150 and Out – Bringing a Smile to So Many Faces and Building a Community Like No Other: Wrapping Up Ludo Millar’s Time as Host of the Qualified Tutor Podcast: Podcast Transcript

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Julia Silver  0:00 
This is a really special podcast. This is Qualified Tutor‘s 150th podcast. And there was only one appropriate guest for this podcast, and that is our very own totally amazing, Ludo Millar.


Julia Silver  1:32 
I’m Julia Silver. And I will be hosting the podcast so that we can finally hear from Ludo. Ludo is an impossibly good listener, and he asks confoundingly good questions. So when it came to my turn to actually ask him some of the questions, it’s really given us pause for thought.

Unfortunately, Ludo is also leaving us at the end of this month. Ludo has been with Qualified Tutor since our earliest moments. In fact, I contacted Ludo when I was first doing research about the tutoring world, via which platform … ?

Ludo Millar  2:01

Julia Silver  2:02
It was Superprof. And I I emailed tons of people. And some of them responded. And some of them were interested. But only Ludo leaned in. And he’s been leaning in ever since. Ludo Millar, welcome.

Ludo Millar  2:32 
Thank you, Julia. I feel like this is a sign of things to come you on this side of the mic.

Julia Silver  2:39 
Yes, and I hope I can do as good a job as you have. Because it’s been an absolute joy to hear you bring the best out of so many different and diverse guests, which is a great place to start. What I’d love to do to tee up this conversation is a quick retrospective of some of the 150+ guests that you’ve had on the podcast. Okay with you if I read them out quickly?

Ludo Millar  3:09
Go for it.

Julia Silver  3:11
Let’s go. Right, Steven Berryman from the Chartered College [of Teaching][The] CPD Certification Service, John Nichols from TTABrambleTutorCruncherLee Elliot MajorMary MyattDame Alison PeacockMatt HoodMike MichalowiczAJ HarperLaura McInerneySusannah HardymanJen FoxTwinklJohnny ManningTricia Richards-Service, Alex Asher from LearnCube. Omar El Dokani from InterJoin Teach, Jason Preece from The Tutor IndexOppidan [Education]Claire RileyBen GadsbyGavin McCormackLucy SpencerSharon CawleyMichael Bungay StanierJustin WiseRichard EvansSuperprofMichael GibbenLiberty KingJoanne KaminskiBradley BuschSarah Cottinghamyour favourite Daniel Sunshine and my favourite Ian Gilbert, goodness me.

Ludo Millar  3:54 
And many, many more that we haven’t named that have been fantastic guests of this show.

Julia Silver  4:01 
And when you started out, you used to ask everybody their why. So here’s me asking you today? What’s your why in tutoring?

Ludo Millar  4:14 
To bring a smile.

That’s the shortest why we’ve ever had on this podcast. Now, I think that anyone who knows the way I approach interacting with others will know that that is a large part of why I do what I do. And I think as a tutor, probably my greatest strength is bringing a smile to kids’ faces. As many tutors have said on here, I’m not the best teacher, probably. I probably wouldn’t make a very good classroom teacher. And that’s why tutoring was such a strong place to turn to because I think my strengths are in building someone up one-on-one and that’s probably why I’ve been able to do so many episodes every single week, because I absolutely love building someone up one-on-one.

I think the job of a host is building up the guest because, you know, even the most seasoned podcast guests, in those first few moments of an episode, there’s a sense of unknown, isn’t there? So that’s the host’s job is to ease them in. My tactic has always been to blow them away with a lovely intro that I love researching, and the number of guests who’ve said, ‘Oh my word, that was a lovely introduction, that was because probably …’ because they’re not expecting that to happen. So yeah.

Julia Silver  5:44 
That’s completely right. And listeners who go back over the podcast will hear that guests are always touched by the way that you frame them and present them. But I’m really curious about what you’ve just pointed to, that bringing the best out of a guest on a podcast is similar to the skill of bringing the best out from a student. Can you dive deeper into that, please? And tell us how you bring that smile?

