Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.
Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.
The question is, what will you learn today?
Ludo Millar 1:42
Hello, and welcome to the 113th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. I am delighted to be welcoming on Tania Khojasteh to the podcast today. For those of you who don’t know, my name is Ludo Millar and the host of this podcast. And welcome back to regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to this podcast. And it’s a real pleasure to bring you on Tania, welcome to the podcast.
Tania Khojasteh 3:00
Thank you so much Ludo. It’s such a pleasure. I’m so happy to be here.
Ludo Millar 3:05
This is not an environment that’s unfamiliar to you, Tania, is it? The podcasting environment is one which you know well, is it not?
Tania Khojasteh 3:14
It sort of is yes, I run my own podcast but it doesn’t make me less nervous. Trust me. I’m always nervous. Like every time we record, I have the jitters going so let’s see how we do. [LAUGHS]
Ludo Millar 3:25
I think that drives a good conversation. I think you don’t want to be too complacent in the podcasting space. But to introduce Tania just a little bit, listeners, so that you have an idea of who we’ve brought on today, Tania is founder and Educations Director at Über Tutors and also recently founded an emotional intelligence consultancy business, Fearless Knowledge. I can see Tania smiling now, I know that’s an important passion project for Tania, we’ll be hearing a little bit more about Fearless Knowledge over the course of this conversation. And Fearless Knowledge also happens to be the title of the aforementioned podcast that Tania runs alongside her co-host Ali Khan. So in the mould of and well versed in the teachings of education titans such as Rita Pierson and Sir Ken Robinson, Tania is a student of education and the field of emotional intelligence, which is also known as EQ, if you see that being mentioned or written about in this podcast, so I mean actively improving her own skills so that she can bring training and professional development to others: teachers, lawyers, specialists, and other business professionals. So if we are able to tap into just 10% of Tania’s knowledge of EQ and education, we’ll be doing well. So dear listeners, tap into your own EQ over the next 25 minutes or so, and engage with an expert in educational coaching and a TEDx speaker, no less. Tania, what’s giving you reason to smile today?
Tania Khojasteh 5:07
Your incredibly kind words humbled me so much. I mean, I’m such a nerd. And I’m so passionate about teaching and education, all of these incredibly humbling words are just making me blush really.
Ludo Millar 5:25
Over the last few episodes, if you’ve been listening, you’ll have heard that we’ve been starting episodes with a lovely way to get to know the guests a little bit better. And it involves pulling ourselves, dragging ourselves many years into the past to hear the words and feedback and comments from past teachers of our guests. So Tania, I’m going to hand over to you to talk a little bit about some teacher feedback that you found recently.
Tania Khojasteh 5:54
Okay, so, brief overview. I was not born in the UK, as you can probably tell from my accent, although I’d say that I’m a native English speaker. I was born and raised in Iran, in the Middle East, and I did my primary school years in Iran. So my school reports are basically from back in the day when I was doing my very Iranian education, I’d call it. It was very rigorous. Unlike sort of the Western education system, in primary school, there’s very little time to play and a lot of emphasis on literacy, and math. And you know, the top students in the class usually get a lot of kind of honourable mentions and get like the cool kid rep. I know, it’s kind of the exact opposite of [how] school is here. So also coming from parents like mine, who were very intense in their sort of drive to make sure they have highly educated children, there was a lot of pressure on me, let’s just say. And so my school reports, basically from like, too awful to mention, but I basically had, like, 100% in every subject from primary select grade one all the way to grade five. It’s embarrassing, but I mean, I would be very afraid to get anything less to be honest.
So it was pretty intense. Yeah. So the feedback from the teachers always was that I was this amazing, wonderful kid who just listened and absorbed everything and worked intensely hard to make sure that she’s getting, you know, really tough grades. So in Iran, we actually follow the French education system. And so everything is actually graded out of 20, and not really 100. So if you look at my report card, I mean, I think in what we call your grade one is all 20 [out of] 20. The course average of the seven subjects of year one was for me, 20, I think I started to falter a bit in year two. And that was around the time that my family was also having some personal issues and things like that, but it still didn’t take me away too far from the 20 mark, I think my average was like 19.68, or something like that. And then all the way through- so I’m sorry to say it’s not an incredibly interesting or turbulent story. But it’s yeah, I was a keen student, and I liked it.
