Tapping into the parent pound


I have read with some interest and a degree of concern about possible remedies to the funding challenges faced by schools being proposed. These range from cutting the school week to 4 days through to parents being asked for ‘voluntary’ contributions amounting to several hundred pounds per annum. Indeed, the Grammar School Heads Association said just last month that families could be asked for £30 to £40 a month to ensure teaching standards do not fall. Really!?

A staggering £6bn is spent by UK parents on tutoring every year, equating to over £1 million per secondary school – a crude measure I know, but you get the point. This is money spent on teaching exam skills or subjects taught in school every day. Very often, it is money handed to tutors who are not qualified teachers, who use different methods to those used in schools or who quite simply focus on the wrong issue.

Of course, not all parents can afford tutoring for their children so how do schools ensure their Pupil Premium children keep up with their peers? Wouldn’t it be more sensible if schools could pump prime a tutoring model which delivered programmes for pupils which reinforced their learning in the daytime, and which focused on identified areas of weakness. Wouldn’t it be more sensible if every pupil had occasional extended provision – be it school holidays or weekends – to supplement learning in the classroom, and to foster parental engagement. Wouldn’t it be great if schools helped direct pupils to topics in which they have need of extra support so that parents who can afford it can make the right decisions when spending their hard-earned cash?

In fact, wouldn’t it be great if the £6bn spent on tutors was adding to the school T&L effort rather than being distinct? Doesn’t that start to address some fundamental issues?

You may think that my view on tutoring being a partial solution to the funding problem as pure fantasy, but it is not! We already have schools working with us to deliver programmes funded initially by the school but which are aimed to try and lasso some of the money being spent elsewhere on tutoring back into the school eco-system. Even if just 10% of the spend on tutoring was aligned with school outcomes, then the impact could be substantial. It is worth trying, surely?


Sean Gardner

Founder and CEO of Tute.

A father of two daughters, Sean has been involved in early stage companies for most of his working career. Highlights include Orange Plc, breathe.com and moneyexpert.com which he founded.

‘Waste of talent’ or a wasted opportunity to close the gap?


I read with interest the Waste of Talent article on the BBC highlighting again how poor pupils lag behind their richer peers. It is a recurring theme and has been now for several years.

Back in 2012, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) published five studies as part of a new journal aimed at investigating the role that education plays in boosting the life chances of children from disadvantaged areas. One of the main findings was that that the highest-achieving children from affluent backgrounds are two and half years ahead of peers from poor homes in reading skills by the age of 15 – twice that seen in other western nations at that time.

Wind forward five years and nothing has really changed. The main finding from the Sutton Trust research just published found that the gap between the brightest rich and poor children in England is approximately two years and eight to nine months in reading, maths and science. If anything, the situation now is worse.

During this 5-year period, hundreds of millions, if not billions, of pounds have been funnelled through schools via the Pupil Premium Fund to close the attainment gap, seemingly without moving the needle. So inevitably, schools must be failing? But that isn’t the case, not in my view at least.

I believe that the Pupil Premium is just another way of packaging funding to schools which was there in the first place: it is not new money per se but rather money that has been recategorised and had new measurements applied. In all likelihood, the figures remain so similar because the overall funds available to support disadvantaged pupils haven’t increased over the period in real terms – schools are neither spending more, nor being less efficient.

The hidden driver, and one which the Sutton Trust has previously highlighted, is the voracious uptake in the middle and upper classes for tutoring outside of school. Research by Tute in the last 6 months has shown that, in the current year, 24% of pupils will have extra help in their studies, and  the average spend is a staggering £1,200 per pupil.

Sir Peter Lampl wrote in The Telegraph last year that “it is no wonder that a student from the richest fifth of neighbourhoods is six times more likely to go to one of our better universities than one from the poorest fifth.

That’s why the growth of private tuition matters. Nobody would deny that parents have a right to do what they can for their children. But as a society we have a duty to make sure that those without the means to exercise that right don’t lose out.

It is striking that privately schooled students – those whose parents already pay fees – are twice as likely to receive private tuition as those educated in state schools. Parents will always do the best for their children. Where they can afford it, many see private tuition as part of doing their best. But as a society, we have a duty to make sure that every child gets the support they need to succeed – whether at school or outside it.”

I completely agree with Sir Peter, and democratising access to tutoring has always been the main driver for Tute. The lack of social mobility is creating this attainment divide, and I believe that out of school tutoring is an increasing component of why the gap is widening.

