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Minster Law partners with TutorMate to offer reading practice to young children

Joanne Poynton

Each year, Minster Law empowers colleagues to take paid time off away from their day jobs in order to support charitable causes close to their hearts, share skills and support the local community.

Volunteering activities are varied and have included gardening projects for those who have suffered spinal injuries, litter picking, helping at food banks and vaccination centres, assisting schools at holiday clubs, and much more.

Recently, Minster Law partnered with TutorMate, an online platform that pairs corporate volunteers from all over the UK with young children who need reading practice. TutorMate is currently available to primary schools that have a higher than national average number of free school meals and/or English as an additional language.

Volunteers link directly from their workplace to a dedicated classroom laptop using the TutorMate internet platform and a voice connection. Volunteers and their reading partners ‘meet’ for 30-minutes every week through the academic year to read stories and play literacy-related games that improve fluency and comprehension and build reading confidence.

Several colleagues from the Minster Law serious injury team have volunteered to take part in this programme and have made a commitment to listen to a child on a weekly basis over the academic year.

Here is what the team have to say about the programme:

Rebecca Watmough, Solicitor

‘As a mum of two young children, the TutorMate programme was particularly appealing to me.  My eldest child started school in September and has just begun to learn to read and I can already see how important it is to practice reading with her and to make sure she is enjoying the content.

Before I could begin tutoring, I was CRB checked and then attended some TutorMate training webinars.  I was then assigned my student, Sydney, and we started our sessions in November.

Sydney and I read together for 30 minutes each week.  I usually start off with some flashcards before moving onto the story books and then end with word games.  Sydney particularly enjoys playing “Three in a Row”!

We practice phonic patterns like hat, pat, and sat, and we look at new words that Sydney is currently learning.

It is lovely to be able to be involved in something that is totally different to my day-to-day job of helping victims of road traffic accidents who have sustained serious injuries.

Sydney is doing really well and working hard and has just moved up to level Magenta, well done Sydney!’


Kerry Hodsdon, Solicitor and Team Manager

‘I’ve really enjoyed the TutorMate programme so far. Having two small children myself, I am lucky to be aware of the terminology and techniques used to support children with reading but, to be able to put this into practice with children who require extra support is extremely rewarding.

Even though the sessions are only half hour (plenty of reading for a little one), as the ‘tutor’ I get so much out of them and making reading fun and a part of life is vitally important.

The platform/website itself is very easy to use and has various ways of children practicing reading whilst having fun, which is a win-win and great to start and end the sessions.’


Emma Davison, Solicitor

‘I have undertaken various CSR activities since joining Minster Law, from litter picking and gardening in a park to a day in a vaccination centre. When the call came for volunteers of the TutorMate programme, I replied straight away. I was a bit of a bookworm through my school, college and university days and know how important a solid foundation is for education as well as reading for pleasure and so many other activities that we may take for granted. I still enjoy reading today.

I was so lucky to be allocated Ethan. He is so enthusiastic and eager to learn. He has recently ‘levelled up’ to reading harder books and is doing so well. Initially, he needed to spell out each letter in a word but now, he can recognise simple words like ‘hat’, ‘mum’ and ‘run’ without having to spell them out first. I am so proud of him and hope that we can continue to make progress throughout the school year. ‘


Kirsty Pennock, Solicitor

‘I have enjoyed the start to my volunteer opportunity through TutorMate, I have been reading with my allocated student since November and I am pleased to see that she is making great progress and has moved up a reading level.

I am currently in communication with TutorMate to take my volunteering further to offer the TutorMate at Home support, where I will offer an additional 30 minutes reading outside of school hours to my student to help her continue to progress with her reading.

I feel privileged that Minster allow us this opportunity to give back. I remember volunteers did this in person when I was a child, and it can make a huge difference for a child’s development.’