Education for the Future


I was reading a post from the Bett Show earlier today.   Next year, in their landmark Bett Show UK, one of the themes that they intend to focus on is making today’s ideas a reality tomorrow.  The post asked, “What will education look like? What jobs will your students today be doing in the year 2039? And what role will technology play?”

Whilst we obviously don’t have all the answers, as this year’s Bett award winners for the category of ‘ICT Tools for Learning, Teaching and Assessment – whole school aids,’ and pioneers in the field of learning online, we might be able to offer some insights into the way education is evolving and the role technologies, both current and emerging might support this.

In our Tute Creed, written quite some time ago now, we stated that ‘Modern technology should allow this engagement by bridging the gap between schools and families. Technology should highlight how the effective use of the curriculum can not only help the learning experience to be more fun and engaging for learners, but also assist parents to better engage in their child’s education, to keep up to date about what they are learning and how they are learning it.’

This was true then, but has come to be ever more relevant over recent years. According to Beetham and Sharpe (2013), 77% of UK households were then recorded as having internet access in 2011 and according to the Office for national Statistics Fixed broadband Internet connections were used by 91% of households in 2014, with 22 million households (84%) having Internet access.[1]  Pensky (2001) labels the modern student as a ‘Digital Native’ and the readily available access to the internet and a wealth of new, digital technologies is, undeniably having an impact on the way in which students learn.

Learning is no longer seen as being confined to the parameters of the physical classroom. After all, the internet has fundamentally revolutionised the way we work; we used to have to ‘go to work’, but today we work from anywhere. So why should we continue to think that we can only really learn at school?

Beetham and Sharpe suggest that new technologies “represent a paradigm shift with specific and multiple impacts on the nature of knowledge in society and therefore on the nature of learning…Personal web pages, blogs, podcasts and wikis are democratizing the creation of information; social software is allowing participation in online communities that define and share the information they need for themselves.”

They would go further to suggest that pedagogy itself that has to change to suit a new style and generation of learners:

“– the boundaries are becoming blurred between school and college, formal and informal education, learning for work and learning at work, it also makes sense to consider the continuities across different contexts of learning.  How people learn, and how they can best be guided to learn, are no longer concerns that belong behind the school gates.”

Personalised, bespoke learning can be learning can be achieved online far more easily than in a traditional context. Rather than a class being made up of a cohort of students geographically proximal to each other and all studying a uniform prescribed curriculum selected and often deployed unilaterally across an organisation, online learning allows for students from across the country or even across the globe to opt into the lessons on a syllabus of their choice.

Student engagement and enjoyment of lessons is a determining factor in student progress and attainment.  Now in our fourth year of data collection and having asked students from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 5, all ability levels and all sorts of school, alternative providers and home education contexts, over 90% of our students agree that they enjoy Tute lessons.  Our case studies have shown that students engage online for a wide variety of reasons; some say it ‘interactive’ and ‘interesting,’ some say, ‘really easy (for me) to concentrate online’ and that there are ‘less distractions’ because ‘you are in a smaller group, so your comments and opinions are far more valued. You also receive more support and encouragement,’ whilst others just like it because it’s ‘fun.’

Whatever their reasons, the potential for student success facilitated by learning online is vast.  To return to the questions posed by our colleagues at Bett, “What will education look like?” We hope it will see us move towards more and more diversification of student provision to suit their individual needs and help to harness their potential by engaging their interests and inspiring them to enjoy learning.  “What role will technology play?” Learning online is still an emerging solution to many of the challenges facing students, parents and schools today. In the future, we hope to see its ability to overcome these challenges and scope fully recognised.  Technology’s role will be to ensure Tute’s purpose is met: to make the best teaching available to all irrespective of location or background.



Happy New Academic Year!

Returning to Tute after the summer for a new year is always an exciting time. Just like in schools, we are looking forward to getting to know our students and beginning new lessons and courses with them and we return full of tales to tell of our summer break. Having had a little more adventure than usual, I really wanted to take some time to share with you some of the experiences I had this summer and what insights they’ve afforded me as we move forwards into another year.

For anyone not already aware, I was lucky enough to be released from my duties at Tute throughout July so as that I could spend some time working with an organisation called Limited Resource Teacher Training. LRTT work in developing countries to deliver teacher professional development opportunities that might not otherwise exist. Through them and with support from Tute, I was able to spend a month in Uganda delivering training and working with teachers in schools in the Kunungu District. I am truly grateful to the team for making this possible.

