Pay Attention: Is it time for parents to give tutoring more headspace? Love Tutoring Think Tank May 2023 QT Paper
On a fresh Thursday evening in May 2023, twelve professionals gathered in a hotel near Tower Bridge, central London. Most of the participants were surprised to have been invited to the first Love Tutoring Think Tank. In their estimation they had little or no knowledge of the tutoring world. They came partly out of curiosity, and partly to do me and Odette a favour.
I didn’t realise how nervous I was. This was the first time I would present the Qualified Tutor vision and mission to the ‘outside world’, and I had no idea how it would be received. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I knew I’d be faced with mostly blank looks.
Since I left the heady world of school leadership to launch an education start-up with the full intention of changing the behaviour of an entire global market, people tend to look at me funny. ‘How’s the tutoring thing?’ they ask. And then ‘What exactly is it that you do?’
‘I train, accredit, support and qualify tutors.’ I say ‘Check out the QT.Directory for a full list of Qualified Tutors who all meet our entry requirements and have access to resources, coaching, events and more.’ Just when you thought a look couldn’t get any blanker, there it is.
So bringing these twelve highly-skilled people together to discuss the value of a quality mark for tutoring was always going to be a daunting project.
Luckily Odette brought biscuits.
I warmed up the group with a light touch question: ‘What are your personal experiences with tutoring?’
The responses were unsurprising. Most members of the group remembered having had tutors themselves, and more recently had employed tutors for their children. Some remembered resenting the need for a tutor whilst others found it an inevitability or even a mark of privilege.
My wife did have a lot of tutoring growing up. She often talks about how she found that she was the one who couldn’t join in with other stuff because she constantly had to go to tutors. She’s vowed that we’re not going to do that with our kids. LW
Parents who are sending their children to the best independent, private secondary schools and looking towards universities, et cetera, like we’ve heard, tutoring is a badge of honor. The more you have, the better. LW
I am one of many tutors that these people have, and they’re in schools that cost £20,000- £30,000 pounds a year. And it’s not a badge of shame, it’s a badge of honor. How many tutors do you have? If you’re not tutoring your child, what’s wrong with you? JP
As a mother of four, I’m spending £1000/ month on tutoring because I’m so desperate to get it right. OW
I think within the Chinese community tutoring is kind of by default, everyone does it partly because they’re not familiar with the education system here. EL
Very classically the Indian culture will set you up for accountant, doctor, lawyer. But what is success? The reality is you worry about your children now orwhat their lives will be. RS
These insights were familiar. We quickly ascertained that we were all deeply invested in tutoring, but hardly aware of being so. This, in my experience and research, is the lay of the land for middle-class users of tutoring in the UK and beyond.
Then I took it all up a notch. Having established that each of them was spending money on tutoring, I wanted them to start investing some thought as well. I invited them to consider a SWOT analysis of the tutoring industry (that’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for the uninitiated in business management jargon). I thought they’d be in their element, after all they all had plenty of personal experience to inform their professional expertise. But quite quickly they started to get frustrated.
‘What is the problem that you are trying to solve?’ They asked me impatiently. ‘Although it may be unaffordable for many, we just don’t see that there’s any problem with the status quo in tutoring.’
Now, I spend far too much time talking about tutoring with education professionals to let this stand. I know that the disadvantage gap widens every year and that access to tutoring can make all the difference to our most hard to reach students. I also know qualified teachers do not necessarily make the best tutors, that tutoring can be lonely and that most professional tutors worry about staying booked.
But what I discovered that evening is that the challenges that I perceive for the tutoring profession: namely equity, professional development and an ever-changing marketplace, are barely recognised by the sector’s largest client-base: the parents.
How have we chosen the tutor for my son? She’s really busy and we found a slot. RiS
What I see in the industry is women buying other women’s opinions. Instagram is full of women effectively finding peer groups, finding things that are similar, buying off each other. RoS
My high school kids ask for their tutors. Whether the tutors are good or not, I have no idea. I just go by my children’s perception of what they say is good and I have to trust them. CO
In the estimation of the very good-hearted people in the room, tutoring works just fine. Parents get recommendations from other parents. Children ask for the help they need. And every time you put your hand in the Quality Street box you get a green triangle.
However, the group did acknowledge that they do not know much about how to select and evaluate tutors for their children. Finally, we arrived at the truth: Parents don’t know what they don’t know about tutoring. And for whatever reason, they’re not ready to ask.
How many parents ask to see a DBS (police check)? According to our sample group, almost none. How many enquire about safeguarding training and other tutor-relevant qualifications? Well, it was the same one person.
