What made you become an 11+ tutor?
I actually didn’t start out wanting to be any kind of teacher at all (even though I had always been told it would suit my somewhat bossy personality!). I actually began my career in the City after leaving Leeds University in 2005, but quickly realised the corporate ladder was not for me. I quit my job working for an insurance company at the time, and took a completely different direction – I was 23, and thankfully had plenty of time to do so.
I started tutoring children on a 1:1 basis, just helping out with their Maths and English, but the area I worked in (South Bucks) was heavily geared towards the 11+ exam. Soon enough, the 1:1 lessons became small group courses, and after 7 years of experience, I founded Fraser Stevens Learning in 2014. I have remained a tutor for the exam ever since.
What makes you different from other 11+ companies?
I truly love what I do, and even after 15 years, I am still enthusiastic about it. I don’t feel the 11+ has to be a tedious, exhausting or stressful experience, and I work hard with my students to emphasise that. I focus very much on their improvement – both in maturity and ability – and I think that shines through in my work both in my group courses and materials. That’s not to say I don’t get great results in the exam, I most certainly do, but I think it’s not the ‘be all and end all’. I think it also helps that I understand that different children have different needs – my course isn’t for everybody and that’s ok.
What’s the best thing about your job?
For me, it’s the combination of the students and teaching in a way that gets the best out of them. I don’t have huge numbers on my course – I think that would devalue it. I love that, with a small class, I can get to know a student (and their families) well… I know the name of their sister, dog, best friend etc. . It all matters to me because it matters to them, and having that understanding helps me to get the best of their work too. I don’t miss if there’s a problem and I don’t ignore it either. All of my clients care about their children’s education to want to come to me in the first place, so I’m lucky to deal with lovely people (on the whole!) – I’ve made lots of friends myself over the years as clients often stay in touch. It’s just an incredibly rewarding job for so many reasons – I love it.
And what’s the worst thing?
I do get a little judged for being a tutor sometimes, but I totally understand it – I’m often seen as ‘part of the problem’ that makes education so competitive these days – it’s a very different ball game from when I grew up in the state primary system. Often I’ll get enquiries from parents that begin with the sentence ‘I wish I didn’t have to tutor my child, but everyone else is, so I have to’ and of course that’s a frustrating ‘no-win’ situation to be in. That said, I truly believe the work I do can only help, and I believe my healthy approach to the exam means that clients are always glad they’ve gone through the process with me, even if they wish there was no process at all!
What are your business goals?
I want to continue with what I do best, tutoring children for the Bucks exam to the very best of my ability, whilst balancing motherhood and my family life. It’s not always easy, but I wouldn’t change a thing!