The experience was incredible. I spent time in both primary and secondary schools in the area and worked with 8 teachers who were attending conference workshops at the weekends and teaching during the week. In collaboration with the teachers (some of which had completed teacher training and had been teaching for several years, others who had not completed any formal training), a programme of professional development was devised. Over the programme we completed sessions on student engagement, assessment for learning, behaviour for learning, supporting students with SEND, effective questioning, differentiation for support and for challenge, groupwork, effective lesson planning and growth mindset.

These elements of pedagogy are fundamental pillars in the structure of teaching and learning here at Tute and, in my experience, Schools here in the UK. I was certainly excited to be able to share ideas and expertise in country with the local Ugandan teachers, as well as with my colleagues also on the programme from the USA, UK, Singapore and Australia. More than this though, I was excited to learn from the Ugandan teachers too; they are working in supremely difficult conditions with severely limited resources; far more challenging than anything most of us will have ever dealt with previously, so an opportunity to learn from them was inspirational. If you can teach effectively in those conditions, you can teach anywhere!

Examples of group work to promote engagement

When visiting schools in Uganda, the lack of resources was inescapable and the level of poverty in the area was unmistakeable, although (mercifully), I was not in an area where famine or draught had hit recently. Classrooms were brick buildings with dusty, earthen floors. The only resources were often chalk and blackboards, wooden desks and benches, paper and pencils that small children were whittling down with tiny blades kept in their pockets. If a resource such as a text book existed, there was one copy that belonged to the teacher that students couldn’t possibly have access to, meaning that diagrams or tables of information students needed couldn’t be photocopied or electronically displayed like we would automatically do here, but it had to be painstakingly duplicated on to the black board and copied exactly by students. The primary schools I visited often had 50-60 students per class and the secondary school I visited and worked most closely with was the only one on that side of the town; the only opportunity for education beyond primary in the immediate area.

What struck me most though was the absolute love of school and the positive energy within the classroom. Students were actively engaged and keen to learn and when I spoke to them about school they all told me that they loved being there. When you consider that students not in school would often be labouring on their family’s land, working in the home or caring for smaller children, it’s easy to understand why schooling provided not only much needed education, but also an escape from the harsh realities of life. When I conducted interviews and spoke to teachers there, they were inspirational; wanting to develop their own pedagogy and constantly improve the lessons they delivered to their students. Between both students and staff, there was a resolute belief and understanding that education provided a gateway to opportunities and enabled students to have aspirations for careers such as becoming teachers, doctors, nurses and agriculturalists.

I loved working with students and teachers in Uganda and am excited to continue to work with one of the schools in particular that I developed ties with whilst there. However, reflecting on my experience, there was a realisation that struck me most powerfully; for all the resources we have here in the UK and the lack of resources had in Uganda, there are universal truths that can be applied to almost any context:

– Learning takes place when teaching is good (or better!)

– Students learn more when they are effectively engaged.

These are facts I learned a long time ago, both as a classroom teacher and since moving to teach online here at Tute. It is at the core of what makes effective teaching and learning; regardless of whether you are teaching in a well-equipped, modern school building, in a sparse breeze block structure with no resources, or delivering online lessons using pioneering technology anywhere in the world.

Students collect pebbles to use for counting

Students collect pebbles to use for counting.

Collaborative working

Collaborative working

Coming back to the UK and to work and Tute, I am struck again by just how privileged we and our students truly are; we have every opportunity to facilitate their success and promote progress, but these two truths are ones I will return to in every lesson.

Here’s to another year of outstanding teaching and effective engagement.

Happy New Academic Year!

If you’d like to know more about teaching fellowships with LRTT, take a look at their website here:

Tute: supporting engagement with international research opportunities

I return to the Tute office this week after some time away on an intensive programme with Chester University in Estonia. I spent 10 days in Tartu, exploring student diversity and engagement as a part of an Erasmus-funded course between students and professors from eight universities in Europe, representing Sweden, Finland, the U.K., Hungary, Austria, Germany, Estonia and Spain.

