12th of August is the International Youth Day. We focus one of our Assumption projects that the Youth has become a priority : at Kensington, in England. With our “pedagogy of project”, they encourage young people to be capable of thinking and bringing to completion the projects for helping the children to grow up. (Cfr. Doc. of Transformative Education CG 2006)
Pupils who have English as a second language especially benefit from extra coaching outside school though their families can seldom afford it. Here Sr Carolyn Morrison ra* gives news of a programme in the Archdiocese of Westminster that is helping to remedy the situation.
These are new and exciting times for the Church in Westminster. In collaboration with local schools, the Sisters of the Assumption, University students and local parishioners are providing free tuition for school pupils. It is happening under an educational initiative called Tutor Plus that offers free tutorial support to pupils for almost every subject that schools and colleges have to offer, with English proving the most popular. The scheme aims to improve the knowledge and personal growth of local children aged 7 to 18 through the transformative power of education.
Tutor Plus is proving particularly beneficial for children who speak English as a second language. According to official figures for the boroughs of Westminster, Newham and Tower Hamlets, over two thirds of pupils in primary education fall into this category. For these, the National Curriculum’s statutory requirements for core and foundational subjects, becomes more and more demanding with every new key stage. Homework can become problematic for parents and pupils alike. The level of anxiety for parents increases because they are often unsure of how to use the English language effectively when it comes to transcription, composition, vocabulary, grammar and punctuation.
It was in 2008 that a prototype to Tutor Plus was introduced to the Archdiocese of Westminster’s University Chaplaincy by Professor John Hurst from the University of Gorge Town in the United States. The focus of the project then was to encourage university students to act out their faith by helping young teens with their maths homework. Though it has grown and developed since it is still part of the University Chaplaincy’s outreach programme.
Tutor Plus is basically a homework club. It is a versatile and flexible model which can take many different forms depending on the needs of the local community, the venue available and the area in question. Currently there are two projects running in Westminster. The first is located at Maria Fidelis Catholic School in Euston and the second at Milleret House, the Convent of the Assumption Sisters in Kensington. The latter project came about when the local diocesan youth worker, Dan McNamara talked to young people and their parents about school and some of the difficulties they were experiencing especially with homework. He quickly realised that the children would benefit from help outside of school. After much thought and prayer Dan, local clergy, parishioners, and Religious came up with the latest version of Tutor Plus.
The project reflects its Assumption benefactors having a particular desire to reach out to young people promoting ecumenical solidarity and concern to promote justice, peace and care for creation. This is enlightened by our charism, namely the transformative power of education. The sessions held twice weekly and are staffed by a dedicated team of volunteer students from the Jesuit-run Heythrop College close by and the Religious of the Assumption.
Parishioners from local Coptic and Anglican Churches are among those who are involved. Though this project is academic in nature, it has had many evangelical fruits. It has helped improve the relationships among everybody. Many parents and families are now returning to God or even finding Him for the first time. It has encouraged some young people to complete or continue their Sacraments of Initiation, or our commitment to Faith.
The impact that Tutor Plus has had on the community is tremendous. This comment from one parent is typical : “I was really struggling to help my son with his homework. As English is not my first language, I have difficulty especially with using punctuation. His half term results have just been released and his grades have dramatically improved. This is solely thanks to the support of the Tutor Plus volunteers”.
As a reminder of the General Chapter 2012 “collaborating across inter-congregational, interfaith, and interreligious boundaries, we seek communion through respect and solidarity, as well as through our willingness to be changed and enriched by the other”. (Doc. “The Dynamic of Communion” GC 2012)
The idea of Tutor Plus is spreading and I have learned that a new branch is starting in Uxbridge. If any parish or school would like to learn a bit more about how the model works please do not hesitate to get in touch !
*Sr. Carolyn Morrison r
Social Outreach Chaplain for Universities
and other Higher Places of Education
in the Archdiocese of Westminster.