But that story really changed when I entered secondary school in Toronto, Canada, which is where we migrated. And then, you know, I was the kid that was just trying to learn English, and it was a new culture, and I had to adjust. And also, my family structure had changed. So all of those changes led to me actually being kind of the opposite. I was the kid that was not doing well for a while. And then I had to learn kind of the, as I call it, or as I told my students, I had to learn the game of school very quickly. So the game of schooling has become my now forte and passion in what I do.
Ludo Millar 9:07
So do you have any particular pieces of teacher report that you’ve managed to find?
Tania Khojasteh 9:15
Yeah I did. I mean, I have my year one to year five reports. And like I said, the teachers mainly had commented on, like, the most stellar students, we have the dream student, which is embarrassing, but yeah, that’s what it was.
Ludo Millar 9:34
That’s wonderful. But it’s so funny to see how that creates the person that you are now. I mean, of all the previous guests that we’ve had, for whom we’ve brought this segment in, it’s revealed a lot about them. And it’s also revealed a lot about the schooling system in w hich they were, you know, 10, 20, 30 years previous. I’d love to know, Tania, whether that- how does that feed into your why? How does the education you’ve had and the places that you’ve been, moved to as a child? How does that feed into your why as a tutor?
Tania Khojasteh 10:12
Yeah, it’s a really great question, actually. Because, you know, I think that the most important thing I realised in my primary school years was that the reason I did well was two things. One [was] fear, like I had a lot of fear, which is probably why now I do my podcast on fear and fearlessness. By the way, there was a lot of fear [for] me to do really well and be a highly literate student, highly educated. And then the other was actually having a lot of really great mentorship in my life, which I think was really priceless. So the experience of being a fearful kid. And also having really incredible mentors, at the same time, meant that I was really observant about the dynamics of the education system from very early on, I think.
And then when I moved to Canada, and it was really difficult to actually adjust to everything there. In terms of the academic system, the language, culture, everything. Again, I just became sort of an astute observer of what the flaws or faults in the education system were, as well as the goods and the positives. And I wasn’t really aware that I was such an astute observer of the education system, I just knew that I was either reacting or rebelling or conforming. And it wasn’t in retrospect, until I was in university, and saw some of the patterns showing up in the earlier education system also showing up in university, that this actually became a thing for me. And I always dreamed of correcting some of the issues in the education system, because I just thought they’re like, you know, we’re losing sometimes incredible minds, and incredible souls in something so rigid, and emotionally unintelligent, dare I say, education system sometimes.
Ludo Millar 12:11
And a large part of what you do is around EQ, as I mentioned, and that can be something that we are able to educate children and adults on, in order for them to see their value, to see their importance, to see the people around them with empathy, with compassion, all those kinds of things. And what you’re talking about there, I think, it really points to your work in the field of EQ. So, I mean, can you tell us a little bit more about the teaching of emotional intelligence in tutoring?
Tania Khojasteh 12:46
Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll be honest, when I set up Über Tutors in 2012, my framework around it wasn’t necessarily emotional intelligence, I just wanted to have a really great and quality tutoring company that stood out, in the market in the UK. And I knew that I really wanted to have some really quality tutors and thinkers like myself, so like-minded people who were a bit of a sort of ‘know-it-all’, could cover various subjects, various ages, were really people-people, … ‘people-persons’, yeah, [LAUGHS] ‘people-persons’. And really, actually, without officially saying so, emotionally intelligent. That’s what it was in the sort of underlying factor. And so I started off hiring a whole bunch of tutors for our team and doing interviews, and I found that the commonality between the really great tutors that kept getting hired and staying with us and doing an incredible job with the students and helping them really rise levels, and their confidence was that they were just incredibly high in their EQ.
It wasn’t just that they knew math really well, or that they knew the curriculum from GCSE and A levels. It was that they really related and unpacked the self-awareness of the student and empathised with them, got to the root of their challenges and issues and learning and helped them resolve them in practice. And that’s actually what I think distinguishes a tutor as well from a teacher is the ability to facilitate that sense of self awareness and the challenges and obstacles and help them in practice overcome them, whereas teachers typically don’t have the time and frankly, the resources to do that. So yeah, that’s how the journey started with Über Tutors.
