“A Powerful Tool for Focus”: What Tutors Can Learn from the Success of Rewards Programmes in Schools, with Founder of Great Little Rewards, Katie Tyndale: Podcast Transcript

Ludo Millar
Hello, and welcome to the Qualified Tutor Podcast, the podcast that brings you the latest in the world of tutoring EdTech and education and hopefully inspires in us a big change that each and every one of us is capable of.

Qualified Tutor is an industry-leading tutor training organisation and an online tutoring community for 1000s of tutors around the world. This podcast is the voice of this community, where we aim to hear from tutors, teachers, entrepreneurs, coaches, business experts, students, tutor printers, and more from the world of tutoring about what inspires them every day, how they can help tutors like you and what they’ve learned about tutoring along the way.

The question is, what will you learn today?

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Ludo Millar 1:40
Hello, and welcome to the 136th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name is Ludo Millar, the host of this podcast. Welcome back to our regular listeners. Welcome to any of you for whom this is your first time listening to the Qualified Tutor Podcast and a very warm welcome to our guest today, Katie Tyndale. Katie, welcome to our podcast.

Katie Tyndale 2:15
Hello, thank you.

Ludo Millar 2:16
It’s great to have you here. It’s great to have got to have known you over the last few weeks and months. And I think our conversation today will be one that lots of our listeners haven’t maybe heard too much about before. And I think that’s really important for what you and your business can bring to our audience. So for those of you who haven’t come across Katie before, Katie is the Founder of Great Little Rewards who provide really high-quality and much loved toys and gifts to schools and learning centres across the UK, who can then reward these toys and gifts to students who excel and show achievement and effort and all these kinds of things. I think these rewards that Great Little Rewards create, delivered in partnership with schools, are amazing for incentivisation, motivation of students. That’s their real kind of power.

So we’re going to talk a little bit about that today and how tutors can be a part of that as well. And they are also the sole suppliers of the wonderful and hugely successful Explore Learning, who have tuition centres up and down the country. And Great Little awards, Katie, supplies really all of them. So that’s around about, I think, it’s about 75,000 children, isn’t it, that that partnership is serving, which is just incredible. That’s such a huge number of children that that these rewards are serving. And we were just discussing before we started recording that due to lockdown and due to the kind of necessary changes that were brought there, Katie also set up Copper Beech Trading, who are a kind of fulfilment and logistics company that help small business, micro-businesses deliver all kinds of products to their customers. So that experience, that knowledge will also come into play in this conversation. So Katie, there’s so much to talk about here both your background and in the context of education. But to start with, you know, I often ask this: what is giving you reason to smile today, Katie?

Katie Tyndale 5:04
What is giving me ..? Well, I really enjoy what I do, I’m so lucky to have found a job and an opportunity that gives me the chance to do something I really enjoy. So even when I was- I remember back to when I was young, really young, I used to love kind of, I suppose what would be the equivalent of sort of a Smiggle or a WHSmith now, I used to go to those shops, and I was younger, like 8-9 years old, and choose pencils and rubbers and things like that. And I always really loved doing that. And now I’m a grown up, I get to kind of do that in a more practical sort of way. That works.

Ludo Millar 5:44
Okay, you’ve grown. Exactly. So, I mean, looking at those days from your youth, from your childhood. And perhaps this ties into your exploration of learning more widely, you know, that love of pencils and pencil cases, and rubbers, all that kind of thing. Do you have any tales from what teachers thought of you back then? Or how your school days played out?

Katie Tyndale 6:10
Well, I went to school in London. And so I grew up in southwest London area. And, well, you were asking me earlier about school reports, you mentioned. And funnily enough, I had a look at one this weekend, because I was thinking about what we might be talking about. And it says, “Katie is a very conscientious little girl” is what it said. And I actually think that that’s kind of true for me. So when it comes to things like pencil cases, I would have been that child that would have everything very neatly laid out, everything colour-coded, stickers, and back in the- I grew up in the 80s, there was a big craze for collecting rubbers, erasers. And I used to do all of that all over London, on the bus collecting them, I used to go and collect stickers from all the big places like that. That’s what I used to do. So yes, I don’t know if that answers your question.

