Explore Learning Centres - Are they worth it?(101 Posts)
My DD7 had a visit from Explore at her school this week and has expressed an interest in going. Ive been had had a look at it this morning and everything looks lovely and the staff friendly and enthusiastic. It comes with an £89.00 per month price tag which is so much. I have booked her in for the free trial session. Has anyone got experience of these sessions? Their literature claims eg. rather than 6 months progress in Maths in 6 months your child can progress 12 months. It all sounds too good to be true.
If they are just sitting in front of a computer learning, then why dont people use online computer programmes at home.
You could get your child to commit to 15,30,45 minutes at a particular time every day/week and they can learn just as much at home.
If your child doesnt like you doing it, you could pay a friend or someone a small amount of money to sit with them whilst they work through the programmes.
If you get a good online programme you dont need to do any work at all, just be there as moral support can be just as good
Any child who does extra learning/tuition/study for an hour a week is going to improve, it doesnt have to be so expensive.
My child was on the Explore Learning programme for a year, and I am really angry. The recent school report shows he has got much worse in Maths and English. His test results have got much worse and he is now behind in the class, whereas he was slightly above average before Explore.
The school teacher asked if he was spending too much time staring at screen because he now seemed 'vacant', 'couldn't concentrate' and seemed to find it difficult to remember anything he heard.
I told them I was surprised by this because he was on tuition. They asked what kind. I told them it was Explore Learning. The teacher gave me a knowing look and told me that it was a common problem amongst students going to Explore Learning. They always seemed to get worse in the Maths and English, and had problems with memory and concentration.
It seems that computer programmes are too reliant on multimedia, which damage a children's ability to concentrate and remember things, much as we know TV harms children.
Explore Learning seem to know about this problem, as they now deny it is 'computer tuition' on their website. But the truth is that at my centre my son is always on the computer and never does any real written work - just a bit of hand writing which they never mark.
Right now I am really angry. I feel like Explore Learning is an elaborate scam.
It is a bit silly of me though. Why should I pay £98 per months for a US computer programme with Explore, when I can get it for free on BBC bitesize which is based on the UK national curriculum?
I should have known better.
I've asked Explore Learning for a refund and pulled out my son.
My advice is that computer multimedia tuition will ruin your child's education. A recent BBC Panarama programme seemed to say as much.
Kids also need to use maths practically for them to retain the knowledge.
They can learn strategies and concepts from a screen but is pointless if they dont experiment with what they have learnt in real life situations.
They should also be doing written maths at school. I dont believe that most schools would only teach via a computer
So a combination of all should help.
How much other screen time does your child have? Playstations, Wii PSP etc?
Hi all, I just wanted to add another perspective to the debate. I worked at Explore Learning as a centre manager, rather than a tutor, for over 4 years. I also no longer work in the centre so can be completely honest!
I loved my job and miss it hugely (I only left because I had my DD). As the manager of the centre I can assure you all that my teams focus was ALWAYS the wellbeing and educational improvement of the children. Yes, Explore is a business and I did have to ensure the centre was profitable but we did that by making sure all our members were happy and didn't want to leave.
For those with an issue about us using computers rather than paper, we very much viewed the computers as textbooks. The computers did not teach the children, they just provided the curriculum (which despite what others have said is mapped directly to the English National Curriculum). Samantha Im sorry your experience of Explore was not a positive one but Im afraid I have to disagree with you about computers damaging childrens concentration and ability to remember things. In fact in my opinion it is the opposite the fact that the curriculum is multimodal (hearing, viewing and typing) means children remember things better. In schools SEN children with attention and memory problems are often taught in a similar manner (my background before Explore was SEN in schools).
The cost is not expensive for tuition. The average cost of private tuition in my area is £20-£25 per hour, Explore works out at about £12 per hour. Dont get me wrong Im not saying that £98 per month is cheap but it is good value when you break it down.
When my daughter is old enough I will definitely be sending her to the nearest Explore centre (shes only 13weeks so will have a while to wait!). Feel free to PM me if anyone has any questions about Explore I will be honest!
