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I hold a PhD and a First Class Honours degree in chemistry, and a PGCE in secondary science. I gained my degree in Industrial and Natural Resource Chemistry in 1992 and then continued to study for my PhD. I was sponsored by British Airways for my doctorate research, which looked into clean technologies in the aircraft industry - specifically the removal of chlorinated pollutants from aircraft paint-stripper effluent using photo-catalytic methods. 

It probably sounds very geeky to say it, but I do absolutely love my subject. I think it is a wonderful thing to be able to understand how and why matter behaves the way it does. Chemistry is everywhere, in every single thing we do on a daily basis, and helping people to 'get' that has kept me excited about my subject all this time.

You may notice pictures of water on the front page of my website and elsewhere. Water is my favourite chemical by far as it has such an odd set of properties! It is all around us and makes up a very large proportion of all living things, yet we spend most of our time taking it for granted and disregarding its weirdness - just stop and think about the solid water (ice cubes) floating in your liquid water (drink) for a minute... Isn't a solid supposed to be denser than its own liquid as the particles in the liquid are further apart than they are in the solid?? Chemistry can explain why water is unlike the rest! 

 

Full Time Tutoring Since 2010

I think the main difference between teaching in a school and tutoring is the flexibility that a tutor has to really tailor everything to the individual student. That isn't just the teaching of the subject, which by definition goes at the pace and level of each learner. It's also about advice on effective study skills (not just for chemistry!), thinking openly about different options for the future, and looking at the educational path with a fresh eye. Not everyone moves through the school system easily, not everyone completes their schooling in one go, and not everyone goes straight on to university to the course of their dreams! There are many ways of reaching your goal, and until I became a tutor (after having been a teacher for 12 years) I had not really thought about the huge range of possibilities that exist for the 'educational journey'. All ways are OK and no one is a 'failure' if their original plan has to change for whatever reason.  

Since 2010 I have tutored a really diverse range of students: students retaking A level chemistry as they didn't meet their university offer, homeschooled students, younger students taking GCSE or A level early as the schooling system just isn't set up for them, mature students switching career path - often into medicine and needing chemistry A level, rising sports stars who have to fit their schooling around their training, young people who have had physical or mental health problems and have taken some time out from the schooling system... and of course many, many students who are working towards GCSE or A level chemistry in school and who need a little extra support along the way. 

In March 2022 myself and a number of independent tutoring colleagues launched a new website: Society of Tutors.

Tutors are on the website by invitation only and hence we all endorse each other. The website provides a shared

platform which is not an agency and where we hope people will find whatever they need from a private tutor.

I'm really proud to be a founding fellow of this group of outstanding professionals!  

A Career In Teaching

Subsequent to my PhD I moved into teaching, and after two years in tutorial colleges, I started working at St. Paul’s Girls' School in London in 1998, where I taught for 12 years.

 

My two years in the tutorial college sector taught me precision and directness – the teaching was fast-paced and examination results were the overriding priority. Moving to teaching in a school allowed me the freedom to teach a whole subject rather than just for an exam. This was when teaching became exciting for me and I knew that I was suited to it. Of course, passing exams is a very important aspect of the educational process – exams are our tickets to the next thing we want to do - but the process of learning, and learning how to learn with confidence, is just as much a part of education as the final grade.

 

During my school-based teaching years I learnt an incredible amount from both colleagues and pupils and enjoyed every minute of the challenge of explaining abstract chemical ideas in simple terms that all could understand. Have a look at some of the comments made by my former pupils to get an idea of my teaching style.

 

Professional Credentials

I studied for my PGCE in the early years of working at St. Paul's and had the good fortune to learn from some excellent mentors. With a few years of experience under my belt, in 2003 I was nominated for, and subsequently won, a national prize for teaching chemistry. I was one of 4 winners that year of the Salters Prize for the Teaching of Chemistry, run by the Salters’ Institute. The competition was a great experience and I was very excited to win, especially since it meant some prize money for me as well as some for the school!

School Teaching Experience

At St. Paul’s I taught chemistry to pupils 11-18 for 12 very rewarding years. Since 2010 and tutoring in Oxford I have met students from a huge variety of schools - both locally and further afield. There have also been home-schooled students, re-take students, and mature students looking for a change in direction. Each and every student has their own story and needs and each and every one of them gets the very best I can offer - I really do want everyone to 'get' chemistry! 

 

Something I was not expecting when I started tutoring was how much my teaching was going to evolve. I had been teaching for 12 years, after all, and I knew what I was doing! But here's the thing... tutoring allows you to review and revise your teaching in almost real time: in a school setting, you have your A level class or maybe two, so you teach each topic once or twice each year. The time gap before you can improve that topic or add another resource is 12 months away. But teaching 20-30 A level students individually per year allows a lot of possible iterations of that loop. I had 12 years of teaching experience before I started tutoring in 2010, and by the number of times I have now taught each topic of A level chemistry since I started, I think I have accumulated about 200 years of experience now! 


Part of my role as a chemistry teacher at St. Paul's was to help students with their university preparation. I have considerable experience in extending students beyond A level, in providing advice about relevant reading and personal statements, and in giving mock interviews. Have a look at the Uni Advice page for more details.

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