Ludo Millar 7:03
No, it does! I think the number of guests for whom, you know, ‘conscientious’ would have been applied is huge. I think working in education in your later life probably often means that you kept a very neat pencil case, as a child. I certainly did as well. Everything had to be very ordered and colour-coded and everything like that. So you are like many, many others in the education space. And perhaps then you could tell us a little bit about how you think, well, what you think your why is today, and whether that conscientiousness, that seeking of perfection and order, do you think that has fuelled that why?

Katie Tyndale 7:45
I think that in terms of why, initially the why was to do with my family. Because I wanted to create a business, which gave me- I worked [for] 25 years in the city in London, in a very long hours, quite a high pressure kind of environment, which was great. And I loved it in many ways. But when I had my family, I really wanted to try and find something that gave me an opportunity to get some kind of work-life balance and, and be present for my family as well as challenging myself kind of intellectually and by running a business. So I think that that’s a lot, that’s driven me a lot. But as I’ve got further and further down the path, my why is also to make a difference to the children that are receiving what the efforts are, the results of what we’re trying to put together. So we want to find a way to encourage the right behaviours that we know will lead them to success. 

Ludo Millar 8:44
So yeah, I mean, how do rewards tie into that then? How do the rewards programmes that you run as part of Great Little Rewards, how does that tie in with behaviour and making students more incentivised?

Katie Tyndale 9:01
Well, what we’re trying to do is to encourage positive behaviour. So we know that certain behaviours, it’s proven certain behaviours will lead to better educational outcomes. So for example, if you hand in your homework, if you engage with your lessons, if you’re not just obviously not disruptive, it’s the converse of that as well. Then we know that the very act of being more engaged and trying your best. It’s not about achieving, being on top of the class but just trying to the best of your ability will lead to more positive outcomes, academic outcomes, but not just academic also kind of self worth and just enjoying what you’re doing more and getting the most out of it. And these little rewards. And you know, some of these are very, very tiny things. It’s not about spending loads of money on huge prizes, in order to help to focus a lot of children on the best outcomes.

And so, you know, I know there’s a lot of debate around intrinsic versus extrinsic reward and self-motivation versus being given something and kind of perception of being bribed. But it isn’t the way that we- our view is that it’s not. So it’s not about that, it’s more about encouragement. And it’s helping people to help the children to visualise, “Oh, you know, if I do this, then I can achieve the little rubber eraser” or whatever it might be. And we find that very powerful.

Ludo Millar 10:28
Yeah, I mean, how in those early days- as you say, you came from a corporate background, but in those early days of Great Little Rewards how did you know that would work? What were you learning in those early days about your rewards that led to these positive behaviours?

Katie Tyndale 10:53
So I actually had a very simple rewards programme in place for my own children, when they were very small. And I could see that it worked for them. And I just knew that they were engaged by [it] and it kind of started there. Because I saw it, I saw the opportunity. And I didn’t think there was that much on the market that kind of filled that niche at that time. It was quite difficult to find the kinds of things that I thought they would like at the right price point. And so I started there, and it just kind of grew over time. And yeah, and that’s it. It was-  it’s been a journey.

We’ve been established now for 11 years. And we’ve grown, yeah, obviously hugely in that time. But it started literally from nothing, pretty much there; obviously, I suppose [LAUGHS].

Ludo Millar 11:43
So at first, it was your own children’s experience informing your business. Did you find your business helped you to understand your children’s behaviours?

