Who are they?
Young Giants Tutoring
1 Empire Mews
London SW16 2BF
We have met with Young Giants’ staff. In addition, 20 clients and 21 tutors have completed an on-line survey (sent to 24 clients and 47 tutors) and we have followed this up with additional short phone interviews with some of those surveyed. For an explanation of the different tutor sections in the Good Schools Guide see which tutor agency?
Young Giants Tutoring staff
The seed for Young Giants was sown when Jaime Johnson (BA in fine art from Northumbria, PGCE with dyslexia support specialism from Greenwich, plus a second PGCE in primary education from Nottingham) registered as a tutor with another agency back in 2014. Having clocked up nine years’ worth of teaching experience - including in primary schools, further and higher education and two stints in Malawi (once as a teacher in an international school, then later as a teacher trainer in an orphan school) - she decided that tutoring was more conducive to pregnancy and looming parenthood (she’s now a mother of two).
Alas, her experience of said agency was not a positive one. Jaime – whom we found open, likable, serene and clear-sighted - knew more than the trainer, was given no support ‘and it was clear they took on anyone that asked to join’. Bottom line, she says, is that while parents saw the dazzling website and shiny offices, ‘they’d have been horrified if they saw how things worked behind the scenes’. ‘I could run an agency better than that’, she proclaimed to her husband that evening. ‘Go on then!’ he said. And so, in September 2016, Young Giants was born with Jaime having since taken on an assistant (unusually, won’t disclose name) who specialises in tutor/student matching, scheduling and recruitment and is a mum of two herself. Plan is to take on another who – like them – will work remotely from home, although Young Giants also uses the The Hideaway, a shared working space opposite Streatham station to interview tutors and run workshops.
Parents say Jaime ‘goes well beyond the call of duty’ – ‘always offering sound advice’, ‘helped me figure out exactly what we needed’, ‘is a kind and genuine person,’ ‘is very clear and professional’ etc. One even told us, ‘I’ve got to the point where Jaime feels like a friend because she clearly cares so much’. The assistant, too, is described as ‘friendly and relaxed’, ‘always responsive’ and ‘really committed – you don’t get the sense the staff are just in it for the money’.
What do they offer?
Child-centred, teacher-led tutoring. As such, the 50-ish tutors – a mixture of undergraduates right through to experienced teachers – all have to share the agency’s philosophy of ensuring the child feels in control of their learning at all times. While it’s tempting to imagine scenes of precocious kids waving their rulers at the tutors, what it actually means is teaching through a child’s natural interests and positioning topics into real world scenarios, which parents told us makes the tutoring both ‘more engaging’ and ‘more meaningful’. ‘My child really looks forward to his weekly tutoring,’ we heard time and time again. Even with 11+ (the bulk of this agency’s work, after which it’s 10+), the child is involved in the planning, assessment and reflection. ‘It’s about understanding why you’re learning, not just learning for the sake of it,’ said a tutor. Other tutors can’t get enough of it either – ‘Young Giant’s ethos is about ensuring no child is left behind’, ‘They help children overcome barriers to learning,’ ‘It’s all about a positive, encouraging learning style,’ etc. Many told us they’d jumped ship from other agencies purely because of it.
Parents appear to be equally delighted, with the vast majority telling us the main benefit is improved confidence – from schoolwork to homework to tests and beyond. ‘Unlike other agencies, they are all about helping children with their confidence, rather than focusing purely on their grades – my daughter looked forward to her tutoring, rather than seeing it as something imposed on her,’ said one. ‘Our tutor really cared and really embraced her visual learning style – she even bought her a book on strong women when she left,’ said another.
Young Giants also provides tutoring in primary teaching (though a couple of tutors feel Young Giants don’t do enough of this), all GCSE and A level subjects (especially maths and science), IB, ESOL and university applications mentoring. They do a little, though not much, home schooling, as well as being employed by the local authority to tutor children funded by supplementary tuition and those not in mainstream school. But no residentials or Skype.
Around 15 to 20 per cent of tutors have qualifications and/or experience to cope not just with mild to moderate cases of SEN but those with EHCPs – and it’s an area Jaime wants to grow. ‘Young Giant’s unique, holistic approach to education really develops the child’s enthusiasm and eagerness to learn and is particularly valuable for students with learning difficulties,’ reckoned one tutor, while a parent of a child with SEN told us, ‘Our tutor turned English from a subject [our son] hated into his absolute favourite – he has so much fun in the lesson that my other one became jealous and asked for tutoring too’.
