Part of a UK supplementary education sector worth some £6billion, franchisor FCL has a network of 300 centres offering personalised tuition for four to 16-year-olds aligned to the National Curriculum.
Charges are broadly £60 a month per subject, normally children learn in small groups at their own pace once a week along with bite-size structured homework. FCL’s clients are often but not exclusively former state education teachers investing £10,000 to start up their own business and gain more flexibility. Strong on diversity, some 50 per cent of FCL’s group come from ethnic minority communities.
Developing the physics, chemistry and biology modules will increase opportunities for those 250 plus franchisees, says chief executive Ed Hyslop who, following an equity-backed management investment in 2016, has overseen strong international growth too.
Along with FCL centres in Ireland and Australia, there are licensed partners in Spain, Singapore and Dubai. A post-Brexit effect is also starting to emerge with one teacher returning home to Romania and planning to establish FCL there.
“British education and exam qualifications are highly valued,” observes Hyslop. “Parents want their children to be well prepared for international careers.”
With a forecast of £2 million turnover in 2023 for FCL and a combined one of £15 million plus for the centres, the company is on track with its objectives “to improve children’s learning outcomes, their skills and self-belief,” he adds.
“We are for ‘parents-in-the-middle’ looking for more support. Ninety percent of our centres have already reopened for face-to-face sessions, which is our core proposition. The remainder are currently gearing up to do so over the summer in time for September.
“The toll on teachers during the pandemic has become increasingly evident. This is a time of re-evaluation for people and we’ve seen an increase in those looking for a change, but also to stay in education and be part of a support network. We also welcome those with business experience who have the qualities needed for the role.”
Despite a profound pivot supported by Microsoft Teams to online as restrictions came into force, FCL’s old school commitment to pen-and-paper remains.
“Research shows writing things down physically is an important part of the learning process,” explains Hyslop. “This makes our approach more effective than online programmes as well as decreasing screen time which delights many parents.
“Our renowned blue worksheets are easier for students with learning difficulties such as dyslexia. During lockdown we continued to supply students either by post or hand delivery.”
The company also postponed fees for those joining at the difficult time and is especially keen to bolster centre numbers in Scotland, Yorkshire and north-west England.
But what about those children whose parents just can’t afford private help? Is there any role for FCL in closing the attainment gap improving their life chances?
“Yes, FCL is well placed to help,” declares Hyslop. “Our franchisees are looking at bursaries and getting access to schemes such as the National Tutoring Programme offering support for those most affected by school closures. We’re a candidate and want to see the scheme extended.”