Who are they?
Capital Tuition Group
Flat 2, 1 Archway Mews
Putney Bridge Road
Tel: 020 3478 8514
We have met with Capital Tuition Group’s staff. In addition, 21 clients and 20 tutors completed an online survey (sent to 240 clients and 184 tutors) and we followed this up with additional short phone interviews with some of those surveyed.
Capital Tuition Group staff
When a desperate mother offered Matthew Curnier BSc MSc PGCE (King’s College London) double pay to clear his diary to help prepare her daughter for a chemistry exam, he realised it might be time to stop working as a lone tutor. ‘I couldn’t do it as I was already booked up, but it was a real turning point and I started to take on other tutors in that autumn of 2015.’
Nearly a decade on, Capital is unrecognisable from the fledgling company we first reviewed, with 180 tutors now working with 150 families every year. They are members of The Tutors’ Association, approved providers of The National Tutoring Programme and work with over 17 schools (independent, state and short stay schools) in London, Surrey and Hampshire. It’s been quite a ride, admits Matthew, a science teacher who taught in state schools for five years and who has worked as a tutor for 15 (still does a little – ‘important to keep a hand in’).
Matthew – a highly respected tutoring bod, who regularly presents on conference panels - is now joined by a director of operations, two client managers (one who leads the Northern Ireland office) and a marketing and admin lead. ‘A wonderful team – so friendly and responsive,’ say parents. ‘Organised,’ ‘unbelievably helpful,’ ‘totally lovely’ and ‘approachable,’ we also heard – from both parents and tutors.
What do they offer?
Getting your child better grades is the raison d’être of this company, which they do through their bank of qualified teachers. So, while other tutor agencies might offer you a med student who teaches science on the side to make a bit of extra money, Capital employs actual teachers with classroom experience to up your child’s marks. And while other tutor companies might talk first and foremost about engendering a passion for the subject being taught, Capital aren’t too bothered about that side of things. They try to make learning fun and engaging (and parents tell us they succeed), but above all it’s about getting you through those pesky exams.
GCSE tutoring in English, maths and science forms the bulk of their work – three-quarters of parents we spoke to were using Capital tutors for this. Second most popular is A level tutoring in sciences and maths, then it’s 11+ tuition. But they can, and do, provide tutoring in all academic subjects at GCSE, A level and BTECs and they also offer tuition in singing, LAMDA preparation, acting auditions, musical instruments and TEFL. Youngest pupils are just 4, ‘We recently helped show a child how to play constructively in preparation for 4+,’ says Matthew (yes, really). The oldest are adults - mainly language teaching, notably French, Spanish and Korean, but also those needing to re-sit English and maths exams to increase job prospects.
Hourly tuition is the norm, although extended sessions are popular for A level and in the lead-up to all big exams. Around half happens online – these pupils mainly live in the South East, with others living all over the UK and beyond into Africa, Singapore and Dubai. The other half is in-person tutoring at the pupil’s home – mainly in London but also Surrey, Devon, Bristol, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Northern Ireland.
Want some tutoring for your child while you’re on your hols? Capital can help via their residential tutoring service. Home schooling? Yep, they can help out here too. ‘We’ve even written our own curricula for students.’ Capital also partners with exam centres and can help arrange early A levels in November or January (eg for applying to US universities which won’t take predicted grades). While Capital is happy to organise tutoring for all subjects, a hybrid model is also popular whereby a pupil studies, say, two A levels in college and a slightly more obscure one with Capital.
GCSE revision courses run during October and February half terms and Easter holidays, and there are A level group lessons from March-May in maths, biology and chemistry. A nice touch are the free maths workshops for GCSE students in January and February – these run on eight consecutive Saturday mornings just after the mocks when panic sets in.
Definitely an agency to consider for SEN, thanks to Capital’s specialist teachers (including SENCos) available for eg slow processing, dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD, hearing impairments, autism etc. 'They surprised me in how knowledgeable they were about ADHD – I've sometimes listened in and can tell the tutor just gets it.’ ‘My son can play up, but the tutor is always firm but fair and feedback is brilliant – I can’t imagine him not being in my son’s life now.’ ‘My daughter has come on leaps and bounds.’
Background and basics
Parents like that all tutors (except those for music, LAMDA etc) are teacher trained. ‘You can really tell,’ said one. ‘I’m so done with agencies that give you someone straight out of university; Capital’s tutors hit the ground running and are so professional.’ Not that a PGCE, SKITT or TeachFirst qualification alone is enough to bag a tutoring role at Capital – applicants have to jump through other hoops, notably references, safeguarding training, enhanced DBS and the all-important face-to-face interview (although no mock lesson). ‘Absolutely brilliant recruitment process – on a par with being recruited by a school,’ said a tutor. ‘They check and double check everything, and I know they followed up my references because my referees told me,’ voiced another.
Parents praise the in-depth questions that Capital ask them to find the right match: ‘They really took the time to learn about my child’s needs and personality before pairing us with a tutor.’ Details like learning styles, gender preference, academic level, exam board speciality, tuition needs and location are all considered. Clients are then presented with a suitable tutor profile and, if they approve (you can have a phone call with the tutor to make absolutely sure), the two parties get the green light. All happens within one to five days. If Capital can’t help, they're not afraid to say so – recently, for example, when a client requested third year degree level maths tutoring for a Cambridge undergrad.
Four lessons in, the client reviews the tutor, and clients get weekly feedback from the tutor including what was covered during the lesson, areas where the student performed well and areas they need to focus on.
Of the parents we spoke to whose child had completed their tutoring, 100 per cent said they succeeded – and many didn’t have a good starting point. ‘I was dealing with a churlish teenager who had given up on putting in any effort but the tutor’s experience as head of year meant she was used to dealing with kids like him, so he was in very capable hands,' said one mother. 'She managed to re-engage him in his learning journey and that got him to his next stage of schooling.’
Tutors don’t get CPD and there are no get-togethers to share best practice and create a sense of community – a missed opportunity, perhaps. But they do get training on Capital’s online tutoring platform, as well as the ever-changing intricacies of the 11+ - and they have large subject-specific WhatsApp groups to share resources.
Money and small print
Intro/registration fee of £65. For hourly one-to-one lessons, tutors set their own hourly rates and Capital add their mark-up of around 30 per cent. Bottom line for customers is £45-90 an hour. Clients are invoiced at the end of the month and have 14 days to pay. Travel expenses included. One parent was impressed that, ‘When I rejected the initial tutor option due to cost, they were able to come back with tutors more in my price bracket – I'd expected them to say, “We can’t help, that’s how much our tutors are.”’ Both tutors and clients sign a standard contract, including a 24-hour cancellation notice although tutors (it’s up to them, not the company) sometimes waive this if there’s a good reason. GCSE revision courses are £156 per subject, A level courses are £211.20 for 10 weeks.
Capital Tuition Group say
‘We offer an exceptional level of tutoring from qualified teachers who have classroom experience. Many are lead practitioners – heads of subjects, heads of year, deputy heads and even assistant heads, and a lot are examiners, so they know exactly what a student needs to get a better grade. For the 11+, many of the tutors are on the admissions teams of the highly competitive schools our clients are trying to get their child into. So again, they have the edge.’
One of the best agencies for edging up those exam grades, thanks to a first-rate team of teacher trained tutors. Particularly good for GCSEs. ‘My child had a very good relationship with the tutor and his exam results exceeded expectations.’ ‘Made such a difference from the very moment I put a request in.’ ‘Cannot fault the service provided and the inspiring tuition we received.’