From Notting Hill and Ealing High School in West London, I went to Imperial College to study Civil Engineering. My time there – and on site at reservoirs and open cast coal sites – soon showed me I was never going to be the groundbreaking female engineer I had dreamed of being. After qualifying as a teacher, I taught at the sixth form college in Andover and was relieved to find my talents were better suited to the classroom than the construction site. When my children were born, I became involved in the running of my local toddler playgroups. In 1998, I opened the Southampton Study Centre and this has brought together my curiosity about how we learn and motivate ourselves. My Kumon parents are diverse but what I have in common with all of them is a belief in education.
I try to make the Kumon experience as pleasurable as possible. There is no getting away from the fact that it is work and has to be done every day. But the children have a real sense of achievement and learn that what they find tricky today will become easy tomorrow. Progress is evident as the child works through the programme with Achievement Tests at the end of each level – children take them very much in their stride and certificates are awarded when they pass.
Students receive stickers on a daily basis which they can exchange for simple toys, jewellery, books and stationery. We also hold regular raffles for books, film vouchers and various Kumon prizes. The Advanced Student Roll recognises the high achievement of students working ahead of school level and we have a student of the month award. A large part of my job is motivation – helping the parents help their children to achieve the often unexpected. I always say to the children at enrolment that the real reward for their hard work is doing better at school and as soon as they see their improvement, they know it's true.