Sir Peter proposed a voucher system to allow parents to buy tutoring using Pupil Premium Funds to help close this divide. It hasn’t happened, not yet at least. However, this week, a similar scheme has been pioneered by Tute and Oriel School which mirrors the thinking of the Education Endowment Foundation, a sister organisation to The Sutton Trust.

Oriel are using school funds to buy seats in our out-of-school group online lessons to support disadvantaged pupils. The Tute service allows seats in lessons to be purchased for just £10, a far lower cost than 1:1 provision, but one which is often just as effective.

Oriel have used Tute for some time to support Pupil Premium pupils in school with great success, so this is a logical extension. It is an interesting step, and one which we at Tute will be taking to other schools over the coming weeks. It is important that this initiative succeeds.

This is because the research I quoted earlier contained another interesting and pertinent fact: being able to buy a seat for £10 meant that twice as many parents could afford a tutor. Indeed, the introduction of our new service has meant that tutoring is accessible by the majority for the first time.

Our aim at Tute is to build scale in our tutoring offer to disrupt the market and bring down the cost further, making great teaching available to all. Our programme with Oriel High School is important as it can help accelerate this goal – leveraging Pupil Premium spend can help bring this scale and further democratise education. Maybe then, the attainment divide highlighted on the BBC can start to be overcome.


Sean Gardner

Founder and CEO of Tute.

A father of two daughters, Sean has been involved in early stage companies for most of his working career. Highlights include Orange Plc, breathe.com and moneyexpert.com which he founded.



Defining the essence of teaching, online.


At the start of the year, I wrote an article saying that I felt 2017 would be a breakthrough year for Tute. I based this on research from a doctoral candidate at the university of Chester which showed that eight out of ten pupils prefer learning online, and the wider need to stimulate digital literacy both in schools and at home. I didn’t imagine at the time that our first entry into the BETT Awards would end up in us winning – I thought it might take more time! Suffice to say that we are both surprised and delighted that our focus on better outcomes for pupils by focusing on outstanding pedagogy has been recognised by our industry peers, and that we now have a rightful place in the established world of education. We are no longer unproven.


To quote the judges: “What makes these Awards different is the focus on resources, devices and people that really make an impact on learning and the day-to-day work of the teachers in the classroom. We would like to congratulate the team at Tute: it’s constant determination to achieve excellence in design, delivery and support helps to ensure that the outcomes for students across the world are the very best.”


It’s been an amazing week!

This week has been amazing. I spent two days down in London this week taking in some fantastic CPD experiences at The Bett Show and the Whole Education Annual Conference.  I was at Bett with the brilliant company I work with, Tute, because we were exhibiting at the show and were also finalists for an award in the category of ICT Tools for Learning, Teaching and Assessment.  We were announced as the 2017 winners on Wednesday night and this is a huge professional achievement for everyone at the company-I was absolutely ecstatic, of course!


Whilst at the exhibition show, I got to see lots of different examples of fabulous innovations in the education field and, in particular, how edtech is being used to evolve pedagogy further. My personal highlight though was getting to meet with Sarah Grant from LRTT.  When I had my interview for the Uganda fellowship, it was Sarah with which I spoke first.  I was immediately enthused by her insights on the programme and the conversations we had about research in the programme. It was so great to spend an hour chatting through ideas and possibilities whilst benefiting from Sarah’s experience.  She’s so passionate about the charity and the programme and it’s infectious.  We were talking about the possibilities of using Tute’s Learning Cloud to help deliver training to fellows prior to their taking part in their LRTT programmes or even setting up sessions with the local teachers in LRTT locations between fellowships.  The scope could be enormous, especially given that LRTT fellows are joining from across the globe now.

What I hadn’t anticipated was my boss, Tute’s CEO, offering Tute’s resources to LRTT gratis.  This is yet another reason why I love what I do at Tute.  At its core, this company is run by good people who care about the right things.  Tute’s purpose has always been “to make the best teaching available to all, irrespective of location or background.”  I’ve always loved this philosophy, but I viewed it nationally or perhaps, just within the scope of Tute delivering lessons, but never has this purpose been more clear to me than in this amazing act of kindness.  I’m not sure when I was most proud of the company I work for this week; when we picked up the Bett Award trophy or when Sean committed to a cause that has found its way securely into my vocational heart as a teacher.  Thank you Tute.