Katie Tyndale 11:55
Well they’ve certainly been engaged in the product selections over the years, I would say that, definitely. And we run focus groups and things now, you know, we will get new ranges coming in. Particularly as my own children have got older, I need to make sure that we understand what younger children are into at any point in time. But when they were little, we used to run focus groups with them, and with their friends and things like that. And then over time, what we’ve always tried to do is to find things that aren’t widely available. So for example, we have imported from Japan, from America and from China as well, to get things that are kind of different, that kids will really get excited by because what we’re trying to do is really get them engaged. But at the price point that is realistic as well.

Ludo Millar 12:42
Exactly. If they can bring in something to class – where they are rewarded with something in class – that their classmates haven’t seen before. “Oh, what’s that?”. You know, “I haven’t seen that shiny thing before?”. They’re showing off this this shiny new, I guess probably rubber, rubbers are probably a key part of the process.

Katie Tyndale 12:58
Slime is huge [LAUGHS]. You probably aren’t very keen on slime. But the children love slime. Poppets. So poppets are very big at the moment. I’ve got one right here. This is a poppet. Yeah, there’s hundreds of little things that they like.

Ludo Millar 13:14
Yeah. So what did you learn do you think from your corporate background? Because that was in recruitment and in corporate services, that kind of thing. What do you think you took from those many years there into running Great Little Rewards, and now also Copper Beech Trading?

Katie Tyndale 13:35
Umm well, gosh that’s quite difficult. Lots. I mean, obviously, the importance of being organised, I think. The importance- I mean, you get a lot out of running a business that isn’t just about- in my opinion, it’s not just about making money, it’s about trying to make a difference. And it’s about trying to solve a problem, and to add value. And that’s really what we try and do. So in terms of our clients right now with the way that we pitch it, we talk about “We’re saving your time, effort and money”. And so I think the biggest thing I’ve always tried to do is to solve problems and to add value to our clients. And I think I got that from from my corporate background. And obviously, then, being organised and, you know, being on top of things. There are so many spinning plates when you’re running your own business. Whereas in a bigger corporate organisation, you’ve got other people supporting you. But we are, you know, getting bigger every month, which is really exciting. So, yeah, and the pandemic was hugely challenging as well, obviously.

Ludo Millar 14:35
Yeah, and I’m sure that as a small business, then, not still working in a large organisation, those negative effects of the lockdown are only highlighted and only magnified. But it sounds like you were able to react quickly and, you know, pivot into a new direction. So that’s awesome.

But just turning back to the kind of motivation side of things, I think that’s what’s really interesting for educators and tutors to hear, particularly those who make up the large part of our listeners today. We talked about this rewards improves motivation incentivisation. And part of that then between teacher and student is relationship building, you know, are showing that they’re happy to reward and happy to give out prizes, that kind of thing, then that really helps the students to feel welcome and engaged and valued. How can tutors tap into that same relationship, motivation side of things?

Katie Tyndale 15:46
Well, I think particularly with younger children, I think it should be part of a journey. So it’s not that they will get a reward, you know, they shouldn’t have an expectation or, in our opinion, there isn’t an expectation of going to get a reward every time they go to the tutor or something like that. But it’s more about saying, “You’ve tried so hard today, and I’m going to give you a number of points. And when you’ve reached a certain number, then you can choose from my goodie box”, or whatever it might be, and then they might have a selection of things, and the child knows that they’re working towards that. And then they can have an outline to them, particularly if they’ve got homework and things, you know, “If you complete three pieces of homework, and you’d have them ready for me each week, and we’ll work through them together, then the end of that time, you’re going to be able to choose something nice from my cabinet or my box” or whatever it might be. And as I said earlier, I think it’s just another tool, I don’t think it’s the only tool and the other thing is that a lot of the time, parents and tutors, and educators are funding all this themselves. So it’s often happening already, but particularly within schools, they’re funding it themselves. And there’s a lot of challenge and a lot of demand on people’s income. And this is a way to have something organised holistically within a school, for example, or within a tutor group, potentially, that’s centrally organised, and maybe relieves some of the pressure as well.

