Lumina has changed me profoundly

Lumina has changed me profoundly

Lumina has changed me profoundly

30 Jan 2024

9 min read

30 Jan 2024

9 min read

30 Jan 2024

9 min read

That is the first thing to say. This is a programme that changed my perspective, my

understanding of young people and my teaching practice. I am a better teacher

because of Lumina.


I care more and am more understanding of the challenges young people face. I now

understand that not all children can be judged by the same standards.


I have also never believed more deeply in the power of education to change lives nor

how unfair life can be. I have never been so inspired to be a teacher.


Lumina was designed after a revelatory conversation with the Director of Education

from our Local Authority, the London Borough of Harrow - Paddy O’Dwyer. Paddy

and I concluded that the greatest impact our school could have on the young people

in our northwest London borough was not to be achieved by focusing on high

achieving, Russell Group and Oxbridge-bound students, but instead to focus on

young people with clearly identified, significant barriers to progress. Could we put in

place a programme to help lower these barriers?


Paddy, a brilliant and far-sighted Director of Education, suggested that if we really

wanted to make a difference through partnerships we should start helping looked

after children (children in care). I met with the equally inspiring Mellina Williamson-

Taylor, the Head of the Harrow Virtual School (which ensures that all children and

young people in care and care-leavers have the opportunity to fulfil their education

potential) and we devised what became the Lumina programme. A programme of

academic support, enrichment and mentoring for looked after children (children

known to the care system). It is a response to the inequality that is faced by

thousands of our young people who do not get a fair go at education. This is a group

of young people who have been regularly, consistently, significantly and shamefully

failed by many of the adults in their lives.


In 2022 The House of Commons Education Committee reported:

“Children in care face multiple educational disadvantages. Outcomes are poor and

there is much that can and must be done to support their progress, champion their

attainment and improve their life-chances. The number of children in care is rising,

and could reach the notable milestone of 100,000 children in care by 2025. We must

act now to ensure every looked-after child is properly supported to succeed in

education and in life.


The educational data paints a bleak picture. At Key Stage 2, for reading, writing and

mathematics, only 37% of looked-after children reached expected standards,

compared to 65% of non-looked-after children. Just 7.2% of looked-after children

achieved the grade 5 ‘good pass’ threshold in English and mathematics GCSEs,

compared to 40.1% of non-looked-after children. The average Attainment 8 score—a

measure of achievement across 8 qualifications—for looked-after children was 19.1

compared to 44.6 for non-looked-after children. And children in residential care at

age 16 scored over six grades less at GCSE than those in kinship or foster care.”


We must act now…

Lumina has grown into a transformative, non-profit collaboration that breaks down

barriers and empowers vulnerable young people to achieve their full potential.

Lumina provides personalised, one-to-one online tutoring, fostering academic

success, building self-esteem, and creating a network of support for our students - at

no cost whatsoever either to the young people, carers or local authorities. We are

committed to closing the attainment gap and ensuring that all young people,

regardless of their circumstances, have the opportunity to thrive.


The ask is simple: teachers volunteer once a week, predominantly in term time, to

provide students with a 45-minute lesson. They deliver lessons across the full school

age range and across all subjects, though we currently have an overwhelming

demand for specialists in English, Maths and Science. Teachers will work with the

same student through a complete academic cycle (usually up to a public exam) –

they have to commit to this.


We ask our teachers to volunteer their time. This is a vital part of what we do -

teachers are doing this because they believe in it. They want to make a difference.

The young person knows the teacher is not being paid to be there. This is not a

regular intervention; a fix for something wrong in their lives - this is an opportunity.

They are with someone who wants to support them and will turn up, week in week

out, and will make a difference. We work with local authorities to make pairings that

will be successful and then we watch our children fly.


The Lumina Tutoring platform is fully funded, providing comprehensive administrative

support for participating schools. A comprehensive safeguarding structure is in

place, as is training and support for new teachers joining. Training in the software,

support and software are provided free of cost to partner institutions and the

administrative costs themselves are fully funded.


Lumina is different to other tutoring programmes. We are aware that we are working

with children who have experienced great trauma in their lives. They are behind their

peers and they're struggling to pass key facilitating exams for the next stage of their

lives. The educational journey is in danger of ending before it has even begun. We

change this narrative by offering them unconditional support. We ask teachers

(brilliant, outstanding, wonderful, warm, kind-hearted, experienced teachers who

have huge expertise both with young people and their subject area) to ‘get’ our

young people. To take our Lumina students through their exams (our tutors remain

with their students for a whole academic year or exam cycle) whilst at the same time

showering them with support, consistency and attention in a way that has been

missing for large parts of their lives.


I've had the privilege of tutoring 6 different children through the Lumina programme.

There have been pairings that have not worked: students not being in the right place

to access the offer, to do the work required to pass the exams, but the vast majority

of the time we have had astounding success (last summer we had a mean

improvement by over 2 grades for students on the Lumina Tutoring course). My

students, and I say this with pride, have passed GCSE maths which they have failed

on numerous occasions previously and are now at the colleges of their choice, on

the courses they want to do: accessing the opportunities from which they were

previously shut out: Nursing, Veterinary Science, Midwifery; but more importantly

than this, they had someone who turned up to help them, to support them with no

questions asked.


Forming connections with teachers in different schools (including some of the

biggest independent schools in the UK) with different resources, skills, connections

and backgrounds is extremely impactful. Lumina invites great teachers and mentors

from all over the educational sector to change lives – to provide the consistency that

has been missing in a young person’s education. Through planning, collaborative

partnerships, and a commitment to educational excellence, a nationally scaled

programme has the potential to revolutionise the educational landscape for looked

after children, benefiting students from across the country.


‘Lumina provides an indescribable experience that has prepared me for higher

education in a way that I cannot imagine without the presence of this programme.

The sheer enthusiasm of the teachers: never once doubting my abilities and building

my self-confidence with continuous support, has led to me beginning my Veterinary

degree this Autumn. Lumina has enabled a fundamental bridge to higher education

pathways and student journey after high school.’ – A Lumina Scholar (a child in care)

2023.


I started by saying that I am better at my job because of Lumina, this is absolutely

true, but it is also true that many young people will have a chance to do the jobs of

which they dream because of this programme.


Lumina is changing the dial for our children in care, and we are looking for teachers

who believe in the astonishing potential of young people to help us achieve this. If

you would like to join us, please get in touch.

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Join the movement

Become a Lumina Fellow and volunteer your time as a one-on-one online tutor or mentor for care-experienced young people. Your contribution will support the ongoing operation of the Lumina program and enable us to reach more deserving students.

Join the movement

Become a Lumina Fellow and volunteer your time as a one-on-one online tutor or mentor for care-experienced young people. Your contribution will support the ongoing operation of the Lumina program and enable us to reach more deserving students.

Join the movement

Become a Lumina Fellow and volunteer your time as a one-on-one online tutor or mentor for care-experienced young people. Your contribution will support the ongoing operation of the Lumina program and enable us to reach more deserving students.

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