I am an Oxford graduate (English language and literature, first class), as well as a qualified English teacher, and have been tutoring since 2013. My specialism is A-level English literature.
Please get in touch for online English tuition, particularly if you are or your child is
• Preparing to take A-levels in 2024/25
• Doing coursework
• Working on the basis of continuous assessment, mocks, etc.
• Or planning to do / doing an English degree
I graduated from the University of Oxford with a double first in English language and literature, winning the prize for the best performance in English finals at Mansfield College, and the college essay prize. At school, I was awarded eleven GCSEs at A-star and three A-levels at A.
As well as tutoring, I have worked as a researcher, a copywriter, and a proofreader. I have also completed a PGCE in secondary English at the UCL Institute of Education, the highest-ranking college of education in the world (QS World University Rankings), during which I taught all age groups at two west London secondary schools, and received A’s for my master’s-level assignments. I am currently pursuing a PhD in English literature at the University of Buckingham.
As well as English tuition at any level, I can help you or your child with the following:
• Oxbridge entrance (the admissions process, practice interviews, the ELAT, etc.)
• Essay surgery – how to structure and write an essay
• How to revise – note-taking, organisation, making connections, committing to memory
• Grammar, punctuation, and style (a.k.a. ‘usage and abusage’)
• Speech-writing and public speaking
• Proofreading and redrafting essays
• Suggested reading and resources
• How to annotate, analyse (and enjoy) English literature – sometimes known as ‘close reading’ or ‘practical criticism’
• If you’d specifically like written feedback on your writing – more like a correspondence course – then I can provide that.
In my spare time I enjoy cycling, writing, and photography.
I have been tutoring since 2013, teaching English at all levels (including degree level), as well as A-level religious studies. I have taught AQA, Edexcel, OCR, WJEC/Eduqas, and CAIE (Cambridge International), and am constantly familiarising myself with the new texts that my students are studying. And I have experience helping students with autism and ADHD.
A parent, February 2024: ‘your help has kept her love of the subject and her enthusiasm alive and I can’t thank you enough for that.’
A parent, February 2024: ‘You were such a huge help to [S.], we will always be very grateful to you.’
Kath, a parent, February 2024: ‘We would both like to thank you for all your invaluable help, especially all the helpful feedback on the coursework essay. [S.] has definitely learnt a lot and grown in confidence, especially in her knowledge of Twelfth Night.’
A student, January 2024: ‘I just wanted to let you know that I got an offer from Oxford! Thank you so much for checking over my personal statement and all the help that you have given me since GCSEs. I really enjoy our sessions every week, the discussions keep me constantly creative and thinking.’
A parent, January 2024: ‘Thank you as always for all your continued help and support for [E.]. I know she gets a tremendous amount from your sessions and I’m very grateful.’
A student, January 2024: ‘Just emailing to let you know I did get an offer from […] Cambridge yesterday so thank you so much for all your help! It is really appreciated and I’m really looking forward to starting my degree in October!’
A student, December 2023: ‘So thank you so much again for all your help; your insights have been very useful and I have really enjoyed talking about literature with you.’
Tara, a parent, November 2023: ‘you are really helping [R.], he is becoming much more confident. Thank you so much’.
Paula, a parent, November 2023: ‘[M.] is always delighted with your teaching. You are asking questions no one else does. My husband and I see her grow academically after every session with you.’
Liz, a parent, October 2023: ‘Thank you so much for all the work you have done with, and the kindness you have shown, [E.] to date. She really enjoys her sessions with you, and you’ve helped keep her enthusiasm for English very much alive. I’m so grateful.’
Kim, a parent, August 2023: ‘I cannot tell you how happy we all were and your help was clearly instrumental in that. Not sure if he told you but he got 12 points above an A* and it was his best A level result!’
A student, August 2023: ‘I really enjoyed our lessons and think it has really helped prepare me for the Oxford style tutorials.’