Ludo Millar  6:13 
Yeah, I mean, I always find that these, a lot of these skills are very, interchangeable and are very interlinked. Being a tuto r is a little bit like being a performer, isn’t it, you are delivering this performance of learning, of confidence building in each one of your sessions. And for a lot of people that can be tiring; for lots of people, that can be extremely rewarding, it’s probably a mixture of both for me. And in many ways, obviously, being the host of a podcast is a performance in and of itself. It’s a prepared one and it comes more and more naturally to you the more you do it, but there is a sense of- I still get nervous before each time I start an episode, I don’t quite know how it’s gonna go. But I do know that as long as I come with a big smile, and I come, having done my preparation as I would do for tutoring session, then the chances of it going not well are massively reduced.

But really, I mean, if I did this job, tutoring or podcast hosting, exactly the same way but without a smile on my face, I mean, what would be- you’d lose so much of people’s good memories of how it went. And I think that’s so key to learning in the tutoring environment is, ‘Does the child remember what happened in that session as a happy memory? Or do they remember it as a bit of a slog, and something that they wished had come to an end?’ which I really hope no guest has ever felt before on his podcast, a bit of a slog, and they wish it comes to an end quite soon [LAUGHS].

And I think, you know, that’s the reason why we’ve had people who want to come back on a second time. That’s the reason why we’ve had people who’ve listened to it go, ‘I’d like to be a guest as well’. I think it’s because people are left thinking, ‘That was a good chat. I enjoyed that. And I’d like to do that again’. So yeah, I mean, I’ve never really thought of the two roles necessarily being the same. But there is a lot to be shared between those. And I’m glad that I’ve hosted a podcast that is all about education and tutoring,

Julia Silver  8:31 
Agreed. And the thing that occurs to me, as you’re describing it, is, from knowing you, well, authenticity. It’s how you show up in every space. You bring your authentic self as a tutor, as a podcaster. And ironically, when you say ‘It’s a performance’, it is a performance, but it’s a performance that is based on your values and on who you are as a person and what your why is, professionalism, just happens to say, even when you’re not in the mood, you still show up, you still bring it. And what I know from you is that you always bring it.

So let’s pivot slightly and think about the next hat that you’ve worn in Qualified Tutor. Because since you and I launched Qualified Tutor together, we’ve been playing to me, to you, to me, to you with all the hats in the business. And it’s been an absolute adventure. And there’s nobody I would have wanted to share it with more. But one of the amazing things that happened was the birth of the Love Tutoring Festival. And we were just reflecting on it before this podcast because when we went through that list of amazing names, that was actually the birth of the festivals because we said, we’ve got this opportunity to speak to these wonderful people. Let’s give them the opportunity to speak and be heard by each other So we spoke a little bit about the work that you’ve done one-to-one in tutoring and in podcasting, tell us a bit about leading the festivals next, and how you’ve been able to bring voices together and create participation at such a huge scale remotely?

Ludo Millar  10:19 
Well, I think that actually, ironically, the work that you do in building community actually creates that itself. I think the festivals were, and are, such a success, because everyone who is attending believes that it’s going to be good, and they want to bring the best that they have to the table. I think, you know, we talked a lot about culture setting and I think what you and I have done went some way to producing that in our Community, but I think the people of the community are what made those festivals so amazing. And, you know, I turned up to every event at the festival with a big smile on my face and a big load of energy and introduced the guests in the best way I could, but I was constantly blown away by the questions that were asked, or by the kind of- I love those moments between events. I think, Julia, you and I always kept the camera rolling as it were, we always left the remote space open for people to join, we didn’t want to close things down, because actually, some of the best moments were in those those mid-festival aside, mid-events changeovers. And you might expect people after the end of a really powerful, hour-long presentation from a particular speaker people to be a little deflated and tired, but actually, people brought so much energy. It’s almost like they were building up to being able to chat to everyone else in the room in those little kind of five minute changeovers. And I think that’s because of the culture that we created.

