Queen Margaret University tutoring initiative expands to help more school pupils catch up with learning lost during pandemic
A pioneering initiative which was set up to help school pupils in East Lothian catch up with learning lost during the pandemic has expanded into Midlothian.
Launched by Queen Margaret University over a year ago, the Enhanced Learning Tutoring Initiative has helped over 300 young people from all six secondary schools who were identified as requiring additional support.
The partnership project, run by Queen Margaret University and East Lothian Council was made possible by an award of £110k from funders including the STV Children’s Appeal.
For different reasons, many school children across the UK struggled with learning during the home schooling lockdown months and subsequently throughout the pandemic. Poverty, family illness, loss of parental income, lack of motivation, loneliness and isolation, and disengagement with education are just some of the challenges faced by teenagers and families. The turbulence associated with changing COVID restrictions, isolation rules and in-person teaching has taken its toll – widening the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged pupils and exposing inequalities. For example, the MCR Pathways Lockdown Survey1 of disadvantaged and care-experienced young people found that 68% of those surveyed had done no school work during lockdown.
In response to the learning crisis, Queen Margaret University and East Lothian Council joined forces with the STV Children’s Appeal and a local family charity to deliver a blend of online and face-to-face tutoring support for the county’s senior school pupils in S4 –S6. The initiative has had such a transformative impact on the lives of young people that it has expanded into Midlothian. Tutoring is now being delivered to around 350 pupils per week from all 12 secondary schools in East Lothian and Midlothian.
Callum Maguire, Head of Widening Participation and Outreach at Queen Margaret University, explained: “We are passionate about closing the attainment gap and providing young people with equality of opportunity. No matter what their background is, all pupils deserve to be supported so they can achieve their potential. COVID-19 has had an overwhelming impact on education and put immense pressure on our teaching profession. By pulling together and using the strength of partnership working, we are tackling the learning crisis head on and providing positive solutions for hundreds of young people at a critical time in their education journey.
“We have witnessed the transformative impact that one-to-one tutoring support is having on many East Lothian pupils. We are therefore delighted to now have the opportunity to positively influence learning outcomes for hundreds of senior school pupils across Midlothian – giving these teenagers the best chance of success during their final years at school. The project is proving invaluable is helping many people who were disengaging with education to reconnect with learning, which, in turn, will improve their life chances in the future. In a nutshell, this project is changing lives by supporting the excellent work of our schools, improving opportunities and reducing inequality across East and Midlothian.”
Chloe Wilson, a 4th year pupil at Newbattle High School in Mayfield, Midlothian, had struggled with learning history after a very challenging year of teaching. She said: “Due to the pandemic, we had had a lot of different history teachers for that subject, and there were certain aspects that I found really confusing. I also have dyslexia and am deaf in one ear, so that probably hasn’t helped my learning, especially when some of the school work had been done online during the earlier part of the pandemic. Even though I was writing everything down when studying history, I struggled to retain the information.”
Chloe continued: “I was given the chance to take part in the Enhanced Learning Tutoring Initiative and I’ve had been having face to face learning sessions with my tutor, Amy, which has helped me so much. She made everything much simpler for me. She has helped me make improvements to the way I structure the answers to the questions, and I am now getting better marks in my exams. I feel far more confident about the subject now. I can now take Higher history, rather than the National 5, so I am delighted. I eventually want to go to university to study music education, and I know that the progress that I’ve made with tutoring project is helping me to work towards my university goal.”
Chloe continued: “It was great to take part in the Easter tutoring programme at Queen Margaret University where I got to meet other school pupils who were part of the Enhanced Learning Initiative. I even got to meet Prue Leith, QMU’s Chancellor, when she visited the University to find out about the project.”
Amy Gibson, is a Queen Margaret University graduate who started working as a tutor with the Enhanced Learning Initiative last year. Discussing her work as a tutor, she said: “I absolutely love it. It’s been really rewarding to see the impact that I can make on young people, and to watch them growing in confidence. My degree is in theatre and film and my goal is to become a drama teacher, so this experience is really helping me develop the skills and experience I need to take the next step into teaching. A lot of the practical work that we had planned for my final year of University was cancelled due to the pandemic, so it has been fantastic to have the chance to experience working in a school where I can deliver in-person support to young people.”
Adam Scott, is a student at Prestonlodge High School, Prestonpans. He explained: “I struggled with learning during lockdown and didn’t get a lot done, so when I eventually went back to school, I realised I was quite a bit behind. I had lost interest in maths, and if I hadn’t been part of the Enhanced Learning Tutoring Initiative, and got one-to-one learning support, I would have completely disengaged and stopped learning any maths. Having the support of a tutor has helped me get my National 4 maths. I have always been happy to take every opportunity to better myself, especially if it is free! I want to study law, so my plan is to do an entry level course at college, then move to an NHD in Legal Studies and get onto the 2nd year of a law degree at university. Eventually, I want to be a barrister!”
Midlothian Council’s Executive Director Children, Young People and Partnerships and Chief Education Officer, Fiona Robertson, said: “We’re really pleased to be working with the QMU to support our young people. This is a great initiative for pupils, like Chloe, from across Midlothian who are getting valuable face-to-face tutoring outwith normal school hours.
“The pandemic was a very challenging time for us all as we adapted to online learning and teaching as a result of the ongoing impact of the pandemic on staffing levels in our schools.
“We’re all relieved to be able to be in school with limited restrictions but it will take a while to get back to normal which is why the QMU extra support is so valued.”
East Lothian Council’s Head of Education, Nicola McDowell, said: “The Enhanced Learning Tutoring Initiative has benefitted many learners in East Lothian like Adam, supporting them to re-engage in learning and motivating them, along with their teachers, to achieve to their full potential and realise their ambitions. We are delighted to be continuing this partnership with QMU into the next school session.”
Thomas Kelly, Head of Development and Alumni Relations at QMU, said: “This incredible project, has been made possible by STV Children’s Appeal and a local family charity. Our funders have shared our vision and supported the partnership in turning our ideas into reality. Not only is this project producing great results for secondary school pupils, it’s also providing jobs for recent university graduates, who have been employed as project tutors. With a full year of tutor-led teaching on this project now under our belt, we are delighted with what has already been achieved and are excited that hundreds of more young people will be supported to reach their potential.”