Who are they?
Harrison Allen Education Services Ltd
13 Earlsfield Rd
Tel 0208 874 0233
Fax 0208 870 2331
We have visited and had extensive consultation with Harrison Allen. For an explanation of the different tutor sections see which tutor agency?
Harrison Allen staff
Sheila Allen and Julie Harrison began Harrison Allen way back in 1989. The key members of the team are Nicola Smith, Karen Abbott, Rosa Coakley and Pippa Harris, who together run the show from the top floor of a large Victorian house, five minutes from Wandsworth Common. The team's energy, enthusiasm and clear pleasure in their work is palpable and this beady old GSG editor wanted to roll up her chalky sleeves and get in there. Julie explains that ‘Nicola brings her extensive experience to the business in a wise, diplomatic and charming way. She is critical to the strong relationships which we value so highly with clients and tutors.’ Nicola is equally complimentary about Julie, saying ‘Julie’s wealth of knowledge in the education sector and specifically her astute recruitment of excellent tutors are key factors in how we maintain high professional standards in everything that we do’. Both work in conjunction with tutor manager, Pippa, while finance and operational efficiency is down to Karen.
What do they offer?
A very large and impressive range of services. Tutoring for individual children paid for by their own families is a modest percentage of what they do. Much of the other work is providing tuition for children funded by local authorities including children in care or who have been excluded from schools. This means Harrison Allen is ‘quality assured inspected’ by local authorities - good reassurance for parents on all aspects of the business.
The local authority and schools work of Harrison Allen can mean anything from supplementary lessons for those children who, for some reason, have missed some of their education, to providing alternative schooling for those few who simply cannot go to school. These children – mostly helped individually – may be taught at school, at home, in a special centre or even in the delightful, large, bright and comfortable classroom next to the office.
This has benefits for ordinary families whose children have gone adrift in the system, as many of Harrison Allen’s tutors have far more experience of, and less fear of, dealing with children with very particular needs. Whereas other agencies turn pale at the thought of children with behavioural problems, Harrison Allen don’t and indeed their tutors excel at providing high class education often in difficult circumstances.
As to the bread-and-butter work of mainstream, after-school tuition, this is mostly in south-west London but now increasingly further afield, eg from Putney, Richmond, Barnes, Chelsea, Dulwich, Wimbledon to the north London boroughs. Harrison Allen offer all the usual subjects at all levels but gladdened our hearts by saying, ‘We hesitate to take on children under five years because we believe that such young children should be allowed to develop at their natural pace and tutoring does not seem appropriate for this age group’ – wise words. They also offer less obvious subjects, eg modern and ancient Greek, Mandarin, photography, film and media studies. They have several tutors with SEN qualifications and/or experience as well as associate educational psychologists who can offer assessments.
They offer a lot more including intensive revision during the Easter holidays for GCSEs IB and A levels. There continues to be an increasing demand for help with common entrance and pre-test support and 11+ preparation.
Staff also spend much time talking with parents and, unlike many agencies (which count the minutes they spend speaking to you and then bill you), they feel it to be part of the close personal relationship they build with clients and an essential side of their commitment to the work.
Background and basics
Tutors of all ages. All are graduates and/or trained and experienced teachers, some are quite eminent in their own fields and several are taking further degrees. All prospective tutors are carefully interviewed, present a teaching CV and the originals of their qualifications and are enhancd DBS checked. References are taken up and all tutors are monitored once assignments begin.
As some teaching takes place on the premises, the Harrison Allen team is able to observe how it is done. Most tuition arrangements are made over the phone or by email, though clients are welcome to drop in and many do. Feedback from clients is most welcome. Ad hoc training is given where needed especially on matters to do with the children in local authority care. Harrison Allen has good relationships with a number of schools in the area (and further afield) and these schools will often refer pupils for extra help. Such schools include Emanuel, JAPS, Alleyns, Wimbledon, Putney and Streatham & Clapham Highs, Canbury, Burntwood, Dulwich College and Francis Holland.
Money and small print
Both clients and tutors have a contract. Individual lesson fees start from £57 for up to GCSE and from £64 for A level with a nominal travel fee for each visit to the client’s home. There are no ‘hidden’ charges, for example no registration fee, and all their rates are published clearly on their website.
Harrison Allen say
‘We are a small, personal organisation providing a bespoke service to clients. We pride ourselves on a high level of professionalism and efficiency. All our clients matter and we willingly spend time listening to and advising parents – we have an open door. The more information we have about a student the better we feel we are equipped to make an appropriate tutor placement. Likewise, our tutors are very important to us and at the heart of our approach is the teacher’s ability to be flexible. We’ve been doing this for 30 years and we really enjoy it.’
Parents say: 'She has been a wonderful tutor for our daughter. She's creative, fun, conscientious and they have forged a real bond over the months they've worked together.' Tutors concur, ‘ They’re very good employers, efficient, supportive and they pay well... they know their tutors’ strengths and weaknesses and match pupil to tutor very successfully... I’ve had wonderful students!’
The most infectiously enthusiastic team we have encountered. All our tutor agencies are run by wonderfully committed people, but there is a unique sense of enjoyment here. Confident in what they do (borne out by their impressive range of services and the length of time they have been doing it), this is an unpretentious but top class organisation which other parts of London – and the rest of the country – could well look to and emulate.