Hats off to Jaime for refusing to tutor anyone under six – ‘I don’t want to be part of something that will cause a child stress, it’s just not what we’re about,’ she says. Occasionally, they tutor adults, usually for languages.
Most tutoring involves weekly one-hour sessions at the family’s home – majority live in S and SW postcodes including Wandsworth, Merton, Richmond, Lambeth, Southwark, Kensington and Chelsea. And watch this space for forthcoming workshops. ‘We have these amazing tutors on our books – from novelists to actors to scientists and want to make the most of them,’ says Jaime. First on the list will be a creative writing workshop inspired by His Dark Materials; then, a series of parent workshops on topics such as SEN, school choice and entry and university applications. Other children’s workshops will be focused on 11+ - specifically applied maths and creative writing ‘as these are often the areas that non prep-schooled children struggle with at point of entry to the independent sector,’ believes Jaime.
Background and basics
Tutors mainly hear about Young Giants through word of mouth or they find them on the internet – in both cases, the main draw is the child-centred approach. Occasionally, the agency advertises on Indeed. Average age of tutors is 32.
The recruitment process is about as rigorous as it gets, but tutors like this – ‘it shows their dedication to professionalism and only taking on the best,’ explained one. Once tutors have sent in their CV with covering letter, there’s initial telephone screening, followed by an in-person interview (never Skype) where tutors give a sample lesson and a short presentation. ‘It’s essential as sometimes you find a tutor is excellent on paper but have a lethargic, completely unmotivating manner or they talk at me not to me – we need people with energy and a concern for the child,’ says Jaime.
‘We use this opportunity to check their documents,’ she adds – two references (both followed up), DBS, and proof of address, ID, right to work in the UK and of highest qualification. Impressively and indeed unusually, any non-teacher trained tutor gets offered training and all tutors are given ongoing supervision to ensure the child is developing to the best of their abilities – ‘it’s so useful,’ said one tutor. In addition, tutors have access to training with Wandsworth LA on areas ranging from self harm to managing behavioural issues – again, tutors rave about it. Also of note is the fact that Young Giants has passed a quality assurance inspection from the LA, meaning their safer recruitment and safeguarding policies have to be as watertight as a school (and all tutors receive annual child safeguarding training if not received elsewhere).
Matching is the easy bit, says Jaime - ‘Because we are a small agency, we usually know which tutors will be best usually before the call with the client has even finished.’ Within around a week, often sooner, the family is offered up to three to pick from – ‘the calibre of tutor and level of detail is amazing,’ said a parent. Tutors told us they are able to hit the ground running because, as one puts it, ‘Young Giants are so detailed about who you’re meeting and what the parents are looking for that I knew exactly what to expect and what to prepare’.
Every client gets a follow up call following the first session, then ‘periodically and when appropriate’ after that. Young Giants told us tutors are called even more regularly to check on students’ progress, although one told us ‘this could be a bit more frequent, in my view’. Tutors are expected to give regular written reports, though some parents request verbal feedback at the end of each lesson instead.
Money and small print
No joining fee. Parents pay up front for the first session and are invoiced at the end of each month thereafter (no money back from that first lesson if you don’t like your tutor – but you can switch them). Rates start at £35 for undergrads (usually for homework support), rising incrementally (dependent on the tutors’ experience) to £65 for a qualified teacher tutor and £65 for a specialist SEN trained tutor. In most cases, the agency’s cut is £15, although with ‘experienced tutors’ it’s £16 and with ‘super experienced tutors’ it’s £18. Both client and tutor sign a contract – take particular note of the 24 hour notice period for cancelling sessions, although there is some leeway when it comes to illness etc.
Young Giants Tutoring say
‘We want to grow, but never so large that we don’t know our tutors personally. Our main purpose is to develop the learning and confidence of the student and we don’t feel we can do that effectively if we don’t know the very people we are matching them with.’
Although they offer boosters and last minute revision, we didn’t get the sense that hothousing is this agency’s bag. But if you want to ignite your child’s curiosity for a particular subject and ultimately improve their confidence, then this south west London agency will be just the ticket. The fact that they are friendly, personal and ethical wins them even more brownie points.