In our latest blog, we took 10 minutes of Kate’s time to ask her a few questions…here we go!
Let’s get straight in to this.
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 started Fraser Stevens Learning with my business partner Emma in late 2014.
What makes you different from other 11+ companies?
Emma and I truly love what we do, and we’re very enthusiastic about it. I don’t feel the 11+ has to be a tedious, exhausting or stressful experience, and we work hard with our students to emphasise that. We focus very much on their improvement – both in maturity and ability – and I think that shines through in our work both in our group courses and materials. That’s not to say we don’t get great results in the exam, we most certainly do, but we just think it’s not the be all and end all. I think it also helps that we understand that different children have different needs – our courses are not for everybody, which is why we’ve introduced our Home Learning – for those looking for a more relaxed approached that’s affordable too.
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. We don’t have huge numbers on our courses – 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 us to get the best of their work too. We don’t miss if there’s a problem and we don’t ignore it either. All of our clients care about their children’s education to want to come to us in the first place, so we’re 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?
We do get a little judged for being tutors sometimes, but I totally understand it – we’re 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 we’ll get enquiries saying ‘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 we do can only help, and I believe our healthy approach to the exam means that clients are always glad they’ve gone through the process with us, even if they wish there was no process at all!
What are your business goals for 2016?
Emma and I have spent a lot of time developing and bringing to market our new ‘11+ in a Box’ packages – it’s all the work of our courses, but designed to complete at home with the help of online tutorials and email support from us too. It’s doing really well, and we are looking forward to expanding the idea into other year groups later this year.
As always, we have our 2016 11+ Year 5 course to take care of too – they’ve just started the course in the last few weeks and so far, so good! We’re already filling up for our 2018 groups, so I will be business planning for that too – it’s never-ending, but I never tire of it either. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else!
Keep an eye out for the next blog post…10 minutes with Emma Jolly, co-founder of Fraser Stevens Learning.
Thanks for reading.