A day in the life…

Students studying at desks

The secrets behind the Bonas MacFarlane tutor recruitment method.

Top of the leaderboard, with an average rating of 4.88 (out of 5), can Bonas MacFarlane keep up its success and write itself into the record books? Establish itself as the finest tutoring company in the UK and sit alongside the most formidable teams in the country, continuing its run of form so that even Gary Wiltshire will take a bet?

Rumours of taking a Simon Cowell approach to their tutor recruitment process might be pushing it – they would prefer closer association with George Martin. In truth it is the result of organising tuition for more than four decades, combined with a youthful tutor management team who have all been tutors themselves, which helps them spot the nuances and skills required to inspire the next generation of learners. 

Inspired by McCarthy’s marketing framework: The Four P’s, we take a look at Bonas MacFarlane’s unique approach.

1. Preparation: The time spent preparing for a tutorial is critical and will determine its success. As part of the interview process we ask tutors to prepare and present a lesson of their choice. This experience allows us to assess their communication skills, organisation and subject knowledge. We are able to critique their plans and also offer guidance to ensure that every lesson is well thought out with clear aims. Parents interviewed by the Good Schools Guide have previously paid tribute to our professional approach:

‘BM plans tutorials with meticulous detail, yet let the child dictate the pace – it’s a delicate balance, but one they get just right,’ says one. 

‘The tutors never talk at the children – they work with them, using the same techniques as experienced teachers,’ says another.

2. Punctuality: Fortunately tutors are no longer having to use the A-Z to find their way around London and, in future, tutors on scooters might become a reality to avoid relying on public transport. Although it sounds simple, arriving on time is of paramount importance. It sets the tone for the lesson if the tutor is punctual and lays the materials out on the desk before the student arrives. We expect our tutors to act as positive role models: it is key to earning the respect of both pupil and parent. 

‘I have been extremely impressed by Henry right from his introductory email. He is always very punctual and therefore reliable which I value and he has managed in a matter of a few sessions to change Claire’s mindset and she is now loving her sciences. He is really excellent’

3. Philosophy: This relates to our core belief that we want children to become successful and happy adults. To help pupils become lifelong learners we ask tutors to assess the individual’s learning style before building a program of study. Taking this approach often results in the tutor not being seen as a teacher but a mentor. Pupils are able relate to their tutor, making it easier to discuss where their weaknesses lie and what improvements they need to make.

‘If I could give Susan 6 stars, I would. She is courteous, conscientious, very thorough and exceptionally talented at explaining complex ideas. Obviously, she knows the material well, but she is not at all condescending when she is providing tuition. I feel very lucky to have had her help. Thank you, Susan!

4. Personality: We all have experiences of teachers which have affected the enjoyment of a subject. Those teachers often change how we think, how hard we studied and ultimately helped us decide what to study at university. Equally, we have looked up to role models who have helped shape our opinions and develop our wider interests. The magic behind being able to choose a tutor which meets the individual needs of a student is transformational. By knowing our tutors we are able to skilfully meet the needs of the pupil, as highlighted in these two placements we arranged this summer:

‘John’s effectiveness in relating to Edward, and supporting me as the single parent in the house, is quite exceptional. John is a rare talent: incredibly supportive, imaginative, very flexible, always ready to go the extra mile – if not going well beyond the call of duty. He is both respectful and ruthless in his honesty, yet caring and compassionate. Any success Edward has achieved, has been in large part his doing.’

‘I was absolutely blown away by how committed and talented Georgina was as a tutor. She knew exactly when to push and when to guide. We were able to cover a staggering amount of work together, mostly because she gave me such confidence in my own abilities. We were able to work out a highly effective system of breaking down our working time into smaller, more manageable time slots. Her general cheeriness and good humour kept my spirits up during extreme deadline stress. As a residential tutor, it was a delight to have Georgina to stay. She joined in family meals and was great fun.’

Keen not to rest on our laurels we continue to meet and interview tutors on a weekly basis, aiming to unearth the next generation of talent. Watch this space because Gertrude Street will soon become known as the Abbey Road of education – with a little help from our tutors!

by Harry Cobb, Director of Tuition, Bonas MacFarlane