Louise - how do 16 year olds working a few hours a week know how to get children to learn effectively? There are so many things to be taken into account - different learning styles, different personalities etc. How do you accomodate this in your tutoring? If the computers do not do the teaching then who is?
If your experinece was SEN in schools were you a teacher? Or were you a TA?
My son goes to a private tutor, 1 hour a week, costs me £40 a month. Not sure why somebody would pay so much for a computer-based study. DS used to do Carol Volderman's online programme, it was quite good, but I did feel that he does not retain any information. After we changed to a "paper and textbook-based" tutoring, he improved so much, I am amazed at how well he is doing with his maths and English. By the way, I would still recommend Carol Volderman, I think I paid around £15-£18 a month, and you can do it every single day, not just once a week, which is great value for money.
This is a really interesting debate and I wanted to comment from a teacher point of view.
My school has had a number of visits from a centre nearby which have always been fantastic. The tutors are enthusiastic, engaging and run activities that challenge and motivate learners. They are very aware of maths calculation strategies and often provide activities as a problem to solve which supports children's breadth of understanding in maths, enabling children to apply what they have learned to other situations. The activities are always accessible to all in the class sessions and I understand that when a child attends Explore Learning, they have a programme specifically designed for their needs. You can't get much better than that! My feeling is that Explore Learning compliments the school education allowing children to go at their own pace rather than the pace of the class.
I am privileged to have a class of very able children and initially wondered if Explore would be suitable for my high achieving class, but I have to say I have only had positive comments from parents and children alike. My next door neighbour's daughter also goes which was to give her a confidence boost after her parents' separation. She loves every minute!
Children all learn at different rates, which can be directly related to something that parents have a lot more input in - times tables! Many parents have to work and are not able to spend as much time with their children in Literacy and Maths. Something like Explore Learning means that children get the support they need. It also allows children to go over areas of the curriculum they had previously covered in school. As much as I would love to do the impossible and cover every area of maths each week there is not enough time in the day, so over the course of a term we, as a class, approach different areas of maths (usually each week). We will revisit areas after several weeks and at times, particularly in trickier areas of maths like fractions or decimals children need more time. The support that children get at Explore Learning means they can practise these areas of maths in-between class lessons.
As an IT co-ordinator as well as a Year 4 teacher, Explore Learning is a great initiative. It uses ICT which helps children not only develop ICT skills which can only help them in adulthood, but takes away the issue of handwriting, allowing children to focus on the areas of Literacy and maths they need to.
It is not suitable for everyone, but what is? I say stop giving them such a hard time without knowing the details. I can't fault the centre that supports my school and know that I can call them regarding curriculum concerns for individuals and know that they will help in whatever way they can. Does it really matter if they're qualified teachers or not? They know what they're doing and it works.
I also wanted to add a separate comment for 'SamanthaHemmings' as it seems you have some concerns.
Firstly it seems incredibly unlikely that your son's attainment level would have decreased from extra education. What is more likely (and I'm ashamed to say this as a teacher) is that the level that you were told he was achieving last year was incorrect and that your son was probably underachieving in school. You do however have to bare in mind that it takes 2 years to progress a level. A child may achieve a level 3 in some areas of maths or literacy, but may still be working on level 3 in Year 4, this is perfectly acceptable because your child will be working on more challenging areas of the level 3 curriculum. I would suggest that you ask your teacher to explain the areas of maths or Literacy that your son hasn't progressed and ask why this is. A child should make some progress without additional tuition, if not this needs to be addressed in school by the teacher. If this were a child in my class I would be asking parents in to discuss the matter. so your teacher will I'm sure happily discuss this with you.
From what you have said about your son's teacher it appears that s/he has a prejudice towards additional tuition. It's not the best compliment for a teacher to say that you're sending your child to additional tuition, but should be more accepted. More parents are working these days so can't dedicate the time that used to be dedicated to home learning. If parents want to give their child extra tuition why not? Some teachers feel threatened by extra educational services like Explore Learning, because often when a child improves parents put it down to the tuition, not a combination of teacher and tutor. This is infuriating for the teacher who, day after day teaches your children, helping them with their understanding. It really is no great surprise to me however, that extra learning will help children have a better understanding.
