Three British businessmen give up the offer of Alibaba to set up at UNNC

06 December 2019

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From left to right: Harvey Schofield, Leon Hady and Blair Robertson

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Blair Robertson, Guide Teacher Training

In a competition organised by Alibaba in 2018, three young British businessmen – Blair Robertson, Harvey Schofield and Leon Hady - shared their entrepreneurial experience and thoughts. They finished 9th among over 10,000 competitors and received an invitation to set up at Alibaba’s business incubator in Hangzhou.

However, they unexpectedly surrendered this opportunity and instead chose to take offices inside UNNC’s Li Dak Sum Incubator. "We fell in love with the campus instantly and also the city of Ningbo. It took about 30 seconds to decide that we wanted to stay here," said Blair Robertson, the director of educational training. They wanted to realise their entrepreneurial dreams in Ningbo and their families had already settled down in the city.

Blair explained that they had a natural affinity with the University as they all hailed from Nottingham, UK. Before coming to China, each had gained over ten years' teaching experience and their pioneering online education platform “GUIDE TEACHER TRAINING” was already well-known in UK. Last year, they trained teachers from over 30 UK schools and helped to radically increase their performance scores.

“In the UK, there are around 80,000 candidates for initial teacher training. In terms of global scale, the market has huge potential,” said Blair. “The platform now offers over 20 different courses and includes over 1,000 teaching videos. We employ education specialists for producing videos and cooperate with global organisations to ensure the high quality of our content.”

Harvey Schofield, who is responsible for product development in China, said that one of the reasons why they chose the industry was to make educational resources more accessible and equitable. However, online courses lacked the vital classroom interaction and practice. To solve this problem, they introduced a mechanism through which senior teachers could give feedback instantaneously once trainees uploaded their videos.

Harvey stated that the Chinese market was where they wanted to gain recognition and test the feasibility of their business model.

Despite some differences between teacher training in China and UK, they aimed to cooperate with institutions to launch training for specified groups. With China fast becoming a technology leader, they sought out technical talents - especially in Artificial Intelligence – to analyse the way that teachers spoke and how students answered, as well as to provide a more objective observation of teaching quality.

Initiator and founder of the platform, Leon Hady, has been honoured as an outstanding young principal by the UK’s education regulator, OFSTED. He said that the platform is currently preparing a Chinese version and planning to cooperate with the Centre for English Language Education at UNNC to support education in rural and underdeveloped areas. They want to provide online training specifically for teachers in those regions and to make educational resources more accessible.