Last Saturday I was lucky enough to see the launch of the second year of CornerStone Tuition with the training of 21 new tutors at Skinner’s Kent Academy – SKA – in Tunbridge Wells.
In my daily work I see both the positive and negative impact that education can have on young people. Intelligence and achievement – doing well at school – offers children and teenagers such resilience. But we see on a daily basis the pressure that CAMHS services are under with more young people than ever being anxious, depressed and harming themselves. Struggling at school – whatever the reason – is one of the pressures – which can lead to stress, anxiety and depression – or anger, resentment and disengagement.
CornerStone Tuition was launched in 2015 by Sam and his friend from school Tom who dreamed up the idea whilst fielding together at a Borderers cricket match. There is a back story – but that is Sam’s to tell…………….. Looking on from the outside – Sam finished his A levels in 2014 and, after a difficult year, decided not to take up his place at Bristol University to read Law. He had no plans for the year – other than to reapply to University to read Theology – and he gradually began to work tutoring and supporting other young people through their GCSE’s and A levels – and there the idea for CornerStone Tuition was born. Young people supporting other young people to achieve their best. Sam and Tom were passionate about delivering support to youngsters who could not afford to employ tutors – but who may be falling behind in school and struggling to stay motivated to achieve their best. Their idea was quite simple – to pair up young people who had already jumped the GCSE hoop to help those preparing for the exams – and to deliver this completely free of charge.
Since then they have set up the charity, raised funds, found sponsors and advisors – in
Nick and Evan – represented themselves and their charity to banks, the media and – most importantly to schools. They have recruited new 6th formers from local grammar schools who work on a weekly basis with youngsters identified by their school as needing support to get through their GCSEs – and they work together in Maths, English and (new this year) Science.
In 2016 CornerStone Tuition trained 6 tutors (and 3 more joined a bit later) to work with pupils at SKA. This year they have a programme running in Exeter (where Tom is at University) and last week saw the launch of the second programme at SKA – this year with 21 amazing young people signing up as tutors. They gave up their Saturdays to work with Nick – who helped them to think through the best ways to motivate and share information with the pupils who signed up for the 10 weeks. We did try to keep them interested with lunch – and cakes……. But they didn’t really need it – they were there and enthusiastic and clearly committed!
But what sticks in my mind from watching this work unfold – is that it
is the youngsters RECEIVING the support who are just as amazing as the tutors. They too give up their Saturdays – let’s face it – to spend an extra morning at school (which may not be their favourite place) – in an effort to understand the things that they are struggling with and to aim for a brighter future for themselves. Just for a moment imagine trying to sit your maths GCSE when you’ve not yet got the hang of number bonds to 10. Or English when metaphor is a mystery.
Don’t get me wrong – this is not about “hot housing” – or trying to add to the pressure that youngsters are already under with the seemingly endless demands of testing and external examinations. Nor is it about joining the groundswell of opinion that seems to say “the only grade worth getting is an A or an A*” – wherever did this come from? Sad to say I see it daily in many of the teenagers I work with. What it IS about is building confidence. Helping young people to feel empowered to ask for help if they need it; listening to their needs and their hopes and fears about the process and helping them to face the future feeling good about themselves. What better way than with the support of their peers?
And so this is to wish all of those involved in CornerStone Tuition Good Luck for the coming programmes – These are the young people – out there – building the future for all of us!