And then along the way, because I had set up this brand of tutoring, mentoring or emotionally intelligent tutoring, I just kept getting invited by different institutions and professionals to come and do keynote speeches, or to come and do some training for their own staff or to, you know, schools would invite me to do training for their students, that sort of thing. And I guess, yeah, it was just the invitations that kind of made me realise, ‘Oh my gosh, maybe there’s a thing behind emotional intelligence’. And this is actually a new market, or new demand. Or maybe it was actually an old demand, it was just that it wasn’t really precisely addressed before. And I was getting invited to do it. So then that took me on the extended journey from Über Tutors to setting up Fearless Knowledge. And I mean, it’s in its very, very humble beginnings right now, you know, but I do have the passion of and the desire of taking it forward and making it much bigger.
Ludo Millar 15:36
So, I mean, could you just tell us a little bit more about Fearless Knowledge? And perhaps, as a, you know, deep thinker and great visionary that you are Tania, where also do you hope Fearless Knowledge can go?
Tania Khojasteh 15:51
Yeah, I think I also didn’t answer entirely your last question. I’m sorry about that. I think you’d also asked me to unpack emotional intelligence, so I’ll do that. And then it kind of ties into Fearless Knowledge, too. So yeah, I think, you know, if you’ve ever read or listened to any of the bigger experts and emotional intelligence, like Dr. Daniel Goleman is known to be like the father of the term, there are actually five stages to developing emotional intelligence. They are namely (1) self awareness, (2) emotional regulation, (3) empathy, (4) meaning & purpose and (5) social intelligence.
So the idea of an emotionally intelligent tutor or teacher or trainer is that they’re basically self actualised in these five things as much as possible, and or they are consciously and intentionally on the journey of developing themselves in that way. And then they’re passing on obviously, the skills in these areas as well. So Fearless Knowledge, like I said, it was a product of Über Tutors initially, me being invited to speak to professionals. And there are key things these days that a lot of professionals and even schools and institutions want to work on in terms of internal development, or learning and development. And that’s typically called Diversity & Inclusion these days, meaning that they actually want to address issues around leadership, coaching, your leadership, adversities, communication, improvement. Sometimes, race and gender matters from an emotionally intelligent and wholesome perspective. Just a holistic, and I hate that word, but like a holistic approach to internal soft skills, another term that I don’t like, but these are the terms that are used. And that’s what I was being called to do. And so if Fearless Knowledge is doing that, plus, I would say that the pedagogy and niche that I really like to apply is a lens of fearlessness, and working on what it means to be fearlessly inclusive. Fearlessly a leader, a fearless communicator, and a team developer. So those are- that’s the connection there.
Ludo Millar 18:25
Okay, so we have many tutors listening in right now I know and also listeners who count themselves as teachers, or as a specialist, mental health specialist, many different positions within the wider education system. How can they apply the word ‘fearless’ to what they do?
Tania Khojasteh 18:51
What an amazing question. I’ll have to think about that a quick second. I think fearlessness to me means interconnected thinking. That’s ultimately what I’m saying . I think it’s about the connections of the five stages of emotional intelligence. So being an incredibly self aware person as much as possible, at any stage in life. So a teacher or coach, a trainer of any kind of, tutor who’s incredibly self aware, so they know what their strengths and triggers are, they know how to emotionally regulate themselves in any given situation. They know how to extend that now to another person, which is called empathy. They, hopefully, ideally have a meaning and a purpose or a drive behind the things that they do. And they can have a clear articulation of them. And then connecting or interconnecting all of these creates social intelligence. So they can extend that self awareness, that empathy to wider topics that are sometimes even political or social. And thinking about the education system and critiquing it or having an honest and transparent perspective that’s articulated as a tutor or a teacher or coach, to the parents or to the student.
