Recent figures suggest that almost 1 in 4 pupils in the UK have received private tuition at some point during their time at school- a boom perhaps reflecting parents’ growing concerns that they provide their children with crucial extra educational support.
Choosing a tutor for your child is a delicate and often daunting process- some research has suggested it is an industry whose workers outnumber those in the NHS. It is also entirely unregulated, with anyone able to advertise their services as a tutor. With such a plethora of options, what should parents consider when negotiating the tricky minefield of choosing the right tutor for their child?
1. Qualifications and experience
No qualifications are required to become a private tutor. However, when recruiting tutors for our agency, I insist all tutors have a degree-level qualification. This firstly demonstrates academic capabilities and secondly, tutors with a degree in a particular subject can offer students an in-depth knowledge and insight.
I also place great emphasis on teaching or educational-based qualifications, purely because I know those tutors will possess the pedagogical skills and techniques necessary to effectively transmit concepts and learning to their students.
It is important that a tutor has this experience of transmitting ideas and learning. More experienced tutors have a wealth of knowledge to draw upon and can often make quick and accurate assessments of students, supporting them with tried, tested and effective methods. However, more youthful tutors, particularly recent teacher-training graduates, can often be more aware of the latest trends and innovations in education and are also sometimes able to relate more with their students.
2. Security checks
Shockingly, private tutors are not required to hold a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Services) certificate, detailing a person’s criminal record and identity. For the many self-employed tutors not working with an agency, this is because it is impossible to obtain a DBS working for yourself. Although some agencies don’t require tutors to hold a DBS, it is something I insist all our tutors obtain.
It is also recommended that parents check the credentials of a tutor prior to the first session. Tutors are usually perfectly happy with parents asking them to produce photo ID or a copy of their DBS certificate- if they aren’t, questions should be asked as to why.
Tuition is a business which relies hugely on recommendations and word soon gets around of a good tutor operating in the area. However, do bear in mind that a tutor who has worked wonders with your friend’s child, might not click with yours.
4. Terms and conditions
Work out with a tutor in your preliminary arrangements, what their Terms and Conditions are. Enquire about areas like the cancellation policy and the payment policy- cash, cheque or BCAS? Payment straight after the lesson? Some tutors insist on block payments for lessons upfront- be careful of this.
5. Personal skills
When it comes down to it, the tutor will be working with your child and not you. Of course it is important that parents feel comfortable with a tutor, but some tutors often communicate better with students than adults.
As well as forming a good rapport with students, a tutor’s personal skills and characteristics are hugely influential on a student’s level of progress. A tutor should be able to inspire, motivate and instil a passion for learning in the students they teach.
Good tutors will be a model of professionalism, demonstrating reliability, honesty and punctuality to their students. Dispense with the services of tutors who consistently cancel or turn up late to lessons- as well as showing a lack of professionalism it also becomes demoralising for their students.
7. Local Knowledge
Sometimes national agencies and tutors who are located hundreds of miles away, can be unaware as to how things work in the local area and in education. It’s important tutors have a good knowledge of local educational trends, keeping an ear to the ground on the fortunes of schools and changes at local educational authority levels.
Tutors should provide regular and effective feedback to students and parents on the level of progress being made. Sometimes, a brief re-cap of the learning that occurred in the lesson is more than adequate, but on a regular basis tutors should expand more on a pupil’s progress, the targets they have for the student and how they are going to help the student achieve these targets.
Be wary. Many tutors advertise incredibly cheap rates- but this is often for a reason! Saving money on a cheaper tutor also may not provide the results you are seeking from the arrangement. Excellent, experienced and qualified tutors typically come at a premium price. However, be careful to avoid tutors charging the earth for their services- there’s only so much one person can achieve and inflated fees often mask a deflated skills-set. Some agencies charge a set-fee for tutors, whereas others advise, in conjunction with tutors, the fees to set. With average tuition prices between £20 and £35 an hour, increasing markedly the closer you get to London and the higher the level of qualification, it is a good idea to work out a rough budget and see what is available in that price range.
Decide also if you will be willing to travel to a tutor’s home or whether you will be able to host a tutor at yours. Again, bear in mind a tutor may charge extra for travel costs to come to your home. If a tutor has an exceptional reputation but doesn’t travel to a student’s home, consider making the extra effort. On the other hand, many children feel more comfortable learning at home, in their own environment.
10. Consult with your child
Involve your child with the process of tuition as they sometimes may feel they don’t require extra help. Whilst it is fundamental to canvass their views, ensure these opinions are backed up with good reports and attainment levels.
If they feel they would like more help, then include them in the process of finding a tutor. Discuss what aspects they’d ideally like in a tutor and what areas they want help with. Some children are quite sensitive to having tuition and link it with a failing on their part- it is crucial to show them the benefits of tuition and how many children, of all attainment levels, use tutors to help them achieve success!
Get an idea, in conjunction with your child, of what things you are looking for in a tutor. Male or female? Young or experienced? Firm or relaxed? If a tutor works with an agency, you can often mention these specifications- agencies will have a wider range of potential tutors and will be able to attempt to accommodate some of your requests.
Be prepared to be flexible though- sometimes, an exceptional tutor might fall outside your ideal specifications.
If your child is at any point unhappy or uncomfortable with a tutor, seek to cancel the arrangement immediately. The tutor may be disappointed, but your child’s learning is the most important thing and they won’t learn if they don’t feel secure.
Another caution though! Be mindful of some children kicking up a fuss regardless of how well they got on with a tutor as they may not be enamoured with the idea being tutored!