The next day was also an inspirational day for me.  I had been asked to give a presentation at the Whole Education conference, also being held in London this week.    This was the first time that I had heard of Whole Education, but I am so delighted to have discovered them!  They are an organisation of individuals who are committed to helping students gain a WHOLE education, not just one that is restricted to purely academic achievement, to making learning more relevant and engaging and to revolutionising the way teachers and leaders work together to achieve better outcomes for students and staff despite the current challenges surrounding the institutes of education in our country.

I met and listened to some superb people during my short time at the conference.  I really wish that I could have stayed much longer to absorb even more of the wisdom on offer and will most definitely aim to do so in the future.  It was a packed programme and I took so much away from the speakers I listened to, but also from the delegates I struck up conversations with during the breaks and lunchtimes.  It is so refreshing to talk and listen to people who share my own views of education; that our purpose is to do what is best for our students, not solely in terms of academia, but in every sense.  This is why I became a teacher.  My presentation allowed me to share with other passionate teachers, who are looking for ways to provide the best for their students, a little of what I have learned about teaching students online whilst at Tute. It felt great to be able to share a little bit of our pedagogy and how the technology we use can enhance learning, to give something back.

As I was travelling home on the train, I sat with three of my Tute colleagues.  We were absolutely exhausted, but we couldn’t stop talking.  We talked incessantly the whole journey home about all the fantastic ideas and inspiration we’d absorbed over our time at Bett and Whole Education!  We were too tired to think about what to eat for dinner or walk another step, but our excitement for what we’d experienced was inextinguishable.

These experiences were amazing, but it also reaffirmed something else; travelling to Uganda to work with other teachers, both the fellows who (like me) are currently frantically fundraising to get to be there to be a part of the programme and the local teachers who choose to attend, will be enormously rewarding.  We will all be there with a shared passion-the passion to teach and learn and to do our best for our students.  What the past few days has taught me is that there is no one better to spend time developing your skills and honing your craft with than other like-minded teachers who love what they do and who never want to stop learning how to do it better.  I am so excited about the Uganda fellowship, the potential it holds, the ways in which we will all develop and refine our abilities and the impact that will have on those who matter the most-our students.

I am still in need of your support to get there. Please do help if you can.  My GoFundMe page has reached its first target 500, but I’ve still got a long way to go. You can donate as little-or as much-as you can! Thank you.

Wrexham-based company wins international award at the world’s leading event for learning technology



Wrexham-based company Tute, which enables live lessons to be delivered via the Cloud, by real teachers in real time, has been awarded a prestigious Bett award in the ‘ICT Tools for Learning, Teaching and Assessment – whole school aids’ category. Coinciding with Bett, the world’s leading event for learning technology, the awards are considered the highest accolade in the industry.

The Bett Awards play a key role in identifying and rewarding excellence in education trade. The winning organisations were announced at the Bett Awards dinner in London on Wednesday 25 January.

The judges said, ‘Tute is a service that scores well for schools from every angle. Whether that is teacher to student(s) or student to student. It works on individual devices or a whiteboard for the whole class and preserves the essence of good teaching’.

Patrick Hayes, director of BESA and chair of judges for the Bett Awards said, “If you’re looking for evidence that the UK EdTech sector is world-leading, look no further than the fantastically innovative winners of the Bett Awards 2017. Our esteemed judging panel of educationalists faced a huge task in deciding which of the hundreds of entries should win or be highly commended.”

“Well done to Tute! With more outstanding entrants than ever before, it is a remarkable achievement. The global reputation of the Bett Awards means that Tute, indeed all the finalists, have an honour that is recognised and respected by educators across the world.”

Rachel Brodie, portfolio director at Ascential Events added: “What makes these Awards different is that they focus on the resources, services and the people that really make an impact on learning and the day-to-day work of the teachers in the classroom.

“I would like to congratulate the team at Tute; its constant determination to achieve excellence in design, delivery and support helps to ensure that the outcomes for students across the world are the very best.”

CEO and founder of Tute, Sean Gardner, concluded:

“We are delighted that our innovative service has been recognised by our peers as a world class tool for Learning, Teaching and Assessment. We have always put outstanding teaching at the top of our agenda, and to win this award the first time we have entered is testament to the professional and outstanding team we have assembled at Tute.”