And it is amazing, across all of the festivals, we had this core group of, I don’t know, 20 to 50 people who would attend all of the events and you got to know their faces coming up the whole time on each of the events. And that was amazing to see. And I think that says a lot about the power of ripple effects. And I think if two people can create five people, they will create 50 people who will create 1000 people. And that ties in a little bit with QT as a brand and QT establishing itself is that we started with just the two of us. And then we have built a lovely, loving team around us who’ve built a lovely community around us, we’ve shared the word of QT and the Love Tutoring Festivals to a much bigger audience. And I think what that says about starting small and committed and authentic is huge.

Julia Silver  13:00 
Agreed, agreed. Agreed. It’s a couple of well, there are lots of gems that you just dropped there, I want to pick up a couple of them. One is how we always say that tutors don’t have a corridor to chat to colleagues in like classrooms do, like teachers do. So it occurs to me that those moments in between events were like the corridors and we talk in coaching about liminal spaces, about the in-between bits. And I think there’s something really interesting in those spaces in between the schedule, and how people get and give what they need in those moments. I think that’s really, really interesting. But then, where I was really gonna take your next was the grassroots movement that we’ve always been so committed to because, you know, when I called you in September 2018, 2019?

Ludo Millar  13:56 
2019, I think I was returning for my 4th year in 2018 …

Julia Silver  14:09 
Ok, 2019, I’ll give you that. So that says everything about me and my calendars … [LAUGHS] and we spoke about bringing qualifications, regulation, a shared language of professionalism to tutoring, but we both agreed that top down was not the way we wanted to go. We knew that we wanted to build something bottom up, we wanted to start with the grassroots. So the first thing we did was create community. And Ludo has always been the voice of the Qualified Tutor Community because he asks the best questions. So Ludo, this week you posted: ‘If you hear about a party, do you jump right in? Or do you run for the hills?’ and the poll was done: jump or run? Now, nobody knew what to vote. Everybody said both, or it depends, or I’m not sure, or where’s the third answer? So Ludo Millar, give us the secret to asking confounding questions to get a community talking, please?

Ludo Millar  15:22 
I can’t give you the secret {LAUGHS].

Julia Silver 15:25 
[LAUGHS] like any good magician.

Ludo Millar  15:27 
I can’t give that away. I think the key is pairing up entertainment, entertaining questions, with concepts that make you think deeply about your practice. I think something that community members – I think it was Dee Atkins-Greg – said recently that the questions that we post weekly, daily almost, in the Community actually make her stop and think about her tutoring. But it doesn’t feel like a test. You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to. And you will know that really whatever you post in the Community, people are going to be enjoying what you say and responding, very often, positively. I think again, a bit like bringing that smile, I try and make the questions entertaining.

Actually one of the keys I’ve learned is, don’t just make the question entertaining, if it’s a multiple choice question, make the answers entertaining. Don’t just make the question entertaining. So, you know, communities can be built, of course, when there’s no entertainment, there’s no kind of humour, there’s no enjoyment. Of course they can, you know, there are many professional development communities that are quite serious, and that’s intentional. But we wanted to take some enjoyment, we wanted people, again, to come back each day to the Community.

Building a community is about- you have to encourage and support members to come back each day or each week. And of course, with any community, there are people who who join and then for whatever reason they leave. But I think we have really enjoyed the fact that there are always people who come back and actually a bit like the festivals, there is a core group of members in our Community, of course, as there will be in any community. But actually, one of the most enjoyable things I see is members who I haven’t seen for 6 months, a year, sometimes longer, returning to comment on a particular question or poll, and I often think, ‘Have they been sitting there listening, seeing every single question that’s come in, and just now they’ve chosen this question, because it’s a particularly piercing one??’. I don’t think it is, I think people move back in when it suits them and as long as you have built something that they can come back to, then that’s amazing.