The comment about the lack of attention span completely shocked me! There is not evidence to say 1 or 2 hours on a computer each week will decrease a child's attention span. 1 or 2 hours a day maybe but not per week!!! I would question the activities that the teacher is doing in class. If you can't keep children focused for an hour's lesson then you need to change the activity. Your son's teacher needs to stop passing the buck and consider other options. When something doesn't work in my class I am the first one I question, not home, extra tuition or anything else.
Lastly you're argument about the computer programme I'm afraid is unfounded. I have seen the software they use and it is perfectly suited to the curriculum in this country. I also know from watching the tutors when they have been into my school that their teaching methods are accurate. Going on BBC bitesize is great for revision, but not so good if you can't remember how to do it; that is the purpose of the tutors. Which is why Explore Learning isn't computer tuition it is 1:6 tutor tuition.
I hope I have put a few things straight for you and anyone else who is unsure. You need to see your son's class teacher and talk about steps forward. It's all very well discussing the past and passing blame, but what is going to be done to support your son from now. If he really is behind he will need help in school and out.
Good luck and I hope you get some help from your school.
Samantha Hemmings, as a teacher with more than 20 years experience, I can confirm what you've found. There has been a big deterioration in educational standards over the last 20 years, as we all know. Many parents are worried. The main culprit is a change in children's lifestyles. They don't read any more. Too few do real written homework.
Instead they spend up to six hours per day staring at the screen:
Children should be doing a minimum of 5 hours per week on homework or reading, and more as they get older. At school we only get 6 hours, and after deducting lunch and breaks there are only four and a half hours left in a day and how many other subjects are there. It is not enough. If some of the extra study is tuition that is fine.
There can be no doubt that screens are harming many children's lives. This has been confirmed by a number of studies and there is a growing body of scientists who recommend that children should be severely restricted in watching TV and computer games in order to prevent brain damage. This is now standard advice in most schools.
Explore Learning exploits parents fears, and simply makes matters worse. When modern lifestyles are causing this problem the last thing we need is children spending even more time in front of a screen.
Most studies show that regardless of the activity on the TV or computer, it is still harmful to overall learning outcomes and success in life. TV, computer games, etc. inherently require reactions that are too passive, primitive and basic. They stifle the child.
We have found that the simple multiple choice type computer programme used by Explore Learning does harm learning in Maths and English. It is a poor substitute for complex oral responses and sentence based written responses in English or hand written Maths answers showing full working out. None of this can be done in the US computer programme used by Explore Learning.
While I wouldn't use the word scam, I would say that Explore Learning is not a real tuition provider, but a baby-sitting service. Parents should not kid themselves that this is real learning or tuition. It is not. Children should spend more time interacting with their parents while they shop in the supermarket, not be left to sit in front of a screen with Explore. They would learn more exploring the store than in Explore.
This is the conclusion most of the teachers at our school have drawn.
We were even at the receiving end of their aggressive sales tactics. They pestered the head teachers office with sales calls, so they could come in to the school. Inside they gave us another aggressive sales pitch about their programme. After hearing them out, and discussing it amongst ourselves, we were quite shocked to discover what we found. Some of the worst performing children in the school had already been enrolled onto Explore Learning for some time. Teachers also found the 'blank stare' in these students, and a difficulty with listening and concentrating in lessons. Many of them had not been poorly performing in the past. Their parents told us Explore Learning had been very aggressive in trying to enrol them at the local Sainsburys. Some seemed upset at their childrens lack of progress.
Since then I have spoken to teachers from other schools as well. They all report problems with the blank stare, and poor academic performance. The most common problem mentioned by teachers is with memory. The children tend to retain very little of what Explore Learning claims they have learnt via the computer screen.
Our school decided not to have anything to do with Explore Learning. We have always been positive about tuition programmes in general, but advise parents quite strongly to limit time on the computer and TV they are good for entertainment, but very poor for study. We dont directly recommend any programme by name, but we do suggest any programme that asks children to do real written work as the core element of learning, or includes real teaching requiring complex oral understanding from the child is better, and will not harm the child.