A student, August 2023: ‘wanted to let you know I ended up getting an A* in English, thanks so much for all the help!’
Mark, a parent, June 2023: ‘Many thanks josh for your help this year. [E.] has said to me it has really helped, you started assisting her at a time when she felt behind her class mates for the whole of the first year, having switched to English half way through term one.’
Melanie, a parent, June 2023: ‘Thank you so much for all your time and effort with [T.]’s English literature. She really enjoyed your sessions together and it really boosted her confidence and inspired her to think more deeply and critically about the texts. It also confirmed that she is happy and excited to study a literature based course at degree level.’
A-level results, August/September 2022:
‘[L.] came home from university yesterday to attend her school prize giving ceremony, and this morning as she was leaving she asked me to let you know that she won a special prize in English […] Until last night, she wasn’t aware of any of her awards, apart from her scholarship, so it was all a lovely surprise. Furthermore, the essays she wrote in her A level English exams have somehow found their way into her teachers’ hands; they told her, with beams of pride , that the three marks dropped overall were actually in her non exam assessment, so 30/30 in all questions across all papers under exam conditions, something she had never achieved before. She had admitted to me in the aftermath of the exams that when she was writing her English papers she had really enjoyed the process, her thoughts flowing pretty effortlessly on to the paper. But she had also worried this stream of ideas might not be fit with the mark schemes. […] she […] wanted you to know about her prize, as she thought you’d be pleased, and she also wanted to say thanks one last time for your inspirational teaching that led to it.’
‘I got AAA* for my results much higher than my predicted! particularly for english’.
‘[G.] got an A star in English. And is off to Oxford. […] Thanks so much for everything - you were honestly amazing and really helped her get there’.
‘[L.] got 3 a stars and an A star as well in her EPQ. Her highest marks were in English Literature ( 197/200)’.
‘I achieved 4A*s in my Alevels - one being in English Literature. My teachers also let me know that I got full marks in both the exam papers’
‘[T.] smashed English Literature, A* […] she is absolutely over the moon . Thank you so much for all the work you put in with her !’
‘I got a D[distinction]2!!! […] I got full marks on my PI!’
‘I got an A* in English!!! Thank you so much for all of your help I wouldn’t have been able to do it without you!’
A student, January 2023: ‘Just wanted to let you know I got an offer from Cambridge, thank you so so much for all your help.’ And Kathryn: ‘You were such a great help to [E.] in her preparation for the Cambridge application and interview and we were all delighted when she was offered a place this week. Thank you for all the support you gave her.’
Shaun, a parent, January 2023: ‘[E.] has found the sessions really very helpful (and has enjoyed them!)’
Guifang, a parent, December 2022: ‘From what I hear from [S.], she really enjoys her discussions with you, it’s really one of the highlights of her week.’
A student, November 2022: ‘I’m extremely happy to tell you that I received an 8.3 for the literary review […] Thank you for explaining to me what a literary review is […] I remember whilst working on it I was so worried about my grade, but it appears I’ve survived.’
Deborah, a parent, September 2022: ‘a huge thanks again to you for all your work with [S.]. I know he has been in touch to let you know that he got 9s in both English Language and Literature. He was over the moon - well beyond his best hopes, so thank you again for being instrumental in helping him attain those grades.’
Karen, a parent, August 2022: ‘Both my girls really like your way of teaching and talking to them, they feel really listened to and respected for their opinions (as well as respecting yours obviously), so thank you :)’
Helen, a parent, July 2022: ‘Thanks so much for all the help you gave [J.], he really benefitted from the sessions he had with you.’
Tara, a parent, June 2022: ‘Thank you so much for all your help and patience - I think you have been brilliant for her confidence. She found English exams really very difficult before she started talking to you and it’s amazing to see how much calmer (relatively speaking!) she has been going in to her A level English papers. Whatever the result, her sessions with you have definitely helped her to enjoy English again and I’m really grateful.’
A student, June 2022: ‘This is incredibly insightful and thought provoking feedback. Thank you so much.’
