths standards improved.”

Metropolitan rolled it out to other areas. More recently, in response to a Metropolitan challenge to create an offering for adults, Tutors United has been piloting a family session in Cambridge. The focus remains on Maths and English, with the end aim of equipping parents to help their children with school work.
“The more involved parents are, the better the children will do,” reasons Joel, whose organisation is also shortlisted for the Third Sector ‘Small Charity, Big Achiever’ award.

It now has six full-time employees, a cohort of 65 tutors and works with ten other housing associations.
“But our success is down to Metropolitan,” Joel insists. “They were willing to be innovative and try a different approach. Metropolitan realised the social benefits of working in this way with parents and children; other housing associations couldn’t get what it had to do with them at first.”
In recognition, Tutors United recently presented Lesley Watson with its ‘amazing partner’ award.

Both will hope to add more trophies to the mantelpiece after the Third Sector Awards ceremony, which takes place in London on September 20.