Emma Bell

Executive Director of Innovations for Learning UK

Emma Bell

Executive Director of Innovations for Learning UK


Emma Bell, Executive Director of Innovations for Learning UK, is also responsible for the organisation’s international growth. Her diverse senior leadership experience in international organisations focuses on helping vulnerable children and families thrive. An expert, and a compelling public speaker, Emma specialises in forging partnerships to achieve transformative change.

TutorMate: Transforming reading support. Galvanising virtual volunteers. Impacting the life chances of disadvantaged young children.

TutorMate, the flagship programme of non-profit Innovations for Learning, is the leading multinational online reading support solution, reaching thousands of children in the US, UK and Canada each year. Our unique model matches work-based volunteers from 200+ corporations with disadvantaged children to provide them with much-needed “virtual” reading practice. This presentation focuses on how TutorMate optimises the use of technology to support reading.

“TutorMate matches struggling early readers with volunteer working professionals who use an online platform to read “virtually” together every week. The programme originated in America and also operates in the UK and Canada.

Interventions like TutorMate are urgently needed. A shocking 38% of 11-years-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds in England left primary school in 2019 unable to read English well. This figure rises to 80% in some parts of the USA. Many of these children simply don’t have consistent reading support at home or grow up in households where there is little access to books in English.

We need to close this literacy gap by helping more children read with adults more often. So, at the core of the TutorMate model are the partnerships we‚Äôve developed with a range of international businesses (including Expedia, Google, KPMG, Mastercard, Salesforce and UPS) which recruit their employees as reading tutors. Volunteers use a proprietary internet platform and a voice connection to link, from their workplace, to a dedicated classroom laptop. The adult-child pairs meet “virtually” for 30 minutes a week, during the school day, throughout an entire academic year.

The flexibility of the model makes it attractive to businesses looking for time-efficient virtual volunteering opportunities for staff.

This presentation is aimed at participants keen to embrace innovative scaleable solutions to the global literacy deficit. It will explore the evidence behind the TutorMate model, how corporate partners and schools have responded to its unique approach and the impact and evaluation data we have marshalled across three countries.

We know that Reading Changes Lives. TutorMate is a simple and effective tech solution for the global literacy gap ‚Äî a solution that enables meaningful human interaction to help level the playing field for underprivileged children, setting them up to succeed early in their educational journey.”