The Manning’s guide to punctuality Or: how to not be late. By Johnny Manning, Manning’s Tutors

Before I even start typing I can already sense the eye-rolling sighs of tutors who believe themselves to be punctual and that they don’t need Manning’s to tell them how to manage every little part of their job. After all, isn’t it simple? You set off with more time than it takes for you to travel from A to B – right? 


Being consistently punctual is not simple, nor is it a little part of your job. Punctuality is one of the most significant impressions you make on our clients. It’s the first thing they learn about you and they’re reminded of it every week when you walk through the door. If you’re late, it tarnishes all the other hard work you put into your lessons. So much so, that it’s worth taking some time to perfect the art of punctuality with some guidance from us at Manning’s with decades of experience of being on time to things. 


First of all, let’s lay out what we’re aiming for here. As explained in the tutor pack, Manning’s expects its tutors to arrive at a school 15 minutes before their lesson is due to start. That will give time to sign in, be received by a member of staff and taken to the relevant classroom to get settled before the pupils arrive. 

What we want to avoid is a lesson starting at 3pm, pupils sitting around the table, meanwhile, I’m coming through the doors at 2:57 slightly out of breath from the ‘I’m not running’ speed-walk I made from the station.

“But”, I hear you cry, “I have timed this process to a tee! It takes me exactly 48 minutes and 31 seconds to go from bed to classroom, so why would I arrive a whole 10 minutes earlier than I need to?” 

This, I feel, hits at the heart of the punctuality issue. We have a tendency to model our travel times on past experiences and give little or no margin for error. Just because you can make a journey in 48 minutes, doesn’t mean you will every time. We’re like subprime mortgage lenders in 2008 and the economy is our relationship with this client. 

The first step to being punctual is to recognise that everything is not always going to go as planned. The rest is learning how to appropriately prepare and respond. 

Plan your route 

It goes without saying that you should look up the location of your school and the journey to get there well before your first visit. What’s less well known is that some platforms are more reliable at this than others. 

It’s a good idea to look up your journey on the day of your lesson to get the latest public transport information before you travel. We recommend Citymapper for this, which typically receives information on delays and cancellations before Google Maps. 

You should also identify possible failure points in your route. Do you need to catch a train that only goes every 12 minutes? What’s the alternative if you miss it? If there’s a train or bus that I absolutely have to catch in order to be on time, I typically aim to catch the one before it. 

Go the extra mile 

For most lessons, aiming to arrive 15 minutes early, checking your route on Citymapper and eliminating any potential failure points is enough to be punctual 95% of the time. However, sometimes you just need to guarantee that extra 5%. If we have a particularly important meeting, we have one more trick up our sleeve to guarantee a good first impression. 

The idea is to identify a café or library near to the school that you can use as a hold-over. You set off extra early, catch your usual bus and train and arrive at the school maybe an hour before you need to be there. You scope out the entrance, make sure you know where you’re going, then retreat to the hold-over to do some of your own work whilst you wait. Then, when the time’s getting close, you take the 5 minute walk from the hold-over to the school with no trains to delay you, no buses to get stuck in traffic and safe in the knowledge that the entrance to the school is easily navigable with no room for getting lost.

This method has never failed us! Give it a try, possibly if it’s the first lesson of a new scheme or if your journey is particularly fraught with bus changes and other public transport liabilities. 

Be early, even when you’re late 

This next section is more of a dark art than it is practical advice. It would be found in the forbidden section of the Johnny Manning library of mundane organisational skills. 

Let’s suppose that the impossible has happened and you are actually going to be late to a lesson. The most important thing is that you find two seconds amongst the frantic rushing to contact Manning’s and let us know. We will contact the school so that they’re aware. 

When having these kinds of conversations, it’s very tempting to fall again into the trap of estimating based on the best-case scenario. You’re already sharing bad news and you want to soften the blow as much as possible, but don’t. If you accidentally underestimate and turn up even later than you thought, you’ve somehow managed to be late twice for the same lesson. 

Instead, you should overestimate how late you’re going to be, giving you a further cushion should anything else go wrong on your remaining journey – some days you just can’t catch a break. Yes, the school will be mad that you’re going to be late, but they’ll be pleasantly surprised when you turn up earlier than expected and, through a neat psychological trick, you’ve managed to come across as punctual, even when you’re not. 

This concludes the Manning’s guide to punctuality. I hope you’ve learned something! Good luck out there and may your buses be swift, your trains be punctual and your bike tyres remain inflated.