The principle behind TARKA is so obvious and so powerful that you wonder how it took so long for someone to see it.
90 per cent of the money spent on a child’s education is invested between the ages of 6 and 22, but 90% of human brain development takes place between birth and 6.
Rufus Gordon saw it. Being an ex-Army officer, he acted on it too, setting up TARKA LONDON in 2017 to provide classes for nursery school children in West London. Not to drill them in maths and English, but to do fun, physical exercises which stimulated their imagination and dexterity. The concept struck an immediate chord with Notting Hill parents and TARKA was a hit.
We caught up with Rufus to ask how things have developed at TARKA in the last two years.
Has TARKA stuck to its principles and continued with the kinds of classes it started off with?
We’ve certainly stuck to our principles but we've also adapted to what parents told us they need. So where we originally catered for 3-5 year olds during term time, now we also have ‘younger classes’ for the 18 months to 3 range because we realised that in this group there were very few activities available. We've also added TARKA Troopers (our alternative to nursery), TARKA+ (for 6+7 years olds), holiday classes in 3 different venues, and a mentoring service where we supply a tutor/minister of sports and entertainment to take on holiday with you. In essence, from 18 months to age 8, we have everything covered!
Tarka using sliders to work on children’s core, as well as having a lot of fun
You must have added loads of staff?
Yes, the team has grown and is still growing. We started off male-heavy and soon realised it wasn’t the way to go, so we now have women on the team too. It takes a long time to train up to the ‘TARKA’ way and we are blessed with a core staff of around 16 who have been with us for a while now. Leonora, our latest signing, came in this Summer – she is simply phenomenal with the children and a huge asset.
When you started, all the classes took place at St Francis of Assisi in Notting Hill. What other locations do you have now?
We still run out of Notting Hill but have added classes in Knightsbridge, Chelsea and Fulham. We are always on the lookout for new venues in different locations as we want as many people to experience TARKA as possible.
Do parents have to book their child for a series of lessons, or can they book single classes and dip in and out?
All classes are booked either through our website or the lovely staff in the office. 90% of people book for the entire term as there is a discount and it means you are less likely to miss out. The problem with booking week-by-week is that you might not get a place because most of the classes are full before the term even starts. So we encourage people to book for the term ... but they don’t have to.
If parents don’t live near one of the places you offer classes, but love the idea, is there any way they can get private lessons?
Very much so. Our private classes have been a huge success. Just imagine having one of our main instructors turn up to your house, with equipment, and able to deliver epic games for an hour. If you require one-to-one classes this is the best option, but private classes can cater for up to 4 children per instructor. So if your child has 3 friends and you have adequate space to play TARKA games, it's a wonderful option. These are incredibly popular and are delivered 7 days a week.
How does TARKA plan to expand so that children in other cities can get the benefits of its programme?
At the moment, we are still in the process of laying solid foundations. We've had endless opportunities to expand faster than we have done but have decided that quality, not quantity, is key. To maintain high standards, it’s imperative that we stick to our philosophy.
Are you looking for new staff and, if so, what qualities and experience do you look for?
We are always looking for good people. As far as what we look for, every person has to fit into our ‘Role Model’ ethos – someone the children can look up to and be inspired by. It’s pretty simple: love being around children, have high energy levels, and be willing to make a fool out of yourself!
Thank you Rufus.
020 7164 6281