Who are they?
124 Cromwell Road
London SW7 4ET
We have met with Expert Tuition’s staff. In addition, 36 clients and 26 tutors have completed an on-line survey (sent to 161 clients and 51 tutors) and we have followed this up with additional short phone interviews with some of those surveyed.
Expert Tuition staff
Founder and director Ahmed Alaskary (30s) was a whippersnapper of just 15 when he started tutoring – all the more impressive when you consider that he went to one of the worst performing state schools in the country. ‘Let’s be realistic,’ came the response when Ahmed suggested his GCSE media studies class should be aiming for A*s, rather than the As and Bs that the teacher was suggesting. Determined to prove his teacher wrong, not just for himself but his classmates, Ahmed swotted up and tutored them at lunchtimes in the library. By the end of year 10, he was teaching up to 30 students in maths, chemistry, biology, English, history and media studies both at lunchtimes and after school. Lo and behold, results shot up, Ahmed secured a place at a top sixth form (Tiffin) and the first seed of Expert Tuition – which he officially founded in 2012 - was sown.
Ahmed – who continued tutoring throughout his sixth form, his government and economics degree at LSE and various financial sector internships – still tutors during evenings, as well as A level economics courses and he also has a YouTube channel with economics videos.
Company HQ, despite the postal address, is in residential Edgware, where Ahmed shares an office with Sama Kasim (operations manager) and Diana Jugan (head of recruitment and HR). Nomaan Bukhari, who co-founded the company with Ahmed, has now left to work for McKinsey & Co in Dubai.
Tutors told us Ahmed is not only ‘one of the most knowledgeable economics teachers I have ever come across,’ but that he’s ‘incredibly supportive and loyal to his staff and clients.’ Responsive too – ‘you’ll rarely wait longer than a few minutes for a response by text or email,’ said one. Parents are equally in awe – ‘It has been a privilege to get to know Ahmed and his team – they provide an exemplary service,’ said one. All comes down to them being warm, approachable, professional and meticulous when it comes attention to detail in everything from recruitment to matching and beyond, we discovered.
What do they offer?
It was when Ahmed got into Tiffin for sixth form that he began to notice the massive difference it makes when (a) teachers place higher expectations on students and (b) students are taught the minutiae of exam techniques. These were to become the hallmarks of Expert Tuition, which parents told us remain the company’s USPs. We could barely get some of these parents off the phone once they’d started waxing lyrical about the confidence that Ahmed’s team of tutors had instilled in their offspring, along with the nuts and bolts of how to get through exam day. ‘These excellent tutors have helped my three children gain a better understanding of their subjects, develop excellent exam techniques and – most of all – believe in themselves,’ said one. Tutors were consistently rated good or very good by families we surveyed – not one said their tutor was average or lower.
The vast majority are tutored for A levels, though the company also offers tutoring at 7+, 8+, 11+, 13+, KS2 and KS3 maths, English and science, as well as GCSEs, IB, Pre-U and university tuition. They also offer aptitude test preparation, CV assistance, proof reading and editing and cover letter assistance.
Most tutoring takes place on an hourly basis at students’ homes in St John’s Wood, Maida Vale, Hampstead, Highgate, Golders Green, Hendon, Edgware, West Hampstead, East Finchley, Finchley and Kensington, though Ahmed is keen to expand further into south London and beyond and of course the pandemic has led to an increase of online tutoring. Occasionally, Expert Tuition organises home schooling.
Some of the tutors are SEN trained and can help with eg with ADHD, ASD, dyslexia etc and the company also has links with schools, notably Hasmonean, where it has provided supply teachers, tuition for SEN pupils and one-to-one and small group tuition to GCSE pupil premium students.
Background and basics
Tutors fall into two groups: a handful of more expensive senior tutors who are the most popular due to their experience, results and feedback and the remainder who are generally on the younger side, aged 22-25 – many fresh out of eg UCL, LSE (and a few haven’t even got that far – A levels are the minimum criteria for this company), including some of Ahmed’s ex-students. But no need to worry about the younger tutors not being up to the job (even when you learn that some have never even tutored before), the recruitment and training here is second to none.
