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Kaplan Heritage: An Interview With Tutor, Gordon Faragher

Gordon Faragher, Kaplan tutor

There is no better way to understand an industry, or a company, than through the individuals that represent it.

As part of our Kaplan Heritage celebration, we interviewed a selection of people who have been part of our story over the years: tutors, apprentices, current students, and those who are part of our Accountancy Training alumni.

We asked them about their personal experiences with Kaplan, some of which relate to memories dating as far back as 30 years ago.

Here we speak to Gordon Faragher, currently working as a Live Online tutor and a long standing servant of Kaplan Financial.

Gordon has had a broad range of experience at Kaplan, and has seen it evolve right into the digital age. Here he shares his valuable insights on the past and present.  

Can you give a brief introduction to your role at Kaplan?

I have been at Kaplan since 1986. I work as a tutor in the Live Online team, and I’ve been in this role since 2011.

Have you worked in different roles whilst at Kaplan? How have you progressed?

When I began my career at Kaplan, I started as a tutor in the Liverpool centre in 1986. In 1990, I was promoted to the Head of Centre in Liverpool. I then became the Head of Centre in Manchester a few years later (1993), for 6 years, and then progressed to Head of the Northern Region (Manchester and Leeds). My position after that was the Head of the Tax Division, which I did for 5 years. Eventually, however, I decided to move out of management and back into training: CPD division, tax updates and training tax inspectors. After a few years, I like to move to a new role. If people stay in the same job for a very long time, I feel it can block progression for anyone else.

What was your career background prior to starting with Kaplan?

I was an auditor with Price Waterhouse  in 1982. I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1984, and then started to do some in-house training for them, which I really enjoyed. I wanted to keep working in training so I looked to work for a training company.

What did you teach at Kaplan?

My main subjects were Tax and Law, but I also did Basic Accounts and Business Strategy. Over the years I have taught most things.

Do students stay in touch after their exams?

Some do. Occasionally you get very nice emails immediately after the results; with others you can hear from them years later, and some you just run into. Our students from the Middle East are particularly good at keeping in touch and let you know how they’re doing. It’s very heart-warming.

How many students do you train, per year?

It’s difficult to determine, but I would say I’d train about 500 students over a typical year. The classroom size can vary as they can be as little as 4 or 5, but on Live Online, it can be from 30 to 70 students at the same time.

What has continued to inspire you over the years working for Kaplan?

I feel that you have to keep evolving, as it keeps things interesting. When I moved to Live Online it made sense to me because it seemed as though it was the way teaching was going to progress. It was very different from teaching to a real classroom: you’re delivering the same material, but you have to think about teaching in a different way. Luckily I’ve been able to move around quite a few times, due to the various opportunities available at Kaplan.

What has been the biggest change in Accountancy whilst you have been at Kaplan?

There have been many.  When I started, for instance, I only taught ICAEW - so moving into the other qualifications was quite significant. Another change would be the exam rules; they used to be much stricter. Many years ago, you would sit 5 exams in 2 and a half days. If you failed any, then you would automatically have failed all of them, and 6 months later you’d have to take them all again. Subsequently, in those days the pass rates were much lower, at around 30%. With today’s exams, you can take more than one at a time and any that you pass you can keep. The process is more efficient and fairer. I personally feel that it’s much better.

What have been the biggest challenges you have faced professionally?

The hardest challenge was probably when I was doing the CPD training. Teaching tax updates to people who were quite senior and knew a lot about tax was demanding, but also very rewarding from an intellectual point of view.

Why do you think Kaplan’s students have such a good pass rate?

We are one of the biggest training providers in the UK and we have outstanding  teaching materials.

How has the financial teaching profession evolved; how have Kaplan’s methods evolved to reflect this?

From a classroom perspective, when I started, we used to have overhead projectors. Until a few years ago, many lectures were hand written. It was a more manual process. The biggest change in teaching methods has to be Live Online, our virtual classroom. It was initiated very gradually at first, but now it’s very important, and a really efficient way to conduct a large class. Kaplan was one of the first training companies to adopt this study method.

What’s your favourite memory of working at Kaplan?

In addition to the social activities - (and parties!)- where all staff got together and bond, and the opportunity I had to teach in Mauritius a couple of times, I would say it’s all about receiving your students’ results. It’s really rewarding, and particularly seeing the results of the foreign students considering they are learning a skill in another language. I find that very impressive.