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Twosigmas set to revolutionise private tuition

Brittany Belt

Brittany Belt

Education in a global knowledge economy has never been so vital and parents the world over fret endlessly about how to prepare their children for the real world of work.

That’s why private tutors are such a big feature on the educational landscape. Personal, one-to-one coaching can make the difference between success and failure in crucial exams – and it’s the crucial exams that can decide where a life, and a career, is headed.

But when it comes to finding the right tutor for your child, many parents feel completely at sea. Just as well then that it’s the ambition of some Cambridge MBAs to throw them a lifeline. Michael Birdsall (MBA 2013) and Brittany Belt (MBA 2013 and recipient of a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa) have set up twosigmas – a new online venture to help parents navigate the choppy waters and find the right tutorial help for their child.

Launched this month (January 2014) and providing a service to the Greater London area initially, twosigmas aims to become the largest international online platform linking tutors with parents. And the signs are good, with a waiting list of students already on their books as they work hard to recruit high quality tutors. Brittany said:

This is a new approach in the UK – one that caters for both parents looking for tutors, and tutors looking for work. Previously the only way of finding a tutor was static directories, word-of-mouth or private agencies that typically take 30 or 40 per cent of the tutor’s earnings. We only take a 12 per cent commission which includes payment processing, and our tutors are free to set their own rates. Our focus is on quality and we are only recruiting the best.

We are having great feedback already – the tutors especially love it and have been looking for something like this. They are really looking forward to the community side of the service where we host events to bring them together. Tutoring can be rather isolating work so they appreciate having that peer support.

Michael Birdsall

Michael Birdsall

twosigmas’ vision is to expand through the UK in 2014 and then look to establish an international presence to tap into the huge global education market. Michael commented:

“We want to link parents up with tutors abroad, so if your child needs to improve their German or start learning Chinese, our roster of tutors will include that international dimension. As well as helping people meet face to face, we can facilitate tutoring via Skype.”

The idea came to Michael following his own experience of offering private tutoring for several years. He realised there should be a better, easier way of linking parents and tutors and started working with three of his Cambridge MBA colleagues to make the dream a reality. Brittany, Ray Nixon and Charles Somerset make up the twosigmas team – all graduated from Cambridge in September 2013.

Commenting on her time at Cambridge, Brittany said:

First of all, Cambridge Judge brought us together so twosigmas would not be here without that. Then there were the strategy elements of the programme that we found really helpful. The global business perspective was important, as was access to great mentors – inside and out of the School. The Cambridge eco-system continues to be very helpful – there is a huge amount of support for start-ups here.

And the name? “It came from a study conducted in 1984 by an educational psychologist, Benjamin Bloom. Bloom described an experiment where a teacher was used to deliver classroom instruction and private tuition to two groups of students at the same academic level. Students receiving private tuition performed significantly better than those taught in the classroom. In math terms, they performed two ‘sigmas’ higher. Hence his report “The Two Sigma Problem”, and our own name!”