In fact, a tutor’s CV counts for very little at Expert Tuition – ‘Some of the best CVs I’ve seen turned out to be the worst interviews – that’s why recruitment has to involve conversation and the end result has to be tutors that deliver nothing less than exceptional lessons,’ claims Ahmed.
The first interview is recorded on video via Willow, where candidates are asked about themselves and their experiences; next stage is a 15-minute mock lesson where the agency looks for how well the tutor can explain concepts simply, how much they involve the student in the lesson, how they build up confidence, the structure of the session, how well they adapt to student responses and the pace of the lesson. For every 10, only a couple pass the test – for the rest, it’s a ‘thanks but no thanks’ or a recognition of potential and talent, for which they’re invited to training (with the successful applicants) and to re-apply.
Training is thorough, say tutors, focusing on techniques and methods for top-notch tutoring – use of body language, true listening, building up a rapport etc. Everyone, bar none, does it, along with providing references (two professional or academic) and an enhanced DBS. And because of the reputation the company has developed for A*s for economics A level, they have separate supplementary training specially for economics tutors. Further one-to-one training is also available. ‘It’s definitely a stand out point of the company,’ said one tutor.
But matching is where the real magic happens. Ahmed asks parents everything, from their child’s interests to the exam board in question and if the tutor he has in mind isn’t available, he’ll pop it on the tutors’ jobs board (this was the source of the tutors’ only real niggle – that the board is not updated regularly enough when jobs have been taken). ‘But it’s not like other agency’s job boards where the matching is essentially done by a computer. If he doesn’t think he can find exactly the right fit, he’ll have no hesitation in telling the client – he’d rather be honest than risk his reputation,’ said a tutor. ‘For a younger child, he’d only consider someone that’s fun, for someone who only wanted a female tutor, he’d only go for that, and so on,’ another explained. On the rare occasions the parent doesn’t think the tutor is quite right (‘One turned them down for being too posh!’ says Ahmed), then he’ll switch them.
Tutors and parents rate the firm highly for efficiency, being pleasant to deal with and problem solving. ‘Ahmed keeps in touch to make sure you’re happy – you never feel you’re left in the cold,’ said one, and all are asked to review a tutor after 20 hours. Lesson reports are submitted by all tutors (‘I don’t mind doing it, but I’m not sure how often they’re read,’ said one). We lost count of how many parents recommend the firm, with individual tutors praised to the hilt – ‘Ours even WhatsApped on exam day and then again on results day,’ said one parent.
Expert Tutors is a corporate member of the Tutors Association.
Money and small print
Clients are not charged registration or introductory fees and there is no minimum obligation. Payment is once a month for the hours completed that month. Tuition starts at £70 per hour (£80 for senior tutors) going up to (gulp) £180 per hour for the most experienced. Expert Tuition takes around £20-£25 per hour. This is at the higher end of commission in our experience, but neither tutors nor clients seem to mind. In fact, tutors told us they feel ‘very well looked after’, relishing the referral scheme and the fact that they are paid on time regardless of whether clients have paid yet. One told us, ‘I’ve had my fee raised several times, going from generous to even better.’ And we were impressed that Ahmed is looking to extend his pro-bono offering so less fortunate families can have a slice of the cake too. Tutors and clients sign contracts but while this states a 24-hour notice period for cancellations, Ahmed encourages tutors to waive it the first time round.
Expert Tuition say
‘We live by the rather cheesy motto that “it’s better to aim high and miss, than to aim low and hit” – we want our tutors to instil such a belief and resilience into each tutee so that they behave and work like an A* student. Of course, not every child will get an A* or get into St Paul’s School, but missing the A* and getting an A is a better outcome than aiming for, and achieving a B.’
A highly ambitious (they’re keen to grow) and aspirational (they really want their tutees to shine) belt-and-braces tutoring service that genuinely cares both for its clients and tutors. Particularly good for A level tutoring.