Map of Europe showing Erasmus plus associated with University of Tartu

The programme was excellent and highly focused on why we, as a continent, are struggling to address the issue of early school leavers, defined by the EU as ‘young people (aged 18–24) having completed at most a lower secondary education and not being in further education or training.’

We looked at a wide programme and identified ways in which student diversity is (or is not) being understood and addressed in education. Early school leaving is linked to unemployment, social exclusion, poverty and poor health; and young men who are ‘foreign-born’ and belong to ethnic minorities are more likely to leave education and training earlier than any other ‘category’ of student. There are many reasons why people give up education and training prematurely: personal or family problems, learning difficulties, or a fragile socioeconomic situation and, no doubt, if you work in a secondary setting, you will have experienced these circumstances at play for students in your care.

Whilst in Estonia, we considered some of the ways in which these concerns could and are being addressed. The way the education system is set up, school climate and teacher-pupil relations are all important factors. However, since there is not a single reason for early school leaving, there are no easy answers. Petra Goran, Policy Officer, DG Education and Culture at European Commission, has recently written,

“Early school leaving is not just a school issue and its causes need to be addressed across a range of social, youth, family, health, local community, employment, as well as education policies. Also extended educational concepts such as cultural education, cooperation with businesses or other outside school actors, and sports can play an important role in reducing early school leaving by promoting creativity, new ways of thinking, intercultural dialogue, and social cohesion.”

This is what the elements of the programme focused on: drama education, adventure education, overcoming language barriers, the physical spaces for learning, nature education, leisure time education and vocational education. Yet, if I were to identify just one over-riding theme that recurred throughout the programme it would be this: the largest contributing factor to early school leaving is the inability of the education system to mould to the needs of individual students and individual students to mould themselves into the pigeonholes of a homogenised system.

An alternative livrary setting is shown. Book shelves are circular in layout, with an outer ring of computer desks surrounding the bookshelves.
Alternative library setting in the entrance hall, Tammen School, Tartu


Modern shaped, relaxed seating area, with wall sized windows lighiting up the space. Students are seen relaxing, playing chess and table tennis.
Alternative spaces for learning.

In our neighbouring European counterparts, I could see that there were efforts to address these issues and to reinvent their education systems in a number of ways. I saw that elsewhere, children start school later and spend fewer hours of the day or even days of the week at school, the range of subjects taught vary (handicrafts and economics feature from as young as 7 in some places), but national testing often only occurs at the end of schooling; in some countries, no testing until age 17. Not only do these changes relate to the classroom and student, but also to the staff and premesis. In many countries, qualified teachers hold Masters degrees as well as Bachelor degrees, giving them more time to study their craft. Degrees are also required to teach kindergarten or preschool, which is not the case everywhere, but you can also graduate with an education-based degree in leisure time management; there are roles for teaching staff which purely support students in choosing leisure activities and in organising social events because these are understood to be valuable learning experiences too. Even the ways in which the school buildings are physically constructed are very different: floor to ceiling windows, open spaces, artwork and plant life adorning the corridors-a stark contrast to the more clinical settings that I’ve seen previously. Another contrast is the way that vocational and academic pathways run as equally-weighted, parallel options, where students are able to opt in to schools and courses best suited to them and their needs, perhaps reminiscent of the polytechnic system of years gone by.

A corner of a classroom at Variku School. The walls are covered in student artwork. The theme is 2017, the year of the rooster.
Artwork of students at Variku School, Tartu.


Display stands in a classroom show collage's inspired by Poialpoiss 3D, the animated movie.
Artwork of students at Variku School, Tartu.

Whilst in Estonia, I visited some amazing educational institutions, but these were not limited to schools alone. There, I visited a ‘nature house’ where students go to learn about the natural world; everything from how to make pots from clay, to how to care for animals, to learning which climates plants will grow in. I visited a science centre where there are practical applications explored through science in action experiments that children (and adults) physically engage with. I visited a museum, a youth centre, a drama centre, an adventure education site and a number of other alternative sites for education. What amazed me most was not that these places existed; they do here in the UK too, but the emphasis that was placed on them and their relevance to students’ learning. They were available within walking distance and were very visibly in use by many local school students.


The nature house is a glass extension, similar to a greenhouse. Various plants are growing, and lamps are hanging above for additional light.
The Nature House, Tartu, Estonia.