Mei, a parent, June 2022: ‘She found your lessons very helpful and always remarked to me how much you went the extra mile for her ; looking up and sending on links to whatever you'd been discussing. Much appreciated!’
Marguerite, a parent, June 2022: ‘Thank you so much for all you’ve done for [T.] in the past year . […] you are a very talented teacher.’
Monica, a parent, June 2022: ‘You have been an absolutely wonderful tutor to [L.], and how time has flown since she first met you! […] Many a time she has needed someone to talk to, not so much about AO1-5, but rather about the beauty and burden of literature and life. You have always been willing to do that, and she is richer for it.’
A student, June 2022: ‘Thank you for teaching me for the last year; I have enjoyed our lessons and I feel I have grown as an English student, with thanks to your teaching.’
A student, April 2022: ‘I received an 8 for my essay!! I want to thank you for your tutoring on Keats and Wordsworth- I wouldn't have gotten such a grade without it!! […] I learned tons because of you.’
Ngozi, a parent, March 2022: ‘Thanks for everything that you’re doing for [G.] - it has been very helpful.’
A student, February 2022: ‘Really, thanks so much. Was such a good and efficient service. Your feedback looks really good and I’m going to implement it today. […] Thanks again for doing this on such short notice’.
Deborah, a parent, October 2021: ‘[S.] said you make it really fun - he said at school his energy goes down in English lessons and with you it goes up! So that is praise indeed from a teenage boy!’
A student, August 2021: ‘I got the A grade ! I’m so pleased, thank you for all the help and the essays really paid off :).’
Monica, a parent, July 2021: ‘As would be expected from his first class qualifications, Josh is extremely intelligent. However, in my opinion, he has a a very particular advantage over others of a similar academic background, namely his ability to exhibit an authentic interest in the ideas his students express. He is always kind and encouraging, but without sacrificing rigour; this approach has had a hugely positive impact on my daughter when speaking, writing and reading. Furthermore, Josh has introduced her to a range of authors, poets , films and philosophical thought, thus enriching her far beyond the school curriculum. In the future, my daughter will undoubtedly look back on her time with Josh with both fondness and gratitude. I have no hesitation in recommending Josh as a tutor’.
Guifang, a parent, July 2021: ‘I have know Joshua for 2 months and He has been supporting my daughter excellently through her GCSE courses, helping her to achieve a 9 in predicted grades. From this, Joshua has always been very serious with the work, needless to say, always punctual and gives detailed homework feedback. I know him to be a wonderful tutor to my daughter.’
Susan, a parent, May 2021: ‘[T]hank you so much for all your help with [N.] […] [N.] found your lessons extremely helpful which enabled her to enjoy and understand English in a greater depth […] it was excellent tuition . Thank you’.
Jamal, a parent, May 2021: ‘Thank you Josh for all your efforts, you have greatly assisted [S.] in better understanding English Literature as whole.’
Zahed, a parent, May 2021: ‘We are grateful for all your help and support. We are in no doubt that [A.] has improved a lot in English Literature under your guidance.’
A student, May 2021: ‘I just got my coursework back and got an A in it. Just thought i should let you know thanks you!’
Margaret, a parent, March 2021: ‘Thanks for helping [M.] to improve her English understanding. She really enjoys her lessons and chats!’
Chris, a parent, March 2021: ‘[R.] is benefiting immensely from your lessons and is definitely getting more confident in expressing his thoughts in writing! Thank you.’
Amanda, a parent, December 2020: ‘Josh has really helped join the dots, encouraged a depth of questioning and ways to interpret and compare ideas, extracting and bringing fresh meaning to narrative styles and creative use of language. Josh has been a great support and steered [R.]’s confidence to look more thoroughly and develop a greater understanding all round. Josh has a kind, approachable style and encouraged [R.] with debating aloud and suggestions for further reading which all continue to be an invaluable help and inspire greater confidence in approaching exams and further reading in future!’
