The National Tutoring Programme

Last week the government announced a new £1bn package for schools. £350 million will pay for the establishment of a National Tutoring Programme, which will give schools access to subsidised tutoring sessions. The rest will be spent whichever way headteachers best believe will catch their pupils up on education missed during the pandemic and might itself be put towards further tutoring.

Read the rest of the piece at The Critic here.

We should celebrate, not mourn, the cancellation of exams

“Surely now is the golden opportunity for schools, untrammelled by all that gruesome nomenclature of ‘exam specification’, ‘assessment objective’, ‘rubrics’ and so on, to set their pupils’ ‘love of learning’ truly ablaze.”

Full piece published on Medium here.

Private Education & Public Benefit

Institutions inextricably bound up with their localities. National treasures with long histories of public service. Sites of collective memory and ritual, loyalty and love. What’s a communitarian not to love about private schools?

Regrettably all too much.

Read the full piece at The Critic.

Scoop – COVID edition

Below is my termly newsletter,

Online teaching and learning webinar

We have been teaching online for 10+ years and stand ready to help any educators who are doing it for the first time. We shall be putting on a webinar, hosted by me and our Director of Education Ed Richardson, on Friday 24th April at 3pm to answer any questions you or colleagues might have about online teaching. Click here to register

Ed has put together this acrostic summarising 10 tips for teaching online and this infographic with suggested ground rules for students. Please feel free to use them if helpful.

GCSEs and A levels 2020

We are trying to keep an FAQ on the changing picture, to the best of our knowledge, here. I hope it’s helpful; do get in touch if you spot any errors or want to discuss any implications.

Small group classes (free for children of key workers)

Branching out from 1-on-1 classes, we have been running live small group lessons to children aged 7-16. These have been priced at a considerable reduction of our usual rate, and free for children of key workers, so as to help the widest number of families. Do pass on to any friends or colleagues stuck at home with the children who might be interested. More details here

Keystone University Scholarship Programme – going ahead 

In my last Scoop, I mentioned that we are offering 12 fully-funded scholarships on our Top University preparation programme. Details here. As above, we have fully tested our online teaching capacity and so will be delivering this online if we are still in lockdown in the summer. Please do continue to forward on to anyone who might be able to put the opportunity in front of the right candidates.

Tutor News

Our English tutor Imogen is having her debut novel The High Notes, about a young singer struggling to make it in London, published by Bloomsbury after a 4-way auction. Well done her.

Other educational dispatches

  • EdTech. Covid has led to much discussion of the future of education. I have found Ben Williamson’s research especially on point: he shows that the big technology companies are already using the crisis to disrupt the school and university sectors perpetually in their favour. I have also been really benefiting from Daisy Christodoulou’s newly published book Teachers vs Tech. This blog, on why remote learning hasn’t worked in the past, and this interview with Craig Barton, are especially good.
  • I had long suspected that the Sugata Mitra’s research on the ‘hole in the wall school’ looked like wishful thinking, even to a Romantic like me. These articles demolished any lingering doubt.
  • My colleague, Harriet, drew this beautiful Easter picture puzzle about London private schools. How many can you get? 
  • The amazing story of a wonderful school I’ve visited in New York that is ‘more English than the English’ and the plot to oust its much-loved headmaster. 

“The world felt big”

The autodidact is a rare creature these days. I really enjoyed listening to this Talking Politics interview with Tara Westover, who grew up in rural Idaho as one of seven children in a strict Mormon family. Her father did not allow her to go to public school, but she taught herself, ending up studying at both Harvard and Cambridge.

I loved this passage, describing her first year at Brigham Young University, which captures her hunger for knowledge and the way education can ‘set one’s feet in a large room.’

I learned about Margaret Thatcher and the Thirty-Eighth Parallel and the Cultural Revolution; I learned about parliamentary politics and electoral systems around the world. I learned about the Jewish diaspora and the strange history of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. By the end of the semester the world felt big, and it was hard to imagine returning to the mountain, to a kitchen, or even to a piano in the room next to the kitchen.

What sort of knowledge..?

