Marking two years since the COVID-19 pandemic upended all our lives, we spoke to Figtree Founder, Ariana, about the way in which the learning landscape has changed – and how our tuition and educational consultancy can guide families through challenges, old and new.
Before we begin, can you tell us a bit about yourself – and what made you decide to set up Figtree Learning?
While working in London as a finance lawyer, I was part of the founding team of a leading educational charity, supporting socially-disadvantaged GCSE students. It was the most rewarding experience of my life – knowing that even a small difference can completely change the course of someone’s future. I realised I wanted to pursue a career in education, so began working as a tutor full time, with a view to setting up a tutoring business that combined rigorous academic support with a strong mentoring focus. And so Figtree Learning was born. Alongside running the business, I still tutor a few times a week, as I think it’s important to stay in touch with students and keep providing educational support first-hand. And we continue to put down charitable roots with our Foundation, through which we provide tutoring and mentoring on a voluntary basis to underprivileged students – which is proving all the more important, as the full effects of lockdown begin to emerge.
Why do you think tuition is so important today – and what makes the Figtree approach different?
We live in a highly competitive, globalised world – with continually evolving academic, extracurricular and social pressures. And these anxieties have only been exacerbated over the last two years. It can be overwhelming for even the most focused child, but tuition gives them the chance to build a close rapport with an educator of their choosing. We always ensure students are happy with the tutor we propose, because that’s key to their engagement. We want to give each student the space to feel completely comfortable to ask any questions and receive the undivided attention they need to thrive, particularly after a period of great uncertainty.
At Figtree, we’re committed to providing support that’s tailored to each student’s specific needs. Our approach is rooted in care, creating a consistent, safe environment where everyone can grow. This nurturing ethos means we work together with students – and with wider family members where needed – to set realistic goals and achieve them, as a team.
With travel back on the cards, what support can you provide to students looking to study abroad, or families relocating to the UK?
A large part of our educational consultancy sees us working with students based here, looking to study abroad. And those families overseas who want to come to the UK. We’re familiar with all the nuances of the British, American and international systems, for day and boarding schools, and at university level, and our diverse team is something international families find particularly reassuring.
We know first-hand what it’s like to move and study aboard, and we’re excited to be able to share our insights with families worldwide. We’ve placed students in schools and universities all over Europe and the US, and thanks to our dedicated university and college advisors, we can confidently guide families through the different systems and entrance exams, such as SATs, ACTs, LSATs, BMATs, and GMATs.
The British school system has become increasingly competitive, which can add extra anxiety to the system. How do you help parents and children through this process?
Obviously targeted, subject-specific support plays a big part in our students’ academic successes. But we also provide wider educational consultancy to help navigate the British school system. We offer specialist school entrance support for all stages, as well as mentoring and guidance on revision and learning techniques, prioritisation and organisational skills. When we’re working with a student applying to a British school, we’ll always meet with them – either online or in person – to conduct an initial assessment. We then present parents with a full report on where their child currently sits, and what they need to do to secure a place at their target schools.
We have a 100% success rate at gaining entry to a school of choice – and nine times out of ten, it’s a student’s first choice – but we are always honest from the outset. We have London-based parents who ask for the usual top schools, such as St Paul’s, Westminster, Godolphin, Latymer, and so on, but there are so many brilliant schools in London. We urge our families to keep an open mind and really decide on what’s best for each child.
How do you approach working with older students, embarking on their university education?
Personalised preparation is key, and our support starts long before the first day of term. We have a dedicated university entrance team, supporting with interview technique and any university-specific requirements, for example extra exams for Oxbridge. Our educational consultants will work with prospective students to identify the best courses, at the most suitable institutions, and then put in place a detailed plan to get them there – where possible, working with tutors who graduated from their university of choice.
Once our students have secured a place, we continue to support their higher education journey with tuition, academic and industry placements, and postgraduate consultancy.
Finally, what’s the one thing you want students to take away from their time with Figtree?
We want our students to feel confident to try their best, and in the future, inspire others to do the same. And if they want to join Figtree as tutors, as many of our past students have, then it’s a real testament to our success.