There is a new, altruistic role for tutoring, says Nathaniel McCullagh, founder of Simply Learning Tuition

Nathaniel McCullagh, founder of tutor the nation and simply learning tuition
Nathaniel McCullagh

Launching a new charity in a pandemic is the last thing I ever imagined being involved with. Yet, here it is: Tutor The Nation, an organisation which connects university students and recent graduates with pupils in the State sector for free online tutoring. Through academic support, Tutor The Nation aims to give young people the confidence and tools they need both to perform better and to gain the motivation to work towards their future aspirations.

I’ve no doubt we are offering an essential service for pupils, but as the charity has been developed, I’ve become convinced that Tutor The Nation is vital for those involved in the tutoring itself.

So why am I surprised at my own role? Well, this is new to me, too.

Until now, I have managed to avoid doing any voluntary work. Yet, thanks to the insurmountable charms of Jacky Lambert and Charles Bonas, whose idea Tutor The Nation was, charity work has come to dominate my life. 

As to why it has taken this long, I can only say that as the son of a country vet, always being roped in to help deal with the misfortunes of sick animals left me feeling like, ‘Don’t I do enough already?’. 

Then at school and university, although I received several scholarships and the occasional bursary, I never thought about giving back. Like many students, I was in survival mode. It was only when I set up my company, Simply Learning Tuition, in 2009, that I started to donate to charity. 

The thing that changed this was entering that mid-life stage and accepting that I was never going to fulfil my teenage dreams. I began to understand what I now teach my mentees: to see value not in how ‘successful’ you can be, but rather in how much meaning you can derive from life.

I had help along the way: at Simply Learning Tuition, my colleague Sophie insisted the company give two hours paid time per week for each member of the team to volunteer to help a charity. It was incredible to hear how rewarding everyone found it.

Several independent schools are already supporting Tutor The Nation, by creating inspiring videos made by passionate teachers and heads of department. In this way, the charity is providing access to some of the best educators in the world. The old boys and girls are volunteering, too

So why scale my charity involvement up from that? 

The reasons are two-fold: I like that Tutor The Nation is entirely altruistic – and yet has the potential to be grand in scale, the embryonic beginnings of a social movement. 

Plus, no one involved is here to make money. Tutors get no salary, schools are not charged.

For the volunteer tutors, the payoff is simple – they tell us that they enjoy the teaching, the feeling of giving back and the fact that it is a manageable commitment (at one hour a week – more if they want to) and that they see results quickly. We trustees reward them, too, by inviting leaders in industry and the professions to help mentor and coach them. 

Moreover, this is a hugely efficient organisation. Together with The Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative, which merged with Tutor The Nation in July 2021, more than 50,000 hours of free tuition have been delivered to disadvantaged children at zero cost to the tax payer, in less than 24 months. 

Several independent schools are also supporting Tutor The Nation, by creating inspiring videos made by passionate teachers and heads of department to help the students develop a real passion for their subjects. In this way, as well as giving access to fantastic tutors and mentors, the charity is also proving access to some of the best teachers in the world. One school has even offered to have their head master record a video!

We are looking for other schools to join our outreach programme and hope that they will also pass on news of Tutor The Nation to their recently graduated old boys and girls and ask them to sign up and volunteer during their time at university. The benefits to them, and their tutees as well as society in general, will be unparalleled.

Nathaniel McCullagh is founder and director of Simply Learning Tuition


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