A student, December 2020: ‘He helps focus my understanding and makes sure i understand the topic we are learning before moving on. Josh will make sure to ask you questions throughout the process and is always ready for your ideas even if you think it's wrong. He will set homework but makes sure to switch it up each week to make it more interesting and gives his feedback to help me understand what i need to do to improve.’
Diana, a parent, September 2020: ‘Josh worked with my daughter for her A Level in English Literature. He was outstanding with his ideas and expanding her critical thinking. He went above and beyond to develop her analytical skills and as a result helped her obtain an A*. He is an absolutely lovely, gentle but dynamic and reliable tutor who has a rare ability combine his academic achievement with a natural talent for teaching. A real gem and we cannot thank him enough.’
A parent, September 2020: ‘Joshua is an excellent tutor with great communication skills . He is very patient , helpful , approachable and takes time to explain everything clearly to my daughter . Joshua has been able to breakdown and explain in full detail all aspects of the A Level content.’
A student, June 2020: ‘it’s been great being taught by you, I’ve learned so many critical thinking skills in such a short space of time.’
A parent, March 2020: ‘I can’t thank you enough for everything that you’ve done for her - you’ve been the best English teacher she’s ever had and she has loved her time with you.’
During my teacher training, I taught all age groups at two west London secondary schools.
Whilst at Oxford, I was part of an ‘e-mentoring’ scheme to help candidates from schools without a history of Oxbridge applications.
At Christ College, Brecon, I ran two series of seminars, for sixth-formers studying RS and English literature. In English we covered The Tempest, Gothic literature, Pat Barker’s Regeneration, Jane Eyre, Wilfred Owen, and The Canterbury Tales.
I try to combine three things that I want my students to do, which are three forms of thinking: speak about complex ideas, read high-quality material, and write essays for which they will receive detailed feedback. For obvious reasons, lessons are weighted to speaking, and homework to reading and writing.
Pedagogy’s holy grail is measuring progress, which is difficult in a classroom and impossible in a lecture. Happily, the tutorial system allows this to occur continuously and efficiently via dialogue. Can a student re-express an idea they have heard or read in their own words? If the answer is yes, they have probably understood the idea. Hence the constant questions!
As well as understanding the ideas of others, speaking is essential for students to develop their own. I love the quotation from the novelist E. M. Forster, ‘How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?’ We improve the quality of our ideas through the process of articulating them.
For my part, quite a lot of what I say is explaining what texts mean. This might sound obvious, but great works of literature are complex, so, to understand their meaning, one’s own interpretation probably needs the support of others’ prior interpretations.
I sometimes like to break the question of a text’s meaning into two: What’s it about? And what’s it really about? Answering the first question is comprehension, a necessary first step. To answer the second question is to understand. In A Streetcar Named Desire, for example, Blanche goes to live with her sister in New Orleans. She expresses a strong dislike of her surroundings and is frequently associated with images of water. She declines mentally and is eventually taken away. So what’s the play really about? Blanche is a Romantic idealist who is disappointed with her life but still tends to imagine things in their perfect form. The play is about the human soul conceiving of things being as good as they could be (as if cleansed by water), reaching for the conception, and failing to grasp it – shuttling back and forth, in other words, on the streetcar named desire.
One thing I frequently encourage is making the link between those oft-cited elements of a good essay, themes and quotations. These are not unrelated ingredients, they are the text itself viewed from different distances. A theme (the desire to be cleansed) is a wide shot, and a quotation (‘the land of the sky blue water’) is a close-up. So the student of English has to practise their ability to zoom in and out.
Another way I try to support my students’ studies is by making connections between the texts they are reading, which in my experience doesn’t happen that much at school. Particularly at A-level, there are often many fruitful connections between the half-dozen or so texts being studied: the Romantics were devoted to Shakespeare and Milton, the Gothic is an aspect of the Romantic, the Aesthetic Movement drew on particular strains of Romanticism, etc. When these connections get made with reference to particular writers, they are no longer just isms. They make the material deeper and easier to understand at the same time. Towards the end of their school careers, students of the humanities should be able to get the sense of taking part in ‘the Great Conversation that began in the dawn of history and that continues to the present day’ (Robert M. Hutchins).
