It’s Time for Professional Tutors to Reach a Status in Society Alongside Doctors and Lawyers: Here’s How, with the Founder of The Profs, Richard Evans: 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?

***

Hello, and welcome to the next episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. My name as it is Ludo Millar and today we are welcoming on a pretty special guest. Richard Evans is the Founder of The Profs, winner of several prestigious awards within the business and tutoring world including and Richard smiling here I know because we’re just going to run through a few of the achievements of The Profs over the years, including Guardian Startup of the Year, Education Investor Best Private Tuition Provider and The Telegraph Trade Awards Most Innovative SME Exporter, which is quite the roll call. Richard and his brother Leo started their careers as lecturers and tutors and tutors, before recognising that the tutoring market lacked a real big player in the university and professional tutoring market. And that’s where The Profs came in.

And today, The Profs’ network counts 1000s of high-quality professional, motivated tutors. Richard is an ambitious and visionary leader, it must be said, and today if we’re lucky, we’ll be getting a taste of Richard’s vision for the future of tutoring. Oh, and The Profs are also partnering with Qualified Tutor to bring you Tuesday at the Love Tutoring Festival, the theme of which will be The Business of Tutoring. So that’s Tuesday the 25th of January 2022, including speakers such as Ben Caulfield, Alex Asher, Sharon Cawley and the wonderful Michael Bungay Stanier, as well as Richard himself. So don’t miss out on that either. But a huge welcome to you Richard today. Thank you for joining. 

Richard Evans 3:59
Thank you so much for having me. You’re far too generous and I cannot wait for the Love Tutoring Festival in January. Looking forward to that.

Ludo Millar 4:06
It’s going to be bigger and better than LTF1, which we held for the first time in June of 2021. So, Richard, if that’s okay with you, we’re going to dive into the first question, which is one of my all-time favourite questions, if I may say so myself, which is Richard, what is your WHY as as a tutor?

Richard Evans 4:28
Oh, great question. For me, it’s got to be about the long-term progress of the student. I strongly believe, to quote The West Wing, that education is a silver bullet. I believe that education can support the solutions to all of the world and humanity’s challenges and there are certainly a lot of them facing us right now on the head. I realised early on I’m not going to be, unfortunately the next Aristotle or Einstein, but I hope that maybe I can help to mentor one of them.

And for me to be able to do that as a tutor, it was to move beyond the pit or hole that the student was currently in. To explain: often a parent would come to me or sometimes the student themselves and say I’ve got a B prediction in GCSE maths. And I really wanted to get that to an A or an A*, now level seven, eight or nine showing my age there, and a lot of tutors, myself included when I was more junior, would say, ‘Okay, great’. And I had helped them hopefully get that A or that A* and certainly to improve their confidence and the other great things about tutoring.

But then I stopped.

And the tutor was stopped. And I realised that’s not what a tutor is about. The question I should have asked and started asking, when my career really turned into a career rather than the big part job was. Why do you want that high grade in GCSE? ‘Oh, so I can be set up and do maths or further maths at A level?’ Great. Why? ‘Oh, because I’d like to go to a top university like Oxbridge or LSE’. Why? ‘I don’t know yet’. Cool. Well, why don’t I help you with some of that, as well as doing the GCSE maths, I can also, by the way, help with A level, I can also help you get into university. And I can also help you as career mentoring. And when I started doing that, I started deepening my relationships with the students. And I started working with them for six or seven years, not weekly, necessarily. And often there’d be breaks and not just school breaks, but long-term breaks, I might not see them for a year. But one by one, they’d all come back eventually and ask for help or guidance, I’m still in touch with many of those people. And many of them are far more qualified than me now with their MBAs and going into C-level positions in companies.

And that’s what’s really, really exciting about that process. So for me, it is the long-term vision of how do I help someone to realise what they want to achieve in life and give them the tools and skills to achieve that?

Ludo Millar 6:59
Are you still taking new students Richard?

Richard Evans 7:01
I am. I take about two or three per year, unfortunately, because I had some other responsibilities. But I intend to always keep true to my roots. I love to think, and always keep on a couple of students at least to help them out.

Ludo Millar 7:17
Awesome. So … is there an application form to become your next year and Richard? I’d be interested in passing an eye over it and I know that it’s a really thorough why and a very valuable one as well for other tutors out there who are not only questioning why they do what they do, but are also looking for ways to motivate their students. So thank you very much, Richard.