As for Explore Learning we do not feel they should be allowed to call themselves a tuition provider. They do not provide real tuition. We do not have enough information about Kumon to draw a conclusion. However, parents report that they provide worksheets only, and do not provide tuition. All marking and teaching must be done by the parent.
Whilst I agree with some of the comments from Superteach, I dont agree that computer teaching programmes cause the blank staring, memory loss and poor academic performance for all children.
I dont believe parents need to pay the amount of money demanded from these external computer centres. There are lots of cheaper options available for home use that provide exactly the same material.
I also agree that computer programmes do not suit all children. One big problem is if they cant read well, they cant do the programmes properly.
I do encourage my kids to use online tuition packages so that they are taught the correct strategies, rather than the methods I was taught as a kid that didnt work.
They have not been taught the whole curriculum at school, there were huge gaps, the teachers hadn't covered everything/realistically cant cover everything they need to learn. The computer programmes have filled in a lot of these gaps and my children are extremely successful with their academic performance and have excellent memories. Their maths abilities are advanced because they understand their knowledge and strategies.
Their general knowledge is also excellent as a result of both books and the internet, they certainly know more than I did at their age about the world we live in.
I also hate the tick box/choice of answers based websites and that a lot of teaching also has to be done away from the computer.
My kids' teachers say they dont need to learn more at home because they area ahead of their peers, but kids need to revise strategies and knowledge regularly because they will forget unless they use it, and the schools quite often dont repeat some topics for a year. I am not deliberately trying to push them ahead, but I am making sure they fully understand everything from the basics upwards.
Going back to Pepsis original question, can your child progress 12 months rather than 6, any child can progress if they spend extra time learning, and it doesnt have to be on a computer.
My kids do 10-30 minutes a day, maximum 3 times a week on the computer, and have progressed very well as promoted by the websites. But any child who spends this time doing maths, or reading, or literacy, or spelling or whatever for extra time above what they do at school, will progress. They just need to be exposed to a topic to be able to learn it.
My kids went to something similar to Learning Centre for a term, the tutor had 6 kids to look after, even though the site promoted one to one teaching, and after every maths game they did, they played a game (on computer), so the actual maths teaching was very minimal. My kids loved it but I considered it a big con and they didnt actually learn very much because the tutor was always busy with other children.
Explore seems educationally neither here nor there. The children enjoy it using the computers, but it seems quite an expensive way to do your weekly shopping! (I mean... Sainsbury's - you've already added 10% on your shopping bill before factoring in Explore Learning!)
It looks a bit like it's continually assessing what they can already do, rather that teaching them new things - I may be wrong! As a teacher, I'm happy with that, because they don't learn different methods to those they use in the classroom.
The 3 Biggest Scams in After-School Tuition
1. Explore Learning Scam No. 1 (charging for crappy American software, when much better is free on internet - see many free links below that offer better software than Explore Learning).
2. Student Support Centre Scam No. 2 (massively overpriced videos that children cannot understand - they still ask for a tutor).
3. Kumon Scam No. 3 (massively overpriced worksheet printing service - includes no tuition, marking, teaching or support - parents have to do everything).
All three of the above rake off massive amounts of money, use aggressive sales tactics, and are not 'tuition providers' at all. Explore learning uses untrained teenagers as teachers! So does Kumon. Students Support Centre doesn't even have teachers - just videos.
The fact is its only because we parents have been so gullible that all 3 of the above get away with. Don't get ripped off by Explore, Student Support, or Kumon.
Kumon worksheets actually reduced my child to tears through a combination of no teaching or explanation, endless repetition and intense boredom. Children need more.
I myself have been ripped off by two of the above, and warned about the other by many parents. Now I am much more careful.
If you want tuition (and the truth is all children need it today), then my advice is get free worksheets and software off the internet. But if you are serious about your child's education pay for it. We get what we pay for. A good tutor usually costs £30-50 per hour now. However, if you are lunch you can get some very good tuition centres that will teach properly with real teachers for just £15 per hour. That is pretty good value.
These are good and are free.
These are very good and cost peanuts.
