Happy New Year everybody! When I look back at 2013, one of the most important things that happened within the UK tutoring industry was the establishment of The Tutors’ Association (TTA). Setting up an organisation like TTA was never going to be straightforward, but its aims and objectives are something that we support here at Superprof.
Looking forward to 2014, I expect to see TTA emerge from its chrysalis supporting tutors and presenting an authoritative voice to the media.
What follows is a Q&A with TTA’s Chairman Tom Maher. We hope that you find it illuminating, and we would encourage interested tutors to take advantage of the discounted membership offer.
Q: Can we start by asking for some of the background and reasons why the Tutors’ Association was established?
” The idea of an industry body for the tutoring sector is something that has been percolating in the background for some time. However, nobody really did that much about it, partly because it takes time and effort to reach out to companies and individuals participating and competing in our sector and ask them to come together and form an association. In the summer of 2012, Mylene Curtis of Fleet Tutors asked the Centre for Market Reform of Education to convene a meeting at Lord North Street London and after this meeting a modest fund was put together to get things moving.
As for the reasons for setting up the Tutors’ Association, individual tutors and tutoring companies have approached the Association with a menu of different needs and wants. For individual tutors, the intention is to provide supportive membership services such as legal advice, insurance, accounting, CPD and other technical support. The Association could also help to foster networks and help to bring tutors together to share their thoughts on best practice and to take an active part in both developing and representing the tutoring sector generally. Being an independent private tutor can be a rather solitary and unsupported occupation and the Association provides individual tutors with an opportunity to pool resources and support each other in various ways.
From an advocacy perspective, tutoring has become a significant part of the educational landscape and it’s important that we practitioners don’t leave it to dilettante commentators and policy makers, some of whom might not be particularly well-informed or sympathetic even, to foist their rules and perceptions on us without the countervailing reasoning of the practitioners in the tutoring industry also being heard. Practitioners are important stakeholders and can make a meaningful and an informed contribution to any discussion about the tutoring industry. In order to do this, we practitioners need to develop our collective voice and contribute to the debate in a responsible and dignified way. We envisage and in some cases have already commenced opening dialogues with other key stakeholders in education. No individual tutor or individual company can speak on behalf of the tutoring sector as a whole to the likes of Schools’ Associations, Parents’ Groups and the media, hence the need for a tutors’ association.”
Q: Has it been difficult setting up the Association? And if so, what have been the main sticking points?
” Setting up any association or industry body will always be a bit difficult. Private tutoring is a very diverse industry with a vast array of tuition providers which in many ways reflects the diversity of the demand that comes through from pupils and families across the UK and increasingly from outside the UK. In addition, most private tutors are self employed and such independent minded practitioners do not take kindly to anyone meddling in their affairs or even purporting to represent them. This is especially the case for practitioners who have been operating successfully over a number of years.
It would be unrealistic not to expect different people wanting the Tutors’ Association to have a certain emphasis or other; that’s normal in any organisation and is likely to be ongoing. Fortunately our members are independent minded and not clapping seals, so we should expect people to come to the table with different perspectives and that’s to be welcomed. At present, our primary focus is on setting up an association that appeals to individual tutors and tutoring companies and is relevant to their needs and wants. Our Association’s constitution stipulates that individual tutors and tutoring companies will be equally represented at the board level. As was emphasised at our launch on the 9th of October, the Tutors’ Association needs to be in listening mode for the first couple of years and build bridges both within our industry and between our industry and other stakeholders.”
Q. Does the Tutors’ Association want to see tutoring regulated?
” In consultation with both individual tutors and tutoring companies, members of our Association have developed a code of practice. Indeed two codes: one for individual tutors and the other for tutoring companies. Our members undertake to adhere to these rules and there is a complaints procedure that pupils and families and tutors have recourse to should they wish to pursue a complaint against one of our members. This does not have anything to do with the government.”
Q. You mention that the Tutors’ Association wants to appeal to individual tutors and tutoring companies. Do you also include “online” tutors and tutoring companies in this?
“Yes. It is important that the Tutors’ Association is an outward-looking body that makes itself relevant to practitioners in the tutoring sector. Just as individual tutors and companies in our industry have to be dynamic and change so too will the Association need to adapt and reflect what is happening in the tutoring sector. Looking forward, most tutoring companies and possibly most tutors will be doing at least some online tutoring as part of their range of services. And increasingly more practitioners will provide their tuition online exclusively.
One of the areas the Tutors’ Association will need to investigate in 2014 is how we make our Association increasingly relevant to those tutoring practitioners whose focus is either exclusively or increasingly oriented towards online tuition. Our intention is to consult with online practitioners and see what codes of practice can be developed and applied to this area and what particular support services they require.”
Q. It wouldn’t be an interview if there were not a question that asked where you expected to be in five years time. Where do you expect the Tutors’ Association to be in five years time?
” The policy stance and range of services the Tutors’ Association will provide will be very much a function of what members request from the Association and what resources are at our disposal. A first step is to build up the membership numbers and get individual tutors and companies involved. The launch of the Association has really brought home to us what a diverse and interesting industry this is. It’s not just a simple dichotomy of individual tutors and tutoring companies. There are many different regional, socio-economic and technological emphases that give the tutoring industry its flexibility and resilience. Hopefully the Association will be able to accommodate these various strands and give a voice to all the different practitioners.
In five years, we would hope that the Tutors’ Association will be regarded by those inside and outside the industry as the responsible and representative voice of UK Tutoring Plc. Once we reach a critical mass of a few thousand members, the Association will be in a position to provide very specific and highly focused support services to its members. As you would expect, at this early stage there is a bit of a chicken and egg situation in that we need membership revenue to provide and develop membership services but in order to encourage tutors to join the Association some membership services need to be in place. We are hoping that tutors who join us at this early stage can factor this in to their expectations.”
Q. Finally, could you please tell us the cost of membership and where can tutors find out more about joining the Tutors’ Association?
” For companies to join, the cost is £360 per year including VAT. For individual tutors, the annual cost is £102 including VAT. However, if an individual tutor applies either via a company that is already a member or in a group of 5 individual tutors or more, the annual cost is £60 including VAT. And the person to contact regarding becoming a member is Chris Lenton the Association’s Secretary on firstname.lastname@example.org.”