Ludo Millar 20:11
I really love the idea. I think it encompasses lots of threads of thinking that both we value qualified tutor very highly, and also members of our community and wider individuals that we’ve, we’ve come across in our journey. It ties together those threads very, very nicely. That idea of inclusivity of empathy, of patients of knowledge. I think fearlessness ties that in very nicely. And also, I love the way that it has that element. It has the word fear, and I know the word is fearlessness. But the word fear evokes, you know, a slight evokes, you know, the feeling of challenge and the feeling of the unknown. And I think those two things are very important in education, both for the tutor and for both for the teacher and the learner.
Tania Khojasteh 21:03
Ludo Millar 21:04
But how does then how does the mainstream? How does mainstream education approach fearlessness? And if you don’t think that they do it in a very good way? How, how can we improve this?
Tania Khojasteh 21:19
Also, really great question. I mean, as I was saying, I think that that those five interconnected steps, for me are the epitome of enacting, reacting fearless, right. And I think it’s an incredibly difficult thing to do. And that’s why there’s a challenge there to rise to fearlessness, because there’s so much vulnerability involved in that process. And I think it’s a challenge for a lot of people that have maybe grown up and or been trained in more traditional settings, and institutions who don’t necessarily allow, you know, vulnerability to be expressed or empathy to be expressed, and, frankly, are really transparently speaking, when that’s one of my critiques of the education system and of the school system, is that as much as individual teachers might try, the system doesn’t actually necessarily create the space to have a way or a method that’s incredibly emotionally intelligent and are fearless. It’s a lot of rules and status quo and contained approaches. And I’m all for structure. You know, I’m I am also a trained lawyer, I backwards, my background. So I do understand the law, rules, order and all of that stuff. But I also see it as a necessity to actually be to demonstrate vulnerability, as teachers as education designers as all sorts of things.
Ludo Millar 22:55
Do you see those two terms as as very closely related fearlessness and vulnerability?
Tania Khojasteh 23:01
I think so. Yeah. So the idea that you’re able to kind of do that interconnection between self awareness and empathy and emotional regulation and to show up as someone who really genuinely cares for students and learners, who genuinely thinks on their behalf and also fearlessly teaches critical thinking, without holding back that’s an incredibly fearless thing to do for sure. A lot of a lot of people a lot of teachers may shy away from actually really deeply truly getting into critical thinking and teaching critical thinking for the fears of X wires that fill in the blanks.
Okay, let’s go
Ludo Millar 23:52
Welcome everyone to this, the 11am event on Monday 24th January at the Love Tutoring Festival.
Okay, here we go.
Jack Simmonds 24:03
So, the first prize that we are going to give away today is … number nine! I need an extra monitor. That’s what I need …
Ludo Millar 24:17
So welcome to the 2pm keynote at the Love Tutoring Festival Day 2, Tuesday 25th of January, 2pm UK time where many of us here are based. Our speaker today is Michael Bungay Stanier, who is a, as you can see here, Wall Street Journal bestselling author on coaching.
Michael Bungay Stanier
Maybe I hand it back to Ludo as a kind of ‘what needs to be said’ to wrap us up here.
Well, Michael, you’ve made my job very simple. There doesn’t really need to be much more said, that was world class.
Yes. For those of you wondering, those were just a few highlights from the incredible Love Tutoring Festival 2 that took place at the end of January of this year 2022. The big news from Qualified Tutor and the Love Tutoring Festival team is that … we’re BACK!
From Monday 27th June to Friday 1st July, the Love Tutoring Festival 3 will return. The focus of this festival is on alignment and new beginnings. The festival will have a slightly different feel to it but all of the main tenets will still be there. A host of amazing speakers, including world renowned leaders in education, such as Craig Barton, will be joining us for a festival of fanfare, of training and of connection. Those are the values which hold the Love Tutoring Festival together and those are the values that we want you to come and take part in over the week of the festival.
Head to qualifiedtutor.org/love-tutoring-festival to find out more and book your ticket today.
Ludo Millar 25:59
Is that something that you have learned over your years of working in education? I don’t think that’s something that you appreciate, as a novice educator. And I’d love to tap into that a bit more. I mean, what would you say your years in tutoring and teaching have taught you about the importance of teaching kids these, let’s call them ‘soft skills’ even if that’s not the right term, skills like leadership and career development? What have you learned about teaching kids those skills?
