Updated: Jan 30
Our CEO, Joe Hytner, talks with recent President of The Tutors' Association, Adam Muckle.
JH: Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. Please could you explain in a nutshell what the TTA is, and describe your main duties as President of TTA, for those of our readers who are uninitiated?
AM: The Tutors’ Association, founded in 2013, is the professional body for the tutoring sector in the UK. As a membership community, it seeks to provide professional recognition and support for tutors and tuition providers, and a responsible, representative body for the tutoring and supplementary education sector within the wider education landscape. It is a genuine, open, democratic, constitutional, not-for-profit, membership-led organisation.
The role of the President is to be ultimately responsible for the direction of the Association and to represent the membership at meetings, discussions and talks; give speeches and interviews; to meet tutors and tuition providers - both members and non-members - others involved in education, to ‘press the flesh’.
Having watched the TTA in its foundation phase, I became a member in early 2014, and as an individual tutor dared to stand as a candidate in its first membership election for the Board in summer 2015. To my surprise I was elected. I then got a better understanding of the Association and what needed to be done. I was elected President in March 2016 and re-elected in 2017 and 2018. I was also awarded an Honorary Fellowship last summer. It has been quite a journey.
When I took up the Presidency, I spotted a few things that could be developed, not least the TTA’s social media output. As a result, there is now much more awareness, outreach and connection with the wider education community on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
There are a lot of phone calls and emails with the office, with fellow educators to tap up for our regular webinars, events and conferences. Often a journalist or government department will want to discuss some aspect of tutoring. And there are, of course, frequent conversations with members.
There is further communication with members through the medium of more substantive newsletters and there are now more members involved in writing articles for the TTA blog. I also made a point of bringing in more service providers to become Affiliate Members who give discounts to the membership. Our recently-introduced, new membership system Astute also provides a vehicle for improved communications with and between members.
JH: How did it feel to come to the end of your tenure at TTA?
AM: I had given the presidency my all and left the Association in a much stronger position than when I found it. The timing coincided with St. Patrick’s Day, so it was a chance to celebrate in more ways than one. I also feel entirely confident that TTA is in good hands with our new President Tim Morris, our CEO Chris Lenton and a solid team of remaining Directors. They, along with the new Directors-elect who take their place this summer will, I am sure, continue the legacy.
JH: What would you say is your proudest achievement from your premiership? (Don't be shy!)
AM: I would say 2017 was my golden year as President, once I worked out what I was doing. The conference that year was a serious feat and the culmination of a lot of work behind-the-scenes: as TTA is a not-for-profit organisation, there was the initial risk in booking the Barbican, a prestigious venue and three times the cost of our first conference, and then the securing of sponsors, having conversations with potential speakers and developing a theme and programme with more than three times the number of speakers and content to reflect and broaden the narrative on tutoring. And then the hope that people would come to it and enjoy it. A hundred had come the previous year; but over two hundred education professionals came to the 2017 Conference. I am very proud that the 2019 Conference on Friday 25th October is at the Royal Society, arguably an even more prestigious and aspirational venue as an academic fellowship with such a rich history.
JH: All sorts of tutors and any tutoring agency can sign up to the TTA, provided they sign up to its code of conduct. What was it like dealing with such a wide variety of different members and catering to their different interests/needs?
AM: Within the c.1000-strong membership, individual tutors are the majority and then there are corporate members which comprise consultants, tuition agencies, franchisees, study centres, education charities and social entrepreneurs. Having got to know a fair few people in the tutoring sector before I joined TTA, I felt confident speaking to any member whatever their background or nature, and listened to them to understand their different perspectives and needs.
JH: What was your personal leadership style/philosophy?
