Estimated reading time:7 minutes, 15 seconds
Everyone has a story. Private tutor Muhammad Ali, working from his Romilly Road home, talks about his love of maths, physics and Islington. Interview by Nicola Baird. Â
Muhammad Ali doesnât just share a famous name with the great boxer, they also share a birthday (17 January). But thatâs where the similarities stop. Muhammad grew up in Manchester, where he did a BSc in Physics. He then took a PhD in Physics at Cambridge University. âA PhD at Cambridge was basically full time and funded so less stressful than a BA or BSc,â he says. At the time he was studying âThin film magnetism’. âIt was pioneering research into how much data one can cram into one square inch of material â for a CD or DVD. Then a lot was funded by IBM in America so it was all square inches, itâs probably metric now.â
Absorbing as this was Muhammad changed direction after meeting his wife Catherine, moving to London in 2010 and marrying. âWe lived in Gibson Square, posh Islington, in the one bed basement flat in Catherineâs fatherâs four storey Georgian house. He was only there every now and then but when our second child was on the way we thought the space was a bit tight.â
There followed a nail-biting search for a family house. Eventually âin 2014 we bought a place on Romilly Road. It was very run down so for a year we temporarily stayed with my mother in law in Canonbury. We moved into Romilly Road properly in August 2015. Itâs an amazing place and I love the area. Itâs three minutes walk from Finsbury Park tube station, all the shops are here. Itâs so convenient.â
Heâs even got friendly neighbours â he plays squash with the man next door.
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Muhammad and Catherine, a qualified primary school teacher who has worked at Hanover Primary School and in Tower Hamlets, now have two daughters at Highbury Community Nursery on Aubert Park, and are expecting their next child in December. âAmani is nearly five so we plan on home schooling,â says Muhammad who is clearly looking forward to the challenge.
Places Muhammad Ali likes in Islington
- I love Finsbury Park. I take my girls to the playground and take my youngest to Jeremyâs Music at the CafĂ©, on Monday and Thursday. He plays guitar to about 30 toddlers and their mums/nanniesâŠ often Iâm the only Dad.
- I love Blighty Coffee. Iâll have a tea when I come here with my kids. I also come here one hour a week as a volunteer tutor for the access project. Itâs a charity providing tuition to under privileged children â the girl I coach is from Highbury Grove.
- Full of Beans CafĂ© at 69 Highbury Park, is a really nice place. Itâs got soft play at the back and close to Highbury Community Nursery. I often go from 9-10am for an hourâs play before I take the girls to nursery.Â (From September 2016 this is being taken overÂ by Highbury Barn’s Princess cafe).
- Highbury Community Nursery, 15 Aubert Park, is a great place where the children spend most of their time playing and learning in the garden. Itâs how it should be, not in a stuffy classroom.
- Catherine and I like Gallipoli Again on 120 Upper Street. I love Turkish food and their kebabs are grilled, not fried, which makes it healthy. Thereâs a great atmosphere and they can lift the roof off to make a garden.
- âBecause of my job I donât get to see my kids from 4pm, but during the day I can take my girls to baby singing and signing, gymnastics, swimming, etc . Often Iâm the only Dad. But I like socialising and itâs nice bumping into people on Blackstock Road or Upper Street.â
For the past six years in Islington (but 20 years all told) Muhammadâs been working as a full-time professional private tutor teaching maths, physics, biology and chemistry, Thereâs a study he can teach from at his Romilly Road home which is where he works 4-9pm on weekdays and 8am-8pm on Saturdays coaching.
âGCSE is my bread and butter, but I also coach for the 7+, 11+, common entrance and A levels. Occasionally adults want to do an MBA and have to pass the GMAT entry requirements. A lot of people havenât done maths to any significant level since they left school â even if they have a successful career, such as being a lawyer,â explains Muhammad.
He charges ÂŁ60 to ÂŁ75 an hour â most students are with him for an academic year, not for an emergency lesson â and most classes are one-to-one at Muhammadâs home.
âTuition works best if it is regular and frequent, although I do run intensive lessons leading up to exams. About 90 per cent of my tutoring is face-to-face but Skype numbers are up. Last year I taught expats based in France, Saudi Arabia, the Czech Republic and Turkey who were all doing the IGCSE Maths,â says Muhammad.
âI love the one-to-one interaction. I used to teach in school and didnât like the behavioural management. It wasnât for me â nor was the office politics, government bureaucracy or the red tape.”
For someone who admits to having gone to a run down school in Moss Side, Manchester, where all his peers went on to YTS (youth training schemes) rather than sixth form and whose parents had not been to uni, Muhammadâs stellar career is impressive. âThere was no expectation for me, in comparison some of the pressure on the children I teach is terrible. One boy has swimming, tennis and drumming coaching as well as four tutor lessons a week on top of everything else. I get that itâs important to have extra curricular activities, but some people have too much pressure,â says Muhammad.
âMaths is easier with a good teacher. When I was at sixth form I had a terrible maths teacher, but an amazing physics teacher. Up until then Iâd loved maths, but I got turned off. But because of Mr A J Craven (Wadham College, Oxford) I developed so much passion for physics. Itâs all because of him I did a degree and a doctorate in physics! He really inspired me.â
But now coaching is Muhammadâs business, see his website www.mathematicsandsciencetuition.com. Indeed itâs grown so much over the past couple of years that heâs hiring tutors to help students do better in their English, French, Spanish, Italian, History, Sociology, Politics and Citizenship, exams, as well as UCAS applications and interview preparation for Oxbridge and medical school, see thetuitionnetwork.com âThey will teach at a location determined by the parent (probably the childâs home) or on Skype,â explains Muhammad.
Even though Muhammad is clearly busy, Islington Faces often sees him out and about with his daughters so there’s plenty of chance to stop him and have a chat about tutoring. And for anyone facing exams very good luck – may yourÂ preparation be just right and the result just what you want.
NOTE: As this is an interview, Islington Faces did not ask to see Muhammad’s DBS (safeguarding certificate from the police) or check on his organisation’s child protectionÂ policies, but it is always a good idea to ask safeguarding questions if you plan to engage a tutor.
- Contact Muhammad viaÂ www.mathematicsandsciencetuition.comÂ or use his new venture,Â The Tuition NetworkÂ (http://thetuitionnetw
ork.com), which hasÂ tutors working for MuhammadÂ covering manyÂ academic subjects (see list atÂ http://thetuitionnetwork. com/subjects/). TutorsÂ are available to goÂ to your house or teach online via Skype.
Over to you
If youâd like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com. Thank you.
If you enjoyed this post you might like to look at theÂ A-Z Â index, orÂ search by intervieweeâs roles or Meet IslingtoniansÂ to find friends, neighbours and inspiration. Thanks for stopping by. Nicola