Children need to be able to compete in a global market place

Giles Hardwidge is a Kumon Instructor working in London. Having first joined Kumon as an Associate 18 years ago, Giles has also worked as the Office Centre Instructor at the Cheadle Hulme study centre and the Westbury-on-Trym study centre, before buying his own Kumon franchise in Finchley.

We catch up with him to talk about his experiences of being a Kumon Instructor.

Giles said: "I first heard about Kumon 18 years ago when I saw an advert in the paper and applied for the role of Area Manager for Kumon. I had worked as an auditor for five or six years and was looking for a career change. A lot of people had suggested to me I would make a good teacher, and although I didn't feel being a teacher was for me, I did connect with what Kumon was all about. The company was very small back then, with only four Area Managers!"

So, having been the Finchley North Study Centre Instructor for six months now, what has he found most rewarding? "There have been a lot of little moments. For example, there is a child at my centre who is very shy and doesn't talk much; he asked to speak to me and told me he got 100% in a maths test at school (and had successfully answered bonus questions) and had subsequently been moved to the top set. It was fantastic he felt he wanted to share it with me. It is also a great boost when parents say you're doing a good job. At a recent parents meeting, there was a mother who was almost in tears of joy as she had been told by the school that her son's work had improved so much at school they thought she might have been completing his homework!"

So, what benefits do children experience through Kumon? Giles says: "Effectively, through Kumon, I believe children should acquire the ability to study successfully at secondary school and university level, and have the mind-set of life-long self-learning. They should continue to learn and grow throughout their lives. At enrolment, I say to parents that the days when you could be qualified in one profession and that would set you up for life are long gone; we are preparing children for careers that probably do not even exist yet! And this pace is only going to increase; it's not what you know, it's what you learn and what you can add to your knowledge.

"Knowledge comes in the form of words, and the ability to read, comprehend and distil information is very important. Yes, you may be able to find out about anything on the internet, but the important thing is to understand it. Children will be competing for a place at university or a job with others who have had a fantastic education from all over the world. They need to be able to compete in a global market place."

It's not just the students at the centre who Giles has to be in communication with; he understands the huge part parents play in their child's Kumon journey and is keen to address any worries they may have. "At my centre, I emphasise the importance of parent communication. Parents don't always know what has happened in class - they place a tremendous amount of trust in me as the Instructor and of course they are going to have reservations. It is important to be able to let them know why things are happening, such as why repeating key skills is often more effective than repeating difficult worksheets, and why repeating pre-mastered material is more efficient in building skills and maintaining progress."

Giles went on to tell us about the aspirations he has for his centre and his students: "I am always striving for more in my centre and one goal is to have more Completers year-on-year. We recently had a Completer at the centre, who had been studying there for six or seven years. One of my goals is to see a Completer through, all the way from enrollment!

"Ultimately, Kumon is about helping kids become who they can be and allowing them to fulfil their potential, giving them options and opportunities in later life. It's about giving them the opportunity to study at the best university out of a choice of universities, and to have a good career. These are people who will not only forge good lives for themselves but will put something back into society."

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