This open space has comfy, modern seating area where nature collages are displayed.
Open learning spaces at The Nature House.

I’ve written in the past about the difficulties we face in education in the UK as a result of an overly prescriptive, narrow curriculum; we will all wait with bated breath for the exam results yielded from the new GCSE specifications come August, but I anticipate that there will be larger numbers of students than in previous years ‘failing’ as a result of the academic nature of the specifications that are, for some, becoming inaccessible in the pursuit of ‘higher standards.’ Due to the Progress 8 measure against which schools are now judged, the value we place on vocational subjects, creative subjects and the arts has been called into question. Unlike the emphasis on alternative methods of learning that I saw in Estonia, we seem to favour only one: an academic pathway.

There are so many issues with this flawed logic and that there isn’t space here for me to elaborate on them all, but it should suffice to say that the prioritising of academia for academia’s sake is not something I can support, regardless of my own academic background. The drive towards raising standards in our schools has become confused with raising the importance of academia at the detriment to all other forms of education; and what leading voices and organisations are saying about the nature of education and preparing our students for an ever-evolving future does not match up to these ideals. Sir Ken Robinson has been revered for his stance on this very topic,

“The problem is that too often, and in too many ways, current systems of mass education are a catastrophe in themselves. Far from looking to the future, they are facing stubbornly toward the past.”

A demonstration of physics. A small hatchback car is hoisted using only the strenght of three people.
Science centre, Tartu, Estonia.

So, how does all of this fit with what I saw in Estonia and what we do here at Tute? What I take away from my recent trip is that education and the forms it takes should be wide and varied. Enriching learning opportunities for students and inviting them to learn in new or alternative ways is of enormous benefit. Every single student we teach is an individual learner, with individual needs and individual talents. The challenge is how to juggle meeting these individual needs, foster these individual talents and enable them to enjoy learning, whilst ultimately helping them to succeed in their education (regardless of any complaints we might have of the system). It is my resolute belief that our education system in the UK will need to change in the future, but until then, what can we do to support our learners?

Not all students learn easily sat in a classroom; that’s why so many alternative education sites are being used elsewhere on the continent, as well as in pockets of alternative provision here at home. Our students are wonderfully unique, so why should we persist in trying to convince ourselves that they will all learn in the same way? What our students need is a diverse menu of learning options; some will learn through drama, some through reading and writing, others through adventure pedagogy, more again through practical applications of science or through investigating nature. Learning online is yet another medium, an alternative tool for progress that we can, and should, be employing to support our students.

Street art on a wall in Tartu. The wall was made availble, purposfully, for street artwork.
Street art in Tartu, Estonia-walls made available for artwork.

The first study I undertook when I joined Tute three years ago was into students’ enjoyment of and engagement with learning online. Overwhelmingly, students feedback that they enjoy and learn through online lessons and the growing numbers of schools, students and parents using Tute is further testimony to this. It is not that learning online could or should ever aim to replace schooling for students, it is that it can complement and strengthen traditional teaching. We need to find ways in which we can diversify our teaching to meet the needs of our diverse students. Perhaps then, we can do something to address the number of early school leavers and ensure our students receive the best education possible.

Learning online has meant that students across the country can learn in subject areas and with students that they would never have had the opportunity to work on or with in the past. The narrow curriculum or strangle-hold of a restrictive budget can be overcome. An individual student can choose to take a course previously unavailable to them in almost any subject they like without their school having to employ a new teacher or a need for other students to join the group. A student who struggles with the physical surroundings of the school can learn from the comfort and security of their own home. A student who finds face to face interactions uncomfortable can flourish when that barrier is removed. Learning online creates more options, more choices, more freedom. The most exciting thing about what we do here is the potential to make these choices available to all.

Not all students are the same and they certainly don’t all learn in the same way. Wouldn’t the future be boring if they did?

Sharon stands on the other side of a high platform. She is gripping the barrier in fear. A harness is used for safety.
Some hands on experience of adventure pedagogy-learning how to overcome some very real fears.


A profile picture of Sharon Smith.

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.

Supporting the ALN transformation plan at national level

Almost 25% of students in Wales have additional learning needs (ALN). It is known that outcomes for these students are poor when compared with the rest of the student population. The ALN Transformation Programme seeks to improve outcomes for these vulnerable young people by delivering a unified system from 0-25yrs.

