I first started one-to-one tutoring in 2004 in Japan, and then a few years later in England I started to tutor children for their 7 and 8+ exams, which I continue to do to this day. Preparing children for these exams encouraged me to seek out fun and creative ideas for both story construction and the consolidation of mathematical concepts. I have helped children gain places at St Paul's, Westminster, NLCS and Latymer. It was a natural progression from this to work with older children at 11+ and 13+ levels; at both these levels I have used my experience as a Philosophy Foundation facilitator to develop critical and imaginative thinking. Over the years, I have worked with SEN pupils and have had experience at the Dyslexia Teaching Centre in London. I have also worked with Action Tutoring as a volunteer tutor for both English and maths in primary schools.
I was a scholar at Alleyn's School where I took A-levels in French, English, History and General Studies (3 A's, 1 B) and gained a 2:1 degree in PPE from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. In between these two periods, I taught English to children in rural Nepal.
Since leaving university, I have been an English teacher in Japan (for ages 2 upwards) and a filmmaking coordinator in secondary schools. Currently, I work for The Philosophy Foundation as a philosophy facilitator in schools and for Keystone as a personal tutor. In 2020, I completed my Level 5 Diploma in Strategic Teaching Support for Dyslexia and Literacy.
I tailor each tutoring assignment to the needs and abilities of each individual, since many years of tutoring have taught me the importance of getting to know my students before we can set a detailed programme of study.
I find that it is imperative to set goals for students so that they know what they are aiming for. What form this takes will be dependent on the child. Recently, for a student (who had a major interest in computer games and the army) taking the 8+ for Westminster, I constructed a series of 'levels' which he had to achieve before he became a 'Story Soldier'. This gave him a far more tangible (and fun) goal than the more serious, overwhelming one of 'pass the Westminster test.'
Whether it's in maths, English or science, my aim is always to foster a child's independent and creative thinking and instil a real interest in the subject. Yes - the individual goal (such as passing an exam) is important, but I'd like my students to grow and develop skills which will help them in years to come.
What I do when I am not tutoring
I am a facilitator for the Philosophy Foundation, whose aim is to foster autonomous and creative thought amongst primary and secondary school children. Hearing children as young as seven come up with their own philosophical insights and debate with other children in an open, interested manner never ceases to inspire me.
In my fairly dwindling spare time, I enjoy playing football and doing my best to make vegetarian suppers as palatable as possible.
"My daughter really enjoyed her time with Donal. He was very patient with her and they seemed to have a good rapport. After Donal assessment, we know we have a lot of preparation to do before proceeding any further, as she is behind in maths and grammar for entry exams in November. It was valuable insight into the competition, for which we are grateful." (Mother of 7+ student)
'My son ended 2014 successfully thanks to his hard work and your encouragement and enthusiasm! Offers from Tonbridge and UCS and on the waiting list for Harrow despite being a pretty late applicant! You have given him back the confidence he lost after a bad start to 2014. Your calmness has rubbed off on him. Thank you for focussing his mind and getting him back on track! You had a plan ready right from the start to take him to a higher level. You always come well prepared to each lesson and difficult topics were explained well. I felt you were very much in control and I was happy to take the back seat. At the end of each lesson you kept me up to date with his weaknesses and areas you will focus on in the next lesson. You are a truly a good tutor and I am more than happy to recommend you.'
Donal worked regularly with our then 10 year old son over a 9 month period to prepare him for the 11+ exams at independent schools and the ISEB test. They studied all four subjects: maths, English, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.
(Parent of 11 year old student)
Our son very much enjoyed working with Donal – his great sense of humour, engaging style, clear and precise instructions and calm nature helped keep him motivated in what is a fairly testing time in the run up to the exams. For us as parents, it was good to see that Donal always remained focused and calm and that the sessions were incredibly productive.
(Parent of 13 year old student)
We were absolutely thrilled with the results as our son was offered places at a number of excellent schools (including Westminster, City of London School, Latymer Upper and some others).
(Parent of 12 year old student)
Donal is an excellent tutor and we couldn’t recommend him more highly!
(Parents of 11+ student)
Donal tutored my son for the 7+ entrance exams in London. Donal was wonderful with him, as he instantly built up a strong rapport and used lots of creative ways to bring out his story writing and sentence structure. Over time, Donal also worked on numeracy and comprehension. My son would look forward to each lesson, relishing the one to one time as well as the imaginative way in which Donal delivered each lesson. My son received several offers. We wholeheartedly recommend Donal.