But actually, what I would like to say about the grassroots movement that we’ve built, is that bottom up, the actual defining moment of bottom up, is about knowing people. It’s about knowing your industry, and your industry is people. It’s ideas, of course, but the tutoring industry is so people-focused and we spent the first 6 months of Qualified Tutor, we didn’t do anything, we didn’t make a brand. We didn’t make a website. We didn’t do anything that you might do when you start a business until we had spoken to as wide an array of the tutoring sector as we could. We spoke to tutors, we spoke to tutoring company leaders, we spoke to teachers, we spoke to support staff, we spoke to parents, we spoke to students even, we spoke to everyone we could about what tutoring was and what they wanted it to be. And without that we would never have been able to build our qualifications. And we definitely would never have been able to build our Community because we’d have probably misfired and misdirected. And, you know, if the defining impact of Qualified Tutor is that we are about people, we are about connection, then that is very intentional.

Julia Silver  19:11 
I think that’s absolutely right. And you’ve brought such a smile to my face in all of that. And I want to go the other way for a second and ask about the tough times because building a business together, pursuing a startup and being so far ahead of the curve in so many ways, and doing all of those things in COVID has been really challenging. And you and I have given each other a lot of support. And I think it’s worth speaking to that a little bit because it’s part of the experience, isn’t it?

Ludo Millar  19:51 
It’s inextricably tied to it, isn’t it? QT is a business that has formed out of COVID and out of the lockdowns and of course, parts of what we do are shaped by that, you know, online delivery, online community. But also bringing people together, you know, the impact of lockdown, there’s isolation, and I think the Community solved lots of – not solved entirely, but certainly helped – lots of people come together in that time. But yeah, I mean, you know, building an online business, I think your number one issue will always be that you’re not in the same place. And if you need to bounce something off someone,  you may not because they’re in a meeting or because you think they’re busy, or whatever it is. But yeah, I mean, look, when you’re trying to establish something that doesn’t exist, that’s going to be hard. You’re gonna find that people are not immediately receptive to it, or probably more likely, they don’t quite understand what you’re saying. And not through ignorance, but just because that’s not how they they’ve seen it. And that’s not how their business functions. I think we’ve done as good a job as we could really in reaching out to the independent tutors, to those sole traders almost, who needed somewhere to turn to. I think that’s been a real strength of the Community, and will always be a part of what QT does, because raising the standards is about bringing everyone up, and not leaving people behind, especially not people who are committed and who love tutoring, and that kind of thing.

But yeah, I mean, there have been struggles, of course, and actually, for so long, we talked about how much we loved online, all the benefits it brought us, how we were able to spread to tutors and students across the world, and all bunch of people who would never have had the chance to meet. But actually, we, and particularly you, Julia, have loved coming back to in-person, because actually, that is what QT is built on is connection and human interaction. And that is certainly a very large part of going to in-person events and conferences and actually running our own. So yeah, I’m sure QT will encounter more kind of- there will be bumps along the road, as we, as you take it on. But I feel like as a small team, we’ve dealt with those things quite well.

Julia Silver  22:26 
Yeah, I agree with you. And I think, for me, it’s all come down to trust again and again and again. The trust in each other and the trust in ourselves. And the trust in our intuition has been, it’s defined us as and, just last week, because Ludo and I have been engaged in a handover of the heart the last few weeks because Ludo moving on is not the same as anybody else moving on, because there’s just so much shared thinking and development that’s happened here. And one of the things that we reflected on is, we keep doing brand new things that have never been done before. And we flatter ourselves, but we are innovators. That’s just how we roll. And it’s been a joy to be able to bounce and pioneer and initiate and be proactive in this space, which takes me on to my next question then. How has tutoring changed in the past three and a half years that you’ve been taking a lead and supporting the tutoring world?