Now, The Profs. This is obviously your business that you and your brother founded, your network has tutors, some of whom earn over £100,000 per year. Now that is quite- that’s really quite an incredible feat and a quite incredible attraction to be part of your network. How do your tutors manage this?

Richard Evans 8:10
That’s a great question. And if I can jump in before that, I think it’s really important that there are tutors earning over £100,000 as educators in general. Our society has this, particularly in Britain, this strange view that if you do something that’s socially good, you should not be paid for it. It should be low-paid volunteer nursing, teaching, care work. The amazing people who look after the elderly. There’s something strange about because it’s good for society, it shouldn’t be paid. That should be reserved for banking and finance, not that those aren’t also important and good for society.

So I think education in general is a massively, massively, massively under invested in and underpaid. So with tutoring, I was keen with my career to help elevate tutors beyond bit-part jobs and it seemed a bit like babysitters and peer learning, as good today as that is, having come to university students at 19 during a couple of hours in the evening, that for me is not professional tutoring. Professional tutoring is more akin to being a lawyer, more akin to being a doctor. It is a vocation and education is every bit as important in society as law and healthcare. So we went about set up something new for The Profs, something which tutors could get excited about and be proud of and one of our ambitions was to not be afraid of the payment side of it. The monetising of private education if we’re going to help that kid who’s got a B in his GCSE s and as they are now with MA, MBAs from Stanford going into C-level positions, then yes, I think we can take a few 1000 pounds for that because we’ve added 100 times that potentially to their career earnings, sometimes in less than a decade.

So the way to increase earnings as a tutor is to be so aggressively focused on the long-term value and quality. I’m a big believer in ‘build it and they will come’ and getting tutors to realise and explain to their students just what an impact a mentor can have. Yes, part of that is being a teacher, being a tutor one-to-one and targeting the individual’s weaknesses, but also their pros and strengths, building their confidence and helping them to build a map of their future. And through doing this, we found that we work with the same clients for years and years and years. And very quickly, I wasn’t able to support these students because they needed more help and more subjects. So that’s the process came about very organically working with other professionals, allowing them to each specialise in accounting, economics, finance, each of us being the best we could, it then unlocked daytime hours, my brother, certainly a visionary in online tutoring, he created BitPaper, one of the leading online whiteboards, and he was well ahead of the curve on online tutoring.

And so we tried to turn tutoring from this bit-part profession that was done in a few hours in the evening and weekends and very antisocial at £30 an hour. I used to eat lunch on the tube every day with a sad, expensive Pret sandwich that was miserable. And we saw how the tutors work 9-to-5, we need University hours, we need people who aren’t necessarily at school to make it social, we need to go online to reduce the travel so that we can double or triple the fees that we’re getting effectively. Because if you’re getting paid £30 and spending an hour going there in an hour going back, we’re only really being paid £10 an hour. We said we need to focus on this quality so that we can get rates to go up and eight years in that process. Yes, we do now have multiple tutors earning £100,000. And that’s just through us, I have no doubt that many of those tutors have many more of their own private clients or use other agencies, they’re not bound to just use us, I suspect many earn more than £100,000. And I think it’s important to promote what a tutor can become to newer tutors.

And one last thing I’ll say which I’m really excited about is, partly with maybe the NTP and more VC money coming in, but I am seeing tutors come straight out of university. That is, I’m seeing people leaving the law profession. leaving the 14 hours there, the banking profession to become professional tutors and actually earn more money and for me yeah, fist bump indeed, that is so important. I was saying I want to be a tutor because I didn’t- I was a bit ashamed of it almost. But I said you know what, I love it. I’m going to stick with it and see where it is. And I really want others to finish university not be ashamed and say I am a professional tutor. I’m sticking my flag into the ground. And let’s see where it leads.

***

Ludo Millar
Now, just a quick word from today’s guest and CEO and Co-founder of sponsors of Day 2 at the Love Tutoring Festival 2, The Profs.

Richard Evans
Hey, it’s Richard from The Profs. We’re so excited to be sponsoring Love Tutoring Festival 2. We think tutors deserve a pay rise. And I’ll be chatting with tutors on Day 2 about how they can make 2022 their best ever financial year of tutoring. So join us at the Festival or, if you can’t wait till then, check us out at theprofs.co.uk.

***

Ludo Millar 13:34
You mentioned a lot of things there that, if you weren’t bound by the constraints of a podcast episode, that could be a whole episode in and of itself. But I want to pick on one point in there which is this idea that tutors can remain tutors for their career. Do you truly see this, Richard, as a possibility? Do you truly see people remaining as private tutors for 20 years?

