Supporting STEM education during lockdown

 6 May 2020   COVID-19

We are extremely proud of all our colleagues who are contributing to the COVID-19 emergency response in any way that they can. We want to celebrate them by highlighting their contributions over these next few weeks in this mini-series of ‘LMS Emergency Response to COVID-19’. Today we want to introduce you to one of our lovely PhD students; Jess Ellins, who has been supporting school students.

How has your working life changed during lockdown as a PhD student?

My lab is unfortunately closed, and I’ve temporarily moved back home to York. I’m working back at the desk where I revised for my GCSEs and A-Level exams several years ago. My group have been fantastic, especially my day-to-day supervisor and my Group Head. We have weekly meetings to discuss work in depth, and regular quick catch-ups. I’m lucky in that I can focus on my Early Stage Assessment report which is due soon and is a milestone I need to meet for my PhD study. So, lots of reading research papers, putting together figures and writing up my project so far. I’ve also been doing some coding courses that I’ve been wanting to do for a while.

What is the Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative and where did you find out about it?

The Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative (CTI) was established by several Oxbridge students in response to the school closures. Our mantra is that no pupil should be disadvantaged by the lockdown, and we aim to provide free tutoring to any secondary school students and pupils of all abilities but particularly those who couldn’t otherwise access private tutoring. I found out about it via Facebook, and once I signed up as a tutor, I then got involved with the organisation and publicity.

What do you do as part of CTI?

So far, over 2000 university students and graduates have signed up to tutor in many subjects, from Drama to Computer Science. The time commitment can be as much or as little as you want really. I tutor in GCSE Biology and GCSE Maths and probably spend 5 hours a week planning and 2 hours tutoring. It’s all run via an online platform called Bramble which is great, as it allows us to share PowerPoints and work on questions together during the session. This initiative will continue for as long as is necessary, and hopefully we will be able to help pupils catch up on work even when schools are back. There are SO many enthusiastic and qualified tutors out there, I would love to see CTI adapt into a general volunteer tutoring service after the coronavirus crisis has passed.

How can others get involved?

We are always looking for volunteer tutors – especially for more ‘obscure’ subjects, such as computer science or economics. Right now, we are also focussing on advertising to school pupils as we have so many tutors ready to help! Potential tutors and pupils can sign up at, follow us on Twitter (@CoronaTutoring) or send us an email at !