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They provide high quality volunteer tutors to work with pupils, increasing their subject knowledge, confidence and study skills. Action Tutoring particularly offer tutoring in English and maths, target GCSE pupils and work in partnership with non-selective state secondary schools.

What CSAIF funded: Action Tutoring was awarded £167,989 (including £15k for evaluation) to scale its volunteer tutoring model.

When awarded the grant Action Tutoring was working in 25 London schools delivering approximately 40 term long tutoring programmes per year. It had already piloted in Manchester and was beginning to explore working in Sheffield, but this grant enabled Action Tutoring to expand even further to include Birmingham, Brighton and Liverpool. It has now established this work and has mobilised 2900 volunteers to work with 4,500 pupils over the last three years. The grant also helped increase the team's central capacity, which has helped Action Tutoring leverage an additional £1.3m in funding from other sources. View the full impact evaluation.

About the evaluation

Level on Standards: Level 3 - they can demonstrate causality using a control or comparison group.

Evaluator: National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR)

Aim: Action Tutoring’s evaluation aimed to estimate the impact of their small‐group tuition programme on GCSE grades.

Key findings:

  1. The evaluation gave a strong indication that Action Tutoring’s programme had a positive and statistically significant impact on participant’s general progress in GCSE grades.
  2. However, the evaluation found that Action Tutoring’s programme did not make it more or less likely for participants to specifically achieve a grade C or above in subjects they were tutored on.
  3. The evaluation found that the more often participant’s attended the tutoring programme, the greater the programme’s impact appeared to be.


  • Action Tutoring used a matched comparison group design, employing 3 statistical procedures and 3 different model specifications for the two key outcomes (GCSE grades and probability of achieving a C grade or above). The comparison group data is drawn from the National Pupil Database, with baseline data compared between the intervention and control groups to check that they are suitably comparable.
  • The treatment group included 724 tutored GCSE students. The matched comparison group sample size is not stated, but is likely to be the same/similar due to the matching process. Action Tutoring also collected data on pupil attendance at the tutoring sessions, geographical region, gender and eligibility for free school meals.

Why is this a Level 3 evaluation?

With support from NIESR, Action Tutoring have delivered an evaluation that evidences a positive change over time for the young people that it supports, using appropriate tools. Since this evaluation used a rigorous comparison group approach, there is sufficient certainty that the observed impact on GCSE grades can be attributed to Action Tutoring’s programme. The results did show that the programme did not increase the likelihood of pupils receiving a C grade or above, which is the more specific ultimate goal of Action Tutoring. However, the report proposes a valid explanation of these two findings (that the referred pupils may not be close enough to the D/C border), and the fact that grades are more generally increased is enough to show that the programme is having a positive impact, and is hopefully on the way to achieving its ultimate goal.

About the evidence journey

Progress: Through this evaluation Action Tutoring have jumped from Level 1 to Level 3 on the Standards, reflecting the fact that they have made great strides in robustly evidencing their impact. Furthermore, the analysis approach used here has been set up so that it can hopefully be repeated every academic year, to see how impact changes over time.

Lessons learned:

  • Although the programme has a positive impact on pupil progress, more sessions are needed for Action Tutoring to be confident of enabling more pupils to reach the C grade, given their starting points. During 2015/16, Action Tutoring aimed to offer pupils 8-12 tutoring sessions, rather than 5-6.
  • Given the above, Action Tutoring are further considering the grade entry point for pupils on the programme and are working closely with schools on this, to ensure the chance of reaching a C grade can be maximized.
  • Using the NPD for the control group worked very well and avoided some of the ethical issues of offering tutoring to some pupils in a school and not others. As a young organization, this particularly suited Action Tutoring’s stage of development.

Next steps: Action Tutoring have increased the number of sessions pupils receive in 2015/16 and have introduced a much more structured tutoring curriculum. They will be replicating the evaluation again this year to test the difference that these changes have made, particularly towards enabling pupils to achieve the C grade. Further analysis will investigate the dose sensitivity and particularly whether there is a plateau point and where this is. It will also investigate any geographical variability, with larger sample sizes.