A lecturer who took voluntary redundancy at the height of the pandemic is now creating jobs and winning contracts with her own business.
Claire Wardle left her role as a college lecturer in May 2020 and within weeks had launched Key Subject Tuition in Cookson House, South Shields, with the aim of teaching students in the evenings. Two years on Ms Wardle has 10 members of staff, helping to teach students including women escaping the Ukrainian war and asylum seekers fleeing persecution, as well as parents home-schooling children.
She said: “I thought it was just going to be a private tuition centre for maths and English. Then we were approached by various companies in the area asking for support and it just grew massively from there. Soon tuition was fully booked and I had to look for more staff.”
Ms Wardle and her team have put together a training package teaching English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) to win a contract with South Tyneside Works. Clients include 20 asylum seekers wanting to learn English to an employable standard as well as wanting to learn maths and IT skills. The company has also recently been joined by 19 Ukrainian women whose husbands are back home fighting in the war against Russia.
Key Subject Tuition has also won the contract to deliver Multiply, the Government’s new adult numeracy programme, which involves working with the DWP and local foodbanks teaching debt and money management and helping parents to assist children sitting SATs and GCSEs.
Ms Wardle added: “The women want to do all the classes they can. So much so that we’re oversubscribed and we’re having to put more lessons on during the week. Many of the women are so distressed and upset but, thankfully, our classes can be a positive distraction.
“It means they’ve got some comfort with people from home who speak their language and they can chat with each other and, on other days, meet up and support each other.”
Ms Wardle said her own experiences had made her success extra special, as she had struggled with dyslexia at school.
She added: “I left with little in the way of qualifications. Redundancy was a low point but within weeks I was searching YouTube trying to find out how to make a website for my new business and it’s just grown and grown. I get very emotional when I think about how far we’ve come and who we have helped. Everyone, without exception, just wants to play their part in the local community. They want to work and they want to contribute what they can.”
Coun Margaret Meling, lead member for economic growth, skills and climate change at South Tyneside Council, said: “For Claire to have set up Key Subjection Tuition amidst the pandemic, when there was so much uncertainty, and to see where it is now is remarkable. It is a personal success story, but it is also a reflection of what happens when you have the energy and the dedication and the desire to help.