Do you want to start a tutoring programme but are not sure where to begin? Read through this page for summary tips and download the full chapters and resources to help you get going.
Creating the right kind of space can make or break whether a learner wants to attend and participate in your programme and therefore ultimately affects the impact that your programme can have.
Other than attendance there are other outcomes of a good venue, such as it establishes behaviour norms i.e. cleanliness. This can also helps supports your values i.e. responsibility. It can create a real sense of pride and ownership – ‘We deserve this beautiful space’. It also can instil a sense of belonging as it becomes their ‘club house’, their place to be.
What are the characteristics of a good venue?
Secure – Have a formal, long-term agreement signed with the venue
Flexible – build a good relationship with the owner/manager – if you don’t get along maybe it is not the right venue for you
Clean – learners should take responsibility of the space but you can start to assist by setting an example
Safe – Although crime and violence are characteristics of the communities we work in, consider how you can make your venue safer. Can you partner with the venue to provide a security guard, can you put in place a clear safety procedure to minimise risk?
Enough space – Think about how you want to grow and whether there is enough space to accommodate the learners that you want to work with.
A good ‘vibe’ – create a vibrant space with colour and posters. Make it youthful, fun and welcoming. Greet learners and make them feel relaxed. Put up inspirational quotes and anything about education to signify that they are in a learning space.
Light – enough light really helps to make the space more enjoyable to be in
Good location – consider transport links for learners and tutors, consider the feeder schools, other programmes close by, and proximity to a university/college campus as this is where you will find most of your tutors.
Familiar – Choose an accessible venue that learners are familiar with e.g. schools, libraries, community centres and churches
Free – Negotiating free space will dramatically reduce your costs. It can be difficult to negotiate free space but consider the service that you offer as payment.
The importance of relationships cannot be underestimated. Trusting positive relationships internally and externally are essential to the success and sustainability of your programme. There are three primary groups of people that are essential to involve: parents, teachers and the community.
Please see this video which outlines how important initial and on-going interactions can be.
It is important to spend some time engaging with parents, as our branches have shown that the higher the level of parental involvement, the better the learners’ attendance and, ultimately, the more likely they are to pass.
Some initial ideas to get parents engaged are:
- Hold an Open Day for parents and community generally
- Hold parents meetings each term – watch this video about parents meetings for an overview.
- Involve parents in decision-making structures – You can send a letter home, follow up with a phone call, then SMS a reminder the day before a meeting
- Invite parents to get involved in branch events and activities
- Send parents regular SMSs/letters home about their child’s attendance and progress at the end of term – parents love to hear how well their child is doing
- A visit to the school to schedule a meeting with the principal is key.
- Acknowledge the work that the school does. Recognise the challenges that they have and pitch yourself as a remedy to one of their main challenges i.e. low learner engagement/low pass rates. Principals listen to impact
- Why bother? It facilitates report collection, exemption from afternoon classes that can clash with your tutoring sessions, and can provide an avenue to get information to parents
- You must establish the relationship as soon as you start operating in the area
- It is important to stay in contact throughout the year and invite the principal and teachers to any events you are hosting
- If you are lucky you may get one or two keen teachers. These relationships MUST be nurtured. Do not take them for granted. Find ways to keep their interest. What do they need? How can you assist them in their jobs? What are their most pressing challenges?
- Share the learners’ and your programme’s overall results with the school. Congratulate them on their results, and ensure that every step of the way you’re affirming that these results are due to the collaborative effort and partnership.
- You could start by visiting local facilities to ask what programmes and organisations exist: libraries, clinics, other non-profits, colleges and higher education facilities etc.
- Try to interact as much as possible within the community. Most communities have some form of NGO or youth forum that you or a member of your team could sit on. Or start your own!
- In reality, you may all be pursuing your own agendas and not have a huge amount of time for collaboration. However, there will be times that you can draw on others and others can draw on you, so being consistent with your communication will pay off.
- Try to keep an Excel spreadsheet up to date when you hear of someone in the community. It can also help to locate and keep record of the specific volunteers for the programmes you want to run.
- What is it that you want from the community? Don’t assume that they know. Help them to see their part in the programme and specifically explain how you want an someone to be involved.
- When attempting to engage and work with community members it is important to ask the question ‘What is their personal interest and what do they want to gain from the interaction?’
- Think about their primary interest; is it the individual child? Is it the child’s future? Their own future? School results? A Safer community? Higher earning potential?
IkamvaYouth works with learners in grades 8-12, who self-select on to the progamme. There is no academic requirements for entry and we work with learners from multiple schools.
The process of recruitment is simple but you must allow time for it and be consistent with who you are recruiting.
