Explore Learning Centres - Are they worth it?

(101 Posts)
pepsi Fri 10-Jul-09 11:59:01

My DD7 had a visit from Explore at her school this week and has expressed an interest in going. Ive been had had a look at it this morning and everything looks lovely and the staff friendly and enthusiastic. It comes with an £89.00 per month price tag which is so much. I have booked her in for the free trial session. Has anyone got experience of these sessions? Their literature claims eg. rather than 6 months progress in Maths in 6 months your child can progress 12 months. It all sounds too good to be true.

Singularity Wed 26-Feb-14 22:31:48

I realise this discussion has been ongoing for years, but hopefully someone will still be reading this.

I'm a tutor at Explore and I've been responsible for running the Entrance Exams/11+ additional content sessions for a while now. First off, I don't want to let my involvement with Explore Learning make me biased - I'll be as fair as I can be, given my experiences. I'm not here to sell the company.

If you're wondering whether or not to send your child to Explore, the best thing you can do is try an initial session - they're free, and they give children the exact experience they would get as a member. Considering it doesn't cost anything, there's no harm in going along to see for yourself what it's like. Your opinion on what's best for your child is more relevant to you than anyone else's.

Yes, we have a few teenagers in our centre (I myself am 18) however that doesn't mean that we're incapable of tutoring effectively. I won't deny, being a full fledged independent tutor is useful - you'll have a lot of experience teaching children and will have a lot of insight into how they learn. But there are also pros to being a younger tutor. Nobody knows more about how to prepare for exams than those who are still sitting them in college and university and have attained high grades in them in recent years. That also applies to the curriculum - tutors who are still learners will be as accustomed to the current curriculum as the children they teach are. They are often in a very unique position to help others with the topics that have barely changed since they themselves we taught.

I feel quite hurt by some of the sweeping, negative comments made regarding teenagers teaching children, suggesting we don't know anything, or that we don't have the children's welfare and best interests in mind. Although I cannot say this for every teenager working at Explore, I know for a fact that everyone I work with is keen and devoted to providing the best teaching standards we can. I tutor children in the same manner in which I would expect to be taught myself. Whenever a child struggles to grasp a concept, we can easily talk through other methods and ideas (even those we found to be useful when we were learning the topic) and we have a unique ability to explain an approach that is different to that which children are taught in school.

As I teach the additional content sessions for Entrance Exams/11+, I'm also responsible for talking to parents about how their child is coping with the work. I mark homework and organise the activities the children do as part of the lesson. I always keep note of how individual learners react to certain tasks (group work, homework, practice tests, etc.) and I use this to feed back to parents on how best they could reinforce teaching at home. As far as I'm concerned, this specialised teaching approach has been well-received by parents, and it's useful for building a good relationship with children - something which is helped by the smaller age gap between some tutors and learners. It makes for a more exciting, friendly environment when the children know you and you know them.

Again, this isn't me trying to sell the company. As I mentioned earlier, your opinion is what matters, not mine - which is why you should attend initial sessions to gather more information for yourself to make an informed decision. However, I did feel as though some of the comments made regarding the quality of teaching due to young tutors were very sweeping and, as such, unreliable.

Thanks for reading!

town59 Sun 15-Dec-13 13:02:00

Both my children went to our local centre, reluctantly. It did help but they didn't enjoy it and they didn't stick it for long. The elder one then went to work there after GCSEs as it seemed a suitable job for a bright kid who didn't appreciate waitressing! The money was bad but she was assured it would go up to a reasonable level….hmmm.

In our local centre the standard of tutors is high - my offspring is extremely conscientious and is very committed to the children. She has A* GCSES and A* English A level and many of the others have equally good grades - but I do notice that the the tutors tend to be maths based and that the number who are very very good on the literacy side is lower. My daughter is an English pedant - very particular about grammar and spelling. She has been criticised by the centre for picking up on the other tutors mistakes in spelling and grammar which I feel is unfair.

My gripe is that it may be a great and highly lucrative business model but that the tutors are exploited - the wages for what they do are very very low and they are expected to be very "corporate" for want of a better term. Yes, they are young but they love what they do and most are very good indeed at it. They deserve more than a minimum wage. I do feel they have more insight into the kids' school experiences and problems than older tutors might. The tutors are very high calibre students and at least in our local centre, care very deeply about the children and their progress. My daughter keeps working there because she has bonds with kids that she feels benefit from her help, not for the pitifully low wages.

It seems to be the managers who are more concerned about the money than the clients - I was very put off by one trying to hard sell Succeed in Secondary to me for my younger child, who is already doing just that! She was only there for a maths boost and we moved to a private tutor rathe quickly (cheaper as we only go when she needs help).