For more information, please visit www.bettawards.com.

Happy New Year to all our wonderful students, teachers and organisations.


I often blog about research I’m undertaking or ideas that are relevant to the Tute pedagogy.  However, this week I am hi-jacking the Tute blog for some shameless self-promotion in relation to a charitable organisation and charity that I have recently become involved with. Since working here at Tute, I have been lucky enough to be given some amazing opportunities; going back to university to complete my Doctorate, attending conferences like the Festival of Education, support in applying to do research overseas and the amazing everyday opportunities to work in a pioneering online education environment that is unparalleled.  Part of what I have loved about being here at Tute is the openness to new challenges and approaches and the support we receive in pursuing this.  As a result of this support, I have just applied, been accepted and given a fellowship place to train teachers in Uganda.

This all came about when I came across this amazing project through a serendipitous viewing of a post on Facebook! I actually saw it and thought, ‘Wow! That would be a wonderful thing to do and a fantastic opportunity…for someone else.’ You see, I’d figured I was probably too busy with work and Uni, that as a mother of a beautiful three-year-old daughter, Eleanor, it was too big an ask to tell my husband I wanted to leave the country for a month and I doubted my employer would be entirely willing to let me have a month off.  I was wrong.

I told three close friends about the programme, wondering if it might be something that they would be as enticed by as I was.  I also read up on all the different locations and continued to research what the programme was about, although, at this point, it was entirely to satisfy my curiosity.  A week and a half later, I was still thinking about the programme.  Wouldn’t it be amazing to travel to a developing country and explore pedagogy from an entirely new perspective? How do teachers teach outside of the mainstream British education system that I have spent my career within?  Would the pedagogical approaches I had studied as a teacher, during my MA and continued to explore as part of my current Doctorate in Education be transferable to an alternative culture and teaching context?  How might the skills I’d developed in over a decade be of benefit to other teachers?

I’d always enjoyed taking on roles of subject and professional mentoring within a teacher training guise and for the last three years I had been working outside of schools for Tute, where I had grown increasingly involved in the training of new online teachers.  I always found these elements of my job to be really interesting and rewarding, especially because I hold a strong belief that working with others on developing their teaching is the best way to reflect on and improve your own practice; watching someone else teach, identifying what they do and how they do it is a great way to gain inspiration and learn new techniques that make you a better teacher too!

So, after all this time obsessing, I mentioned it to my husband and my parents in passing, anticipating a less than favourable response. My husband, the man I would have to leave as a solo parent for a month, instantly told me to go for it.  He has been nothing but supportive and encouraging.  He hasn’t hesitated for a moment in telling me that we could make it work.  He spent hours sat scouring the internet with me, checking facts and stats on safety and security in the fellowship countries.  My parents were a little more surprised by the revelation, Mum in particular concerned about my safety, but they got on board as soon as I was able to allay their fears and even went so far as to donate the money required for the deposit for my place.  I could not ask for better support from my family.  My daughter on the other hand, thinks it’s a terrible idea…I’ve got six months to convince her mummy going away is a good thing.

No doubt this will be the hardest thing for me in taking part in the programme.  I’ve never had more than a couple of nights away from my little girl.  I will miss her so much, but my husband who is very wise sometimes (just don’t tell him that-he’d never let me forget it!), suggested that it’s not a good enough reason not to do this.  I will be giving up 29 nights with my daughter, but how many other people’s daughters could benefit from the good this programme will do?  How many people have an opportunity to participate in a charitable programme with the capacity to make such a huge difference?  As much as being away from my daughter will break my heart, it will be amazing to explain to her why mummy is going and how the programme is helping other children and their teachers so that they too can have the kind of future I imagine for her.  This is the sort of example I want to set for her and its why I will be able to do this.

With family support in place, I spoke to Vanessa and Sean here at Tute.  It’s a big ask for a teacher to take a month off in term time, but then I work for a company that was established in order to make education more accessible and with the purpose of making the best teaching available to all irrespective of location or background.  I don’t think there was more than thirty seconds between me dropping this bombshell and Tute agreeing to it and offering to make a donation to the fund! I shouldn’t really have been surprised.  Tute always have supported not just me, but learners across the country and even globe in fulfilling their potential.