Richard Evans 14:06
Yeah, absolutely. And there are so many more of us than we think there are. When I got involved with The Tutors’ Association, I realised that the average age of The Tutors’ Association, I don’t have any hard data on this, but it appeared to be people who were parents whose kids had probably completed school, to give some sort of indication of their age. Whereas in the traditional agency work when I was self employed tutor with other agencies, the average age seemed to be about sort of 25 and below. So there are a lot more professional tutors out there. There are already 1000s of full time tutors, they just haven’t had a platform to be heard. And it’s really important for us to build these platforms for us be aware of those tutors. So number one, they certainly already exist. And number two, yes, I think we are going to see far, far more of them. There is the biggest investment in tutoring I’ve ever seen right now, not just the government coming out with the NTP and saying we’re going to put a billion pounds into tutoring, make tutoring the forefront of Operation Catch-Up. I have some aside worries about that programme.

But I love the idea of the government coming out and supporting tutoring. This has unlocked more daytime hours. This has caused a massive surge in demand for tutors who are needed to work in the 1000s of schools across the country. We’ve also seen large investment from the private sector into multiple companies around the world tutoring and EdTech is one of the hottest parts of education right now. That’s also going to fuel a lot more need for tutors and also much more positivity around it. That is, we’re seeing for the first time in my life tube ads. And regularly seeing radio shows and even TV ads and YouTube being spattered with this. So people are becoming more aware of tutorial expression. And I think that the new generation coming through and graduating from university, particularly when vacancies aren’t are very high and people aren’t looking for full-time employment, they’ll see that flexibility, they’ll see that ability to be able to admire and they’ll see that ability to be able to have a kid and not have to give up your career as something highly attractive, then we’re the few of us saying you can actually earn £50, £70, £100+ + + grand a year. I think that’s important to help some people to take their first step into tutoring. So yes, I think there are 1000s of private tutors. I think that number is going to 10x in the next few years

Ludo Millar 16:28
Okay, so what does what you’ve all said, what does that mean for the status of tutors in society?

Richard Evans 16:37
Yes, good question. We need to all work together as we are to elevate that as you call it, Love Tutoring Festival. Not the ‘sit in your room, be shy about and don’t tell people you do tutoring Festival’.

I’m glad to see these great pushes, such as- Yeah, I didn’t pass that. That didn’t make it off with the URL for the clipping [LAUGHS] but we are seeing tutors being proud. This has been my call to action on all the podcasts and webinars I’ve been on, panels I’ve hosted over the years: just go on social media. When you get a success from your student, just go and tell even if you have 10 friends on LinkedIn, go and tell them about it.

Be proud of what you do.

So there are a lot of parts of this and I wonder if the average new tutor is even aware of how important it is for people like Qualified Tutor, for people like The Tutors’ Association, for those of us trying to run really professional agencies to promote the good side of tutoring, tutoring used to just be super tutors on yachts going round and having affairs with parents and that was not good for our image, of the super wealthy rich dumb kid. And it wasn’t good for the students because it was perpetuating the false stigma around tutoring but it was for rich dumb kids. I often make the comparison to GymBox. When companies like GymBox came in and got investment. Gyms when I was young were fat, old blokes who went to go and lose some weight, right?

If you were to ask anyone, close your eyes and think of a gym goer. Now most people think funnily enough, probably female super, super athletic banker, right? They changed the image of gyms not for sweaty old places, but to really exciting places. And they changed the type of person, they went from a person who’s overweight to a person who’s healthy. And tutoring is I think halfway through this process of it’s not about stigma, it’s not about kids who’ve fallen behind, it’s about those aspirational kids.

I talked to looking for MBAs, looking at C-levels, and looking for their long-term investment in education. So we’ve all got a part to play in that. I think it’s really important that we promote it as individuals. And we band together with those industries or with those companies who are manning that banner high and getting our government attention, get government investment, get newspaper and media buy in. We’ve got to change tutoring away from the shame product into something that’s good because my question to everyone is, ‘Why would you ever shame education?’. Education is always good. And we are tutors. We provide education, there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Ludo Millar 19:21
Listen closely, listeners because this is important stuff that Richard is saying here. And I’m going to just tease these things out of you a little bit more, Richard. Where can tutoring be by 2030?

