The Educational Magpie

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As a teacher and a middle leader in particular, I have mastered the dark art of sophisticated theft. Roaming the country for the best practice and then stealing the idea and implementing it into my practice – the teaching version of the Magpie. Austin Cleon in his book ‘Steal like an artist’ explains that there are only two types of ideas, those worth stealing and those not worth stealing. For a few years now, I have attended meetings by an organisation called PiXL (Partners in Excellence) which is, according to their website, a “partnership of over 1,400 secondary schools, 450 sixth forms, 900 primary schools and 50 providers of alternative education”. The leaders here are the Kings and Queens of theft, taking all the good ideas from their partner schools and bringing them back to the quarterly Pixl6 and Pixl main conference to share with us to use in our own schools. All fine, but I always found that in a usual five hour conference, there were perhaps only two ideas actually worth stealing, but those two ideas were absolute dynamite, guaranteeing our return the following quarter. But, how can all this be transposed into a business opportunity? 

Starting out, I realise how little I know of the ‘real world’. Yes, I have previous experience of being a recruitment consultant and a buyer, but they were working for other people and not for yourself, how does this even work? This is where the power of the network begins; my previous blog post found its way on Facebook receiving over 150 likes and 80 odd supportive comments. Sharing and collaboration has been an essential feature of my career so far, I refuse to charge for resources on TES and always have an open door classroom especially for our Teach First students and NQTs to come and see my practice. Now I am what Americans term the ‘Rookie’ and I am looking at how I can use the ideas of those who have already traveled down this path to help support my new venture.

Limited Company or Self employed? Sat in a Covid-19 secure pub, the first question posed to me was are you going to set up as a Limited Company or go self employed? Not only had I not even thought about this, but I was not even sure of the difference. Before Covid-19, setting as a Limited company was probably the best bet, not least because of the liability protection and tax benefits. However in lockdown, the self employed earning under £50k have received the best protection from Government schemes, however you need to proof of three months earnings. But with such uncertainty about a second lockdown this winter, I think the self employed route may suit to start with. If you have any opinions do let me know.

The power of Social Media (Linkedin / Facebook / Nextdoor). I consider myself quite savvy in terms of social media, I have launched successfully via online campaigns All Stars Cricket, bringing 200 kids each week to youth cricket and a proposal for a Windsor Town Council amongst other projects of which, as my wife rightly points out, I do not get paid for. However, using these skills to start business is a different proposition. It is very easy to get sucked into ‘paid ads’ racking up huge expenditure before even earning the first pound. However the first forays have brought interesting results, my first blog post received over 150 likes on Facebook and importantly new connections via LinkedIn. the emails I receive are building, although it definitely pays to be as specific as possible about what you are looking to do and can offer. 

Network opportunities. Where social media has a particular strength is in the network opportunities it presents. I was directed towards an excellent Facebook group called “Life After Teaching – Exit the Classroom and Thrive”. Here current and former teachers share their experiences, offering advice, guidance and tips. Sharon Cawley has an excellent You Tube video on how to thrive after teaching as a tutor. From this, I have built further connections with agencies such as the Tutors Association and a friend of mine who is connected with someone who runs a local organisation called the Education Boutique. It is through these networks that the Castle Tutoring brand will grow and help develop further. Researching what works and what doesn’t based on others experiences will certainly help support the brand in the early stages. 

Networking has endless limits and has opened doors I never knew existed, so where to start?

KS3 – KS5 History, Politics, Geography, Business Studies and Economics – Home turf, I know these subjects inside out and can immediately support anyone particularly in this post-lockdown world who needs support and catch up sessions ahead of next summer. 

Schools – As mentioned in my previous blog, schools have been given a grant by the Government to offer 1 to 1 and group support for catch up sessions. I have written to headteachers to offer my services and would enjoy delivering these. 

SATs – Not an immediate thought, but my inbox has been buzzing with requests for support with SATS, my eldest is going into Year 6 and consequently I am fully conversant with the SATS exam, my wife is also a Primary School teacher so can support, so why not?

Common Entrance 13+ History / Geography – The skills needed are the same as the most advanced KS3 students for which I have plenty of experience, most of whom have progressed to Oxbridge. 

11+ and Common Entrance Pre-tests – No, well at least not yet, verbally reasoning and non-verbal reasoning are slightly different skills which require a different approach so I will not offer these just yet. 

Home Schooling – This had not even crossed my mind when deciding to do this and yet I had not realised quite how many children are being home schooled and may require extra support in a wide variety of different ways. I am looking at my networks to see how feasible this is and whether anyone would be interested in this approach? 

Adult Education – Mature students writing dissertations, or those wanting to find out a bit more about History and different events, I have no idea how big or small this market is, but I would definitely enjoy delivering some of this content. Why does Windsor have two railway stations? would be of great interest to some I am sure. 

All of these are wide and varied, yet the core skills required to teach these remain consistent and whilst Castle Education begins to build, I look forward to the endless opportunities which are presenting themselves through one to one, group or online tuition. Its an exciting time to be involved, time for this educational magpie to start exploring further. 

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