The programme acknowledges the importance of creating regional partnership projects. Education, health and social services will  now work together to deliver Individual Development Plans (IDPs) and take a holistic approach to meeting ALN. Tute supports this approach and is already contributing to regional level, multi-agency working through our network of online schools which receive students via multiple referral routes.

The ALN transformation plan vision to deliver a fair and inclusive education system for all learners, is shared by Tute. In addition to improving outcomes for students with ALN, our online schools deliver wider impact through intervention, catch-up, enrichment and complete course delivery and support the TRAC, Cynydd and Aspire 2 Achieve projects. Our programmes also reinforce the Literacy & Numeracy Framework and the Digital Competence Framework by enabling interaction and collaboration and lessons are available in Welsh, too.


Learners with ALN and their parents and carers will be involved in the creation of IDPs. The importance of parental engagement to improve outcomes for vulnerable learners is championed by our partnered charity, Achievement for All and is now also directly supported by Tute. Our affordable online tuition brings education into the home and whilst it can be purchased directly by parents, the opportunity to exploit this quality assured extension of the curriculum has not gone unmissed by schools.  By investing their PDG funding in the bulk purchase of seats to allocate to parents and carers, enables schools to strengthen relationships with vulnerable families by empowering them to support their children with learning at home.

The ALN transformation programme will also invest in workforce development. Core skills training will equip existing staff to support ALN in their setting. Additional Learning Needs Co-ordinators (ALNCos) will replace current Special Educational Needs Coordinators (SENCOs) and a national workforce planning system will enable local authorities to provide specialist skills and support services to education settings.

The Welsh Government has already acknowledged interventions delivered by Tute Education as an effective investment of the newly called Pupil Development Grant. This recommendation was published in a report shared with schools throughout Wales. Tute therefore makes a robust addition to any ALNCo’s toolkit. We can deliver interventions directly or train existing school and local authority staff with ALN expertise to deliver online lessons themselves.  Our platform can also be used to share best practice and deliver CPD at regional and national level.

Tute’s platform is fully SEND compliant and helps overcome numerous barriers to education. We are already helping students everywhere to achieve their full potential and are delighted the ALN transformation plan presents so many opportunities for us to continue to make such a valid contribution to student outcomes. You can visit each of our regional online schools here:

  • The Cardiff City Online School
  • The South East Wales Online School
  • The West Wales Online School
  • The North Wales Online School

    Kate McCombe

    Looked after children, young offenders and learners presenting social, emotional and mental health needs, have been intrinsic to my education career from classroom teacher, to head teacher, to taking the lead on alternative provision here at Tute.

    Outside of work, I volunteer for projects run by Gloucestershire Constabulary to support vulnerable young people in the community. I’m also a volunteer trackside marshal at Prescott Speed hill Climb, I swim all season at Cheltenham Lido and enjoy getting cold, wet and muddy in the Cotswold countryside before relaxing in front of my log fire.

Three Innovative Ways to Transform Your A Level Provision

I read with some interest the recent A level class size report from the DfE which aimed to establish the minimum viable number of students in a class, using aggregated research from FE, college and sixth form (school) settings. It seemed a somewhat abstract analysis to me, but the conclusion is that with £4,000 of funding per capita or thereabouts, the optimal viable class size is 11.7 pupils. Call it a dozen once rounded.

Funding is clearly playing an increasingly bigger part of the decision-making process. The report, for example, highlights one school who ran a geography A level course for two pupils simply to retain per capita funding which would otherwise be lost to a competing provider. With travel now becoming easier, maintaining a broad curriculum to retain pupils is a key consideration, particularly where core class sizes can be boosted (and financial returns optimised).

The real key though is to try and make the teaching cost base more malleable. Inflexibility of staffing and unpredictable pupil numbers (which are result-dependent when joining and impossible to forecast when transitioning from year 12 to 13) combined with reducing budgets create a perfect storm. Against this context, it makes good sense to try and garner efficiencies and to take every opportunity to keep the cost base variable. Thoughts on how to achieve this include:

Using your existing teaching staff

  • Collaborating with other schools to aggregate demand. Our cloud learning technology allows teachers to deliver live lessons to groups of students in real time, irrespective of those students’ location. Using your teacher to deliver a course improves efficiency by offsetting their cost (which is shared) whilst retaining students and maintaining quality.


