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School tutoring initiatives help pupils make the grade

Tutoring initiative - pupils at Springburn Academy with student tutor Lauren McCutcheon

Strathclyde students are inspiring and empowering pupils and helping to close the poverty related attainment gap through school tutoring initiatives.

The Engineering and Science faculties along with Strathclyde Business School, lead free weekly tutoring sessions in Higher Maths, Physics, Computer Science, Business Management and Accountancy across Glasgow schools during term time.

The schemes, which this year had a combined 33 student tutors for 69 pupils at 12 schools, are part of the University’s Widening Access Initiatives to raise the aspiration and attainment of young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds.

Nicola Miller, Deputy Head at Springburn Academy, which is involved in the tutoring programmes, said:

The students bring their enthusiasm and energy, and with that, empower our young people to achieve better outcomes. 

“Not only better outcomes in the attainment of that particular course, but improved confidence and soft skills, such as communication and organisation.”

Student tutor Azar Hussain & pupil Joanne Bulloch at Springburn Academy,

The Social Responsibility Pathway, part of Strathclyde Business School’s Management Development Programme, gives third year students experience working with outside organisations, while experiencing work with a positive social dimension.

The aim is to raise the attainment of pupils at inner city schools, which can often have fewer leavers going onto higher education, while also helping the tutors develop practical skills.

Student benefits

Pupils are chosen according to widening access criteria, including care experience or receiving free school meals, and after discussions with teachers who recommend students they feel will benefit most.

Nine tutors worked with 28 pupils at Lochend Community High School, St Andrews Secondary, Whitehill Secondary, St Mungo’s Academy, St Roch’s Secondary, All Saints Secondary, and St Paul’s High School.

Tutor Lauren McCutcheon, who is about to graduate from Design, Manufacture & Engineering Management, mentored a sixth year female pupil at Whitehill, said:

I really loved being able to tutor a young female and support her.

“It was really rewarding for me and I saw such a difference to her through the programme in terms of confidence in being mentored by someone who was already doing the university course she’s applied for.

“I would tell anyone thinking of tutoring to go for it. I think it lets you see your own skills and strengths as well.”

The Social Responsibility Pathway also has a second tutoring initiative, working with MCR Pathways, a school-based mentoring programme.  Now in its second year, it provides tuition in English and Maths across nine schools.

Fifth year student Nikki Walker, who was tutored in Maths this year, said: “It made me feel more confident because I had missed some of the course, so I was able to catch up and it also helped me with some of the things I was struggling with.

“It made me sure that I want to go to university.”

Pupils from Springburn Academy who were involved in the student tutoring project

Iain Mitchell, Social Responsibility Pathway Lead at Strathclyde Business School said the initiative is a great opportunity for students to develop their employability skills while giving something back to the community.

He added: “Our students use their knowledge and skills to support young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds, helping to narrow the attainment gap and improving the chances of successful applications to University in the future.”

The Engineering faculty started the ‘Strathclyde Engineering Tutors in the Community’ in 2018, and this academic year had 12 tutors working with the same number of pupils, across four Glasgow schools.

The programme supports those with an interest or aptitude in STEM but who would benefit from extra one-to-one help as they work towards their SQA exams in Maths and Physics.

Dr Avril Thomson, Associate Dean (Academic) Faculty of Engineering, said the one-to-one aspect is important in building a relationship of trust and confidence between the tutor and pupils.

She added: “The community aspect is also key as we feel this will play an important part in meeting the attainment gap. 

“Higher Physics is a vital subject for Engineering as it is compulsory for entry to all undergraduate degrees. The inability to achieve this qualification presents a major barrier in meeting the attainment gap and taking the necessary route to becoming a professional engineer. “

The faculty hopes to work with more communities in areas such as North Lanarkshire or Ayrshire next year.

Science tutoring

The University’s Science tutoring initiative has five Maths and one Computer Science student tutoring 11 pupils across two schools and runs from February until April.

Associate Dean (Recruitment and Admissions), of the Science Faculty, Dr Louise Kelly said: “Most of our tutors focus on Higher Mathematics which is required to study most science subjects at university, but many young people find this requirement a barrier.

“Our aim is to remove this barrier, to help them gain entry to their preferred courses.

“Many of our tutors are hoping to be Maths teachers when they graduate and by sharing their academic knowledge and own experiences of university, they are inspiring young people to continue studying science subjects.”

Springburn Academy - Pupil Rudolph Bridims with student tutor in the school library

Dr Stephanie Mckendry, Widening Access Manager at the University, said: ”We are proud to involve our students as an integral element of our widening access work, harnessing their expertise and enthusiasm as volunteers, paid mentors or as an element of their degree programme.

“As a socially progressive institution, Strathclyde aims to open up higher education opportunities to everyone with ability, regardless of their personal or social circumstances. One in every eight of young, full-time, Scottish entrants to higher education from a disadvantaged background studies at Strathclyde.

“We reached our 2020 target for welcoming students from the 40 per cent of the most disadvantaged areas of Scotland three years early.”