From H W Household’s Reminiscences about Charlotte Mason, courtesy of Charlotte Mason Poetry:

What sort of knowledge? Well, they want to hear of Odysseus and Nausicaa, to read the immortal stories of Herodotus, and Plutarch’s Lives; they want to listen to the tale of Thermopylae and Salamis and to learn how democracy raised Athens to her height of glory and then ruined her, and why; to learn about the majesty and fall of Rome, and the meaning and heritage of both for good and ill; about Merovings and Carolings, Seljuks and Ottomans, about the Crusades and the making of Europe (for he who knows not history, as Cicero said, remains a child); about Buddha and Mohammed; about Rembrandt and Beethoven; about Edmund Spenser, Dr. Johnson, Ruskin and Carlyle; about the wonders of the heavens and the earth, and all the romance of science—which the laboratory too often misses.

Montaigne on Education

Jacques Barzun’s wonderful book, From Dawn to Decadence, has been a companion for more than a decade. Dog-eared, covered in indecipherable marks and notes, its front cover long since torn away, I dip in whenever I can and always emerge refreshed.

I’ve just re-read this great passage on Montaigne’s views on education and thought I would post. I love ‘severe gentleness’ and the idea of the ‘double mind.’

Jacques Barzun, Montaigne

Scoop – Spring 2020

I write a newsletter each term, and thought it would be a good idea to include them on my blog too. Here is my latest,

Swanky new online tutoring video

With online tutoring becoming ever more popular (and a lifeline to many of our families who are trapped by the coronavirus) we thought it was time we swanked up our video showing the online experience in all its glory. We commissioned an old prep school friend, fresh from a documentary with Greta Thurnberg, to produce the goods and are really happy with how it’s come out. Check it out here.

Keystone University Scholarship Programme 

We are offering 12 fully-funded scholarships on our Top University preparation programme. However, we are finding it quite hard to get the opportunity in front of the right candidates. If you know of any deserving students, or places we can find them (heads of Sixth Form / pupil premium / academic enrichment in the state sector) perhaps you could forward them this link and/or put them in touch?


We had some great successes this year but certainly felt, as was widely reported (e.g. Telegraph) that there was an unprecedented leap in difficulty for independent school candidates. As one of our most experienced Oxbridge tutors put it, “My overall feeling is that it has become significantly tougher for averagely able students from private school backgrounds to get offers, which is only to be expected given the sharp rise in offers being made to state school students.” Would be interested if others felt the same.

Tutor News

Our English tutor James Mumford recently had this excellent piece – ‘What would you sacrifice for integrity?’ – published in Unherd.

In a new regular section of this Scoop, I thought it would be fun to highlight tutors who have passed through our halls and gone on to achieve distinction elsewhere. So, first hat-tip to Alexander Starritt, a popular generalist tutor of ours some years ago, who has followed up his well-received debut novel The Beast with a new novel, out in May, about a letter written by a German WWII combatant to his British grandson. It is called We Germans.

Other educational dispatches

  • For those who find UK admissions intense… the US remains in a completely different league. David Shaw (of hedge fund D E Shaw & Co fame) donated to Columbia, Yale, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford and Brown to ensure access for his already very able children to a decent university education. Amazing story here.
  • Greg Ashram reviews ‘The Knowledge Gap’, making a succinct and well-reasoned plea for the teaching of knowledge.
  • Michael Merrick – where is the awe and mystery in education? Good piece on the ‘NeoTraddie Revolution’ in education that can be ‘rationalistic, technocratic, and above all, cold.’
  • Our friends at Oxford Summer Courses have created a new STEM course for 13-15 year olds at Imperial. It combines “Stanford University design thinking, the interdisciplinary approach of the MIT Media Lab, and Oxford University’s renowned educational traditions”(!). More here.
  • Our friends Dragons have launched an online Mandarin-learning classroom called DragonsConnect. More here.
  • The WHO has added ‘gaming disorder’ to its international classification of diseases – is it time that the industry was more regulated? – asks the FT
  • Palmer Luckey, the splendidly-named teenager who created the VR headset Occulus Rift and sold it to Facebook for $3billion was…homeschooled. More here.

And finally… try out Harriet’s Simon Drew-inspired Guess the Independent School picture quiz here.

Keystone – Social Media

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