Tania Khojasteh 26:46
Wow. To be honest, I think for me, the whole journey of wanting the education systems, teachers and school to be fearless or to be emotionally intelligent started as me as a student wanting that so badly. I kind of lacked that. And I saw that as the big gap that existed. So when I did have the chance to set up a tutoring company and become a head tutor and have other tutors around me this, this just automatically became this sort of ethos. And so what I have also learned in the process of doing all of this or applying it to my tutoring company, is that, you know, I’ll come across five year olds who will tell me and I’ll honestly, because you know, I always provide a consultation in depth consultation, before we actually tutor math or send a tutor to any given student or family. And you know, have a really in depth or meaningful conversation with even a five year old, and a five year old will sit there and tell me as long as I’m speaking to them with genuine care, and I can sense that. And they can sense that I truly am making a connection with them, I really want to know who they are, and why their parents want a tutor for them. And the five year old will tell me, you know, I really strug gle in school, and I have a lot of- and they’ll like touch their tummy and tell me, ‘I feel pain, I feel pain’. And I’ll explore that. And I’ll say, ‘Why do you feel pain? Tell me where do you think that pain comes from? Or when does it start?’. And they’ll say, you know, ‘I feel like my writing is very slow, but my thoughts are very fast. And I’m not able to write my thoughts as slowly. And so my writing ends up becoming rubbish, but my thoughts are really big’. And yeah, and, you know, I find that incredibly vulnerable and sweet.
And sometimes their parents just sit there kind of in shock that their child expressed so articulately and so simply, academic anxiety, that’s one of the gaps is that we don’t actually think when we’re teaching a five, six year old literacy skills, that if they’re really intelligent, they’re actually probably thinking way faster than they’re able to put sort of pencil to paper and scratch that paper and create sort of the perfectly shaped letters that will then express their words, that will then express their thoughts and, and it feels very scary to this child, that they’re now being also assessed or graded or recommended or whatever, for the fact that they’re writing processes and matching their thinking process. And so they’ll think that they’re stupid, that’s what they’ll tell me is that I think, ‘I’m stupid because there’s something going on. I can’t write as fast’ and and so that helps me really understand then what kind of tutor I should actually organise for this child and the incredibly patient person who will constantly remind them that they’re very smart in any ways that they can, especially to ask them about their thoughts or their opinions, and help them to articulate orally.
And then tools. So tell them constantly that it’s okay, that the writing is way slower than their thought process. And that eventually, one day, the two of them will match, you know, and it’ll completely be imperfect because even as adults, it’s an imperfect process. So that’s just the example of a five year old. But you know, you can imagine, Über Tutors also was, is the pioneer of university level tutoring. We started in 2012, cecause I saw such a critical need for university students to also have mentorship, beyond sort of academic just teaching.
University students feel incredibly isolated, it’s the first time that they’re leaving home, that they’re, you know, in complete isolation in terms of independent learning. Their lecturers aren’t really teachers anymore, that hadn’t told them, they actually have an expert in the subject that’s speaking at them. And you know, they have to develop so many, they have to adjust in so many ways on their own. And the best that they’ll have is maybe a community of friends that could maybe help. And so the idea of having a mentor for university level students, I thought was incredibly important too. Because I’m aware of the statistics, for example of university dropouts in especially first and second year. It’s something like, in the UK, 30%, if not more, and I think that that’s such a loss. So I wanted to kind of catch those students, ideally, to be able to provide them with a sense of vulnerable teaching to show them that actually, it is a lonely process. But again, if you learn the game of school, and you plug in the specific things that the university is asking for, and time managing well, you will be able to get your confidence back.
Ludo Millar 32:07
I think it’s so, so powerful that you started that with how vulnerability comes across for a learner, because it’s not always easy to spot. And as you say, it requires active remedial work from the tutor to reinforce to the student that they’re doing well, and that it’s fine not to be perfect. I think any tutors of you listening that that’s a great thing to start thinking about, if you if you’re not already is, it’s how you can be encouraging students that whatever that level is, they’re doing well. And it’s not the end of the world if they’re not perfect.
