Today, James Simms, founder and director of The EverLearner, shared with the education sector his reflections on what the last couple of months have meant for The EverLearner and our plans for the year ahead. You can watch the speech here:
You can read the transcript here:
My name is James Simms and I am a teacher of 20 years experience having worked in six different schools and colleges in the UK. I am also the founder of The EverLearner Ltd and the creator of theeverlearner.com. Since 2012, I have been creating video-based, online educational resources to support my own teaching and since 2015 have been doing so commercially, initially as a self-employed creator and latterly as a limited company employing a wide range of educators, technicians and administrators.
My business provides the best online education to students and teachers in the UK. In normal times, schools and colleges pay me to provide these services which teachers use to automate a wide range of tasks and to facilitate blended and flipped learning models with GCSE, A-level and vocational subject students. By March 2020, we had gained a commercial relationship with 8% of all schools in England and Wales. We thought we were doing well! Then, COVID happened and in March I was faced with a choice. My business was about to have its most lucrative period ever with schools forced into lockdown and forced to switch to online learning models. Conservatively, I could have made £1 million in the a2 weeks that followed. This would have involved a "special COVID rate" meaning schools and, by definition, the taxpayer would have to pay more in a time of need. The thinking could have been "let's use COVID to make hay!" However, my team and I chose a different route. We made every service we offer free, completely free, to every school, teacher and student that needed us. I wish to be very clear: we did not make our base service free and hide the premium service behind the curtain like some kind of in-app purchase. No! We made every element of our work completely and utterly free thereby killing our cashflow stone dead for a six month period.
Since this decision, a few interesting things have happened. Most significantly, thousands of schools all over the world have registered with us across ten different secondary school subjects. Our user base has increased from 8% of the UK sector to well over 50% of all schools. These numbers continue to rise and although we have had to stem the flow a little to help us to manage the demand, 50 new schools a week register with us completely freely every Wednesday afternoon. In fact, we will take 50 more schools later today.
I would like to let you know today, that since our decision to make The EverLearner completely free, we have given away approaching £4 million worth of services for no return whatsoever. Furthermore, the growth in numbers has occupied a fully-staffed team who have not been allowed to take holidays and our subscription-based costs have increased dramatically.
At this point, it's essential to thank our previous paying subscribers, now our "Founders" for their agreement and permission to take this action. Without their support and backing, this would not have been possible.
As you are hearing, every story has two sides and despite the remarkable growth, The EverLearner Ltd will have no cash flow whatsoever between March 2020 and September 14th 2020 when we recommericalise our business.
COVID is not going away any time soon and we, as a sector and as a network of teachers, must come together to solve the educational malaise that threatens to deepen in the coming months.
On the basis of what I have said, I wish to make a proposal to you all. I would like to strike a deal with every school that has registered with us and every school that is considering registering. Here is my proposal:
I am asking every school to back us commercially between September 2020 and September 2021 by subscribing to our services for 12 months.
In return for your support, I am willing to guarantee you the following actions in clear chronological order.
Between today and September 2020, we will achieve four things:
1. We will review and refine every existing course on our platform, adding content and bringing you the absolute best teaching, questioning, automation and diagnostics.
2. We will hire tens of creators to further develop our core content.
3. We will launch an additional tranche of over 30 courses from a range of subject areas including central subjects that we do not currently offer.
4. We will deliver "The ExamSimulator" project to the education sector. This software will enable the most convenient and most developmental online environment for setting prose-based writing tasks complete with automarking, an automated writing assistant and fully automated diagnostics of student writing.
Following this, between September 2020 and September 2021, we guarantee to achieve the following three things:
1. We will launch services in all KS4 curricula as well as the vast majority of KS5 curricula also.
2. We will launch our first-ever courses for selected KS2 curricula as well as various services across KS3.
3. We will launch the first-ever series of The EverLearner-centralised mock or practice exams which will be available across a range of subjects.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to guarantee the following things to you about the next 18 months of our work.
1. Our team will respond to your communications, queries and suggestions in an average of under one hour for the entirety of the year. Not only will we seek your feedback but we will develop a relationship with you and your school. Every piece of feedback will be addressed. Unlike most providers who try and keep you at arm's length we will almost obsess over your views and your preferences.
2. Our services via theeverlearner.com will be lightning-fast every minute of every single day no matter how many schools register with us. You will never ever notice site speed on our platform because it will be instantaneous every time, guaranteed.
Today, I ask every teacher, every SLT member and every headteacher to notice the audacious nature of what has just been proposed and the risks that I have taken in recent weeks and am willing to take purely by standing up and making this speech to you all. We are a self-funded business fully owned by educators with no private or public backers, with no rich individual in the background with a different agenda. In my heart, I feel what is possible and I have the conviction and bloody-mindedness to see it through for the good of everybody. My business and I are one and the same and, as an educator, I am standing in front of you and asking for your backing.
I will serve you and every penny you invest in me will be wisely and conscientiously invested for the good of the end-user, the student who we will never ignore and never forget.
You have my personal guarantee that my team and I will never, ever stop pushing our vision forwards. We will always work with true integrity and outright focus on the end goal.
Join us at theeverlearner.com from September 2020 and be part of a true movement for good, for everyone.
James Simms, founder and director of The EverLearner Ltd