A Champion for Every Child: A case study of one-to-one tutoring provision

Written by: Emma Lee-Potter | Published:
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A Champion for Every Child is a pastoral tutoring programme that has had a notable impact for thousands of Pupil Premium pupils across the Kemnal Academies Trust. Emma Lee-Potter finds out how it works in practice at Miltoncross Academy

Revision sessions, mind-maps, quizzes, hand-writing techniques, times-table challenges and games of Uno – these are just a few of the activities that ACE tutors at Miltoncross Academy undertake with their students.

The 815-pupil school, situated in a disadvantaged area of Portsmouth, introduced the ACE programme in November 2021 with the aim of helping Pupil Premium students to progress academically and improve their outcomes and life chances.

ACE stands for A Champion for Every Child and offers one-to-one pastoral tutoring to Pupil Premium pupils at 45 primary and secondary schools run by the Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), a multi-academy trust in the south and east of England.

The programme is funded through schools’ Pupil Premium funding and costs around £350 a year per-child.

ACE is delivered by tutors who have been trained in providing support to potentially vulnerable pupils.

Further reading: The dos and don’ts of tutoring: For some tutoring tips from the TKAT ACE tutors and programme leads, see SecEd’s previous article – Tutoring: Dos and don’ts (2022).

Class teachers provide regular oversight and input, but the emphasis is on tutors getting their students ready to learn, closing learning gaps, and helping their social and emotional development.

ACE at Miltoncross

Miltoncross Academy currently has 303 Pupil Premium students, more than a third of the current school cohort, and expects a high percentage of next year’s year 7 intake to be Pupil Premium.

ACE coordinator and lead tutor Summer Pryer piloted the programme at Miltoncross with 25 students in November. Two months later she was joined by two more ACE tutors and between the three of them they now mentor 116 students, mostly pupils in years 8 and 10, plus their siblings. In September they will roll the programme out to every Pupil Premium student in the school.

Every TKAT school runs the ACE programme according to their pupils’ specific needs, choosing the model that works best for them. At Miltoncross, every ACE child spends 30 minutes with their tutor once a week, either one-to-one or in small groups.

“Our model is very flexible,” explained Ms Pryer, formerly Miltoncross’s isolation coordinator. “I felt that getting the balance between academic support and emotional support was really important – and that the need for support was going to be different for each child at different times of their life. If they are in a small group one week then the following week they have a one-to-one session.

“We are very student-led so we encourage the students to set their own targets. We guide them, look at their data, speak to their teachers and contact home so we know what we would like them to work on. We very much feel that if the students have ownership of it themselves and know how to set their own targets it will help them in life after school.

“We might agree that we’re going to use a session to catch up on algebra but then a student might come to us and say: ‘Actually, I’ve had a really rough time because something happened at home.’ So if they want to focus on something else then that’s what we’ll do.”

In the aftermath of the pandemic many students are experiencing anxiety and low self-esteem. Some suffered from first-day-back anxiety after the school holidays so Ms Pryer supports them in alleviating their fears.

“Sometimes that means meeting them in reception and having tutor-time on the first day,” she said. “We try and break the tension by doing something like playing Uno, which distracts them before they go back into lessons. Together with another member of staff I actually had to go and collect one of my students because leaving the house was difficult for him. The next day he came in absolutely fine and went to all of his lessons.”

Engaging with families

As part of their work Ms Pryer and her team, all of whom are trained in Mental Health First Aid, have targeted “hard-to-reach” parents.

“It was apparent to me that secondary school contact with parents is often focused on the negative,” she said. “In primary schools parents see teachers when they’re collecting their children but in secondary schools it can be when they’ve had a fight or got a detention – so not so much of the positive.

“To start with we had parents who wouldn’t pick up the phone to us. When that happened we’d always try and follow up with a text message and keep everything really positive. We’d say: ‘I’m just phoning to say that we had a great session today’ or ‘their teacher said this wonderful thing’. And after a while they started to answer the phone.”

The ACE team uses RAG-rating so they ring parents of red pupils, the most-in-need students, every other week, parents of amber pupils every three weeks, and parents of green pupils every half-term. They send text messages in between, meet parents face-to-face during the first half term of mentoring children, and make home visits if parents prefer.

“I feel like we’ve got a strong, trusting relationship with the parents now,” said Ms Pryer. “They’re opening up a little bit more.”

Working with teaching staff

The tutors have also introduced an ACE target card, which involves students selecting three personal targets.

“If they achieve a target it’s ticked and teachers either leave it blank or put a little dash if it isn’t achieved,” said Ms Pryer. “There’s no negativity. We’re counting the ticks rather than being distracted by the crosses. It really boosts their confidence.”

The team has built up a good relationship with the Miltoncross teaching staff. ACE sessions are always held during the school day but times vary each week to avoid students missing the same lessons again and again.

“We work closely with class teachers so any work we are doing with students during our sessions is relevant to them,” said Ms Pryer.

“Initially there was hesitation because we were pulling students out of class but the dust has settled and they appreciate what we are doing. We never book sessions before or after school or during break-times either because we don’t want it to feel like a sanction. We don’t take away any of their free time but they know that they can pop in for 10 minutes during break or come and see us at the end of the day.”

A variety of needs

ACE tutor Verity Platt mentors 40 students, sometimes in groups of four and sometimes one-to-one. As well as running groups for maths and spelling, punctuation and grammar, she mentors some who need emotional support and others who simply want to “vent about everything”.

“Some of the children I work with don’t have the healthiest of homes and don’t have a lot of friends so it’s helpful for them to know that they can come into a nice, safe space,” said Ms Platt, a former teaching assistant at Miltoncross.

“I’ve had a couple of positive phone calls from parents saying that their children have been a lot nicer at home and have been able to communicate a lot better since the programme started.”

Fellow ACE tutor Scarlette Tiller previously worked as a learning support assistant at Portsmouth College, a local 16 to 19 college, and now mentors 50 students at Miltoncross. Most are in year 10 but she tutors a few siblings in years 7, 8 and 9.

“Their ability is completely across the board,” she said. “Some are very intelligent high achievers and want to revise for triple science and things like that. Some need to practise their times tables or spelling and for others it’s more pastoral things, like sleep schedules or anger management.”

One group that has made huge progress are students interested in pursuing careers in hair and beauty. “We looked at the college courses they could do and then they did some work experience,” said Ms Tiller. “Beforehand they were saying ‘what’s the point? I don’t know what I’m going to do.’ But now they’ve realised that if they get their grades, they can do something in life that they really enjoy.”


Ms Pryer agrees that the ACE programme is already having a positive impact on a significant number of students.

“Whether we’re doing academic support or pastoral support, whether it’s for anger or self-esteem, every student that we see feels heard and feels valued,” she said. “They know that while they’re with us they have our full attention and that we are there to support their needs rather than what we think their needs are.”

Tips on launching a mentoring programme

  • Ensure that everyone is aware of the programme and understands why you are introducing it.
  • Help students to feel heard and valued.
  • Scrutinise the data to record progress and check impact.
  • Work hard to build up positive relationships with parents.
  • Provide one-to-one mentoring when you can. In larger schools this may not always be possible but offer one-to-one sessions in rotation with group sessions.
  • Try to make sure that students have the same tutors right the way through the school.
  • Support your tutors. Some tutees have significant problems at home and tutors often feel they have a lot on their shoulders.
  • Persevere. Mentoring programmes are not a quick fix and take time to establish.

Further information & resources


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