Instead of asking pointed questions, our group admitted that they rely on proxies: peer recommendation, qualified teacher status, ‘busy-ness’. Often this works just fine. But not always.
I built global teams. I’ve been responsible for all different things in my career. Never once have I asked if any of my tutors have got a DBS check. I was so embarrassed. I went through recommendations. ‘Oh, this one’s really great. This one’s, yeah, they’re a qualified teacher.’ I didn’t even think about it, and I feel so stupid. OW
My oldest son had a driving instructor and passed his test in 15 weeks. Brilliant. My second son is now having the same driving instructor five years on. It turns out, from my youngest son, the instructor is really racist. We are probably only eight weeks away from his test. So do I change it now? Do I stay with them? We’ve gone to this guy because everyone else had him before, but actually he’s clearly an unpleasant person. I don’t want my son spending time in a car with him. ” RiS
I didn’t want to leave the group feeling disorientated and mistrustful. The goal of the evening was to enable growth, not shut it down. So I told them about the Qualified Tutor quality mark.
This is our grassroots, proactive approach to leadership in tutoring. The QT Mark represents tutors that are safe, skilled and supported. The entry requirements are DBS and safeguarding training. Digital credentials, peer and mentor support and world-class resources are available to all QT Members.
The group warmed to the idea of Qualified Tutor as the ‘kite mark’ and the ‘gold standard’. They began to understand that QT Membership has delivered a ‘floor’ and also a direction for growth.
One of the things I’m struggling with at the moment is whether we’re trying to raise the ceiling or whether we’re trying to raise the floor… I’m actually quite glad that Starbucks exists because I now know that when I go and get a coffee, it’s got to be at least as good as Starbucks. JPr
The group agreed that raising awareness of the Qualified Tutor quality mark and the QT.Directory with parents is the right thing to do. The next challenge will be to understand how to go about doing that.
This first Love Tutoring Think Tank was a conversation full of struggle. There were frustrations, misconceptions and idealogical differences. It was a proper ‘think tank’. A genuinely open-ended exploration of uncharted territory.
God knows it’s been quite wide ranging, this conversation, which has been really nice, really interesting. JPr
In terms of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, we came to no conclusion except that there’s lots more to explore. It was a messy, unfinished conversation and frankly an exhausting evening.
I can’t wait for the next one.
Meet the Protagonists:
Rohit Sabhlok – KYAX | Founder | Crypto Reporting Standards – Rohit has 20 years experience in financial services consulting in risk and regulatory change; technology
build out; and strategy – working for Accenture, PwC and EY.
He has also worked in venture capital valuing Internet startups and created his own boutique consultancy providing regulatory change services to investment banks and big 4 SME support. Most recently he has helped to build out the trading infrastructure for a (150k BTC AUM) retail and institutional crypto Lender and across 4 custodians, 12 exchanges, 20 defi coins.
He currently leads a fintech startup called KYAX providing reporting services to digital asset insitutional clients.
Richard Shone – Director of Community Services – Richard has worked for Jewish Care professionally for 32 years, although prior to being an employee he was a volunteer and Youth Leader at one of the Community Centres that the Charity operates so has been engaged in the sector almost 40 years.
Currently the Director of Community Services, Volunteering, Social Work and Hospitality for Jewish Care, Richard has also been a registered manager for an Ofsted regulated service that twice received an Outstanding rating, been responsible for the organsiation’s Youth Leadership training programmes, managed 9 Community Centres, and recently directly managed the Charity’s Volunteering dept the has around 3,000 registered volunteers. Richard is experienced in policy writing, strategic & operational management and is delighted to have been invited to be a part of this project.
He is married and has two sons, one of whom has also begun his journey into the professional charity sector.
Lipi Werjuka – Founder and Managing Director of SCBM Services – Lipi is an entrepreneur with expertise in business management focussed on the Education and Charity sector. He is the founder and managing director of SCBM Services, a successful business management consultancy specialising in the education sector for the last 7 years. He began his career as an Informal Educator, before moving on to become a School Business Manager where he developed his expertise in operating and supporting educational establishments from early years through to further education.
SCBM Services focusses on Ofsted compliance, business strategy, staffing structures, strategic financial management and operations, working with a wide spectrum of organisations and settings across the education sector, ranging from PVI Early Years settings, Independent Schools and Multi Academy Trusts. Lipi has a particular expertise in school regulatory compliance. Having been on the ground supporting schools in more than 80 Ofsted inspections over the last 10 years, he has extensive experience working with clients to prepare for registration or upcoming inspections and to develop and implement action plans post inspection where required.
