Tavistock Tutors interview with founder Luke Shelley

Founded by Luke Shelley and Marcus Ereira in 2009, Tavistock Tutors has quickly become one of London’s most successful and prestigious education companies as they’re set to turnover £1 million this year.

Beginning with just ten tutors and a mobile phone, Tavistock Tutors works with over 1,000 experienced tutors and a wealth of academic advisors, offering a personalised service to thousands of students. Including both face-to-face and online sessions which allow them to help those internationally. The agency have worked with a number of live-in tutors who travel with families whilst they holiday, and even saw one travel to Coachella to work with a musician’s daughter. The Young Londoner caught up with Luke Shelley to find out more about the company, education system in the UK and more.

Luke, tell us a little about yourself

I am 27 from London and have lived here my whole life. I love creating value for customers with an amazing team of people who help create that value.

How did the idea for Tavistock tutors come about?

My business partner Marcus Ereira was sourcing clients for a tutoring agency and he would get a commission for every family he sent their way. One day, they stopped paying him his commission. We were friends from a young age and were both very interested in business so he came to me and said let’s compete with them. Very shortly after that we went to our local high street, picked up the cheapest phone we could from Carphone Warehouse (it was a pink flip phone) and got started!

What are some of the challenges of running a Tutoring Agency?

The tutoring sector is very saturated. With low barriers to entry there thousands of tutoring agencies out there which includes all of the one person companies. It is hard to compete and build a brand. The smaller companies often corner their local market and find students through their local network.

We have established ourselves as one of the top agencies in London. We invest huge amounts of time and money in ensuring we work with the very best tutors. We do this so our clients and students don’t have to waste their time and money trying tutors that are no good. It is very easy to find a tutor but hard to find an amazing tutor! The only issue we find when working with the best tutors is that they command high fees. Rates start from £50 per hour and we charge a registration fee of £150. This means we get students who contact us and aren’t willing to pay our fees. We then spend time explaining that 1 hour with an amazingly inspirational tutor is a much better investment than 5 hours (which could possibly be the same cost as the one hour with one of our tutors) of tutoring with a teacher who doesn’t know how to teach.

And what are the rewards?

I got a reward a couple of days ago. The reward was a text message from a client “My son just got into Bristol because of your tutors!”. These are the messages that get us up in the morning. We have an amazing team who work tirelessly to source the most inspiring tutors from all across London. The team also spend a large amount of time analysing students needs to make sure they are matched with the perfect tutor.

We got the extra mile for clients and will spend hours with them on the phone to make sure we have all of the details we need before suggesting potential tutors. The service we offer is very personalised.

How do you find educational goals have changed for your clients?

Goals from students haven’t changed that much. A large number of customers come to us and ask to get into x school or get x grade but for us it’s much more important to find a tutor who will actually inspire the student whilst helping them achieve success with their application or in a specific subject.

Do you think the current UK education system adequately prepares young people for life? 

I don’t think the current UK education system adequately prepares young people for life. The two main changes I would start by making are as follows:

–  I would change the curriculum to include more relevant life skills that are necessary for when you go out into the big wide world. Topics like accounting, law, computer science and management should be made mandatory. 

–  A lot of exams are memory tests. Students don’t always understand the fundamentals of a subject but get by because they are taught how to score highly on their test rather than how the subject works. That is why inspiration is so important to us. If a student is inspired, they will go away and study a specific subject on their own volition. Practical application of the subject over the course of an academic year or two should be the preferred method of testing rather than an exam of a couple of hours at the end of an academic year. Let’s see how students apply their knowledge instead of regurgitating what they read a few days before their exams.

If you were Education Secretary what would you change?

If I were education secretary the first thing I would do is increase teacher’s pay. Make the teaching employment market much more competitive. This would encourage more people to get into teaching and we would hopefully see an uplift in very inspiring teachers who can ignite a fire within their students.

What does the future hold for Tavistock Tutors

We are going to keep improving the way we do things and make sure that we hone our tutor and students matching skills. We will keep searching for the very best and most inspiring tutors for our students. 

This isn’t a business we want to scale to every student in the UK. Keeping our service personalised and making sure our students succeed is the most important part of what we do. We will continue to grow whilst making sure we don’t over extended ourselves as we don’t want to lose sight of student success.

For more information check out Tavistock Tutors website here.