Titanium Tutors: An Interview with Founder, Joe Hytner

Titanium Tutors: An Interview with Founder, Joe Hytner

Titanium Tutors represents over 1,000 tutors across the UK and online. All of the company's tutors studied at world class universities and have been hand-picked by teaching experts. As a well-established private tutoring company, Titanium Tutors offers over 200 subjects over all ages and levels.

When was Titanium Tutors established and how did the idea to start the agency come about?

I set up Titanium Tutors in 2011, a few months after finishing my teacher training at Queens’ College, Cambridge in 2010. I started my post-PGCE days by teaching part-time in a few local schools as well as supervising Cambridge undergraduates, and I also picked up a few private tutoring jobs on the side.

Before long I was drawn increasingly to private tuition, but I was only able to offer Latin and Ancient Greek and clients soon started to request other subjects, so the idea occurred to start a business with other trusted tutors. The rest is history!

Titanium Tutors represents over 1,000 tutors who have studied at top universities. Can you tell us a bit more about your recruitment process?

We ask tutors to apply on our website with a CV, and they provide some details about their academics and teaching experience. We review each and every application, and a member of senior management decides whether or not to offer the tutor an interview.

We have developed a challenging interview format which we believe really works in finding the best tutors; it’s something we’ve been refining constantly over the past 8 years and we’re really proud of it! The interview is in three parts — a lesson delivered by the candidate, a self-assessment in which the candidate reflects on the strengths/weaknesses of their lesson, and a general discussion about teaching.

Those who shine at interview are welcomed onto our books, subject to stringent background checks including ID, DBS, qualifications verification and testimonials.

What do you think makes someone a good private tutor?

Passion for the subject has to be right up there! It’s amazing how infectious that can be and how much can be achieved if the student develops a curiosity for and enjoyment of the subject.

Of course there are also technical matters which have a massive impact on successful learning, but these generally aren’t rocket science and can be picked up by anyone with a bit of common sense and good people skills (I’m thinking here of the importance of regular assessment in teaching whether through games, quizzes or effective questioning technique, as well as other key features such as reinforcement, clear communication, structure, objectives, praise, etc.).

So it’s passion first, common sense second, and everything else (i.e. the stuff they teach you on a PGCE) follows naturally from that! I won’t quote the cliché about good teachers being born, not made.

Your tutors also offer Skype lessons. How does online tutoring differ from in-person tutoring?

It’s a lot more similar to in-person tutoring than some people realise, with a few extra benefits thrown in — such as the ability to share screens, to browse resources on the internet together, to compile presentable notes more quickly and neatly, to save those notes more safely and to be able to access them globally.

As a result I think my own teaching is slightly more effective online than it is in person, although I do of course enjoy the variety of having some face-to-face lessons in my teaching schedule, and I respect that some students may prefer to interact with someone in the flesh and/or may not have a reliable internet connection. In those cases clearly in-person lessons work better. I actually wrote a blog about the benefits of online tutoring as it’s something we get asked about a lot.

What advice would you give to someone who was interested in becoming a private tutor?

Get signed up with a bunch of different agencies (nobody’s going to get insulted that you want to join a few — it’s how the industry works) to maximise your potential tutoring assignments. You should also consider doing some solo work to complement your agency work, if you’re happy to invest some time in marketing your tutoring services and to take care of the administrative side of things.

Whilst you won’t be able to command the same rate as an agency would charge, you may be able to earn more for solo work than you would through an agency, especially if you already have some work with respected companies on your CV. Remember that clients typically care more about relevant tutoring experience than anything else — strong academic credentials are of course worth mentioning but are generally considered to be ‘table stakes’, so when talking with prospective clients don’t fixate on your academics at the expense of going into detail about similar tutoring jobs you’ve done previously.

Finally, let prospective clients see something unique about your personality: the market is competitive, and well-qualified tutors can sometimes appear quite similar, so small details can help you stand out from the crowd and give the client an idea of the sense of fun you might bring to a lesson.

As a PGCE qualified teacher yourself, what do you see as the main differences between private tutoring and classroom teaching?

The main thing that us tutors tend to bang on about is the luxury of being able to focus entirely on the individual needs of the specific student in front of you. Classroom teaching is wonderful in so many ways, but it’s a common feature that students can easily feel lost or isolated, as it’s so tricky for teachers to be able to simultaneously target the diverse needs of 30 different students.

There’s certainly a knack to that (the technical term is ‘differentiation’) and there are teachers who manage it extremely skilfully, but a private lesson can often get to the root of a problem and build confidence much more quickly if things are getting off track.

On the flip side, there are also many things which you can’t get from tutoring that you can in a classroom — the motivation factor that can come from studying with one’s peers, for example. The two different types of teaching complement each other well, especially now that teachers and tutors increasingly liaise with each other, so a ‘bit of both’ is probably the winning combination!

Titanium Tutors has a five-star rating on Google Reviews. How do you gain the trust of students and tutors?

I wish I could say there were a silver bullet, but truthfully this is down to sheer hard work! We operate in a competitive market and parents rightly expect a lot. The only way to succeed in that kind of context is to give it your absolute all.

That means giving lots of thought to making the right matches between students and tutors, and painstakingly vetting the tutors, even when it comes at a considerable short-term cost. It also means responding to tutors, clients and everyone else quickly and professionally, and taking very seriously any concerns they may have if ever things fall short of that high standard for whatever reason.

What do you think sets Titanium Tutors apart from other tutoring agencies?

It’s run by a qualified teacher, and I’ve consciously incorporated all the goodies I learned on my PGCE into our tutor recruitment process. That way we can find tutors who have those technical skills I mentioned earlier, as well as the natural aptitude and passion.

Besides our recruitment and vetting, I think it’s our ethos of valuing our tutors as highly as we do our customers, and going the extra mile for everybody we deal with.

What changes or developments have you observed in the tutoring industry over the last few years?

There’s no question that the market has become a lot more saturated, with new competitors springing up every day. We enjoy that as it keeps us on our toes at all times and means a better overall experience for our customers and tutors!

It’s also been a pleasure to get to know some of my competitors personally as time has gone on, and to realise how much there is we can learn from each other.

What do you think the future holds for the private tutoring industry? How do you think it will evolve?

Tech is going to dominate, just as we’ve seen in so many other industries. I think there is always going to be a place for face-to-face tutoring, but even companies offering in-person lessons will increasingly rely on tech if they are to be able to offer a competitive service.

What is Titanium Tutors' plan for the future?

Oh, that would be telling…

  • Titanium Tutors
  • Joe Hytner
  • tutoring agency interview
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