Tutors, mentors and education influencers – how to maximise your potential

Nearly half of young people in London and the south east have been tutored at some point in their school careers, new research has revealed.

Data from Unifrog, the universal destinations platform for schools, shows that 45 per cent of the 4,000 pupils living in and around the capital and who filled in its annual survey have had a personal tutor.

Tutoring in London is now so commonplace, it is regarded as just another after-school activity, according to Harry Cobb, the director of Bonas MacFarlane Education.

“When I was at school you would only have a tutor if you had a learning difficulty, were cramming for an exam or learning a musical instrument,” he says. “Now culturally it is different. Many of the families we engage with will have a tutor at least once a week, from age eight upwards.”

Cecilia Hunt, from Ealing, sourced an online tutor with MyTutor when she realised after the first lockdown, like thousands of other parents, that her son’s English skills had deteriorated.

The positive impact of the weekly sessions was soon obvious. So much so that she also paid for a geography tutor to help him revise before his GCSEs.

It was a big financial commitment for the family but it paid off.

“We saw his English grade move from fail to a comfortable pass at GCSE,” she says. “He was more knowledgeable about the texts but also developed the skills to break down and understand exam questions.”

Honing his revision and exam skills created a spill over effect in other subjects too and it was “a massive boost to his confidence”.

Schools, too, are providing personal tutoring through the National Tutoring Programme, aimed at helping pupils catch up post-Covid. It is worth speaking to the school if you think your child should be receiving help.

A range of external organisations also provides support, advice and mentoring aimed at maximising students’ potential.

The internet is a great leveller; immerse yourself in all of the incredible content out there

Unifrog’s new “courses” platform is an interactive learning tool that will allow the 1.4 million students with Unifrog accounts to work their way through subject and skills courses, which include videos, text, and quizzes to aid comprehension. In its “Reaching your potential” course, for instance, students will end up with a career goal and a plan of how to get there.

“A champion in your corner” is the strap line of Dame Kelly Holmes Trust. It puts existing and former elite level athletes shoulder to shoulder with young people in schools, community settings and children’s hospitals to help pupils develop a winning mindset, build relationship skills, improve self-esteem and learn to stay focused.

Mentors from Access Project go into schools to coach and tutor young people so they can make strong UCAS applications. Pupils who benefit from their input are more than twice as likely as similarly disadvantaged students to attend top universities, according to the charity.

Some organisations are able to work directly with families. Into University is on a mission to help young people succeed through mentoring and coaching and has a network of local learning centres. ReachOut runs afterschool mentoring projects, pairing young people with their own volunteer mentor.

Zero Gravity, a tech platform that mentors low-income students into top universities and careers, has helped more than 8,000 teenagers into leading universities.

Its 25-year-old founder, Joe Seddon, was the first person in his family to give Oxbridge a crack, and when he graduated he wanted to help others to do the same.

Seddon’s advice to teenagers is to start to think about what path you might want to take in Year 12, if not before. Breaking into a top university or career is a marathon, not a sprint.

“The internet is a great leveller; immerse yourself in all of the incredible content out there,” he says. “Free services like Zero Gravity make it possible to connect with a mentor who can expand your academic interest and support your application. Build a network of others who’ve been through the process.”

Where to find help via your phone

Young people facing exams and tough decisions about their future are increasingly turning to a resource that is always close at hand: their mobile phone.

YouTube and TikTok feature a host of “influencers” who post online to help students study better and feel more confident about taking the next step.

Ishaan Bhimjiyani, known as Revishaan, has 290,000 followers on TikTok and 20,000 YouTube subscribers. His revision top tips and “what not to” posts provide the hand-holding that many students facing exams are searching for.

Christina Aaliyah Davis, with 90,000 followers on TikTok, dispenses the revision techniques that got her where she is today: a fourth year medical student at Newcastle University. Real-life biology teacher Miss Estruch gives her YouTube subscribers in-depth sessions on A-level syllabuses and exam questions to help them get top marks.

Former teacher Ranulf Kinloch Jones’ TikTok channel Beyond the Blackboard gives advice to young people about next steps at 16 and 18, while 23-year-old Shola West, who took a non-traditional path to her job in media, gives “big sister” guidance at allthingsmediasis.

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