Phoebe Hames

'The most rewarding thing I could do outside of work'

One of the things we are most proud of at The Access Project is that tutoring is often just as fulfilling for our tutors as it is for the students who they work with.

We love to shout about these stories, so we were really excited to hear from Alice Blanchard, one of our fantastic tutors in the West Midlands, when she told us recently that for her, tutoring is “the most rewarding thing that I could do outside of work”.

Alice, who is a flood risk consultant at JBA Consulting, has been tutoring Phoebe (pictured above) from Ormiston Forge Academy in Geography. Together they made the extraordinary achievement of ensuring Phoebe jumped from a ‘U’ to an ‘A’ in one of her A Level Geography papers.

Alice was looking for ways to volunteer and when she was told about The Access Project by some of her friends, she felt it was the ideal fit both for her passion for education and her love of her own degree subject – Geography.

'Education really can change people's lives.'

She told us: “This is really geeky, but I really do like Geography! It’s also the education side -- I believe education can really change people’s lives.”

“I had an amazing Geography teacher and without my Geography teacher I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Alice didn’t just meet with Phoebe for an hour’s tutoring each week, she also met her at the train station for the 20-minute walk to Birmingham Library where they held their sessions, giving Phoebe the chance to update Alice on how the previous week’s studies had been going.

In the first session they discussed what they wanted to achieve – re-taking a module in her Geography exam and reinforcing the work Phoebe was already doing with her teachers in the classroom.

'I couldn't have done it without you!'

“We got through the whole module, relearning it and doing exam practice along the way,” says Alice.

They even did full exam questions during the sessions – helped by Ormiston Forge’s head of Geography Steve Hadley who gave Phoebe past exam papers to take with her to work on with Alice.

“She struggled with answering questions, she knew the material, but she struggled with answering the question in the way the examiner wanted," says Alice.

In the end, all the hard work couldn’t have paid off more successfully – after her fantastic success at A Level, Phoebe plans to attend university to study Psychology.

“It was great when Phoebe would say thank you so much for explaining that, or when she rang me up after the exam and said it went really well."

“She told me: ‘I couldn’t have done it without you.’”