Who are they?
Griffin + Bell Education Ltd
25-27 Heath Street
81 Fulham Road
London SW3 6RD
Tel: 0203 535 0835
We have visited Griffin + Bell’s offices. In addition, 41 clients and 19 tutors have completed an on-line survey. For an explanation of the different tutor sections in the Good Schools Guide see which tutor agency?
Griffin + Bell staff
Husband and wife team Victoria and Matt Smith run a very personal service (no switchboard), with the help of Luke Fowler and Abraham Hagos, all of whom work from a sundrenched office in Hampstead Village. As of 2019, they have a second office on the Fulham Road. Both are Oxford English graduates who still keep up tutoring, while Luke is the resident maths and science expert, and Abraham handles the invoicing and admin. We found them calm, measured, knowledgeable and judicious.
The ‘small is beautiful’ ethos goes down a treat with parents - ‘This small company is easy to deal with, efficient and professional. ‘It’s great to deal with Victoria and Matt – they really get to know you, and because they also really get to know their tutors, they only send good quality people that are right for you.’ And so on, with parent after parent raving about how pleasant and helpful they are and how they keep in close contact at all times. Likewise, tutors say they feel really cared. ‘It’s my favourite tuition company to work for’ soon seemed like the mantra for this agency.
What do they offer?
All academic subjects from primary to degree level, including the IB and Pre-U syllabus. School entrance exams (7+, 11+, 13+, 16+ to independent and selective grammar schools). Oxbridge preparation, preparation for the BMAT and Medical School Applications, UCAS mentoring and study skills. Languages, including French, Spanish, German, Italian, Hebrew, Mandarin, Russian, Japanese, Latin, Greek, Farsi and EFL. There’s a strong creative slant too, with tuition offered in drama, instrumental music, singing, public speaking, photography, film-making and fine art. ‘I’m a writer and Victoria used to be a professional actress,’ explains Matthew. They also work with adult learners.
Fear not if you think your chosen subject is too obscure – they won’t be fazed. ‘We have recently found tutors to teach chess, computer-programming, nature drawing and business Ethics.’ They’re open to suggestions for courses too, with potential plans for new classes including creating writing, public speaking and GCSE revision – all at the request of clients.
A number of tutors are experienced in SEN and the agency collaborates with an education psychology and speech and language therapist where required. ‘We can work in tandem with SEN departments in schools,’ adds Victoria, albeit with most SEN students at the mild to moderate end. Part-time and full-time home schooling is also on the agenda for those who prefer a more bespoke approach, which incorporates consultancy and support throughout every home school project.
They cover all boroughs of London (although heartlands are North London and Chelsea), as well as Oxford and the home counties, with tutoring almost always taking place in the client’s home, though occasionally in the tutors’ home, while adult learners usually opt for neutral venues like cafés and libraries. Residential placements throughout the UK and worldwide. ‘And recently, we’ve started to arrange some ‘tutor-nannies’ and governors/governesses for families looking for more regular support too,’ adds Victoria. Online tutoring also a growth area.
Their 11+ courses (which run six times per year) generally sell out, with an impressive track record of results and entrance into the likes of St Paul’s, Westminster, UCS, Highgate, NLCS, SHHS, Latymer Upper, City of London (Boys and Girls), Channing, Habs’, Merchant Taylors’, Winchester, Wycombe Abbey and Eton. They also run GCSE revision courses, periodic creative writing workshops and 7+/8+ mocks tests. Then, there’s the consultancy, which Victoria provides, and assessments - both chargeable by the hour. Parents like the comprehensive offerings of this company, although some said they’d like to see more mock tests offered for different year groups.
Background and basics
The business started life in 2011 as Hampstead Village Tutors Ltd – Victoria and Matt had worked as tutors for agencies for five years, since they were 21. Three years later, they were getting client requests from all over London and decided to widen their provision to include the likes of courses, consultancy and tutor nanny work – hence the need for the name change.
