Project Shandy Youtube Channel

I am very proud to present the brand new Project Shandy Youtube Channel

As part of my private tuition business, I provide tuition for learners who are aiming to pass their QTS Maths tests. Applicants are required to answer 12 time-limited maths questions without the use of a calculator. There are countless books available, all with questions in to complete for practice. But it is difficult to do without someone reading them to you and timing you to check that you are fast enough. This can be off putting and distracting for many learners who want to develop their skills in private without help and hints from well meaning friends and family.

Last year I tested out the idea of recording the test questions using my smart phone. My learners could then listen to the questions on their phones and tablets with the correct timings in place. The trial was a great success, so now I am expanding this provision into a video channel.

Video is a far more versatile media for these sorts of tests. It allows me to record a timed test for the learner and also to provide written answers and methods for each question. While a book might tell you the answer, it won’t show you the methods you can use or the fastest way of getting to the answer, with hints and tips to shave those vital seconds off your time.

I am hoping that my videos will plug that gap and provide both some private practice and guidance.

The videos will be available free of charge on the Project Shandy Youtube Channel, but I hope that more learners will get in touch for the extra help they might need to boost them through these tests and into a successful application for a teacher training course.

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Why do you charge so much for private tuition?

For the first time since I started providing private tuition, I had someone question my charge rates and as usually happens when I am questioned on any of my decisions, it got me thinking.

I charge £20 an hour for private one-to-one tuition. That might sound a lot, but it is at the cheaper end of the market when compared to what some of the big agencies charge.

Kumon, for example, charge upwards of £50 per month, on top of a registration fee of £30, but expect children to complete work independently, often at home rather than in a study centre, with a teacher to ‘observe’ them rather than guide them, and are not willing to vary their provision to match a child’s school needs.

Maths Doctor charge at least £20 an hour (although you have to commit to 10 hours minimum to get that rate) and up to £50 for one off lessons.

I had an interview with a local Tutor Doctor franchisee a few years ago who told me he expected tutors to charge £37.50 per hour minimum. This was to cover the tutor fee, the franchisee wage and the percentage expected by Tutor Doctor. One charge for three wages! No wonder it was so expensive for parents.

So when you consider those options, £20 per hour isn’t too bad.

Especially when you take the following into consideration; for every hour I spend with a private tuition student, I spend another hour outside of the lesson on their work and progress. This might include searching for/designing resources, finding exam papers online, reading work and marking it, planning lessons, writing up feedback, reading set texts and making notes, completing sample answers… the list goes on. So you’re actually paying me £20 for two hours work, £10 per hour. It’s just that for one of those hours I’m not with your child.

If I work full time for £10 per hour, that’s still a healthy wage. 35 hours a week times 52 weeks a year works out at £18,200. Although it’s worth noting that this is about £3000 less than a starting teacher’s wage in a UK school.

However – that’s if you work full time. Which not many private tutors do. I work 10 hours a week max on private tutoring. So my wages are actually about £5,200 per year, at most. And out of any wages, every private tutor who is at all respectable will have to pay the following costs:

  • Tax (because I work outside of tutoring, I lose 20% – which is £1,040 – to the tax man straight away)
  • National Insurance (I still have to pay my class 2 contributions, even though my class 4s are paid through my day job)
  • Stationary costs – printing, paper, pens, my laminator and slicer, etc
  • Resource costs – books, worksheets, DVDs, downloads from websites…
  • Union costs – Unions provide local training, legal support and help tutors keep up to date with qualification and curriculum changes
  • Membership of professional bodies – eg Institute for Learning. I have to pay these fees to keep my Qualified Teacher and Learning Status
  • Qualifications – my level 4 certificate in Advice and Guidance cost me over £200 in contributions
  • Travel costs – fuel and all associated car costs
  • Advertising costs – business cards, fliers, pages on agency websites. You wouldn’t find me without these.

All of these are important practical concerns that I need to take into account when I sign someone up and agree an hourly rate. There’s not actually that much profit left at the end of all that, although I am able to claim tax relief at the end of the year for some of it. Which involves being organised and conscientious about receipts and records and filing – administration time, yet another thing which needs factoring into this job.

However, those aren’t the things that are worth the cost of what you pay. Those are my problems, not yours. What you pay me for is something that’s not easily quantifiable.

I only tutor at weekends and evenings, because I work 9 to 5. Which means you are also paying me for my evening and weekend time, which should be my down time, my rest time to spend on my own interests and with my family/friends. I give that up to tutor you and your kids. Please don’t gripe about it.

You are paying me for my increased and prolonged energy levels, for my display of enthusiasm and my constant positive attitude even though I have had a long day and I am tired before I even get to you.

You are paying me for the wealth of tricks I have amassed to engage and encourage your disaffected teenagers in a subject which has become the bane of their lives, for a knowledge and explanation and confidence boost which you have probably already tried to provide and found yourselves unable to manage.

You are paying me for my ability to find new ways to explain something to you or your child when you possibly haven’t understood it since you were six years old.

You are paying me for something which a classroom environment cannot provide for your child. Or something that a classroom environment has not been able to provide for you. For undivided attention, focus, security, the ability to divert from a set plan and tackle those individual needs without disrupting 29 other educations.

You are paying me for the fact that I can give you or your child careers advice and suggestions/options for future study as well as teaching them the subject they are struggling with.