Richard Evans 19:37
So we’ve got a bit less than 10 years. I’m amazed at how far it’s come in the last 10 years. Particular problems: online tutoring. I think that tutoring in 10 years’ time will be plugged into the main ecosphere of education. I think that schools will continue to always have some private tutoring, probably delivered online as a percentage and a growing percentage of that education. So I think that’s gonna be very important. The tutors and teachers are working very closely together, the teacher is in charge of getting the mean student, the average tune up, the tutor is looking at those individual weaknesses and strengths. I think it is going to stay online very much. I think the tools that we use are going to massively evolve to make our tutorials far more engaging.

I think gamification is going to be brought into tutoring in two big ways. Number one, having more fun educational content, not just textbooks and case studies, but actually having things that people can play around with. So I always use the example of if a maths teacher is trying to show graph theory, the worst way you can actually teach graph theory is with pen and paper. Because it is static, you can only show the graph at one point, the whole point of a graph is it’s showing hundreds, in theory infinite, numbers of points. So when you use technology like your computer, you can show what a graph is really showing, which is this growth over time of all these different points. And that’s far more important to understand the graph is not static. Same with things like pie charts, and how we interact with a segment. So I’ve been bringing technology into sessions for years, and I can now teach some concepts like graph theory in about 15 minutes, that would really take me probably an hour and a half to get into the student’s mind when they can see it. Even more importantly, I think the gamification of progress is important. So how do we get progress? Well, you might get a report card, you get an exam at the end of most years, and I think we are overly examined in the UK, I think we’re gonna see gamification, which allows us to see per topic how we’re doing, have more interactive questions. And I think that education is going to move away from teachers standing in front and lecturing, to high-quality video and content, teaching the students and teachers acting more like tutors, and just targeting what the individual student is having difficulty with. So I believe that in 10 years, tutors can do more of teaching, I believe, in 50 years, tutoring will replace teaching.

Though I’m being a bit reductive that teachers need to become tutors and target the individual. Just to have one other anecdote, when I’ve done little bits of teaching, not formally, I have a huge respect for teachers, I realise I’m not the best teacher. I’m a pretty darn good economics tutor, I think, but I’m not the best. There are people on YouTube who are just better teachers than me. So why am I teaching the students? Why don’t I get them to watch the YouTube video? And then let’s have a discussion about the YouTube video and just focus on the questions and the engagement. If someone can teach in five minutes a concept that takes me 15 minutes a day, well, that gives me 10 minutes of discussion to have a much deeper understanding of it. So I believe that we, as a society, should be identifying the best educators, the best explanations. You only need two or three explanations for how Pythagoras Theorem is applied. So why don’t we just find those tutors that make really good content on those, and then we can spend our time helping those students who don’t understand Pythagoras while the other students go into more advanced concepts.

***

Ludo Millar

For those of you who know the Love Tutoring Festival, you will be delighted to hear that … we’re back!

From Monday 24th to Friday 28th of January 2022, the Love Tutoring Festival will return bigger and better than ever. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re in for a real treat. The most loved festival in tutoring, the Love Tutoring Festival is a five-day, online celebration of all things tutoring. With some of the biggest names in tutoring, education and pedagogy and hundreds of committed and motivated tutors from all four corners of the globe taking part, it really is the biggest party in tutoring. We will again be working on a freemium ticket model this year, with all our events totally free, apart from our famous, and ludicrously inexpensive, CPD-Accredited workshops. You can find out more, including the confirmed speakers so far, how to grab your place, and key information on our wonderful sponsors at qualifiedtutor.org/lovetutoringfestival.

Let’s raise standards in tutoring together.

***

Richard Evans 24:41
I think YouTube is a wonderful resource for that kind of thing. It’s important not to get lost in that but you get down holes but YouTube is educational, right? This is massively misunderstood, huge even when I’m in my recreational time. Most of the YouTube videos I watch are probably teaching me something, often deliberately. I’m trying to learn a new skill so I taught myself to code entirely through YouTube. I taught myself to be a better dog owner entirely through YouTube. And we may not think of these as educational, but they are educational. I think YouTube is the most valuable educational resource ever created. And I’d like them to come out and realise that a bit more and talk a bit more about it in its own messaging, because we do learn things from these fantastic videos, we vote on it with our eyes, with our like button, subscribe, so the best content typically rises to the top. And there’s so many amazing ways you can learn things for free on YouTube. So I encourage my students to spend as much time as they can educationally on YouTube, because a YouTuber can probably explain it fast. And they can come to me afterwards with questions.