Approximately 130 families are now on their books, with 125 active tutors when we visited. ‘We constantly get applications from tutors,’ says Victoria, although most go by the wayside as they’ll only consider tutors with a II.i or higher degree from a top university (two thirds are Oxbridge; the rest Russell Group or top international universities), and who have exceptional academic grades throughout their secondary education, as well as proven experience in educational roles. ‘We prioritise finding experienced tutors and professional teachers – that’s what we’re known for,’ says Matthew. ‘In fact, we’ve toyed with the idea of never accepting any less experienced tutors, but it would wipe out a whole price bracket for parents – and anyway, we know from our own experiences that it is possible to give good tutoring when you’re a recent graduate - so we do take some tutors for some families, as young as 22 and 23.’
All tutors have a face-to-face interview with Matt or Victoria, including a mock lesson. ‘This ascertains their planning skills, teaching methods and inspirational qualities,’ explains Victoria. Once references, DBS checks etc are completed, detailed, regularly updated profiles of each tutor are drawn up for matching. Not for Griffin and Bell the regular mail-outs for tutors to reply to if they’re interested in a particular placement. ‘Instead, we individually phone the tutor we feel is most suited to the client, according to their character and experience,’ says Victoria. ‘Victoria listens very carefully and tries to deliver what clients want. She’s always given us very high calibre, appropriate tutors,’ one parent told us. ‘This company clearly takes great care to pair students with the right tutor,’ a maths tutor added. ‘For example, I’m better at working with more advanced students and am not great at working with much simpler concepts. So they send me people who aren’t struggling, but want to be stretched. Moreover, they give me detailed descriptions of clients – including exactly their strengths and weaknesses lie and what they are looking for in a tutor so I can go in ready to give them exactly what they need.’
No training provided for tutors, but they don’t mind. ‘I can’t imagine what kind of training they could give me – you’d need someone equally qualified in the maths I’m teaching and that’s rare,’ said one, although resources are readily available and regularly called on.
Client feedback is sought after the first session and casual contact is maintained thereafter (with a definite call every three months). Feedback from tutors is kept flexible – anything from a weekly chat after the lesson to formal written assessment every month. Tutors praise the ‘youthfulness’ of the tutors (average age 29), who include teachers, writers, playwrights and city workers. ‘They are a young, vibrant, engaged group,’ said one. ‘They are great, young and committed tutors – very impressed,’ confirmed another.
Money and small print
New clients are charged a one-off registration fee of £90, but this is only charged once you’ve met and vetted the tutor. After don’t worry about a double whammy as clients can request more/replacement tutors without incurring further introduction costs. Tutors write up their own contracts, with Griffin + Bell claiming ‘it empowers tutors’, with most stipulating a two week notice period. Tutors also set their own fees (with a bit of advice from the agency), which they then top up to result in an hourly rate that ranges from £55-£100 per hour for clients. No cut or commission, says the firm. Instead, tutors pay them an admin fee based on earnings, ranging from £15 to £25 per hour. No extras for travel. Courses are £395 (4 mornings); assessments and consultancy is £150 per hour.
Griffin + Bell say
‘We don’t believe in a top down approach,’ says Matt. ‘We bring in tutors that are brilliant at what they do and we trust them to manage client relationships, calling on us for any resources they need.’ But don’t be fooled into thinking this is a mere introduction service. Matt and Victoria are the beating heart of this agency, which specialises in tailoring tutoring to client needs.
‘They are honest, professional and provide very high quality tutors,’ summed up one parent. Another commented, ‘They are rigorous, professional, reliable and understand needs and can set clear targets and make sensible suggestions. Flexible in their attitude, and approachable.’
We heard a few instances of things going wrong – usually where a tutor placement didn’t work out – but parents told us things were quickly rectified. And we also heard how they go the extra mile. ‘I wanted something between a nanny and a tutor – someone to oversee homework – and they found me just the right person,’ said a parent.
Ans one parent puts it, ‘It’s on the more expensive side, particularly for more experienced tutors, but it’s absolutely my favourite. They’re honest, on the ball and have the best quality tutors.’ds