Ludo Millar  23:32 
Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. And it’s actually something I often lead with when I talk to other tutors and tutoring companies because I don’t think we can and we shouldn’t forget that tutoring has come on an enormous way. I think it’s progressed enormously since even when QT began in sort of September 2019. And since when I first began tutoring, which was about 7 or 8 years ago, you know, I often tell that story of when I first began tutoring, I signed up to every agency, I signed up to every platform, and I think the university I went to meant that I was often accepted, you know, almost immediately, a quick interview and then I was accepted on it and I could start tutoring  the next day or the next week. And lots of times I wasn’t asked for my DBS, lots of times I was never given any training, safeguarding training, pedagogical training nothing like that. And it was just assumed that I could tutor because of my academic history and because of the university I was at.

And at the time, it was great for me. That’s the thing about tutoring is it is very easy to think about yourself as the tutor and that is important to be a good professional and also to give you what you want from tutoring lots of times which is obviously, you know, a good financial income and that kind of thing. But now I see that as one of the issues that has been really- it’s gone a long way to being resolved in the tutoring industry is this real understanding, wider understanding of what it is that a tutor needs to start.

And that’s something that I’ve learnt and actually have learned through talking to lots to other tutoring company leaders. But the online shift was something that we couldn’t have predicted when I first began. And that has massively changed tutoring. I think it’s made it easier to become a good tutor. I think a lot of the things that exist in in-person tutoring are things that can frighten those tutors who are just starting out, the idea of going to a home and being with the parents and having to master your body language and your approach. I think a lot of that is tough stuff for a tutor to learn. And also, it’s tricky to teach someone how to do- I mean, our courses teach tutors how learning works, and how to be reflective and how to think about assessment and planning, but it’s hard to teach [someone] how to sit and how to tone your voice and how to think about all the things that you need to in a tutoring session. And those are the things that I think the online world has actually helped to- there are barriers that have been removed by things moving online, which has supported a huge, huge number of tutors in becoming better tutors.

Then we come to the NTP and that was something that we’ve always felt that we’ve understood well, we’ve been ahead of the curve in understanding what that means for tutoring. The fact that brought mandatory training into the tutoring environment was huge. The fact that it brought tutoring into schools is going to be a defining legacy of it, no matter the complications that there currently are.

So I think the next step really is some form of officialisation, formalisation of some of the trends that have developed. I think what’s beautiful about the tutoring industry is it’s full of really intelligent, very approachable, very affable people who are in it because they enjoy working with kids. And it’s also a really academic craft, tutoring, you know, you have to know your subject really well. And I think that the benefits that has for spreading that approach and that drive to the policymakers is huge and to the people in positions of influence. So I think some form of regulation is on the near horizon, and we hope QT is a large part of that but in whatever guise, I think that it’s about understanding that tutors need to be safe, they need to be trained and skilled and they need to have a support network behind them. And that is the motto that Julia and QT have developed but that is very much a shared understanding

Julia Silver  28:31 
Awesome, that leads me perfectly onto: when you come back and visit in 5 years’ time Ludo, what do you want Qualified Tutor to look like?

Ludo Millar  28:46 
Well, I don’t think there is something in education that looks like what I want QT to be. There isn’t a mandatory college that you need to attend if you want to become a tutor. And tutoring will always be a great pathway for people because it’s flexible and because it has many different costume, guises to it. There are so many different types of tutor and tutoring. And that’s great. And that’s probably the reason why one day it will be fitted into the school’s toolbox worldwide because it can be fitted in in so many different ways. Of course I want QT- I think the course that we built when we first began has honestly, its basic tenets have not changed – it was a fabulous course when it was written and it’s still a fabulous course and all the ways that it is now and so of course I want that to be something that is offered and provided to tutors because I think that it covers all the bases very well, and there are very, very few people who haven’t enjoyed taking that course.

And I think the conversations that we’ve had, I think the podcast, I think the festival, I think the things that we have offered to the tutoring industry have placed us in a very nice neutral position. And I think that that has allowed us to have further conversations with government, with policymakers, that kind of thing.