I regularly give my students PDFs of high-quality secondary material pitched at their level or just above it. Explanatory notes, commentaries, and essays can help with understanding, particularly when it comes to context. (And all exam boards have assessment objectives relating to historical context.) To know that a text was written during a particular period and what characterised that period is to have a mental scaffold that does not limit movement but frees it. In studying the humanities we are studying human culture, and no one can do that without a bit of structure. It also helps when thinking about texts in relation to each other – when writing a comparative essay, for example. I like to think of honing in from context to text, e.g. Romanticism (late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries) > William Blake (1757–1827) > Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794) > ‘The Tyger’. (What’s ‘The Tyger’ about? There’s a question!)
In my experience, knowledge acquisition operates according to the Matthew principle, named after a verse in the Gospel of Matthew: ‘unto every one that hath shall be given’. In other words, the more you’ve got, the more you’ll get. Every time you learn something about Romanticism, the greater will be your understanding of the poetry of William Blake. Your internal bookshelves expand – more connections, greater understanding. Reading secondary material is obviously ‘extra’, but it works to enhance students’ understanding of set texts rather than crowd them out. Homer Simpson said, ‘every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain’, and we laugh because it’s not true. You can’t fill up a brain, so the cliché about people’s (particularly young people’s) limitless potential is true. Every time you learn something new, you enrich your contextual understanding of everything else you have ever learnt.
Speaking and reading are in a concrete way preparation for writing. If you think and make notes while speaking and reading, by the time it comes to writing an essay, the question should not be about what to say, but how to arrange the things you want to say. So annotation is an important skill. It’s a bit like getting ‘in the zone’ for a sportsperson – students must practise getting there and staying there. I model the annotation process something like this:
Read with a pencil in your hand. What makes you underline? Something fires in your brain, so that you have a response – you spot a developing theme, you’re reminded of another book, you agree or disagree, there’s a word you don’t know and need to look up, you like the way a sentence sounds. It could be anything. Read until you’ve underlined twenty words or sentences. Work out the three or four connections between the things you have to say, and you’ve got a paragraph plan. Work out the main thing you have to say, and you have a thesis for your essay, which, as you aim your paragraphs at it, will accumulate force.
A lot of learning (and life) is about noticing connections, so getting into the habit of doing so is something like learning how to learn. If a student has developed this habit, they shouldn’t really have to think ‘What shall I write?’ in front of a blank sheet of paper or screen. The content of the essay will be a sort of emanation of prior thinking.
When it comes to giving students feedback, I keep in mind one of the best incites I heard early in my PGCE: attend to your students’ writing as you would a piece of literature. This way, the marking progress becomes analogous to the writing process. What are all the things that could make this essay better? And is there a connection between them, i.e. what’s the main thing this student needs to focus on? (I usually give feedback using comments and ‘track changes’ in Microsoft Word.)
Why study English?
It has been said that ‘If you can think, and speak, and write, you are absolutely deadly’, and I think that’s right. Learning how to construct and articulate good arguments is learning how to impose ideas on the world. To the extent that English is about feelings, it is about their articulation, and there is a great deal to learn about how feelings have been and can be articulated. Moreover, because English is the medium of instruction in all other subjects, command of it confers a freedom to range through the history of ideas and discriminate between reliable and unreliable. Language is a prerequisite for thought – doing English properly is learning how to think better.
|Weekdays (all times)
|University of Oxford
|B.A. (Hons.), English Language and Literature, First Class
|Christ College, Brecon
|English literature A level (grade A)
|University of Oxford
|Master of Arts
|The UCL Institute of Education
|Unpublished feedback (Usually negative)