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Ace Academy

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Vinh Mon 29-Jul-13 19:35:53


I have noticed that someone on here was asking for information about Ace Academy back in 2011, so I just thought that I would provide in this forum a full description of our abysmal experience to warn any parent who's considering signing their child up for extra tuition with this company. For those who don't know, Ace Academy provides extra tuitions for junior children going onto secondary education and has a number of centers around London, not their own, but using the classrooms and facilities of other schools. They have a website but also approach you on the high street handling out leaflets and collecting potential clients' names and details for cold calling at a later date.

Our experience with Ace Academy has been a catalogue of misrepresentation, incompetent and right down rudeness from the start.

We enrolled our daughter with Ace Academy via the telephone (after 3 or 4 telephone calls from one of their sales team). We had asked to speak to the teachers before signing on but were refused. We also were not told of the address of the center where our daughter would be attending until after we had signed on (their reason being that it was for security although when I asked security for what/whom they did not give me an answer). All the clues were there but being naive and in a rush, we had disregarded them.

On our daughter's first day at the center, we were told that there will be a center manager there to explain to us what to do. However, upon arriving 15mins early we could not find anyone or any signpost to tell us where we were or where we should go to. I tried to call the number that I was given and got through to the person who was supposed to be the center manager. She told me that she had left 5 months ago. Apparently Ace Academy had never bothered to update their record and people had been calling her every week asking for information. After wandering around for 10mins and eventually found the office we met 2 postgraduate looking women (who turned out to be teachers working for Ace Academy) who were chatting between themselves. They told us that the new center manager was not there yet and that we should wait. I asked if we could wait in the same room since we did not know where else to go and were told that, yes if we wanted to. All through the conversation I had the feeling as if I was talking to a couple of sullen teenagers rather than to two professional teachers who were there to teach stage 2 children about Maths, English and Public Speaking. Yes, Public Speaking. It was one of the main reasons why we wanted our daughter to attend Ace Academy. Their sale person had made a big deal out of their Public Speaking programme, claiming that it has helped many children to develop self-confident and the ability to speak in public. Yet the two so-called teachers that I was talking to did not show any evidence of this ability themselves.

When the center manager arrived, she turned out to be a young teacher who was also responsible for one of the classes. Again, I had the impression that I was dealing more with a shy, sullen teenager than communicating with a professional manager who was supposed to be a charge of an educational center. Not once did she volunteer any information or explain to us how the center worked or who would be teaching our daughter. We had to keep asking all the obvious questions like how many teachers would our daughter have, would it be one teacher per subject, how many children in a class etc. We never had the feeling that we were being welcomed in an openness manner but instead being deliberately informed as little as possible.

Then the teacher that was supposed to teach our daughter's class turned up 15mins late. As it turned out, our daughter was the only one in the class (a class was supposed to have up to 6 children). We thought great, that meant that our daughter would get the full attention of the teacher. However, our joy was short lived as after only 1 hour and 50mins of tuition the teacher took our daughter back to us and told us that the lesson has finished because our daughter did very well and had completed all the exercises already so she could go home! We were flabbergasted because we were told at the beginning when they were trying to get us to sign on that each lesson would last for a duration of 3 hours. We were not told at any time that the lesson would finish when our daughter has finished the given exercise for that day. We were still charged the full rate of £47 for the 3 hours period.

When we got home and had a chance to look through the exercise booklets that our daughter was working through, we found that they were not particularly challenging when comparing to other self-teaching materials that you could purchase from any bookshops or stationery like WHSmith, Border or Owen Clarke. No surprise then as to why our daughter was able to complete the exercises so quickly. Yet, she had wrongly answered a whole section (containing 4 pages) on basic division in the Maths booklet and somehow this was not picked up by her teacher in the class. We just couldn't believe it.

After this first lesson experience we had lost all confidents in Ace Academy. We felt certain that it would be a big waste of time and money for us to carry on taking our daughter to the centre every weekend. We discussed the matter between ourselves and decided that we would let our daughter attend another lesson the following weekend so that we can be sure of our decision, before we withdraw her from Ace Academy.

However, our decision was made for us even before then. On the Tuesday of the following week I received an email from Ace Academy, informing me that because they are starting their Summer term that weekend, any child having afternoon lessons at 3pm would be given the choice of either changing to the morning lesson or studying at home online by themselves. Since I had specifically requested the afternoon sessions for our daughter as she was already attending another class in the morning for the last 3 months, I was not at all happy with these new options. Our daughter could not change to the morning session and there was no valid reason for her to study online at home on her own. The whole point of enrolling her with Ace Academy or any tuition provider was so that she could be taught in a classroom environment, where interaction with her teachers was a vital part of the learning process. Basically, with the new arrangement for the Summer term, my daughter would get a total 2 lessons being taught at the centre and the remaining 8 lessons learning by herself at home, on the computer. I would still be paying the full-rate even though our daughter would not be getting the full classroom experience for which we had signed her up for. I also pressed Ace Academy how the Public Speaking class would work, considering the fact that this was meant to be learned and practiced in front of others. How was our daughter supposed to practice public speaking when she was on her own at home? I never got an answer to that. Ace Academy, however, went to great length to say that all this had been conveyed to me when their sale person read out the terms and conditions to me over the phone as well as it being there in the contract that they had emailed to me for signing. My answer to this is yes, maybe it had been read out to me over the phone but it was not made clear to me that this would eventually be the case. Instead I was given the impression that if we were to choose to miss one of the classroom lessons then we would be given the chance to study it online. I did not understand it as we would be forced to study online because there would be no classroom lessons during the Summer term period. This fact was not pointed out clearly to us at all. Had I been aware of this, there was no way that I would have enrolled our daughter onto the course. Why would anyone pay the full classroom rate when their child would not benefit fully from it?

Anyway, Ace Academy kept insisting that they had full-filled their contractual obligation and would not give me a refund. So we had paid a total of £470 for a 10 weeks course and our daughter had only one lesson out of it. And as I had mentioned, it was not even a full 3 hours lesson. I have sought advices from the Citizen Advice Bureau and currently am submitting my case to the Office of Fair Trading. I realise that there isn't much that the Office of Fair Trading could do since they don't deal with personal cases but I still want them to be aware of Ace Academy. Hopefully the name will be on their list for which they could look into at some points.

I hope our story can be of warning to anyone considering enrolling their child with Ace Academy. Please let me know if you have found this information useful or have had similar experience or if you need further information. I would like as many people as possible to know about this so that they don't make the same mistake as we did. It was an expensive lesson for us. However, the worst bit is to realise that there are unscrupulous companies/people out there that are quite prepared to prey on a parent's natural desire to give their child a good education. To them we are just cash cows to be milked. And for them to do this under the moral pretension of providing a good deed (for that is what the education system is, or should be, about) to young children is just the lowest of the lows.

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