But really, if I did have my big dreaming hat on, I would love QT to be a college for tutors. I would love for it to be a place that has the best of hybrid training to it, has a fantastic edtech usage and online delivery, but also has a place, a staffroom, where people can be and it does have an in-person element to it because some people want that; again, as I said, tutoring has to be flexible. Some people want in-person, some people want online, you have to be there for both. And if that college is reaching out to anyone who wants to become a tutor, or anyone who wants to continue to become a better tutor, then that would be a fantastic place for QT to be.

And that college, crucially, is global. It’s not just UK-based even though we are UK-based company. Because tutoring in 2023 is a global industry. And the potentials for that are honestly mind-blowing. I mean, the kind of people we’re speaking to, have spoken to, who want to to training, they are based in South Africa, in Singapore, in the US, in, you know, wherever it is. We are not restricted by national borders anymore. And I think when people talk about what we want the future to look like, I think that’s it.

Julia Silver  31:55 
So stunning. And it takes us right to our final question, which is one of my favourite questions that you’ve asked on the podcast Ludo, which is: if you had a magic one that you could wave over the whole education space – bearing in mind all the conversations and all the imaginings you’ve had with various educators in the past few years – how would you imagine- what would you magic up for education?

Ludo Millar  32:32 
I would like to see the power of tutoring scaled up to mainstream education. I would like to see schools redesigned in a way that can allow the power of tutoring to flourish. I think the concept of tutoring in schools will be blurred to some extent. But I’d like to see the concept of teachers and tutors blurred to some extent. I’d like to see places of learning as somewhere where children, through the power of technology, can learn the content at their own pace, and are then supported by independent educators, teacher, tutor, it doesn’t matter what they’re called, but someone, a trusted adult, who they can tend to, lean on for the next steps. I think that can all happen in a physical location called a school or an online location called a school.

And I think that tutoring, which is something I hugely hugely believe in, used to be the preserve of the elite, now increasingly is less so. And I think if tutoring is to reach the place, the kind of Holy Land that it can be, it will be a place where everyone is able to access it like everyone is able to access school.

Julia Silver  34:05
Mic drop.

Ludo Millar  34:06
Is he our next guest?

Julia Silver  34:10 
So beau tiful. But so beautiful.


Ludo Millar  34:15 
And now a brief word from [last week’s guest] Emma Palastanga, whose episode you can catch after this.

Emma Palastanga  34:27 
I really enjoyed talking to Ludo and distilling the thoughts over many, many years into a 30-minute podcast. I learned that I do have a lot of passion for the creative curriculum. I guess I already knew that but not quite to the extent that it came across in the podcast, and I would definitely encourage other people to do the same. It really is important to share what we believe in and create the excellent education system for all.


Julia Silver  35:05 
So, to wrap up this conversation, you’ve brought a smile to my face. That’s been your legacy here, Ludo, the smile from the first moments, that shared, trustful, respectful, creative, energised process that we’ve been on together. It’s been full of integrity and full of idealism. And I bless you on the next steps of your journey through the law world – through the legal profession, I should say – and I bless you in your next steps that they should be as full of smiles, and that you should have the opportunity to bring smiles, integrity and idealism to everything that you do. Thank you for being with us. And please don’t go far away.

Ludo Millar  36:03 
I won’t. And Julia, it’s been an enormous, enormous pleasure. I think the skills that you have as a leader in allowing your team to find their own skills and develop those skills further is hugely underrated. And probably one that you don’t realise quite as much as you should, is the things that you’ve taught me probably without even realising that you’ve taught me and allowed me to go on and do, I will never forget. But yeah, hosting this podcast has been genuinely the highlight of every single week for the last 150 weeks, which is quite a long time really. I mean, that’s almost three years of my life. I’ve posted this every single week, and I will listen to this podcast intensely, and intently, for as long as it continues. So listeners, and I don’t know how many episodes of it you’ve listened to if you’re listening to this right now, but please do go back and listen to some others. I recommend our very first one. It was a fantastic chat with a lovely guy called Daniel Sunshine. And if you ever want to reach out to me again, I’ll be on LinkedIn.

Julia Silver  37:09  
Ludo Millar, all the love.

Ludo Millar  37:13
Bye bye.

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