We were founded in London by Will Orr-Ewing in 2007. Since that day we have sought to run a tutoring organisation that is defined by its professionalism. Here is the story of how.
Will began tutoring after he graduated from Oxford and couldn’t believe that he had stumbled upon a way to make a living that was at once so enjoyable and so rewarding. He soon recruited one of his oldest friends, Josh Pull, who had begun a career in investment banking at Lazard, to come and run the company with him.
They started to build a name for themselves as people who took tutoring seriously but it was not long before they faced problems: tutoring had a poor reputation amongst teachers and schools; tutors often lacked professionalism and dedication; the sector as a whole was charming but amateurish. In response they sought to apply lessons learned from more established tutoring firms from across the world, especially from the US. And they set about trying to bring the standards expected in other industries, such as law, banking and teaching, to bear on this ancient, lovable but flawed profession.
This project was greatly advanced in 2012 when Ed Richardson, an experienced teacher with a Masters in Teaching & Learning from Oxford, joined from the mainstream education sector, bringing with him the dedication to professionalism expected in a top-performing school. With Ed’s contribution, we have pioneered an entirely new approach to tutoring in the UK. We are the first tutoring organisation we are aware of to offer full-time contracts to tutors, backed up by an extensive training programme and designated teaching materials.
Since our earliest days, we have believed that great tutors need support from a great office team. We are often praised for the friendly, positive and efficient office we run and have been blessed by having colleagues stay and grow with us for many years.
Our reach has grown with offices in Hong Kong, China and Singapore; and our reputation has grown too: we are often the UK tutoring company of choice for discerning families from all over the world.
Parents say that they choose Keystone for three main reasons:
- Our Team. Keystone has been the preeminent company in persuading people to consider tutoring as a full-time profession. The tutors we represent are professional, committed and methodical in their teaching. Our full-time tutors are trained and provided with targeted materials. Our administrative team is frequently praised for its efficiency, dedication and responsiveness. We have a low turnover of office staff; we place a high premium on recruiting good humoured, helpful and committed staff who forge long lasting relationships with our clients.
- Our Track Record and Knowledge of Key UK Examinations. Keystone is renowned for having expert knowledge of the intricacies of UK examinations. We ensure our team is up to date with the latest developments and changes to school and university entrance exams as well as UK public exams. Our level of knowledge is such that we have delivered courses and provided advice to leading schools on entrance exams to UK secondary schools (e.g. computerised pre-tests) as well as university entrance (e.g. Oxbridge). This expertise ensures our tutors provide targeted preparation that underpins our outstanding track record.
- An Ethical Approach. Keystone holds itself to high standards of integrity, and is animated by four core ethical principles. Keystone’s founders and senior figures still tutor and take a very active role in the educational life of the company.
Keystone Tutors has a rigorous selection procedure. We are frequently told by tutors that we are the hardest agency to join. Besides the essential background checks (Enhanced DBS, verifying qualifications and collecting references) the selection process is as follows:
- Tutors submit an application and are judged on their experience, how long they can commit for (we only take tutors who can commit for over two years), and their academic record. Tutors are also asked what their TED talk would be on, and their answer is discussed at the beginning of the interview.
- All tutors we take on are interviewed face-to-face. Tutors have an interview that assesses both character and academic ability. Prospective tutors are required to teach a practice lesson and are judged on their preparation and delivery. They are also required to sit an academic assessment.
The tutors we represent are dedicated to their work, and receive outstanding evaluations from their students. After a strenuous screening process, we tend to choose intelligent and likeable tutors who enjoy relating to, and setting high standards for, their students. While it is a truism that intelligence does not make you a good tutor, we like tutors to be passionate and knowledgeable about their subjects so that they can field the most curious of questions from their students. Self-confidence and inspiration derive from such strong relationships we feel.
Keystone is singular in its commitment to professionalise tutoring. Rather than having a loose body of tutors, we have pioneered the first professional tutoring contracts in the UK. We have attracted tutors who see tutoring as a career, and behave accordingly. They train regularly, always looking for ways to improve their craft; they have access to materials that Keystone has developed in-house; most importantly, they have a long-term, committed professional disposition.
Keystone is also fortunate to have a number of ex- or part-time teachers amongst its ranks. The combination of their teaching experience and subject knowledge enables teachers to be highly effective in the one-to-one environment. Stephen Farrow, a former Head of English at Dulwich College, brings his vast experience to bear on English students at 13+, GCSE and A level.
Most of Keystone’s tutors are committed to tutoring for the longer term. They are usually well aware of their plans for the next two or three years, at least, and use tutoring as their main source of income around vocational plans.
In its ambitions to professionalise tutoring, Keystone Tutors only represents tutors who can commit for more than two years. We do not train all of the tutors we represent. Our teachers, or those tutors who have already been tutoring for more than ten years, do not need it (though they get a good briefing from us before each lesson). Our Professional Tutors go through a rigorous on-going training programme; this training is modular and unique.
All training sessions are designed and delivered by experienced educational professionals, including our Director of Education, Ed Richardson.
We think that educational materials for tutors and parents are one of the most important and exciting developments for the sector.
Keystone has designed many of its own proprietary and professional materials.
We also have an extensive library of school-specific past papers to which tutors have access.
Where we have not written our own materials, we have an exhaustive database of recommended materials. Galore Park is great in many cases, but will not suffice for home schooling, for instance.
We make contact with the parent and tutor after the first lesson to discuss the reactions of both, and to see whether the stated objectives are realistic or needs adjusting.
Tutors are expected to submit a monthly report detailing the work done in the month; the successes and areas to work on; and the work for the coming month. Our regular, rigorous reporting is frequently praised by parents.