Ludo Millar 17:21
So it would be perhaps kind of ‘syndicates’ of tutors coming together to have these, you know, these areas in schools, you know, if you’re a tutor working in a school, you might be able to access that rewards cabinet, as you say, and then individual tutors who were just working in homes, they may have a little box that they take with them?

Katie Tyndale 17:43
Yes, exactly that. And the other thing is that these prizes are very small. We can do any size. That’s the truth. But we make them particularly for schools very, very budget-conscious and accessible to everybody. They’re not huge prizes. And I know that the concept in itself isn’t rocket science. But it’s the consistency with which it’s applied. And just from experience, we know that the levels of engagement that they get from this can be really quite substantial.

Ludo Millar 18:19
Yeah, exactly. And then so for an online tutor, are there possibilities for how that could work as well? Are there kind of digital boxes that that could work as well?

Katie Tyndale 18:30
We haven’t developed digital boxes at the moment, but we are developing an app so that there could be a virtual prize cabinet. That’s the kind of thing that we’re looking to develop, whereby individual children can choose from that, you know, once they get points, they can choose from the prize cabinet and have something sent to them. So yes, that can happen. Absolutely.

Ludo Millar 18:49
Yeah, it seems to be, you know, certainly pushing into the tutoring market where so much of the tutoring now is delivered online, that feels like a really huge area. And also, you’re obviously tapping into the fact that a lot of a child’s learning these days is likely to be done, you know, on the screen, and they will be very capable using apps and that kind of thing. So I think it really taps into that.

Katie Tyndale 19:15
Yeah. Well, that’s kind of under development, something that we’re looking to do.

Ludo Millar 19:20
Yeah. So I mean, if we just kind of look at- I guess you could say the word ‘case study’, but it’d be really good to know a little bit about what are the some of the ways that you’ve seen these reward programmes helping the education businesses that you have worked with? Are there any insights that you can give us that?

Katie Tyndale 19:43
Well, yeah, I mean, you mentioned Explore Learning who are, you know, absolutely fantastic education providers, first class, and we have worked with them for a number of years now. And, you know, I don’t want to speak for them but I think I understand that they’ve been able to really increase children’s engagement and excitement by having the physical presence of reward cabinets in their centres, that children are very excited by them. And it really, again, really to the point I made earlier, it kind of focuses them. So you know, they’re obviously, Explore [Learning], investing very heavily in the quality of the education they’re providing, which is superb. And this is like a bolt-on. So it’s another study that helps to focus young children on what Explore are trying to teach them and to engage with them.

Ludo Millar 20:39
So it’s yeah, it’s like a sort of additional learning method almost?

Katie Tyndale 20:44
It’s a powerful- I think it’s a powerful tool for focus. I think that’s what it is. And it gets the children excited by the fact that they’re saving up their points for whatever prize they have in mind. And we make sure that what we do is very much for experience, developing unique ranges for them that makes sure that they’re constantly changing, they’re constantly exciting. And the children kind of always looking in the cabinet wanting to see what’s coming, what’s different this week, you know, that kind of thing.

Ludo Millar 21:23
Yeah, I mean, if you are the leader of a small education business who is having a problem with your student’s focus or concentration, or you’ve spoken to parents who have talked about that same concern, then this is very much something to look into. And you can head to- the best site to head to after this, Katie, is probably greatlittlerewards.co.uk.

Katie Tyndale 21:50
Yeah, by all means we can. I mean, the site is ostensibly a retail site. So if you look at it, you’ll probably think, well, I can’t see anything about the programme on there. But if you just drop us a message, then we’re very happy to tailor individual solutions to any individual tutor that might need support.

Ludo Millar 22:06
Awesome. Well, that’s your next step. If either you’re a tutoring company leader, or you work for a tutoring company, and you’ve noticed this with your students, even if you are a mother or father, as Katie is and was, and that is something that you’re seeing in your own children, is that maybe the next step they need just to be brought back to the focus of education, a little bit of not even education, just learning in and of itself, it doesn’t have to be necessarily in an academic sense, then this could really be something to look at.

