The tutoring is part of the work of the university’s South-West Social Mobility Commission

Pupils have taken part in a special ceremony to mark their graduation from an innovative University of Exeter tutoring scheme to help boost children’s achievement at schools.

The pioneering project involves undergraduates supporting pupils with their literacy. Its success has led to the programme being expanded around England.

The tutoring is part of the work of the university’s South-West Social Mobility Commission and is funded by a coalition of funders including the university’s Policy Support Fund, the Cobalt Trust and the UPP Foundation, amongst other donors.

The model can and should be used nationwide to help narrow widening school attainment gaps, experts have said.

Results from the programme so far shows pairing university students and pupils can be a “win-win-win model” – boosting attainment amongst less advantaged children, giving students invaluable life experience and skills and helping to revitalise local communities.

Children who took part in the pilot in Exeter in the last academic year showed significant improvement in their basic writing skills.

These Year 8 and 9 pupils from St James School and St Luke’s C of E School received certificates and were able to wear graduation robes and hats during the ceremony at the University of Exeter.

Certificates were presented by Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw and Professor Lisa Roberts, University of Exeter President and Vice Chancellor, who spoke at the ceremony.

Lindsay Skinner, Director of Education for the Ted Wragg Trust, created the tutoring course and undergraduate training and oversaw delivery of the tutoring at St James. She said: “It was wonderful to celebrate the achievements of our pupils and raise their expectations of attending university.”

The tutoring is run by Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, and Dr Anne-Marie Sim, from the South West Social Mobility Commission.

Professor Elliot Major said: “Our ultimate hope is to help create a sustainable nationwide tutoring effort benefitting pupils across the country. We believe that a university-led programme is a real opportunity to build a win-win-win model for both learners and student tutors if done in the right way. Universities are well-placed to ensure that the student tutor experience is as beneficial as possible and this could improve the school achievement of hundreds of thousands of poorer pupils across the country.”

“As reputable, well-funded and established institutions within their local regions, universities are well placed to deliver high quality, sustainable tutoring at scale and make a real difference to many young lives.”

Dr Sim said: “We have indicative evidence that our tutoring model is making an impact on children’s lives. Our focus now is helping other universities and schools to have access to the model we have developed. It was wonderful to have the ceremony for pupils who have graduated from the tutoring programme and to celebrate their and their tutors’ hard work.”

A review of the evidence available about tutoring estimates it can help children in Year 6 make an extra three months’ progress, and Year 9 to 11 pupils one month.

Undergraduates are trained beforehand and the weekly tutoring sessions are overseen by teachers.

Pupils were selected because they had been identified by their English teachers as not consistently writing in accurate sentences.