My interview went really well and within a week I had my place secured.  So far I have been so very lucky in gaining support.  It’s all seeming a bit too good to be true!  But now the hard work begins.  I’ve begun fundraising via my gofundme page and I am beginning to plan as many activities as possible for the New Year.   The local paper (The Chester Chronicle) has even run a story about my plans!  I will be keeping a separate blog as I prepare for the project and to update everyone (anyone who might be interested, that is) as I embark on my fundraising efforts, this can be found here.

Wish me luck everyone!

To read more on the project, please take a look here:


To make a donation, please visit here:


If you’d like to work for Tute, apply here:



By Sharon Smith

Sharon studied English Language and Literature at The University of Manchester, then went on to graduate from Manchester Metropolitan University with a PGCE in Secondary English and, later, a Master’s Degree in Teaching and Learning.  She is currently undertaking a Doctorate in Education at The University of Chester.  She is mum to daughter Ellie and when she’s not juggling being a working mum and an eternal student/proud, self-confessed geek, she enjoys consuming a little bit of wine and far too much chocolate.

Were you counting on the NTS to support your school?


In 2015 England’s then Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, announced the National Teaching Service (NTS). The original plan was for 1500 outstanding teachers to be deployed in schools that needed them most. Further to conducting a pilot this year it was decided the scheme will not progress any further. The Times Education Supplement reported that only 57 teachers were recruited from a total of just 116 applicants

The level of interest shown and decision to abandon the service has no doubt disappointed schools hoping to benefit. It is well known that schools in challenging areas struggle to recruit and retain staff. As a result, they are unable to offer their students the opportunities and the curriculum they would like them to have.

The DfE have confirmed their intention to support struggling schools with recruitment but whilst they decide how, students continue to suffer. The pressure schools are under to raise standards does not go away either and with newly announced budget cuts now compounding concerns, the future of struggling schools is looking bleak.

The purpose of the NTS was to bring the best teachers to those who need them most, a mission that aligns closely with Tute’s purpose. We deploy our team of outstanding online teachers into schools across the country to help improve outcomes for students, regardless of their location. We have done our research and have accumulated evidence and case studies that confirm the impact of our interventions.

Our live and interactive teaching online is not location dependent and can overcome geographical implications upon issues such as recruitment and retention of staff or lack of subject expertise. Tute teachers can work in any school, without actually needing to be there. We can increase your capacity to meet individual learning needs whilst lowering the cost of doing so, helping to personalise your curriculum offer.

With our GCSE revision programmes due to start in January, we can support immediate impact upon results for your students this academic year. Our qualified and experienced teachers have received exam board training and can help coach students to get good results under both old and new specifications.

If you would like to see a Tute teacher in action in your school, then contact us to arrange a free taster lesson and see how we can add to your existing teaching team.



Considered by many as the most esteemed accolade in the industry, the BETT Awards provide a showcase of resources and companies that seek to provide educators with the information, ideas and inspiration that are fundamental to the learning process.


Tute are one of a handful of technology educators to be recognised in the ‘ICT Tools for Teaching, Learning and Assessment.


CEO and Founder of Tute, Sean Gardner, hopes the accolade will raise the profile of Tute and help beat the stubborn gap between the children who do well at school and those who don’t:


“We are delighted to have been listed as finalists at the BETT Awards. Tute’s purpose is to make the best teaching available to everyone, irrespective of their location or their background. All the research has proven that Tute is as effective as traditional teaching and learning. But what makes it more effective is the fact that it can reach anyone, anywhere at any time. Combining this with the finest learning resources and the best teaching, means that we are able to bridge that gap between schools and families and transform educational outcomes. We have everything crossed for the judging next month!”

The BETT Awards are a celebration of the inspiring creativity and innovation that can be found throughout technology for education. They form an integral part of BETT each year, the world’s leading showcase of education technology solutions. The winners are seen to have excelled in ICT provision and support for nurseries, schools, colleges and special schools alike with a clear focus on what works in the classroom.


The announcement follows this week’s launch of Tute At Home; a new style of home tutoring that’s set to change the face of home tutoring. Until now, parents hoping to bolster children’s academic results with out-of-school teaching support have had to pay anything from twenty-five to fifty pounds per lesson. Tute is revolutionising this dynamic with the launch of a technology-enabled service that offers a child a place in a lesson for just ten pounds.


Details of other finalists can be found at the Bett Awards website.

Final judging will take place on December 5th & 6th 2016 with the overall winners being announced shortly after.