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A simple equation of meeting demand

International education and tutoring institution, Kip McGrath, has noticed increased demand for tutoring support in the wake of COVID, with students commencing secondary school with a lack of foundational skills.

When a year 10 student first met maths tutor Jeanette De Marchis in Sydney, he was two years behind his peers. 

Through tutoring with Jeanette, a former teacher who now owns two Kip McGrath education centres (Concord and Eastwood), he caught up, achieving an ATAR of 85 and is currently studying construction at University of New South Wales.

“Nick was struggling with mathematics, his confidence dwindling with each passing lesson. As an assessor and teacher, I witnessed firsthand his struggles and frustration. Despite his difficulties, Nick refused to succumb to defeat and enrolled as an online student at our Kip McGrath Eastwood centre. He diligently attended online sessions and, as time progressed, his confidence and his mathematical ability started to improve,” Ms De Marchis says.

Through dedication and determination, he began to see incremental improvements in his grades, she says. 

“Nick’s journey took a remarkable turn after he completed his HSC as was accepted into UNSW, where he went on to pursue a degree in Construction Management. Furthermore he found employment in the building industry, a testament to his newfound confidence.

“His parents, once concerned about his academic struggles, now beamed with pride at his remarkable achievements. Nick’s journey from a struggling student to a confident young adult was not just a personal triumph but also an inspiration to all who witnessed it,” Ms De Marchis says.

Tutor Jeanette De Marchis. Image: Kip McGrath

Kip McGrath Education Centres is a global franchise business that offers teachers like Jeanette the opportunity to own a tutoring centre.

Founded in 1976 by two Australian school teachers, Kip and Dug McGrath, the network has grown to 600 centres worldwide. It has 150 centres across Australia and New Zealand, offering both online and in-person tuition in maths and English.

Jeanette has observed that students who came to her for support during COVID stayed with the Kip McGrath program as they could see their school results improve.

Her observations are not isolated. The 10-year GENERATION study, led by the Australian National University (ANU) in collaboration with the Australian Council for Educational Research and the Social Research Centre, examined the experiences of more than 18,000 year 10 students from 300 high schools across Australia. It is the largest longitudinal study of its kind.

The first wave of the survey, conducted in 2022, found 52 per cent of students said their learning had suffered as a consequence of COVID-19, while 59 per cent said they did not feel prepared for school in 2022.

“Since the pandemic, I have noticed that students are coming in for secondary tuition who do not even have basic foundational maths skills or key concepts, such as algebra, and financial maths,” she says.

“In my role as tutor, my focus is on catching kids up and then supporting them to stay caught up.”

Fellow tutor Andi Hollingworth, from Kip McGrath in Swan Hill, also feels that COVID has been a “ripple that will be felt for many years to come”.

Andi commenced tutoring in 2021; she’d been working as an instructional coach for teachers and wanted to return to working with children.

“Many parents had a watershed moment when seeing their children struggle with online lessons during COVID when they were learning from home,” she says.

“They obviously weren’t grasping basic concepts, and this pushed many parents to seek tutoring support.”

Kip McGrath offers a free 40-60 minute assessment to identify a child’s strengths and learning gaps. Image: Kip McGrath

Many children in Andi’s care haven’t returned to school. They are now home-schooling full-time, with parents relying on Andi as a support service to ensure their child is keeping up to speed.

“Parents bring them into the centre in Swan Hill once a week so that they can have some kind of social interaction,” Andi says.

She says a number of students have jumped years in literacy and numeracy skill levels since commencing tutoring.

Across the border in South Australia, Mark Harvey, owner of Kip McGrath in Holdfast Bay, tutors a balance of primary and secondary students, and says primary students are perhaps the ones who have struggled most post-COVID.

“They’re not just struggling; they’re missing whole chunks of basic concepts,” he says.

He has also seen a genuine change in student behaviour and attitudes to learning.

“They’ve stopped taking ownership of their learning. The explosion of learning technology, AI, and online tools has given rise to a ‘why do I have to learn this’ attitude as they believe they can just ask a machine,” Mark says.

“Once they start tutoring, you see their confidence grow. Kids who don’t raise their hand in a large classroom group feel much more confident doing so in a smaller group.”

He continues: “They don’t feel as pressured in a small group tutoring environment. Students are responding to the back-to-basics approach. They get one-on-one attention and also have time for independent learning which helps build their confidence.”

Increase in demand

CEO of the Australasian market, Ms Karen Geloven, says the institute’s vision is to raise the bar in tutoring and change the lives of as many students as possible around the world.

A former Kip McGrath tutor herself, Ms Geloven went on to become a franchisee from 2011 to 2021, then held various corporate roles in the organisation prior to being appointed CEO Australasia in March 2024.

“Our tutors are qualified teachers and we offer a personalised learning program – that’s our point-of-difference,” she says.

CEO of Australasia, Karen Geloven. Image: Kip McGrath

Ms Geloven says there has been a noticeable increase in demand for tutoring support in the wake of COVID.

“We have experienced a 30 per cent increase in enquiries for our tuition services. I think that is a reflection of parents observing their children learning from home during COVID and seeing first-hand that their children were struggling, and prompting them to seek tuition,” she says.

But even once students have caught up, they’re continuing with Kip McGrath to keep up.

“After COVID ended, parents have kept their children in tutoring programs as they could see how much their children needed support, particularly in rural and regional areas,” she says.

Although most students come from referrals from other parents, Ms Geloven says the organisation works closely with schools and not-for-profit organisations to support students.

“Working alongside schools, we complement the teaching that takes place in class to help struggling students catch up, keep up, and regain their confidence.”

Kip McGrath has been a preferred supplier for the NSW Education Department’s school subsidised tutoring program. 

“We had schools in Newcastle, Blacktown and Port Macquarie engage our services to provide this tuition. Port Macquarie also completed a pilot program that was teaching students study skills as well as additional support in math and English,” Ms Geloven says.

“We also have a number of not-for-profit organisations that support students by funding tuition for after-school support – Uniting Care, The Smith Family, Veritas House to name a couple. Our Eastern Creek franchisee is also doing a program with indigenous students through Kimberwalli,” she says.

Kip McGrath offers a free 40-60 minute assessment to identify a child’s strengths and learning gaps, providing honest feedback of their ability. 

“It also enables us to start them at the correct level,” Ms Geloven says. “As well as being tutored explicitly one-on-one, our small group sessions – with a maximum of six students – also allow for independent learning to help build confidence.

“We offer weekly lessons in our centres or online via our purpose-built tutoring platform. This means students can learn from anywhere – including from remote and rural areas.

“And students have the same teacher every week, which helps build a great relationship.”

For more information or to book a free assessment, visit www.kipmcgrath.com.au

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