The sooner my elder one leaves the happier I will be. She was on minimum wage for an under 18 when she started (at 17) and earned a few increments for various bits of extra training and achievement - but as soon as she hit 18 she was back on minimum for that age, they wouldn't add on the "extras" she had already earned!

All in all, not a big fan of this organisation.

mnistooaddictive Fri 13-Dec-13 17:07:39

My bad opinion is not ill informed, and why did you have to post this on two threads. Your lack of maturity and experience shined through your whole post. Of course you are telling us they are great - your income depends on people booking it.

Scientific Fri 13-Dec-13 16:39:01

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Janacek Mon 11-Nov-13 21:44:04

We went to Explore as our grade 1 osfted primary was sadly lacking in numeracy and literacy. Forget the hour they were supposed to spend on each. My sons were planting 4 rows of 4 trees to learn 4 times table. I applaud the practical learning but a little time consuming !
The tutors were fantastic (Walton branch) and the boys came on in leaps and bounds, both enthused by the computer learning. It's not cheap but no tutoring is. The bigger question is why are we having to do this ? I went to a state primary in a rough area of Yorkshire 40 years ago. I received a good education. This was not our experience of primary and so now we are paying private fees. We are not rich and do without holidays and extras. I felt Explore was good but only plugging gaps left by inadequate teaching at primary.

Mummyoftheyear Tue 22-Oct-13 15:18:42

I'm a tutor. Not there. For myself.
I would never send him to a computer-based learning centre.

I'd echo the advice above of working with your child at home - unless, despite your ability to do so, your child won't respond positively to your input.. and it ends up in a negative spiral/ row.

For those who are set upon using computer-based learning programmes, I do particularly like Maths Whizz. I may look into using it as a motivational learning tool for my son.

However, I'd not use a computer-based tuition service with tutors who can't spell or punctuate.

ParentsParadise Sun 20-Oct-13 12:16:08

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yoyo7 Sat 12-Oct-13 13:45:56

Feel I need to add my 2 pence worth as an experienced, qualified teacher and owner of a tuition centre who has had many students arrive after spending months (and years!) at Explore with limited gains in progress...

No doubt the experience appears to be a really fun way to spend a few hours during the week - and can't fault that!

Educationally, may work for some but there are many better options out there... forget computers making the decisions, in my view, can't beat the eye of a trained professional who can move students forward - don't underestimate that! smile It's the choice of work (learning programme) which will make all of the difference and in my opinion this cannot come from some 'pre-set', 'intuitive' computer programme. Variety is the key - not an overreliance on using one computer programme which you could buy for home use anyway. Ideally, a variety of carefully thought out activities (computer and paperbased) addressing individual needs followed up by some targeted weekly homework to consolidate learning! Get the kids writing on paper (at least for some of the time) if they need English support -as that is what they are expected to do at school!

It has been my experience that parents seem to buy into the clever marketing (they are a business of course) and fail to understand that their child needs a person who really understands learning and who is at the top of their game. Not all teachers are good teachers - I have met many who shouldn't be out there. Explore tutors are probably very friendly and some of them very motivated as well - this is not enough in my view. The 'inspiring' staff at Explore (with all the training in the world) could never work in my centre - as our parents expect and deserve more for their hard earned money. Yes, Explore tutors can teach the methods no doubt, but can they really identify the gaps in learning and choose an appropriate resource in order to address the gap? Explore, in my view, is simply a one size fits all approach.

Kids still need to be kids and I think learning should be fun. I think Explore ticks that box but I would recommend parents would do better finding a place which ticks far more boxes -especially in terms of providing a truly individualised approach which can still give kids all the rewards and fun along the way. The ratio of 6 to 1 could never be an option in our centre. Why? Not enough personalised attention - too many for even the best teachers to genuniely support the individual. If you decide to enrol your child at Explore, take a closer look and trust your own instinct with regards to their progress - forget the computer reports. Just my opinion smile

WansteadG Fri 20-Sep-13 00:13:23

go by word of mouth - my son was tutored by an ex teacher as he was falling behind in maths as his music made him miss 20% of maths each week. We paid £20 hr for this - thankfully he is now in year 9 and still in the top set for maths

darl2283 Tue 17-Sep-13 22:16:01

Spot on Swede! I have had to pick up the pieces when parents have been given totally false information about their child's National Curriculum levels that are computer generated. I was so incensed I marched down to my local Sainsburys and complained. It got escalated up to Explore Leaning HQ but I got nowhere.
Are they worth it? Yes if you can afford £90 to keep your child entertained whilst you shop but if you are expecting to advance their learning then keep your money firmly in your pocket!