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Ludo Millar 22:42
And now, a brief word from last week’s guest, Bradley Busch, whose episode you can catch after this.

Bradley Busch 22:52
What I enjoyed the most from being on the podcast was just how fun and easy it was to talk to Ludo, and just how much the conversation flowed. I’m just really getting to know more about the work that so many great tutors are doing up and down the land. What I loved the most was just how much general principles from cognitive science can be applied to any area. And I think what I would say to any guests in the future is definitely go on the pod. It’s a great way to reflect on what you currently think about key issues, and the chance to expand your horizons.

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Ludo Millar 23:38
Katie, we love to end our podcasts with a little look to the future, because that can sometimes be just as exciting as the past, although, as you said, it’s been 11 years of Great Little Rewards. And then there’s Copper Beech Trading that has cropped up a couple of years ago. So there’s lots to explore that already happened. But and perhaps because of that, Katie, what’s next for you? What’s next for Katie Tyndale?

Katie Tyndale 24:05
Well, interestingly, I mentioned to you earlier that we have a partnership in China with a supplier over there that we work with closely to make sure we get the most exciting rewards that we can on a very regular basis. Well, when we were explaining what we do to them, they wanted to trial it in a local school in China, because in China, there’s no concept of rewards in the way that I’m describing them, or programmes like that. And it’s been very successful. And we’ve now got a number of schools trialling the programme over there, which is quite exciting. So we’re looking at developing something unique for China. And then my hope is that if we can get that off the ground in any meaningful way, that we can connect maybe some schools in the UK with schools in China, and build some cross-cultural experiences and sharing in knowledge and things like that, which I think will be could be really powerful.

Ludo Millar 25:02
I mean, that would be- that’s an awesome project. Is there an easy way for people to keep up to date with the development of that who are listening today?

Katie Tyndale 25:11
Oh, we’ll no more by Christmas time. So I would say, well, maybe I’ll publish a blog on our site at Christmas. We tend to do crafting blogs on our site most of the time, but I may well put something up as soon as I know what’s happening. Yeah. That’s quite exciting. So we’ll see.

Ludo Millar 25:27
That is exactly the kind of reason why I asked that question. Things like that may not come out otherwise. So Katie, thank you so much for jumping on. I believe that was your first appearance as a podcast guest?

Katie Tyndale 25:41
Yep!

Ludo Millar 25:42
Well, you absolutely nailed it. Our audience has learnt a lot more about rewards. It was something I hadn’t heard too much before getting to know you, Katie. I haven’t worked in a school before, so perhaps that’s why but lots of tutors haven’t worked in schools and even those who have may not have seen that it is a part of school that can be transferred to the tutoring environment. So I think that’s a huge thing to know and to be equipped with. So I hope you’ve enjoyed talking about what you do.

Katie Tyndale 26:12
I did, thank you. There’s nothing better than talking about yourself [LAUGHS].

Ludo Millar 26:17
Well, start your own podcast then! Next week, we have a lady called Sarah Cottingham, who’s coming on to talk a little bit more about cognitive load. She’s a learning design expert, and works with schools and with educators to improve understanding of how children succeed, how they achieve, how they learn, how cognitive theory can be applied to learning. So that’s really continuing the great theme that we’ve had in recent episodes as well. So do tune into that.

But Katie, thank you. This has been the 136th episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. If you’ve just come to this episode, as the first time you’ve come across this podcast, go and check out the rest of their 135 other episodes, go and check out Katie at greatlittlerewards.co.uk. And if they want to reach out straight after this, Katie, to you directly, what’s the best way they can do that?

Katie Tyndale 27:13
Just email me. It’s katie@greatlittlerewards.co.uk.

Ludo Millar 27:19
There we go. Thank you, Katie. And we will see you next time.

Katie Tyndale 27:24
Bye, thank you.

Ludo Millar 27:26
Bye bye.

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Ludo Millar

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