But I would still recommend getting a proper tutor or tuition centre. In the long-run they are worth the investment.
I have recently signed up to Explore Learning in my area which is New Cross in South East London. Although I am capable of helping my 6 and 11 year olds understand basic mathematical concepts and help with their English, I do not feel best placed to help with their learning as I feel an outsider is more in control with this - this is my personal situation and I know other parents are better able to do so. From my initial visit, I know the programmes seem out of date and need updating. I observed that some of the kids there were noisy and one could not stay still and kept trying to leave his seat. I felt sorry for the Assistant Director (read Manager) who had to juggle numerous tasks on the day I visited, but she seemed to cope admirably. From the literature she provided, I see she has a 2i in Psychology and seemed friendly, chatty and helpful and also aware of learning styles, teaching methods and the national curriculum. I also noticed that the two centre assistants were quite young, but certainly not 17 years old and seemed involved in helping their charges. I am taking a chance on Explore Learning, knowing that I can terminate my membership if they let me and my girls down. I will feedback in a few weeks - I hope to report positive things!
Had an interview at the london centre last week. After and initial telephone interview and a month of waiting I was told to attend a recruitment day. I was interviewed by a lady which was quite friendly followed by a role play. I was asked to explain a math problem to a child. A role play where the interviewer is a child and I'm a tutor. Well I must say that the interviewer (lady) was grilling me with questions and I found her interviewing skills quite intimidating giving that I'm already a maths tutor and I have never come accross scenarios like that.
In the end they didn't take me for the role but I heard the pay is crap and I wouldn't recommend anyone to go and work there. Most of the tutor are very young in Uni or somenthing. If you are a private tutor or teacher you wouldn't put up with their nonsense. And if I have child I would rather have a tutor at home.
One person here commented that Explore Learning are OFSTED registered. I enquired about this and was told that they are registered as child minders, so not subject to the scrutiny of education inspectors. I thought it was important to mention that. I would agree with Sophie1978 about the three 'scammers' as she called them. I would also agree that a well run tuition centre is an excellent option - and usually cheaper than either Explore or a tutor! I don't think that you have to be a teacher to provide tuition - it all depends on your experience and the materials you are using.
I have also worked for Explore Learning. I worked as a tutor for 6 months during my PGCE training as a primary teacher. I was 22-23 at the time and earning just over £5 an hour, very little!!
I completely agree with the comment above by 'Cantthinkofausername'. I think it is more beneficial to your child and yourself to work with them at home. I believe they would learn more if you worked with them for one hour at home then they would over 2-3 sessions at explore learning. Reasons being that at explore they employ very young tutors, which although can work well in terms of them relating to the young chn and being fresh from school, they are however not trained. I've seen lots of them just tell children answers and not fully explain, therefore the children aren't actually developing any understanding. This isn't the tutors fault, they are not given the training or time to explain to the children with all the scores and written feedback they are expected to provide in the short time given.
Having worked for the company I believe their intentions are good but if I had children I would honestly save the £89 (probably more by now) and spend an hour or two a week helping them myself.
Also a teacher who has experienced the in-school taster sessions I think you may as well just burn £5 notes than pay for this. At least Kumon gives your children (boring) but useful mental arithmetic skills which they can apply in school Maths lessons, Explore seems to be, as previous posters have said, computer based stuff you can find for free, plus undemanding, unchallenging games "taught" by unqualified teenagers. Give your children money and a watch and with your help they will get all the extra maths practice they need.
After reading all of the comments above, I would just like to say that my two children attend one of the centres. Both for different reasons, one to gain confidence and one to be stretched as she is doing very very well at school. They both love going down to Explore, and have achieved and exceeded initial goals. I have every confidence in the managers and tutors in the centre. So what if they are 17, they have the ability to build bonds with my children and they actually want to go and do extra maths and literacy because of this! All of the tutors I have met over the year love working there and you can tell from their passion and enthusiasm.
Of course my children go through phases and would prefer to play with friends sometimes but we have built it into their routine and they enjoy it and know that it helps with school so they are happy to go. The feedback I get is very useful, it enables me to keep up to date between parents meetings about what they are covering.
