Where are you from originally?
I’m from the West Midlands, in fact, the centre of Birmingham is where I was born. The area was incredibly rundown, but I have very, very happy memories of my childhood. I took my Eleven Plus and went to Lordswood Boys Grammar School. It was a very strict environment, uniform from day one. I remember that I had a bobble on the top of my cap which the boys from the older years saw as their mission to remove me at the earliest possible opportunity. I remember being quite upset about that. But it was a great rugby school and I loved to play sports. I always had to work quite hard academically and I found myself drifting away from my studies when I was about 16 and just wanting to play cricket and rugby. When I reflect back on that part of my life now, in my role as a teacher and mentor for students here at MTA, I think about how I wasn’t ready then to study the higher levels. I think some kids, like me, do need a bit more time than they are given at school. That’s not to say that they won’t ever be ready, but everyone develops at different speeds. And I tell my students now academically, I can see when people are really making an effort. And when people are not fully engaged, I can smell it, I can, I can taste it, and I try to help them through that period. But for me, I failed my A levels. It was a surprise to my parents. But my mother helped me out, she found me a job working at Pilkington Glass in their laboratories washing test tubes and cleaning beakers. It was supposed to be a temporary job for a year, but I stayed there for 14 years in the end.
What happened to make you stay?
Yes, I became enthralled with working in the laboratory and I was very, very fortunate that they offered me after a couple of years the opportunity to go on day release to continue my studies. Basically over a nine year period I went from zero to a Master’s Degree in Business. I did all my sciences, chemistry, physics, biology, maths to a degree level. And I worked myself up to a senior level in the company. But then one of my close friends who also worked at Pilkington started to work in financial services, which I thought was a crazy decision. He was a chemist as well.
It does seem to be something like quite a big jump to go from chemistry to finance. Yes it was in the days of one of these little adverts that said, you know, no experience required, you know, just come and knock on our doors and we’ll train you up. So to cut a very long story short, after about two years, my friend invited me out to lunch. I’d only ever seen him in a white lab coat. He turned up to lunch in an Italian suit and paid for lunch with a roll of banknotes! So I took the leap and worked for Allied Dunbar, Lloyds Bank, Norwich Union and then the Royal Bank of Scotland over the next twenty years.
What was your timetable like?
I was living in North Devon, and commuting every week. I’d leave at 5am on a Monday to catch the 9am flight from Bristol to Edinburgh. And then on a Wednesday, I would fly to London every week and I then travelled from there back to Bristol, to pick my car up to drive back to North Devon, to put my washing in the washing machine. It was an exciting role and an exciting environment. But my God I was exhausted. I was at home 12 days out of 365. My wife at the time, Julie, and I met up in a service station and agreed that we had to make a change. My eldest daughter Elizabeth had just got a job in Mallorca as a rep, and we thought we would go out and take a break. When we saw the island we just absolutely fell in love.
So you started a business.
Yes, we had both been in training services in the financial sector, so we decided to put our skills to a different track. We spotted a niche, helping younger people here to get through the process of academia. It took some time for us to win the confidence of the local Mallorcan families, but after some time we started to get referrals. Obviously we are in a business where results are important, and when parents started to see their children really improving they started to recommend us.
So what services do you offer now?
We have built a tutor base which means that we can pretty much cover all of the subjects out there now. We work with the Spanish curriculum up to Selectividad, the GCSE and A Level systems, and the International Baccalaureate. We offer classes after school hours during the week and on Saturdays and we also now have students who come to study during the weekdays who might not cope so well with the traditional classroom environment. Or their timetables mean they have to have more flexibility, we have some very talented sports people and musicians finishing their education with us for example.
Why do children need extra support outside of school?
If you look at the UK, there’s many, many students that need help after school, but it is a different dynamic here. More and more, we are seeing families entering the island from Germany, from Russia, from Scandinavia, in particular, where the children have been in a different system. They arrive on the island, they often don’t speak Spanish. The parents will more often than not put them into one of the international schools. Their English may not be up to standard, but they are trying to cope with a completely different scientific or mathematical syllabus. I am finding that a lot of parents when they arrive on the island are looking for advice on what to do with their children. Depending on their age I recommend they go into a Spanish school to get the language, but after they have reached eleven and secondary school it becomes much harder for them to make that transition. The kids are already coping with a lot of change and the biggest question we must ask ourselves and them is, are they happy? Their happiness has to be a priority. Without that why are you putting them through it?
What are the options now for students?
Well you obviously have the public Spanish system, there are also private Spanish fee paying schools, and then international schools which teach in different languages and are fee paying. The final exams can either be A Levels, the National Bac, or the International Bac. From that if the young person wants to study in Spain or the US they will be sitting their Selectividad or their SATs which we can support them through as well. We also work with an excellent company based in the UK called Wolsey Hall who run a homeschooling college. We have their students studying in our academy and we support the students with a “hand on the shoulder” approach.
What do you like most about your work?
When I can help an individual who has disengaged from the system for whatever reason, and help and encourage them to study independently I feel that I am not only helping the student but also the future adult to learn important skills and gain confidence for their adult life. I am extremely proud of what we have done on the island,
What are you personally planning on studying next?
I’m fascinated with politics at times, I think I would like to learn more about that, when I have time. I certainly won’t ever retire. I might work on a golf course, but I’m certainly no golfer!
Visit www.mallorcatutoringacademy.com if you want to get in touch with Martyn and the team.
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