Tania Khojasteh 32:51
That’s right. But unless it’s a problem, yeh, unless the tutor is really mindful, and again, self aware, to kind of tap into whether or not they’ve had that almost training informally, to be taught, or to be mentored, they won’t necessarily know how to pass it on. Right. And it’s an innocent flaw to have, because if I haven’t been taught, or if I haven’t seen in practice what an incredible, vulnerable mentor that opens me up looks like, I won’t know how to do that for someone else. So I mean, I’ve been lucky or privileged in some ways to have had that. But I have to admit, I haven’t had like amazing top notch style, either. So a lot of that was also learning for myself independently. How do I really truly listen and tap into the vulnerability of children and get that out? And then how do I remedy that as I’m teaching maths, or as I’m teaching, whatever orientation.
Ludo Millar 33:50
And now, a quick word from last week’s guest, Sean McCormick.
Sean McCormick 33:57
Hey, Ludo, Sean McCormick here. So what I learned from being on the Qualified Tutor Podcast is that the education community is strong. Being able to discuss executive function with you Ludo in the UK was an amazing opportunity. And it just made me realise that across borders or cross oceans, people are concerned about the same issues in terms of helping students experience success. So that was what I learned is that this is a global community. And that I’m a part of it. What I enjoyed being about being as a guest on the podcast was being able to just talk education with a colleague, I think it was a lot of fun to discuss executive function to talk about teachers that had had an impact on us as learners. And so just being able to enjoy that camaraderie with you Ludo was, was my favourite part of being a guest on the podcast. And what I would say to future guests, is go back and listen to the episodes I know I’m guest 112 but there are 112 episodes of gold there. I know probably one of my favourite guests is Mike Michalowicz. Next, but I think anyone who’s going to be future guest, there’s something in those 112 episodes for you. So go back and listen, hope this is helpful. And I’m so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the Qualified Tutor Podcast.
Ludo Millar 35:18
And yeah, thank you for sharing these nuggets of wisdom, these pearls of wisdom.
Tania Khojasteh 35:24
Such a pleasure.
Ludo Millar 35:27
I mean, I love the way that you were talking just their wrap wrapping up about Über Tutors, and what Über Tutors has done for the tutoring market. Because just before we finish here, I’d like to ask you what’s next for Tania Khojasteh?
Tania Khojasteh 35:45
I mean, Über Tutors is my first baby, my business baby. And I’d love to see it actually scale more. So that’s one of the things that I’m looking forward to is scaling and maybe even passing it on to someone else who would like to take care of the baby and now raise it into an adolescent. You know what I mean by that analogy? Yeah. So and that’s because I kind of also want to move more formally into the leadership coaching and diversity, inclusion stuff and fearless knowledge. And I love to operationalise these kinds of trainings for schools to create a model actually, for schools, for universities, for professionals, law firms even, you know, so that’s what’s next for me, hopefully.
Ludo Millar 36:41
So just a few things, then. Just a few things. Just a few … yeah, exactly. [LAUGHS] Just this passing the business on, launching a schools-run project for Fearless Knowledge, launching EQ into the curriculum. Yeah, no. Just a few goals.
Tania Khojasteh 37:00
I mean, I didn’t mention any timeline. So we’ll say, reme mber, I’m the kids, but in primary school was taught that I have to do really, really well. And then I had this like, sort of slip into not doing well. So I tend to take my time between doing well and really not doing
Ludo Millar 37:17
As well, you should. Tania, thank you very much. If you want to find out more about Über Tutors, ubertutors.co.uk is where to head if you want to. And I urge you to have a listen to Tania and Ali’s podcast, Fearless Knowledge. There’s also a TEDx talk that Tanya gave not too long ago. So do listen to that because I would love you as listeners to find out more about Tania after this. Tania, thank you so much for that. That was a really thorough look into what you do and crucially the emotionally intelligent tutor, I love that title. I think you should own it. And I think people should attribute you with that. So thank you for introducing that to my vocabulary and hopefully to the vocabularies of lots of others listening.
Tania Khojasteh 38:14
That is so- it just makes me shy. And again, thank you so much. It means a lot.
Ludo Millar 38:23
And we will see you next time. Cheerio. Bye, bye.
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