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Private Tuition in the United Kingdom

From Robin, published on 10/07/2017 We Love Prof - UK > Tutoring > Advice for Students > The Market for Private Tutors in Britain

How big is the UK private tutor marketWhat’s the average cost of a private lesson? How many students receive private tuition? How many private teachers are there in the UK?

While reliable data can be hard to come by, here we attempt to demystify this burgeoning industry.

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The UK Private Tutoring Market

Today, the market in private tuition for school subjects represents approximately £2 billion per year in the UK. This considerable sum makes the country one of the top spenders on tutoring, worldwide.

The rise of private lessons at home Home tuition is increasingly popular (Source: commons.wikimedia.org – Brian A Stone/US Navy)

The proportion of pupils receiving private or home tuition has increased by more than 30% over the course of the last decade, from 18% in 2005 to 25% in 2015. In London, the figures are consistently higher, with 34% of pupils receiving private or home tuition in 2005, rising to 44% in 2016.

These increasing tutoring trends in the UK is despite the fact that, unlike in countries like France, private tuition offers no advantages in terms of tax breaks.

The reasons given for seeking private tuition differ: 52% of those pupils asked said the main reason was to prepare for a specific test or exam. A slightly smaller number (50%) cited help with school work in general. This proportion has increased from just 41% in 2010. Only 13% stated that they were taking extra lessons because they were particularly interested in a certain topic.

Ethnic background was shown to influence the likelihood of receiving private tuition: 54% of students of Asian ethnicities reported that they had received home tuition at some point in the last three years, which was more than double the overall national average of 25%.

More and more students are moving over to tutoring websites like Superprof, which allow you to browse and connect with qualified tutors of all manner of subjects. These online tutor platforms offer both greater flexibility and more competitive pricing for both student and teacher.

How Many Pupils use Private Tutors?

According to a study carried out in 2016, approximately one in four children receive home tuition, nationwide. In London, this figure is significantly higher, with 42% of students receiving help from a personal teacher.  The proportion of students receiving home tuition has increased by over a third in the last decade. Overall in the UK, a quarter of all 11 to 16-year-olds received private tuition in 2016.

Nearly half (43%) of teachers working at state schools have given private lessons at some point in their careers.

A quarter of UK schoolchildren have had private lessons 42% of pupils in London receive private tuition (Source: Pixabay.com – Pexels)

How Much does Online Tutoring Cost?

With our sister site, Superprof.fr, we decided to conduct a survey, and gathered data from more than 400,000 students and tutors. We found, without any great surprise, that the price of a class depends on the subject being taught. Language courses were, on average, the cheapest, and sports classes were the most expensive, at £35 per hour.

The price of private tuition also depends on the level at which it is taught. A tutor who teaches mathematics to college students will charge less on average than one who teaches specialised preparatory maths classes. The level of remuneration depends as well on the level of qualifications and experience of the teacher. A former Oxbridge student will usually charge more than the average going rate.

Female teachers charge on average less than their male colleagues, showing that in the tutoring sector, gender inequalities are still present. On average, women charge one pound less per private lesson.

On average, a private lesson costs £20.60, though this varies considerably from one region or city to another.

In the UK as in France, some tutoring agencies can be much more expensive than Superprof simply because of the additional fee’s they charge. A one-hour sixth-form maths class, for example, costs on average €22 on Superprof compared to €46 with Acadomia.

The difference in price reflects a difference in the proportion of lesson costs taken by the company, compared to the tutor: For one of the above classes charged at €45, the teacher will only see half of the money while the organisation takes the other 50%.

In this way, the cost of a private lesson can vary depending on the company providing it. It’s important to note that the lower cost of lessons with the likes of Superprof does not reflect negatively on the quality of tuition or that of the tutor.

How Many Private Tutors are there?

Thanks in no small part to the fact that the industry is unregulated, and a large number of tutors do not declare their income, this question is difficult, though not impossible, to answer.

Part of the reason for this is that, while it’s always a welcome addition to any CV, tutoring is for many a way to supplement a primary income, rather than a primary career.

It’s hard to estimate the number of private teachers How many tutors are there? (Source: Flickr.com – Regent Language Training)

In the main disciplines, the number of private teachers is in the tens of thousands. Most private teachers are students, looking to round up their monthly salaries, though some are also full-time teachers who tutor in addition to their main jobs.

Some private tutors are certified teachers working as part of the national education system.

One thing is for certain: The number of personal tutors has increased rapidly over the last few decades.

Read our short history of private lessons, also on this blog.

The flexible and unregulated nature of the tutoring market is one of the reasons why it is so challenging to estimate accurate figures. Anyone, from the age of 14 up, can work as a home tutor, without necessarily holding any formal qualifications, sometimes to the disquiet of those taking lessons.

Indeed, the risk of hiring someone who overestimates his own skills and knowledge is one worth considering, though it is one that can be mitigated by tools that make it easier to separate the best tutors from the less good.

On Superprof for example:

  • Each teacher is invited to fill out a detailed description in his or her profile, providing a level of trust and transparency on the platform.
  • Students are invited to evaluate their teachers directly on the site, which provides an easy way of discerning a great profile from one claiming misrepresentations.
  • The teaching platform allows teachers to earn money, which incentivises professional performance.

Summer: Peak Private Tutoring Season

Private tuition can be taken at any time of year, and unlike the school and university system, you can enrol at any time. This flexibility is one of the many great advantages of private lessons. The peak, however, is during the summer months.

Learning at the beach Many families take their child’s tutor on holiday with them (Source: Schriever Air Force Base – Christopher DeWitt)

In the summer months, thousands of children across the country spend hours cramming with tutors in preparation for GCSE and A level exams. Not only this, but many parents are worried about getting their children prepared for school entrance exams, held in October and November. All this means that many tuition agencies are “constantly recruiting”.

While the average schoolteacher might be off enjoying ten weeks of holiday over the summer break, top private tutors are finding themselves increasingly busy. Highly competitive entrance tests to secure a place at the top private schools encourage many of the wealthiest parents to shell out for extended tuition over the holidays – including taking private tutors with them!

Alexander Nikitich, founder of London agency Carfax Private Tutors says that his company’s “..Monaco office is always busier in the summer than at any other time of the year, with so many families coming to spend their summer on the Riviera”. The company has even taken to operating a pop-up office in Tuscany to cater to wealthy families keen to prepare their children for upcoming entrance tests whilst on holiday there.

This is an international phenomenon, with British tutors working in Switzerland to as far afield as Dubai. Will this be the future for private tutoring?

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