The Reading Doctor – a business lifeline for disengaged teachers

Deborah Salsbury (right), a former primary school teacher turned businesswoman, has recruited her fourth franchisee for The Reading Doctor after beginning her franchising journey just under a year ago.

With two decades of teaching experience unlocking the potential of struggling readers at home and in school, her business success has seen her nominated for several awards as more schools join her reading programme.

Her story
Deborah believes the success of The Reading Doctor in such a short time frame is all down to drive, passion and an innate understanding of a struggling industry with little funding, plus a rapidly expanding pool of disengaged teaching professionals looking for a lifeline to leave the classroom.

Salsbury said: “I made a decision to leave my teaching career behind in 2012. School had become an overflowing stream of initiatives, targets, inspections and unrealistic demands, which found me questioning their purpose and value. So I decided to do something about it. I developed a range of tools, resources and strategies to ensure every child I taught actually learned to read.”

After leaving the classroom, The Reading Doctor was born as a home tuition business coupled with school consultancy work to raise attainment for the lowest achieving students in her area.

‘Business in a box’
In the space of just a few months, Deborah and her family worked tirelessly to build a ‘business in a box’ that would set her on a path to franchising. The business was trademarked and lawyers set to work on a franchise agreement.

Salsbury added: “No stone or page has been left unturned in the process, ensuring that a primary school teacher with little-to-no business experience has every tool they need to build a classroom in their home and deliver the programme with ease as a self-employed tutor.

“The team now includes The Reading Doctors of Herne Bay, Whitstable, Worthing, Bromley and Cardiff.

“In a digital age, with education being no exception, countless learning interventions have resorted to online learning platforms or a ‘synthetic phonics’ approach to learning to read.

“My teaching methods and resources embrace difference and diversity. Children need the opportunity for social mobility and literacy is cited as a key factor in someone’s chances of success in life. My programme puts children back in touch with something magical and human; their own intrinsic desire to learn.

“As far as I’m aware there are no other tutoring/consultancy businesses that focus purely on reading. Being dyslexic myself and having a dyslexic daughter has enabled me to fully empathise with children and parents.

“I’ve witnessed first hand that reading for meaning and enjoying the experience in the process is paramount. When I then became a Reading Recovery teacher, my sessions were fun, multi-sensory and related to the children’s own experiences. If I didn’t enjoy the session, the children I taught certainly wouldn’t.

“Today, I’m constantly motivated by the comments from pupils who have benefitted from The Reading Doctor programme. It’s not uncommon to take a 9-14 year old, who has spent most of their life ‘in care’, from a non-reader to a competent reader and rather rewardingly, franchisees also tell me that being a Reading Doctor has rekindled their love of teaching and given them a focus, too.

“Conveniently for franchisees is that Ofsted, the government inspection organisation, has put reading at the heart of its framework. Ofsted has also recognised the success of The Reading Doctors in schools, citing the methods as “an effective, extremely positive intervention that results in improving reading skills quickly.”

“The vision of The Reading Doctor is to improve the reading ability of as many children as possible in order to improve their life chances. We will be the ‘go to’ intervention for every school and every child who has difficulty in learning to read.

“We will identify and remove barriers to learning to ensure children read for pleasure and read to learn. It sounds emotive but I have also rediscovered my reasons for becoming a teacher and I see this through the success of The Reading Doctor pupils every day,” concluded Salsbury.