IT is tough enough for disadvantaged youngsters facing challenges in their home life to concentrate on schoolwork.
And this daily struggle not to get left behind by their peers is even harder for vulnerable children whose parents are HIV-positive and battling drug or alcohol addiction.
But Positive Help, a charity part-funded by the Scottish Government to provide support for pupils affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C across Edinburgh and Lothians, has partnered with Tutor Doctor Edinburgh, to improve education standards and close the attainment gap.
The pioneering project is part of a move to stop children from falling into the same traps as their parents by breaking the cycle and giving them the chance of a better future.
Working with children aged from five to 18, volunteers are set to provide much-needed extra-curricular tutoring on literacy, numeracy and computer skills as well as “broader life skills”.
Tutor Doctor’s internationally recognised staff will train the charity’s volunteers free of charge, helping with teaching methods, sharing knowledge and best practice and providing feedback to the charity’s volunteer training programmes and group learning sessions.
Backed by Deputy First Minister John Swinney, Tutor Doctor Edinburgh will be working free of charge with Positive Help to enhance the charity’s existing ‘Study Buddy’ programme, a free weekly service where trained volunteers mentor and support children affected by HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
“We want all children and young people to reach their full learning potential,” said Mr Swinney.
“The Scottish Government recognises and values the strong contribution that third sector organisations, including Positive Help, make in support of our aim to get it right for every child, including those affected by HIV, Aids and Hepatitis C.”
By improving the numeracy, literacy and life skills of disadvantaged children living in Edinburgh and the Lothians, Positive Help is aiming to close the literacy and numeracy gap that exists between children living in the wealthiest communities and the poorest areas.
Research released this year by The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy has shown that youngsters from the most privileged backgrounds were more than twice as likely to perform well at key skills compared to the poorest.
Matthew Gilbert Straw, Manager of Positive Help, described the gulf between rich and poor an issue that had “blighted” many Scottish schools in recent years.
He said: “By the time the kids get to us they are disengaged with learning. We have to get them motivated again by providing a productive environment suited to their needs. The children and young people we support tend not to do so well academically because they are often living in poverty and parents do not feel they have the skills required to provide academic support at home.
“The result is many fall behind and some lack basic numeracy and literacy skills. This can breed negative attitudes to education as they associate learning with failure.
“The one-to-one programme helps to break this cycle by providing an environment where kids can feel comfortable and where the focus is on positivity and success.
“Our partnership with Tutor Doctor will enhance this service, by training our volunteers to provide disadvantaged children with a level of in-home tutoring that would otherwise be unavailable to them.
“Of course, all of the services we provide are free of charge, so we are always looking for new volunteers and financial help from the wider public.”
Martin Browne, education consultant for Tutor Doctor Edinburgh, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Positive Help to support the great work they do with disadvantaged kids in Edinburgh and across the Lothians.
“Tutor Doctor has over 15 years experience providing one-to-one tutoring services in the home, which has such a fundamentally positive impact on children. It is this breadth of expertise and knowledge that we will be passing on to Positive Help’s volunteers, who will get free access to our carefully regulated, well-trained and highly experienced tutors, as well as a multitude of additional resources. We also hope that over time some of our tutors will go on to become volunteers for Positive Help, to further enhance the service.”
Positive Help, based in Edinburgh and founded in 1989, works to help children and adults affected by HIV and Hepatitis C.
Tutor Doctor is a global tutoring organisation catering to more than 200,000 students of all ages, all subjects, and all learning levels across 17 countries.
The Study Buddy programme provides out-of-class tutoring to give youngsters support with core skills to help them keep up with the syllabus and perform better at exam time.
But more importantly it aims to use tutoring as a means to break the cycle of poor education which leads to unemployment, drug abuse and crime among children affected by HIV/AIDs and Hepatitis C.