They also LOVE lizard cards and getting prizes, in reply to someone earlier - this is a great motivator for them as they have earned the cards and can trade them in for whatever they choose.
They have been going to the centre once or twice a week for the last year and will continue to go for the foreseeable future. The cost is £98 a month and that is not hidden at all, it is cheaper than a private tutor (which i know my kids wouldn't respond well to at all)
I think that it is all I need to say about it...all this nonsense about a scam is crazy! I have seen the results first hand, many of my friends and family use the centre too, and they love it!
I am a teacher but I am also a Mum of a Year 2 child. I have been happy to spend an hour a week with Dd doing Maths and a little English. She was a little behind in Maths when she started in Y2. I can honestly say she has improved so much with the extra help and has reached level 3 in most areas for her end of year report. I am a Secondary teacher so not familiar with the primary curriculum so I just bought books for key stage 1. Any parent can do this and you can save yourself a lot of money.
I would not send her to Explore Learning but at the same time I would not criticise others for making that choice. We all lead busy lives and if as a family you can afford extra tuition, then why not avail of it. I would say Kip McGrath may be better than Explore Learning as they do have more written work along with the computer activities. All their teachers are fully qualified. Every child learns at a different rate...what works for one may not work for another.
As for spending time on computers my Dd spends at least an hour a week on the computer and it certainly has not disadvantged her in any way. High literacy skills have enabled my Dd to be very comfortable using a computer and is well able to scan websites for information...perhaps too much beacuse she can now find all those toys she wants!!
I agree with everyone above who says this place is a con, money making scheme. They have no idea how to differentiate work to suit individual needs. When my son had a trial the tutor had no idea how to TEACH my child when he couldnt do something....she just kept asking him to give the correct answer!!! rubbish!
When I saw the cupboard full of toys....and the Disney Shop sales approach I was almost sick
I am also incredibly shocked at some of the comments and bad experiences that people are talking about on here. I am a tutor at Explore Learning, and have been for a little over a year. I strongly support the centre I work in as I can see first hand the difference it can make to not only the childrens' academic development, but also their confidence and enthusiasm for learning.
I'd like to point out that yes, I am only 18, and I'm not a qualified teacher. But I'd also like to point out that I got straight A*s and As in my GCSEs as well achieving A*AB at A-level. This applies to all of the tutors in my centre as far as I'm aware, and the quoted minimum of Bs in Maths and English really are just a minimum - the centre receives several applications each day, and the centre director and assistant directors work hard to choose only the best applicants.
I'd also like to point out that I LOVE working there, it's a job that I'm happy to commit a lot of time to, not just for the sake of my bank account, but I feel a genuine enthusiasm and desire to help the great kids that come to our centre. I have also never had any experience of bad pay - I started on a reasonable amount for anyone starting a first time job (more than some of my friends in other jobs they'd been at for over a year) and have had several opportunites to prove myself leading to pay reviews (I now earn around £7 per hour - an amount I'm more than happy with).
Now more about Explore Learning. I appreciate that parents have fears about the overuse of computers. However, I believe the computers can be a great asset, recording far more detailed information about a child's progress than a single person can do - it picks up exactly where a child is struggling and excelling. This allows it to adapt the programme to the child, a programme which is already tailored carefully to the member from the beginning. 95% of our members' courses/programmes also include AT LEAST 15 minutes of written work - whether that's a handwriting book or comprehension books and activities. I have also had in depth and regular training in National Curriculum methods, as have all of the other tutors. We are comfortable with a number of different methods for each problem a child can be given and can offer adequate support where it is needed. I know of many members who are working well beyond their age and well beyond what a school can offer (completely understandably, a school has to progress along with the whole class, we allow gifted and exceptionally intelligent children the chance to progress at their own pace - and they do this comfortably).
I could go on all day, I am a huge advocate of the company. I will say that it's not right for everyone, but as ExploreStu said, retention is above 90%, which proves that over 90% of members are happy. That's without considering the fact that some of those 5-10% of members leaving do so for financial or other reasons beyond our control. But from my experience, children love it, parents love it and I have heard of a great number of positive comments from teachers also.
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