About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

As a founding partner of the National Tutoring Programme we’ve been working in various ways to support the Tuition Partners to deliver their high-quality tuition to pupils across England.

One strand of our work has been supporting five of the Partners to explore innovative ways to improve the quality, accessibility and impact of their online delivery, through our Digital Development Grants. The circumstances of the past 12 months, including the rapid switch to teaching online, have made the projects very timely and the Partners have welcomed the additional support, particularly those new to online delivery.

With grantees half way through their projects, here’s what we’ve learned from online tutoring organisations about innovating during a pandemic.

1. Expect the unexpected

With an ever shifting COVID environment, a long list of priorities and changing student needs, tutoring has to be flexible and responsive to support students. Even with students now returning to the classroom, the past year has taught us to expect change and education is no exception. Tutoring organisations need to make it as easy as possible for schools, tutors and students to engage with them.

Developing new features and products for tutors and students requires an agile approach in changing circumstances. Our grantees must bring together a variety of stakeholders, from online technology partners to schools and students, to test and trial new features, a task TalentED has been addressing as it develops new features on the Infiniti platform. Being able to adapt project plans and timelines to respond to the moving school and tutor landscape is vital to success.

2. Data and insights are key

Students might be back in the classroom, but the demand for data and analytics to target learning is still a vital part of tailoring support for those who need it most. Understanding the areas where students need the most help and how to best design catch up tuition is key to achieving positive benefits. Students have experienced a wide range of remote learning at home and ensuring support is suited to their evolving needs will help produce even better outcomes.

FFT and Manning’s Tutors are just two of the grantees developing their data capturing and reporting functions, making sure tutors and teachers can access detailed and up to date information about students’ progress and engagement to help inform their sessions.

3. User research is more important than ever

Schools and students may have less time to engage in user research and testing at the moment, but it’s essential to get their input and feedback on new products and services designed to support them. Schools Partnership Tutors and The Brilliant Club are undertaking user research and piloting to understand the needs of their tutors, teachers and students and to gather important feedback to help make their products even more effective. We know that the circumstances of students and their learning needs are changing more than ever and it’s vital that those developing new products test their assumptions about users and their requirements.

Our Digital Development Grants are running until the end of June 2021, so check back in to hear more about what we’re learning and how tutoring is helping those students most affected by the pandemic.


Lucy Turner

Lucy Turner

Lucy Turner

Senior Analyst, healthy life mission

Lucy is a senior analyst on the healthy life mission team.

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Isabel Newman

Isabel Newman

Isabel Newman

Associate Investment Director (Secondment)

Isabel was an associate investment director in Nesta’s Impact Investments team.

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