AM: I was stepping into the big shoes of our previous President Tom Maher who had already achieved a huge amount, so it was potentially quite daunting. But I came to my own understanding of what leadership is about: for me, it’s a combination of leading from the front, setting an example, and delegating to let others do their bit and prove themselves. I had a great team of fellow-Directors and it was immensely reassuring to have good people round the table to be able to call upon when necessary. I couldn’t have asked for better and we achieved a lot together. Beyond that, I myself try to give my very best. I’m a fighter and I never give up.
JH: What was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned from the experience?
AM: I have listened and learnt so much, developing new and transferable skills that go far beyond tutoring itself. When I started tutoring, I was determined to make it a success. I felt it was a very pioneering career choice. I never expected to lead its professional body (which didn’t even exist then), or to give ‘thought-leadership’ or to help steer its course. I can’t quite believe I’ve done it!
JH: What was the biggest challenge about the role for you personally?
AM: Taking on the role initially, at the time I did feel a bit daunted by the prospect, in my mind at least, of being the personification of a multi-billion pound sector. I took it very seriously. And I’d like to think that kept me grounded throughout. I read a lot on leadership in preparation and throughout my time as President and strived to be as successful as I could be.
JH: Has the organisation changed much in the time you've been associated with it?
AM: Dramatically. With membership trebling since 2016, it can now be considered a genuine community of fellow-professionals. It is far more recognised in the education landscape. It has a voice with Government; it has links with organisations such as the Sutton Trust, and we have, and continue, to build bridges with schools, journalists and commentators. The office has expanded, there are regular webinars, socials and events, better communication and more regular newsletters. The TTA annual conference is established. There are more membership discounts and services to support tutoring practice.
JH: Any funny or juicy anecdotes for our readers?
AM: At our first conference, our keynote speaker was legendary All-Blacks former captain Sean Fitzpatrick. After his speech, he gave me a copy of his book, ‘Winning Matters’. He had signed the inside cover with “Adam, Kia Kaha - Winning is Fun!” Kia Kaha is a Maori phrase used by New Zealanders which means ‘Stay Strong’.
JH: How did you become involved with the TTA in the first place?
AM: I worked for several agencies which were among the Founders of the Association, and I was invited to the consultation in the summer 2013 before it’s official launch in October. I spoke to the Chairman afterwards, as I detected a soft Irish accent. We had a brief conversation. Then in 2014 I was asked onto a panel of individual tutors to brainstorm various areas that the Association could consider pursuing. So that was the introduction to being involved.
JH: What would you say to someone thinking of joining the TTA — whether as an individual tutor or as a tutoring agency?
AM: Do it. There are lots of personal and business development opportunities – from networking to enhancing your skills by attending specialist seminars and webinars. It’s an opportunity to exchange ideas and solutions with fellow-professionals, and signing up to our code of conduct is a mark that you treat your profession seriously.
Above and beyond these personal reasons, I believe that it is also important to throw your weight behind a body that stands up for the profession and that stands for excellence within it. Tuition does not always get a good press and Government regulation is always a potential threat. By joining TTA, you help create a voice for the profession that can get itself heard, and a bulwark against outside interference.
JH: What's next in store for you?
AM: A slow boat to China... No, a holiday and then more tuition at home and abroad. I look forward to seeing you at the TTA conference in October.
Titanium Tutors is a proud member of The Tutors' Association and actively encourages its tutors to join as individual members. Feel free to reach out if you want more information.
Adam Muckle is originally from Belfast and studied Classics at Durham University. After training as a Barrister, a chance conversation led him unexpectedly to tutoring.
Over the past ten years Adam has tutored here in the UK, throughout Europe and Asia, as well as online. He specialises in tuition for 9 to 13-year-olds preparing for Pre-Test, Common Entrance and Scholarship Entrance exams.
He was President of The Tutors’ Association from March 2016 to March 2019.
Joe Hytner owns and runs Titanium Tutors, managing our assessors and staff.
Whilst setting up Titanium Tutors he taught Latin on a part-time basis in three schools. He has also taught Latin and Ancient Greek to Cambridge University undergraduates.