A simple step by step process should help you nail your learner recruitment:
- PLAN WITH YOUR TEAM – Number of learners, what grades, what subjects, selection criteria, gender, which schools will you work with, do they have to live close to the branch, will you apply financial or academic requirements?
- DESIGN THE APPLICATION FORM and any posters you want to put up
- MARKETING – Go to all the feeder schools you have selected, put up posters in libraries, taxi ranks, get community media
- OPEN DAY – Invite anyone interested to visit the branch and meet other learners and tutors
- PRESENT at assemblies WITH the application forms – provide information on where they can collect, where they can drop-off, and by when
- SELECT LEARNERS a) apply criteria b) look at the motivation letter c) Interview
- NOTIFY the learner, the parent, and the school (sms or letter)– tell them exactly what it is they are signing up for, date of 1st session, time, what to bring
- LEARNERS ATTEND 1st session and conduct an orientation.
Questions to ask before recruiting:
- Who needs to know about the tutoring programme?
- Where will I find the learners that I need?
- Will I hold an Open Day?
- Will I use an application form?
- How long does a learner need to fill in and return the form?
Tips and Ideas
- Recruit a lot more learners than the final number that you want as your first-term drop-out rate will be very high. IkamvaYouth generally recruit 3 x the number of grade 8/9 and twice as many grade 10-12
- You must set a clear deadline for ALL applications to be in. After this deadline you can put learners on a waiting list for the following term. Not enforcing this deadline will weaken learner’s commitment, adherence to deadlines, and threaten the effectiveness of your programme
- Recruiting learners before grade 12 is a lot more effective. One year of tutoring simply isn’t enough time to achieve the significant improvement in grades that most learners need, and grade 11 results impact post-school opportunities – so recruiting early and working with the learner all the way through will maximise their chances of success
- When looking at application forms, the key indicator for motivation is the amount of effort learners have put into their forms. Forms with one-line answers or responses that haven been clearly copied or not well considered should be put aside
- Use the first tutoring session to establish relationships between the learners and tutors. Play ice-breaker games, develop a code of conduct, and discuss expectations. Use this time to create a safe space between the learners, tutors and staff
- Establish a structure early. Learners come in, register, and specify what they are studying, sit down, get their books and pens out, and when ready to study they are helped by a tutor. Do not expect this to happen overnight.
- Most branches and organisations generally group by grade and then subject. It is sometimes beneficial to mix grades. If you are dealing with learners from different schools it is advisable to try to mix them as far as possible.
Volunteers are the life-blood of your programme. The recruitment and management of these tutors is essential to get right in order to have a high impact on the learner’s academic and personal development.
There are many different ways in which you can recruit volunteers. The following are some ideas to get you going. Please share ideas if you have had luck with recruiting volunteers from somewhere else.
- The best volunteers are often those from the community in which you are working. These volunteers show your learners that through hard work and commitment they can change the trajectory of their lives
- Decide on the information that needs to go into your advert and design some simple, short and to-the-point flyers and posters. Don’t waffle!
- Brainstorm all the places you think you could put up posters and hand out flyers.
Word of Mouth
- Another method you can use to recruit quality tutors is through existing quality tutors and through your existing networks. You can utilise existing networks by asking ‘Who do you know?’
- Send emails out to everyone you know, put notices on your Facebook page, encourage existing tutors to tell their friends, and encourage ex-learners to pay forward the help they received, by returning as a tutor
Universities and Colleges
- Universities and colleges are your biggest source of willing volunteer tutors
- Advertise your volunteer opportunity on the university’s newsletters, newspapers, or on their radio programmes
- Put posters up on campus, hand out flyers and hold a stall at orientation week
- Start building relationships with relevant faculties from which you want tutors
- Find out if there is a community engagement programme run through the university. Many universities and colleges do have some form of this so it is worth asking around and making connections
- Go to the university or college in person so people can see who you are. It is much easier to build a relationship face-to-face. Try not to get ‘fobbed off’ to other
- Many faculties offer international student exchange programmes which encourage students to be involved in a community based organisation for a few months
Engage and Keep
- The next step is to engage the volunteer
- You will need to train all your volunteer tutors well and make sure they have been given a full induction so that they know what the programme is, who everyone is, and what they are meant to be doing
- Include them as much as possible in your tutoring programme through regular meetings and discussions
- You need to create structures in your programme that allows the tutor to participate fully and provide you with meaningful feedback that you can use to improve the quality of your programme. You can read more about engaging volunteers in the Develop Your Programme section
- Remember that for some volunteers this could be their first time volunteering, tutoring, working with young people, or in a township school/library
If you are already running a tutoring programme and have a group of learners and volunteers who are coming regularly, you are ready to learn more about how to maximise the impact of your programme.