Swede1 Tue 17-Sep-13 21:52:39

I am now a qualified English teacher but after I graduated from university some years ago, I worked as an Assistant Manager for Explore Learning. I have read the above discussion with a lot of interest.

Like any private 'educational' establishment, Explore Learning's main aim is to make as much profit as possible. As a graduate fresh out of university (the market they aim their recruitment at), I believed that the ethos of the company was to help educate children in a fun and interactive way. To a degree, EL can perhaps help compliment the National Curriculum but in my opinion it is no substitute for qualified teachers or even 1:1 after school private tuition.

The Centre Managers may hold a degree but they often lack life experience and education in pedagogy. The training that is offered to the staff is created by the HQ staff for the company and really relates to ensuring the Explore Learning ethos is upheld by the managers. The two basic principles of the business are marketing (to sell the centre to the parents and get sign ups) and retention (to maintain the customer base by making sure children / parents are happy). This is done through a number of ways: standing in the supermarket stopping potential customers, going into schools to 'sell' the centre to the children and through other events. The staff also have a bonus scheme that encourages competition to see how many sign ups one can get. To be fair, you cannot really blame a private company for using these strategies or having the intention of making money.

With my teaching experience and with hindsight, I do not believe Explore Learning is the big enemy and really it is a parent's choice whether to send their child to a centre. However, I do think that the staff are indoctrinated with the idea that they know better than a school about a child's education. The so called 'reports' they provide to parents are evidence of their arrogance that they know better than a teacher who spends up to 7 hours a day with your child. Explore Learning play on the fact that some parents are naive about the National Curriculum or are disenchanted with their child's school. This of course can cause friction with local schools. I also should add here that some of the supportive quotes on the website are over six years old and therefore do not necessarily paint a realistic picture of a centre.

In conclusion, Explore Learning does have some merits: it is a fun place for children to 'educationally' play, the tutors really can build fantastic rapports with the children so this encourages them to learn and it is definitely convenient for parents. On the other hand, I think parents need to be realistic about what this company offer. Explore Learning are there to make money, they use clever marketing strategies to hook the children in and their young university graduates deliver this with much enthusiasm. If you really care about your child's education, please look at all the options before you spend your 90 pounds...sometimes it could just be as simple as spending 20 minutes a night with your child and reading together to help improve literacy. Remember that most teachers have the same goal as you, they want to help your child learn in a supportive enivironment and often working collaboratively will solve many issues.

Yvette15 Wed 11-Sep-13 10:51:15

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aceofspades84 Fri 30-Aug-13 18:27:46

Just to be clear, none of the directors or assistant directors tutor the children unless they absolutely have to (i.e. it is too busy). It is the kids in blue polo shirts who tutor your children.

aceofspades84 Fri 30-Aug-13 18:18:59

One final point I will make is that you should take note of the standard of English of the Explore employees or ex-Employees (myself included if you like) and decide whether or not you think it is worth having your children tutored in ENGLISH by Explore.

aceofspades84 Fri 30-Aug-13 18:14:53

Oops, I stand corrected. It's not a franchise model. It felt like one though. It's not a very cohesive company.

aceofspades84 Fri 30-Aug-13 18:08:48

I'm an ex-employee and I'm not here to do damage limitation. I'm not a parent but I was trying to highlight to the people being conned by Explore that it is a con. Surely the people who work there when the parents aren't around are the best to actually say what it's like?

I would say:

The graduate staff are often fresh from uni and just looking to gain some management experience before moving on. A lot of the people I know that were managers are now in fields that do not involve kids at all.

I was a tutor, as a graduate, which WAS NOT THE NORM! I had what I would consider children as my colleagues! They were in the first year of studying for their A-Levels (16/17 yo) and some of them could barely spell or use correct grammar. When I was talking to the parents to tell them of the activities that day I was often embarrassed by the horrendous spelling and grammar I was handing over on their child's session notes and made a point to mention that it was x or y tutor who had worked with little Jordan that day so that I was not mistaken for the culprit.

Worse than the poor spelling was the crap that we spewed at parents. The person seeing your child out has NO IDEA what they have been doing. I'm sorry but it's the truth. We go on the same basic notes that are handed to you and then waffle around them to make it look like we know what we're talking about. In reality, as someone else mentioned, we are more like headless chickens. The people who see your children out and give you their feedback have spent the past hour running around managing all of the centre. It's very hard to know what any one child is doing when you have about 30-36 working at once and tutors to organise. It's actually more children than the average classroom and as I went on to become a teacher, I know how little time teachers can dedicate to children too.

