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Even before the global pandemic, teaching and learning in schools was under severe strain. The disparity in education based on your opportunities, location and background was enormous.
As a result, grades are often not in line with targets.
Founder Kate Meeks started Your Favourite Teacher in 2017 with an aim to close the education gap. Today the award winning platform is run by a team of educators who want to break down barriers to learning and provide high-quality teaching through modern technology.
Now raising on Seedrs, we spoke with Kate to learn more about the mission and motivation behind Your Favourite Teacher.
We’d love to know about your career before Your Favourite Teacher and where you first found that entrepreneurial spark.
Prior to starting YFT, I taught English in a state secondary school in Luton. I wouldn’t say so much an entrepreneurial spark, but I loved getting creative and finding new ways to educate my students. I started a podcast as a bargain with my year 11 classes that they didn’t have to do homework if they’d listen to this podcast on the walk to school. They loved it. They were able to access important learning from their phone and by making it public it was spread globally and had over 100,000 downloads by learners all seeking flexible, on demand content. That sparked the idea.
What is Your Favourite Teacher and what problem are you solving?
We are an online GCSE classroom full of hundreds of teacher-led interactive videos lessons students can work through at their own pace. We are here to close the gap between disadvantaged learners who have limited opportunities or can’t access mainstream education properly and their peers.
What can you tell us about the market and how Your Favourite Teacher is positioning themselves for success?
The Edtech market is rapidly expanding, particularly with the disruption seen with Covid 19. Our route is to target small groups of learners in state schools, demonstrate engagement and impact, then branch out further within the school or to the parent community.
With many online teaching platforms out there, what does your competitive landscape look like and how does Your Favourite Teacher differentiate itself?
A lot of our Edtech competition, GCSEPod or Seneca for example, has significant breadth over depth. They market themselves as a whole KS4 solution whereas we specifically support and re-engage a struggling learner. Our gamification and animated videos give us a unique level of engagement and provide encouragement to support and nurture the learners that need us the most. Our content has all been made by expert teachers, and our high production value cannot be matched.
Could you tell us about some of your biggest achievements to date?
There are three key moments that definitely stand out. The first was during our school trials and we had just developed some reporting. I was exploring the insights and identified a user that had completed over 50 hours on the site. I was blown away and contacted the parent to let them know how impressed I was. The parent responded that her daughter had severe anxiety, learning difficulties and found it nearly impossible in a classroom setting. But she LOVED Your Favourite Teacher, she raced home everyday after school and completed hours and hours of learning, it boosted her confidence and her mother reached out after her exams to say she had managed to pass all her core subjects with flying colours. It was an unbelievable turnaround in a learner that might ordinarily have been lost within the system. I thought, this is it, this can really happen, we can really help people.
Now, this next one will definitely divide opinions but I will never ever forget the day Manchester United FC agreed to our pilot. I remember phoning my entire family (all, huge fans) and crying that I had ‘made it’. How could the best club in the world possibly have me, and my lessons on their radar? The pilot went really well, and they’re still one of my favourite clients now (not that I have favourites, of course).
The final moment was more recent. Winning the BETT award this March, the most recognised awards in the sector and of course a complete surprise for a small company like ours. Particularly after a challenging 2 years, it symbolised our place in this marketplace moving forwards.
How do you plan to create a scalable and profitable business model?
The bulk of the infrastructure and work that needs to be done in a business like this has been completed. The developments in our technology have allowed us to speed up our sales and onboarding process so we can move quickly, with less demand on staff. The customer acquisition model allows us to grow at scale and footholds in the community, like football clubs, foundations or local authorities give us the credibility to branch out to local schools. From these local schools we have a link to parents and a renewable revenue model we can rely on year-on-year.
What do you plan to do with the money you raise?
There are 3 key areas we wish to develop with this raise. Firstly, it is building our team to bring in some additional industry experience, secondly developing our content to suit an international market and finally having a marketing budget, to grow our brand and get in front of as many decision makers as we can.
What are you most excited to see Your Favourite Teacher accomplish in the next few years?
It is corny to say, but watching us make a real difference in the lives of young people.
We want to get a significant foothold in schools and become the industry experts and leaders for closing the gap with disadvantaged learners. I’d also be interested to see how some of our passion projects develop. For example we are piloting some of our content in a refugee camp in Kenya with Vodafone – which could be rolled out to support learners studying in the hardest possible conditions all over the world.
Why do you think right now is the best time for Your Favourite Teacher to grow/expand?
We have the content, we have the platform and we have the proof of concept. When you combine that with a tech friendly world adapting to life after the pandemic it is the perfect time to help as many learners as possible.
What do you love to do in your free time?
Nice dinners, reading disturbing thrillers on my kindle, practising things I’m terrible at playing the piano or painting and then demanding someone (normally my husband) tell me I’m brilliant at it. All of the above with a glass of Saint-Veran in hand is preferable.
If you weren’t building Your Favourite Teacher, what do you think you’d be doing?
I would be teaching. I miss it enormously.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt so far building Your Favourite Teacher?
There are no rules or instructions to follow, so I just need to trust my instincts and know my intentions are good and that needs to count for something.
Your Favourite Teacher’s mission is to provide online classroom space aimed at raising achievement for learners that are at a disadvantage. Join their journey, visit their campaign page here to learn more.
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