  • Extending the school day. Tute A level courses are available after school hours as well as within the school day. Your teachers can use our cloud technology to deliver lessons outside of traditional hours, allowing more flexible use of fixed capital resources. There is no reason at all that A level provision needs to be constrained by space or time.

Using Tute teachers

  • Settling upon a core A level curriculum, but allowing one A level choice to be selected from a menu of 28 different subjects using Tute. You can buy a single seat in our courses for just £995 per pupil, making it possible to maintain a rich subject choice whilst retaining per capita funding. That way, you can maximise efficiencies in the core provision whilst keeping costs variable.


Arguably, given that online teaching fosters the independent learning and collaborative skills needed at university, a rounded A level provision should now include one online option in any case. Not least because the UK economy requires the next generation of learners to have well-honed digital literacy skills, and to be comfortable with technology.


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, and which he founded.

Using Education Technology to Improve Behaviour

“The quickest wins for the edtech sector are in relieving teacher workload, increasing the time they have to teach students.” John Roberts, Chief Executive, Edapt, in his recent article for Schools Week.

John’s is one of many responses to Tom Bennett’s independent review on behaviour in schools and I agree the opportunity to use technology to proactively address behaviour management has not been given sufficient consideration. As Tom Bennett rightly says, we should be wary of using technology to merely pacify or distract students, but schools could in fact deliberately exploit technology to not only overcome some of the root causes of poor behaviour and increase attainment, but also to significantly lower the costs associated with doing so.

Good relationships with students are key to positively managing behaviour. As an ex-Head of Education in a setting for students with varying degrees of SEMH often combined with SEND, I can say that with confidence. Knowing your students, understanding their needs and accommodating these in every lesson goes a long way towards ensuring positive experiences for learners which in turn produce positive behaviours. Achieving all this takes time though and in a climate of seemingly ever increasing class sizes and teacher workloads, there is precious little time to go around.

Schools can use technology to deliver additional teaching time directly to those students who need it most. In a blog I wrote for Tute last summer about AP Excellence Everywhere, I made reference to the use of education online to increase teaching capacity in schools and enable students to benefit from higher levels of attention focussed on their personal learning needs. This method of delivering small group, early intervention in school not only demonstrates impact for students, but is also more cost effective than resorting to off-site alternative provision or trying to make up for lost time with expensive 1-2-1 further down the line, not to mention the slippery slope of exclusion from school.

Tom Bennett has now recommended the funding of internal units in schools to deliver targeted early intervention with a view to reintegrating students back into the mainstream setting. The implications of such a proposal are huge in terms of cost, staffing and regulation. Could the use of high quality, low cost online teaching possibly be the solution to delivering Tom’s proposal?

Time and money in schools is too precious to waste on gimmicks and interventions not backed by robust research, as I’m sure Tom would be first to agree. Schools should undertake due diligence when considering the implementation of any intervention, questions around evidence and quality assurance need to be asked. Here at Tute, we can demonstrate these things in addition to substantial cost savings at local authority level.

At a recent demonstration of Tute in a mainstream school in the South East, the Head of Pupil Premium commented upon the immediacy of student engagement with the online lesson delivered. This alone was sufficient to prove the appeal of Tute’s lessons to vulnerable and challenging learners and quickly evolved into a plan for us to address the needs of identified Focus Groups in every year from 7-11. This is not too far removed from the idea of internal inclusion units to deliver intervention and is a good deal cheaper to deliver.

Our appeal to students combined with our reputation as a BETT award-winning company, the backing of our research, strategic partnerships and preservation of the fundamental elements of good teaching add-up to make a powerful intervention tool. With on-demand lessons available at just £10 per seat, we are also an affordable solution.

Contact us to innovate your budget.

Kate McCombe

Looked after children, young offenders and learners presenting social, emotional and mental health needs, have been intrinsic to my education career from classroom teacher, to head teacher, to taking the lead on alternative provision here at Tute.

Outside of work, I volunteer for projects run by Gloucestershire Constabulary to support vulnerable young people in the community. I’m also a volunteer trackside marshal at Prescott Speed hill Climb, I swim all season at Cheltenham Lido and enjoy getting cold, wet and muddy in the Cotswold countryside before relaxing in front of my log fire.

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, and 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, and 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.