I think it is abhorrent how Explore is sold to parents and that is, in the end, why I left! They slate the local schools (when they know NOTHING about them) and they make promises that they cannot fulfil. I left mine to work evenings in another job and volunteer in local schools during the day - schools do it BETTER!

Surf club, as someone else mentioned, is a holding pen and nothing more. As most of the children are left unsupervised or the tutor in surf club is playing a game with some children whilst the others run riot, a lot of the resources and games are ruined and ours was quite shoddy. That's probably the reason it was hidden at the back away from parents. One of the children in our centre accidentally accessed porn in surf club.

If you want a typical Explore session in a nutshell:

1. Child arrives

2. Child is either seated in a zone if there is a space or they are sent to surf club to wait until there is a space.

3. Child receives tuition in a zone with 6 other children but what it really boils down to as a tutor is that we are constantly watching the clock and checking the time on sheets, making sure that each child only spends 10 minutes on this or 15 minutes on that or does all their spellings in 5 minutes so they can do their digitext. It was a nightmare. I spent more time worrying about timings and cramming everything in (or else the managers would go mad) than I did actually tutoring the children.

5. Once a child has finished their work for the day, they are sent back to surf club until their parents turn up.

6. When the parents arrive, the smiles on the compere (person running 'show time') come out and the child is taken to the front of the centre. Their session notes are taken out of the holder by the computer and the compere then reels off a list of rubbish that the child apparently did that day before sending them on their merry way.

Those of you who send your children, I would:

Ask them about their experiences and see whether they agree with what has been said about them at the end of their session (if they're still awake).
Ask them how often they saw the tutor/manager who gave you the breakdown of their progress that session.
Ask them how long they were bunged in surf club on a busy day - you pay for an hour of tuition. Sometimes the children get 35-40 minutes on a busy day. Would you really spend upwards of £89 if it was made clear that at busy drop in times, your child may actually do as much surfing the net or colouring in as they do tuition?

I'm just trying to be honest. It's a scam company as far as I'm concerned. I think it had good intentions but it is a franchise model so nothing is standardised. The centre nearest to you may well be brilliant as depends largely on the staff, but this relates to a centre in the West Midlands (can't be more specific due to the nature of the comments). I would try to find reviews of your local Explore and really talk to your children about it if they already attend.

BlackMogul Fri 30-Aug-13 17:51:20

Marjoriew. I am amazed you cannot find a good primary school around HW!! There are some fabulous ones. How hard have u tried? Bound to be a few with vacancies. Making friends is such an important part of a child's life and this is way more difficult at home with Grandma.

jrabean Wed 21-Aug-13 13:14:33

It's rather shocking that a Year 4 teacher cannot write properly! Even my Year 1 son knows the difference between "bear" and "bare" and "your" vs "you're".

Maybe the kids should be teaching the teachers!

Frandroid Mon 12-Aug-13 12:16:34

I have wondered a lot about kumon, tutors and schemes such as this when my child was having a tough year in year 2 particularly as he was the youngest boy in the class and I felt was getting left behind. (over 50% of kids on my childs class were having extra help it seemed).

If he had a specific problem I think having a specialist on board might help but I just thought its worth a shot having a go ourselves first to get him up to speed and to improve his literacy - his school worksheets were unfinished and he seemed unmotivated.

We got some literacy books from Sainsburys and worksheets from the library, I bought some science books from the internet (it's his favourite subject although they didn't cover it when he was in year 2 very much) and just tried to do a little bit every week on the areas he had problems such as punctuation and tried different techniques to get him to learn his spellings. We had a lot of conversations about how he felt about school and various lessons. (There seemed to be a lot of boredom, distraction and frustration). With a mixture of worksheets, his own interest in science, a change of teacher and classmates at school he really seemed to be improving. His practically empty unfinished workbooks started to fill up.

I was so pleased that we had a go ourselves because this year when he got a really good report and some amazing feedback about his literacy I felt really proud - of him for putting in the effort and myself for learning some patience and finding out what his exact problems were. I feel that if I'd hired a tutor or signed up to a course, he wouldn't have felt as though his improvement had come from his own achievement which I think is really important - a lot of his improvement is down to his love of reading which suddenly came on in leaps and bounds. I'm really glad we gave this a shot before hiring extra help which is very costly and might not have addressed his issues.

ShoshanaBlue Wed 24-Jul-13 12:48:09

I would say that if your child has SEN then that has to be a definite NO! My child who is severely autistic loved going until they had a change of management, that she felt difficult to cope with. At the time, her grandad had just had a heart attack and was awaiting surgery for a quadruple bypass and life was very difficult as I was struggling to care for an autistic child and a very sick man in hospital.

