A Caerphilly tutoring company which lost nearly all its income overnight due to exam cancellations has bounced back to almost pre-COVID turnover levels, after moving lessons online. In February, Educalis was delivering approximately 240 hours of tuition. But when the UK went into lockdown this number fell to 20, and like many businesses it had to shut its doors and send staff home to work while others were placed on furlough.
“We needed to move online to keep the business going”
Owner Emma Blewden said: “As soon as the school closures were mentioned we began planning. But we didn’t bank on the cancellation of exams. We dropped from 65 to five students overnight and lost all our income from our revision sessions. All our sessions were delivered face-to-face but as this was no longer possible, we knew we had to find other options or risk losing the business.
“Superfast Business Wales provided free advice at a time we really needed it”
“I’d always planned to introduce digital in 2021 but the pandemic forced my hand. I started looking for help to upskill and that’s when I found Superfast Business Wales. I went on a digital marketing webinar and had advice and a website review from a business adviser. We had G-Suite but only a few of us were using it just for email. Our adviser showed us how to use all the tools available within G-Suite like Google Classroom, Meet, Jam Board, Docs, and so on, so we could easily plan and run lessons online, as well as safely store and back-up files, and record sessions.”
Staff, including those on furlough, were trained up on the new systems so they were ready to hit the ground running when the online service launched.
“We advertised on Facebook and this brought in new clients”
She added, “Staff have adapted really well to the new way of working and everyone has been able to work and deliver sessions successfully from home using G-Suite. We sent out emails to parents to say that we were offering digital learning, and we’ve used Facebook to advertise, spending just a few pounds a day, and this is helping bring in new clients. Steadily our pupil numbers started to grow again. In March we were providing just 20 hours of tuition, this grew to 69 hours in April and then in July we were at 206 hours a month, which along with August is usually one of our quietest months.
“The feedback from pupils for our online sessions has been really positive”
“With schools closed for such a long time, parents were worried about their children missing out on education. Because we’d moved online, we were able to provide that vital support which has given both parents and pupils confidence and peace of mind. We’re still mainly doing online tuition but have just started having people safely back into the office. It’s interesting though that many of our students now say they actually prefer the flexibility of online learning, as do some of our tutors!“
Going forward Educalis will use a hybrid of face-to-face and online learning to offer people more choice. It says moving online has brought in pupils from further afield which prefer digital learning, so it doesn’t have to rely on the local area for business. With this in mind, it plans to update the website following advice from Superfast Business Wales to help attract more clients online. It’s hoping the new site will be ready to launch before the end of the year.
“Digital has been a good move for us, and it’s made us ready for whatever the future holds”
For Emma Blewden, the possibility of more local lockdowns, or even a national lockdown, has shown the importance of using digital to secure the business not just through the current pandemic but for the future. “Now we’ve got to grips with digital, we’ll be ready for a second wave or a major recession. It’s still a bit of an unknown and so difficult to plan ahead but we know that if we hadn’t switched over to digital, we would have lost all of our revenue,” said Emma.
As well as providing personalised tuition and mentoring in curriculum-based subjects Educalis (Education Centre for Additional Learning, Instruction, and Support) caters for adult-learners. It’s recently added First Aid Training, with vocational courses and apprenticeships next on the wish-list.
Emma said, “We’re so grateful for the support from Superfast Business Wales, it has undoubtedly been our saving grace!”