And maybe to predict the next question, isn’t that destroying the value of a tutor? No, it’s understanding what the value of a tutor is. I am not a teacher. I’m not a very good teacher. I’m a really good tutor and a really good mentor. I build systems and structures to get my students to teach themselves. And I keep on that mentoring process for multiple years until they have outgrown me.

Ludo Millar 26:09
So Richard, off the back of what you’ve been detailing about what the future of tutoring may look like, and the future of what a tutor should view themselves as, what’s next for The Profs?

Richard Evans 26:24
So we are leaning into this pretty heavily-

Ludo Millar 26:28
Are you going to be purchasing YouTube?

Richard Evans 26:30
We’re not purchasing YouTube, we approached them. But funnily enough, we couldn’t quite drive a hard bargain [LAUGHS]. And thank goodness because YouTube does remain free, although I could do with a few less ads. But they’ve got to get paid for it of course.

No, we are leaning very heavily into this [AI]. What I can say is I talked about what tutoring needed. I said we needed to have more scalability, we needed to move online or have the option of online to reduce travel time, we needed to allow people to specialise through I believe agencies or word of mouth and the best way to do this is in one or two subjects to really improve their quality. If you’re trying to teach, as our tutor, 10 different subjects, the amount of prep you need is far too much, better to specialise in one or two, I have never taught more than two individual modules at any point in my tutoring career. I’ve changed every few years for a bit of variety, but really specialise and become the best I can possibly be in Economics, A level Unit 3 Economics, A level Unit 2 for now, trying to help people get into London School of Economics for Master’s programmes in Management, I’m really, really, really niche. But I’m possibly the best in the world at that. And that’s really important to be able to have the success rates to back that, which leads to my point, the bit we haven’t been able to do is show that we are good.

So the process is looking very heavily at how do we prove we have the best users? We believe we do. We have the highest remuneration rates, we have the highest reviews on Trustpilot. We have all these lovely awards. But that’s not enough for us, we want to be able to put a stamp on and say we are the best. So we’re going to be moving heavily into success tracking so that you can actually see the probability of success from your return investment. And can we push that further using big data to estimate the cost of success? Can we price the chance of a grade increase price, the chance of you getting into Oxbridge accurately and show that we are far cheaper than anyone else in the system. These are big bold steps for us. So we want you to be a bit like professional barristers, they have a win rate. And that’s very important. We want tutors not to just be able to say I’m a great tutor, I want to be able to back it up and be able to say, of the nine students I worked with over the last two years who applied to LSE and Imperial, every single one of them got in and that is why I charge these rates and that’s what you’re investing in. And I think if we can get the entire industry to start doing that, then very quickly the best tutors will rise to the top just as those good content videos on YouTube rise to the top.

Ludo Millar 29:13
Linking as a good tutor right there, the tutor right there. Richard, thank you so much for taking the time to explain a little bit about your background and about the future of education and giving us an insight into what is coming next for The Profs because you are a leading light in the tutoring market and you are a standard to which other agencies should be aspiring so let’s hope that they come across this so that they are inspired by this. And let’s hope that your journey to changing the face of what tutoring can achieve both in this country and internationally is able to be supported. So if you enjoyed what Richard was espousing here, his ideas, his thoughts on tutoring, there are several places that you can find out more about Richard, you can head to theprofs.co.uk to join The Profs’ network, become a tutor for The Profs today, if you think you have what it takes to be a successful tutor. You can hear Richard talking at the Love Tutoring Festival on Tuesday, the 25th of January. He has a wonderful keynote slot just after lunch, and of course, if you enjoyed the show, you can head to ratethispodcast.com/QualifiedTutorPodcast where you can leave us a little note to say what you enjoyed or what we could improve. As ever, Richard, thank you very much.

Richard Evans 30:49
Thank you so much, Ludo. I cannot wait for the Festival, the Love Tutoring Festival and with the positivity that you’re bringing into the industry, I can’t wait to watch the next one.

Ludo Millar 30:59
Awesome. That’s your message for all of you, our listeners. See you next time. Thank you very much.

***

Ludo Millar

Thank you for listening to this episode of the Qualified Tutor Podcast. Whether you’re a regular listener of this podcast, or you’ve just stumbled across it, join the Qualified Tutor Podcast Group within the Qualified Tutor Community. To stay up to date with our latest news offers workshops and of course, simply to meet other tutors like you, whatever your level is as a tutor, our training courses will be the next step in your professional development. Visit qualified tutor.org/training to find out more about our CPD-Accredited and Ofqual-recognised courses: the first of their kind in the tutoring industry.

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