Volunteer tutors needed in Sussex as school closures could widen grades gap for poorest students

A volunteer maths tutor for underprivileged children has called for others to sign up as coronavirus threatened to widen the attainment gap.

Geoff Palmer from East Preston is a volunteer maths tutor for Action Tutoring
Geoff Palmer from East Preston is a volunteer maths tutor for Action Tutoring

Geoff Palmer from East Preston has been volunteering with the Action Tutoring charity since 2013.

But due to schools being in lockdown, Geoff and his fellow tutors have not been able to go into their schools.

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Now, the charity has launched a recruitment drive so that when children are back, they can help the students most in need get back up to speed.

Although Year 11 students will be getting results based on their performance in school, Geoff said: “Current year tens are missing half a term or more of schooling and there will be a huge gap to overcome in September.

“We are calling for volunteers now so the pupils who need our help can motor through and close that gap.”

In 2019, more than 1,150 volunteer tutors aged from 18 to 82 gave nearly 30,000 hours of tutoring in English and maths to pupils in 84 schools across the country, with 87 per cent of them getting Pupil Premium funding. Disadvantaged pupils are usually 18 months behind their peers when leaving school, Geoff said.

The charity works with five secondary schools and two primary schools in coastal Sussex, from Shoreham to Seaford. Having started in inner city London, the retired IT manager, volunteered in schools including Shoreham Academy and Hove Park School.

Geoff, who is also governor of Cornfield School in Cornfield Close, Littlehampton, said seeing students initially predicted low grades getting a 4 or 5 – equivalent to a C or B – was the biggest motivator: “That grade is almost a gate. If they can get through that, they can achieve their ambitions.”

Training for the role is set to be provided online. To get involved, visit actiontutoring.org.uk.