You are paying me for my expertise, my qualifications and my experience. For my years of training and professional development. For every government and Ofsted report I have read. For every exam syllabus that I know backwards. Teachers who work in a school might need to know one. Or two, maybe. I need to know them all – because all of my learners are at difference schools, different ages, doing different classes, preparing for different exams.

I don’t do this for the money. Well, OK, I do, it is nice to get that little boost to my salary I will admit. But when I add up the hours, the effort, the weekends, the evenings, the late nights, the tiredness, the extra work and the pressure of putting myself under this extra strain – I do wonder whether it is worth the money I get.

But the thing is – of course it is. Because the satisfactions I get from it are not all to do with money, and they far outweigh the money. Satisfaction for me has come from some hard to quantify and yet easy to understand places.

Like the two phone calls I got from women who had passed their maths equivalency tests and achieved their EYPS after their university threw mock exams at them with no tuition and expected them to do the work themselves.

Or the three learners who are now qualified teachers after finally mastering the timed mental maths tests.

Or the sixteen year old girl who achieved a D grade in her maths GCSE after being predicted a U grade, who was accepted onto the college course she wanted.

Or the fifteen year old girl who raised her English grade from a C to an A* in three months.

I get satisfaction from other places too. Which are even harder to quantify or put a price on.

Like the 10 year old who tells me she has been looking forward to working on this story all week.

Or the 14 year old who dreads double English who told me that my session ‘didn’t feel like two hours at all’ and who asked how soon she could come back.

Or the 14 year old body who had been out of school for 2 years who wrote me four pages of independent research on the Civil Rights movement and a three page essay on why Ben Affleck was going to make a great Batman.

Or the text I got at Christmas from an adult learner who had finally worked out how to calculate percentages and stuck to her budget for Christmas shopping for the first time in her life.

I get satisfaction every time someone says to me ‘I get it now’ and they actually do.

I don’t do this job for the money. I would be an horrifically bad teacher if I did. But that doesn’t mean the money’s not important. And I certainly don’t think I’m overcharging at £20 per hour’s tuition when you’re getting all of that into the bargain.

Next time you question what a professional is charging you – think about what you’re getting in return. And perhaps then you’ll understand why it is money well spent.


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Another Mathematics Rant

What do you need maths for? Why do we study calculus, trigonometry, Pythagoras’ theorem and all that stuff?

Have you ever looked at a bridge? Let’s say the Forth Bridge in Edinburgh.

Here’s a picture:

Forth Rail Bridge

See all those little triangles? Why do bridges use triangles? Because they are the rigid and most stable of shapes. How can we calculate that, besides by expensive and dangerous trial and error? Mathematics. Without understanding Maths, engineers wouldn’t be able to build bridges like this.

They also wouldn’t be able to build tall buildings. Have you ever seen the inside of a sky scraper? The girders are made of triangles. Because they’re more secure than square/rectangle shapes.

Other shapes that are interesting – that number ‘Pi’, the one that gave you headaches for the area and perimeter of circles and spheres? Why on earth would we need to know that?

How many circles and spheres can you think of? Wheels, cogs, discs, cans, towers, soccer balls, wrecking balls, jeez, I could go on… The size of these things and their relation to other things quite literally makes modern life carry on. Actually thinking about it, the theory of circles and their related physics also makes the world go around…

Earth From Space

Every think of that?

When boats sail, planes fly, satellites orbit, somebody needs to know how to calculate all of those distances and relations and things. You like your satnav? Isn’t GPS great? It wouldn’t work if someone mucked up those calculations.

And on to calculus. Equations. Statistics.

What do you think informs medical science? It’s not just about recognising the results in a lab – it’s about being able to analyse the data. Work out probabilities. Being able to produce those findings in a graph which can be understood by people without than understanding. I guarantee you the scientists doing the research are more able mathematicians than the bankers funding their projects. How do you convince the money-men to give you more cash to continue the work you’re doing on curing a cancer without being able to analyse numbers, make them behave and using them to prove your point persuasively?

The most common response I have heard to my rants on this subject is: But why do we all have to do it in high school when not all of us are going to do these jobs?

It’s because everyone should be given the chance to.

Not all of you will get to college. It’s a sad but true fact.

But the vast vast majority of you will get to some form of high school. You will have access to education at that time and place for free and THAT is the time to examine and experiment and decide whether or not you are capable of understanding mathematics and the basics of theoretical physics.

We need more maths capable people in this world. We need inventors and scientists and engineers and creators and innovators who understand the literal rules of how our physical world works. The point behind understanding mathematics is so that we are not reinventing the wheel every time someone has a new bright idea. Knowing how maths and physics dominate this world’s reality can be a spring board to some pretty awesome stuff.

That sort of knowledge and potential should be explored when people are young and their brains are unfolding and – most importantly – when education is free and universal.

That’s why you need to look at trig and calculus and Pythagoras in high school. For everyone whose brain gets bent, there will be another person who is lit up and inspired. They might invent your new gadget, your new car, a new modern convenience which revolutionises life. They might change your world forever. You might hate it. But they might love it. So pay attention, work your hardest and if it really is all Greek to you, shut up and sit tight and hope that one of your classmates might change the world as a result of everything they’re hearing sat in that exact same room as you right now.

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