Skills sharing

Giving children a better start through reading

Zoe Pierre volunteering with TutorMate

14 April 2020

When Zoë Pierre, a London-based Senior Analyst with Macquarie, first heard about TutorMate, she couldn’t wait to get involved.

“I signed up before the information session was finished,” she says.

TutorMate is an online program that helps disadvantaged children who struggle with reading. Run by Innovations For Learning UK, it brings together corporate volunteers and 5 to 7 year-olds from across the country to improve their confidence and skills.

The Macquarie Group Foundation has been a strong supporter of the programme, connecting employees from Macquarie with TutorMate to access the unique opportunity to give back. Each week for half an hour, volunteers link from their office to a dedicated classroom laptop to give children a fun way to practice reading.

“They read stories and play games that build fluency, comprehension, phonics and most importantly, foster confidence and enjoyment,” Zoë says. “Students get excited by having an adult other than their teacher or parent dedicate time for them each week.”

Making literacy and education accessible to everyone has always been close to Zoë’s heart.

“Access to various forms of free and subsidised learning has been the catalyst of social mobility for my own family. So TutorMate’s mission really resonates with me.”

Rachel Engel, regional director for the Foundation in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, shares, “Last year, our volunteers contributed over 120 hours of reading time. All the children involved in the programme made progress, with average reading increasing by four levels.1 Our staff enjoy that they can volunteer flexibly via an online platform, making it possible to have an impact on a child’s life from their home or desk.”

Reading sets students up for future success. When a child leaves primary school struggling to read, it puts them well behind their peers. As Year 1 is usually the light bulb year for reading, TutorMate focuses on helping this age group improve their skills.

And the program has had great success according to a National Literacy Trust report. Participating students significantly improve their confidence and reading attainment in comparison to their peers. Zoë witnessed this impact first-hand when she first got involved.

“I met virtually with a student each week for a year and saw her reading improve by five levels. The confidence students get from the program quickly translates to improved reading capabilities,” Zoë says.

From volunteering and raising awareness, to presenting new ideas for improvement, Zoë has become an active advocate for the program and has crystallised this further by becoming the Treasurer on its Board of Trustees since January 2020.  

“Volunteering with TutorMate is one of the most enjoyable and immediately impactful initiatives I’ve been part of. It quickly became the part of my week I look forward to most. I am especially grateful that - as a recently appointed Trustee and with the Foundation’s tangible support - I have been given the opportunity to help this charity develop and broaden its reach.”


  1. A reading ‘level’ equates to a step in the reading progression scale used in UK schools for children of this age group. Each level is given a colour. Teachers choose children to participate in TutorMate who are not progressing ‘up’ the levels as expected for their age.