Click, Connect... Learn?

This report draws together lessons from three volunteer tuition providers funded to pilot online models through the Click, Connect, Learn Fund.

The Click, Connect, Learn Fund tested models to scale online tuition for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, supported by volunteer tutors. The fund is a partnership between Nesta and the Office for Civil Society at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The gap in attainment between poorer students and their wealthier peers is now over 18 months when they leave secondary school, and is increasing.

Over the last decade, the private tuition market grew by 12 per cent. This tuition is most likely to benefit young people whose families can afford it.

If we are to close this attainment gap, we must ensure students have equal opportunities to academic support and tuition.

Volunteer tuition offers one solution to this problem. There is a growing field of organisations that offer high quality volunteer tutors to schools and students. The Click, Connect, Learn Fund sought to support high-potential volunteer tuition providers to pilot online approaches to such work: enabling them to reach students across the country, regardless of the local availability of qualified volunteers.

The report describes the work that each grantee undertook, explores their models and how successful they were, and highlights the learning and insights generated.

The models have demonstrated that there is huge capacity for online tuition to help volunteer tutor programmes to grow, broaden the volunteer talent pool and reach more young people that need academic support. Not everything worked, and each of the grantees generated useful insights to inform their future work and the wider sector.

Key findings

  • Providers of online tuition models must start with the intended experience and outcomes for young people – not the technology.
  • Schools, volunteer tutors and students need targeted support to use tuition technology – and often more than you might expect.
  • With the right volunteer experience and offer, it is possible to attract a strong supply of skilled online volunteer tutors.
  • Tuition outcomes must be aimed at schools’ core priorities.
  • No model will be ‘purely online’: some smaller elements will continue to be most effectively delivered in-person.
  • An engaging experience that works for young people is crucial: models must prioritise a quality experience for young people that makes a difference to their outcomes.

Policy recommendations

The insights generated through this piloting informed a number of recommendations for policymakers, tuition providers and schools:

  • Policymakers should provide further investment and support to help schools make the most of an under-utilised resource: skilled, remote volunteer tutors. This includes support for schools and tuition providers, in particular with accessing and using quality tuition software
  • Volunteer tuition providers should explore how online models can be utilised to reach more students but this must be done carefully. The technology must be fit for purpose, strong school partnerships still need to be built and structured user support and training provided, which often requires an in-person element. An important next step is to further understand the differences in impact on outcomes between in-person and online models.
  • Schools can help ensure better standards of implementation by allocating specific time to teachers to support such work, and by ensuring the appropriate technology is in place to enable trouble-free tutorials.

We hope that the work of grantees, explored in this report, will help others working to grow their reach through online provision, and help inform future policymaking and funding in this area.

Image by Beth Crockatt


Jed Cinnamon

Jed Cinnamon

Jed Cinnamon

Senior Programme Manager, A Fairer Start

Jed was a senior programme manager in the fairer start mission at Nesta.

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Carrie Deacon

Carrie Deacon

Carrie Deacon

Director of Government and Community Innovation

Carrie was Director of Government and Community Innovation at Nesta, leading our work on social action and people-powered public services.

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