Who are they?
The Fulham Study LLP
136-144 New King’s Road
London SW6 4LZ
Tel: 020 7610 9754
We have visited The Fulham Study’s offices. In addition, 39 clients and 14 tutors have completed an on-line survey and we have followed this up with additional short phone interviews with some of those surveyed.
The Fulham Study’s staff
Praised by parents for warmth and empathy and by an employee as ‘motherly, lovely but firm,’ dyslexia specialist Carol Cox started tutoring local children in her basement at home as a favour to parents worried about looming entrance exams.
In 2013, when tutees were packing every room, she moved into a bright, light space in the New King’s Road. Big enough for three or four small classes to run simultaneously during term-times, it also has glass-panelled (and soundproofed) rooms off to the side, used mainly by GCSE and A level candidates conscious of their veteran status and unwilling to be stuck with the tiddlers. It’s a place children enjoy coming to (‘mine never complain,’ said one mother), especially with nice touches like a table set out with inviting-looking (educational) games for early arrivals to play with.
May sound like organised chaos but works brilliantly, children able to concentrate on their own tutor and enjoying the knowledge that they’re not alone – this is an embarrassment-free zone. ‘They like seeing other children doing the same sort of thing, there’s no feeling of being the only one.’ ‘They love coming here,’ confirms a parent.
Carol, a human dynamo, is here every afternoon and on Saturdays, most Sundays and during a chunk of the school holidays, too, as well as holding down a three day a week post as a dyslexia specialist at a local prep (used to be two). Energetic and highly motivated, she really cares about her pupils – and knows what it’s like to struggle. ‘At school I was the type of child who was graffitiing on the blank white walls which is why I understand how frustrating schools can be,’ she says.
With son Woody keeping the accounts ticking over as well as running touch typing sessions and stepdaughter Gemma - also a dyslexic specialist - working as a tutor, the company has a real family feel. There are also two admin staff, Cerys and Lauren, reported as being ‘thorough and caring’. ‘They take care of absolutely everything, from bookings to lost property and all the timetabling for each term,’ says Carol. Plus, Ben Walker is new head of the junior support.
Carol is much in demand and praised for going above and beyond call of duty. In addition to running classes herself – a half term 11+ preparation session was in full flow during our visit – she’s also on call to worried parents - who appreciate what one describes as her deep knowledge of local schools.
‘She has strong knowledge of what is needed to achieve success and knows the different schools if there is a particular good fit with the student,’ says one.
What do they offer?
A hard working bunch, the tutors (48 in total) put in the hours (10 per cent tutored for 20 hours a week or more) and rate the firm highly – 100 per cent would recommend it to potential tutors and customers. Among them are five specialist dyslexic teachers (on staff), three qualified teachers and a mix of vocational tutors and London university students (King’s and UCL). Few, if any, work for anyone else. A few parents say the less experienced can lack in-depth knowledge about schools but the positive adjectives flow thick and fast: ‘Friendly, calm, well-informed, straightforward, flexible,’ Above all, they’re confidence builders. ‘Improved daughter’s knowledge, but more importantly allowed her self-confidence to grow,’ said parent.
Some tutors have formal teaching qualifications, others don’t but all ‘must adore children,’ says Carol. In addition, they’ll either be educated to degree standard or better or have a specialist qualification (e.g. in learning needs). Potential recruits require DBS checks and at least two referees and, once appointed, training includes shadowing with a termly or twice termly four-hour inset session. Bar the desire by a minority of tutors for a slightly more formal induction programme, was felt to be a great place to work. It’s a ‘fantastic, innovative company,’ said one.
All tuition, one-to-one or group-based, takes place in the study centre, with around 200 families passing through the doors each year. Biggest majority are Fulham-ites, others from Clapham, Kensington and Chelsea, Barnes, Putney, Richmond, Notting Hill, St John’s Wood, Croydon, Hammersmith and Wandsworth. ‘More sessions at home,’ one parent’s wish, is doomed to go un-granted unless you’re situated close to the centre. But Skype sessions have been introduced for families to take advantage of during the school breaks (especially popular during the summer holidays) and they have sent tutors to stay with certain families in places like Boston and Ibiza.
Though they’ll cover everything from Key Stage 1 to UCAS applications, entrance exams (7+, 11+, 13+ and Common Entrance) plus increasingly GCSEs and A level are their main focus – and they have begun to organise a litany of 11+, GCSE and A level clinics, which are very popular. Tutees (who can be as young as five or six when they start) include high flyers, being coached for scholarships at super selective schools. Parents’ wish lists include Eton, Winchester, Benenden, Wycombe Abbey, St Paul’s, KCS, Dulwich, Godolphin & Latymer, Putney High, Wimbledon High, Tiffin – just about every top (London) day and boarding school.
Predictably the greatest demand is for English and maths though a full subject range, including sciences and humanities, is on offer, plus range of languages - Spanish, Latin, French and German to GCSE and A level. Useful add-ons include interview practice, help with handwriting and touch typing sessions – pupils can reach 20 words a minute in 16 hours at the centre – as long as they put in lots of practice at home, stresses Woody (they now also run touch-typing clubs in independent schools).
In addition to after school and holiday tuition, there are also term time sessions during the day – a boon for home schooling families. Adult students with learning disabilities can also be accommodated (though at different times to younger children to avoid safeguarding issues).
Some pupils need short term help, others are here for months or longer. Even when they achieve their goals, families sometimes have to have their fingers gently prized from the front door. ‘They do get a bit dependent on us,’ admits Carol.
Background and basics
Every pupil is assessed by Carol with materials tailored not just to their ability but their confidence levels. ‘If I’m looking at a very anxious child the worst thing I can do is pitch something tough and make them feel they can’t do it from the outset,’ she says. She’ll then match them with one of the 30 tutors, if necessarily recruiting someone new if she feels a particular personality or skillset is needed.
After each lesson the parent is sent a report detailing the progress the child is making and what the next lesson’s focus should be - that same report is kept in the child’s file. ‘We pride ourselves on keeping immaculate files (these are checked weekly). If a tutor is taken ill, we can have another tutor step in and take over without a hitch.’
Parents felt it delivered. Of those who responded, over 95 per cent said their children had got to where they wanted and an almost equally high proportion were confident that their children were on track to succeed.
Money and small print
An initial informal, suggested assessment costs parents £120 (one hour and a half) with tutoring costing between £62.50 to £73.50 an hour. Tutors are paid a minimum hourly rate of £30. The unlimited - free - access to Carol is acknowledged to be a valuable extra.
What The Fulham Study says
Our model works because everyone’s on board. We look in depth at each child and pick a tutor who can fill the confidence and knowledge gaps. It’s a lot of work but rewarding, particularly when children who we’ve helped before ask to come back if they’re having a problem. We give them a boost and off they go again. And if they and their parents are happy, it makes us happy too.
‘In many ways, we run like a school - matching our term times with the local schools. We effectively become a seamless extension of the student’s school day. The exception is the children love coming to us. Which may or may not have something to do with the large bowl of Haribo in the middle of the main teaching room.’
Worth the journey, though best to mug up on parallel parking skills if you plan to drive. ‘This place is a gem - I have no hesitation recommending it,’ says parent.