(Mother of 7+ student)
Approaching the 11+ it was clear my daughter, though bright, was struggling to consolidate some of the advanced maths concepts she was learning at school. We turned to Donal for help. He was a total all-rounder, helping shore up our daughter’s maths knowledge, identifying gaps in her English skills, and providing vital tools for tackling both, all in a professional, patient and playful way. His thoughtful approach, with set work prior to sessions, and within the tutor sessions themselves, ensured she not only mastered basic exam techniques but also saw her confidence boosted, increasing her willingness and ability to attempt tricky questions, wonderful qualities to take into her future. We were thrilled with her exam results and the options it afforded her. However, last word should go to the real ‘client’. Asking for her comments to add to my own, my daughter succinctly stated that Donal was kind, didn’t mind going through things if she didn’t understand, thought about the work he set so it pushed you (but not too much) and made things fun. She also said she looked forward to seeing him - high recommendation indeed!
(Mother of 11+ student)
Donal Coonan was not only a patient and thorough tutor but has the most wonderful manner with his students. He disarms them with charm and kindness so they totally forget they are doing maths! He was not only a pleasure to work with but he managed to get our daughter offers at all her chosen schools.
We can't thank him enough and wouldn't hesitate to recommend him to anyone.
(Mother of 11+ student)
Donal worked with our 6 year old daughter over a six month period, to prepare her to take the 7+ exams. She needed particular help to learn how to write stories as her school had not taught that yet. Donal was able to build an excellent rapport with her and used his creativity and sense of humour to hold her interest and concentration. He built her skills up step by step in a way that she could engage with and ultimately was successful in passing the entrance exams.'
(Mother of 7+ student)
Our child had an “input/output” problem. While he was reading a lot, he seemed unable to write, frequently leaving the paper in front of him blanked. Writing was referred to as a torture, and we were at a loss. Donal showed unique pedagogical skills in understanding and motivating our son, starting by ‘acting’ with him the stories, then making him tell them orally, before finally putting them into writing. The connection was such, that after a few lessons, he eagerly awaited for the writing sessions to begin. It then improved steadily from there. Thanks to Donal's ability to unlock the unseen potential in him, our son was admitted in all the highest ranked competitive schools he applied to.
(Mother of 8+ student)
My son ended 2014 successfully thanks to his hard work and your encouragement and enthusiasm! Offers from Tonbridge and UCS and on the waiting list for Harrow despite being a pretty late applicant! You have given him back the confidence he lost after a bad start to 2014. Your calmness has rubbed off on him. Thank you for focussing his mind and getting him back on track! You had a plan ready right from the start to take him to a higher level. You always come well prepared to each lesson and difficult topics were explained well. I felt you were very much in control and I was happy to take the back seat. At the end of each lesson you kept me up to date with his weaknesses and areas you will focus on in the next lesson. You are a truly a good tutor and I am more than happy to recommend you.
(Mother of pre-test student)
My son, who is now 12, has a severe immune deficiency and was tutored by Donal more recently at the end of year 6 after a year in hospital. He is kind, very intelligent and punctual. He is engaging and tries to really involve the student with interesting games and exercises. He is gifted at teaching English in particular, and what his students get is a masterclass in composition and the use of language.
I really can't recommend him enough.
(Mother of Year 6 student)
Donal has a play-like yet structured approach to help a seven year old child write a story. His lessons are engaging and exciting while the results are long lasting. My son not only loved the time he spent with Donal, but more importantly improved his vocabulary and writing ability to the point which he started to enjoy writing. Subsequently, his English test results in the 8+ exam were great!
(Mother of 8+ student)
This is just a short note to thank you for all your hard work in getting our son accepted to Westminster Under School, St Paul's Juniors and Sussex House. Our son has enjoyed working with you and it was very satisfying to see him improve under your tutelage as the exams approached. We wish you continued success in the future and will have no hesitation is recommending to our friends and family.
(Father of 8+ student)
Donal has been an excellent tutor and motivator for our son Myles, helping to prepare him for his 8+ exams over the last 2 years. Donal helped Myles develop key creative writing and reading comprehension skills as well as the maths concepts which were vital to his success during this testing period and I would highly recommend him.
(Mother of 8+ student)