Incredible insight into the world of high-end tutoring in this week’s Times, which claims some wealthy families from overseas are offering the best-qualified British tutors up to £80,000 a year (including housing) to prepare their kids for the Common Entrance exam, as well as provide GCSEs and A-level help. Wow.
In Korea, spending on after-class tutoring is thought to be almost as large as spending by public high schools and in the UK, an EdPlace study found parents fork out £6bn a year on private tuition with more than a quarter of families using the service, an average spend of nearly £3,000 per year per family.
The article argues that middle-class parents who want to prepare their children for school entrance tests face being priced out of the market by the super-wealthy, often from Europe, Asia and Russia who are willing to do “almost anything” to pin down the best tutors in the scramble for top places and top marks. I spoke to Lucy, a 29 year old teacher working in a prestigious school in Kingston, Greater London, and asked her about the market for private tutoring where she lives; essentially an affluent, middle-class area of the capital. “In my experience it’s very common for teachers to sideline with private tutoring – young teachers and part-time teachers in particular use it as a means to supplement their income, it’s very common. “Most will tutor after school once or twice a week but there are those that only do it during school holidays. There is huge demand in the London area, where there are lots of grammar and high achieving state schools where children are expected to perform highly. “Demand is particularly high during the Spring term before the exams start in the summer and also during half terms and holidays. “Most teachers will charge between £25 – £35 depending on their level of experience and position within the school. I know of one teacher who is a head of department who charges £40 per hour. “The reason why most parents get their kids tutored is to ensure they get decent GCSE grades, there is definitely more demand for GCSE tutoring than A Level. Also many of them tutor their kids to pass the 11+ test.” So it seems the market for private tuition is very much alive and kicking, and more used among middle-class families than The Times suggests. Yet with entrance exams becoming more rigorous and competition for school places intensifying, it’s reasonable to surmise that demand will increase yet further and costs will continue to spiral upward. Where will that leave lower-middle and working-class families, or those from rural areas who struggle to find suitable tutors? They will be left at a serious disadvantage if private tuition continues to be a normal function of family life. Online tutoring is certainly one of the answers – firstly it’s cheaper, the average cost for a qualified tutor per hour on Superprof is just £20. Online tutoring is available to anyone with a decent internet connection, without discrimination. You don’t need to block book tutors for set times over the month, simply log on to the world of learning at your fingertips.
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