Not only was my child expelled from the centre, but the manager actually made a complaint (on no real grounds) about me to Social Services (exactly what I needed at the time!). However, in this instance, SS just ignored the complaint and sent out a letter to me that they were doing just that. However, this particular manager was certainly needing some sort of basic training on Child Protection Issues.

I can understand why she was expelled - it's a private thing, run for a profit and a lot of parents have children that are just too precious to associate with my child. However, to involve social services because my child had a meltdown is either indicative of total incompetence or just mere spite.

weirdthing Tue 16-Jul-13 22:19:39

How come there are so many employees of Explore Learning on this thread? I don't feel, from reading their posts, that they are parents. I suspect they are all on here to do a damage limitation exercise. Explore Learning looks bloody awful!

exexplorer Mon 15-Jul-13 17:35:27

I've recently finished working as Assistant Director at a relatively new Explore Learning centre.

Whilst I loved working in the centre, I must confess that a lot of the time during 'show time' (Which is what we, as managers call the period from 3pm - 8pm when children visit the centre), I felt that the centre was absolute chaos.

Don't get me wrong - all tutors work extremely hard and managers work their fingers to the bone to ensure as much of a smooth ride as possible, but this simply isn't possible when as many as 100 children visit the centre over the 5 hours of 'show time'.

You should be made aware of this chaos right from the start...but you are not!

As a manager I found that I was constantly juggling tasks - having to attend multiple parents meetings, train new tutors, compere children in and out during busy periods, prepare school event materials, deal with financial matters, look after any SEN children and undertake general business management of the centre and many many more tasks throughout the course of 'show time'. The ridiculous amount of tasks that head office throw at the managers mean that they simply do not have the time to ensure that every child that comes in through the door has a quality session. In some instances, I feel that tutors were simply running around like headless chickens - writing 'session notes' about the children's work and actually not helping/ tutoring the children in anyway.

'Surf club' - an area in the centre where children are allowed to socialise and relax...actually turns into a holding pen when members come in for their sessions - with some children spending up to 40 minutes in there before their session even starts!!!

THERE ARE some benefits of joining Explore Learning - I feel that children with low confidence often progress amazingly well. However, if you are looking for a centre to support your child's learning needs or challenge your child, I would recommend a 1:1 tutor.

gill189 Wed 08-May-13 21:52:12

Hi all the mum's out there. I would like to say I have previously worked for Explore Learning as a Tutor (working in the centre with the children) as a part time job. Tutors only get paid minimum wage, which is nothing compared to how much effort they put into each child. Also I would like to tell you, that tutoring 6 children at once, writing their report progress and at different levels is very tricky.
The staff only need gcse's, no proper teaching qualification is needed- so basically 16-18 year olds most of the time are teaching your children. Staff are given no training, so when tricky/ more challenging questions come up that require more explanation to the child half the time you couldn't explain it, because you have 5 other children to help and monitor, so the child would loose out. And the whole 'tuition' experience is based around a computer which generates questions - and when the children need help they put up there hand. So basically, your child is answering questions from a computer, which there are plenty of CD's these days that can be brought. If they get a questions right positive words are used to encourage them/build confidence - but then that could also be done at home too?
It does increase children's confidence, but when times are getting very tough and you want your child to be the best they can possibly be, I think opting for a private tutor for your child is the best thing.

In past experience I feel that children benefit greatly from private tuition 1:1 experience, and I am talking for myself as I have been a 11+ candidate and taken private school examinations and passed them. My advice to you as parents, make time to sit with your child and teach them and tutor them yourself, or find a very good tutor (like my parents did for me and my siblings, and the rest of my family has).
Personally explore learning is not worth it, and when I have children, I would not give a second thought to companies such as explore learning.

MattR808 Sat 12-Jan-13 11:23:04

I take my son to explore every week and he loves it. The staff are friendly and he doesn't feel intimidated about going, he loves the atmosphere and he also feels much more confident in school after attending sessions. The staff keep me up to date with how he is progressing and he comes home inspired and motivated to learn. I would recommend the service to anyone whos child needs/wants that little extra help outside of school.

My DS has been going to Explore for over a year and he absolutely loves it. It was recommended to me by his class teacher at school because he was really struggling with his reading, and now he reads at home on his own without any arguments, which is worth the cost alone. The staff there are very supportive and give you really regular feedback on how your child is doing, which is very reassuring. Yes, some of the tutors are quite young, but he is much happier learning with them than he was when we used to have a private tutor (retired teacher) coming to our house. I'd definitely recommend it.

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