Lipi also owns and operates an Early Years setting in Hendon which achieved an Ofsted “Outstanding” rating in all areas in its recent inspection in May 2022.
Jason Preece – Co-Founder at The Tutor Index – self-effacing, cardigan-wearing, musician-turned-teacher-turned-tutor.
Esther Leong – Founder & CEO – marketing expert, tennis player and well connected in the Chinese HNW community. Intrapreneur turned entrepreneur. Founder of a luxury lifestyle and experiential learning company for Chinese UHNWIs and HNWIs. Resourceful, energetic and passionate leader.
Kirstin Coughtrie – Online School Leader | Neurodiversity Advocate | Intersection of Education, Tech & Humanity | Speaker | ADHD Coach – fearless explorer at the boundaries of online learning
Jamie Peston – Ed Tech Entrepreneur, Finance and Operations Expert – experienced school manager and tutor, dragon dad. He seeks to democratise access to outstanding educational opportunities, shrinking the attainment gap through innovation and technological advancements.
He is an experienced, expert senior leader & MBA graduate (Distinction), with a track record of commercial success & delivering strategic impact within large & complex public sector organisations. His areas of operational expertise include strategy, people (HR), finance, IT, PFI and development/fundraising. Simplifying operating model design, he is passionate about organisational change and process innovation. Focussed on implementing financial & operational efficiencies, embedding organisational effectiveness & cultural change, adding value & streamlining processes. He is at his best when finding solutions to complex problems that require an open mind & creative ideas. He enjoys learning and creating a collegiate environment based on trust, accountability, diversity and inclusivity.
David Rones – Entrepreneur. Founder. Director. Private Equity Investor – one of those brilliant kids who never sat still long enough to pass an exam but went on to build brilliant businesses. He is an entrepreneur who has founded, grown and sold businesses over the course of his career. With over 20 years of experience in the business world, he has established himself as a creative leader with a keen eye for identifying market opportunities and building a successful company from the ground up.
Throughout his career, David has demonstrated a passion for entrepreneurship and a relentless drive to succeed. He has launched a number of businesses and sub-brands across a range of industries, including technology, regulatory compliance, and healthcare. Under his leadership, these companies have achieved significant growth and profitability, attracting the attention of investors and ultimately leading to successful acquisitions.
David’s success in the business world can be attributed to his innovative thinking, dedicated work effort, strategic planning, and ability to assemble and motivate his teams. He has a talent for identifying emerging trends and developing cutting-edge solutions to address them.
Despite his many successes, David remains committed to ongoing learning and personal development. He is always looking for new challenges and opportunities to apply his entrepreneurial skills and make a positive impact on the world.
Joshua Fineman – Partner at DWF – self-confessed cynical lawyer and cheesecake-addict. He is a partner of the law firm DWF Law LLP. DWF is one of the top 20 Law firms in the UK, and is the only law firm to be publically listed on FTSE. He has been with the firm for seven years, and was promoted to the partnership in February 2022. He specialises in high value civil fraud, complex corporate disputes and High Court Litigation. He helps individuals and businesses protect their rights, and has acted on behalf of and against Ultra High Net Worth Individuals, Tribal Chiefs, SMEs, PLCs, Global Conglomerates and Government States.
Nicola Gold – Individual Giving Manager – Camp Simcha – 3rd sector expert, mother, edupreneur – Diagnosed at 17 with severe dyslexia she has first-hand experience of the difficulties that come with navigating a flawed educational system. Mum to two young daughters, one of which is also severely dyslexic, she is dedicated to advocating for more effective and accessible education for individuals with learning disabilities.
Yehudis Goldsobel – Founder at MIGDAL EMUNAH – child protection and safeguarding lobbyist, advocate for victims of domestic abuse. Yehudis Goldsobel is the Founder of Migdal Emunah, the UK’s first support service for Jewish victims of sexual abuse and was CEO of the charity for ten years. She is Chair of the Met Police Independent Advisory Group for Rape & Serious Sexual Offences and Founded the UK National Sexual Abuse & Sexual Violence Awareness Week. Yehudis is currently completing her Masters in Domestic Violence & Sexual Abuse at Goldsmiths University and the leading expert in VAWG and CSA within a Jewish and wider context.
Wayne Meek – engineer, soldier in the British army, divorced dad
Chana Ostilly – South African accountant, QT Evangelist and tiger mum