The shadow of competition is hot on our heels day-to-day in the cut and thrust of modern life. Competition for that job; that bank loan and even that parking space – it’s all on the rise. In the field of education, as places at the best schools and universities continue to fetch a premium, competition flourishes.
For a while now we’ve been blogging about the steady rise in the supply and demand of private tutoring and the growing online tutoring market, as parents look outside the box for extra help to bolster their children’s future life chances. But just how reliable are tutors and how can we be sure they are who the say they are?
The private tutoring market is essentially an unregulated one both here in Britain and overseas. Anyone can potentially set themselves up as a tutor, printing out a few hundred business cards or a few fliers and distributing them around the locality. The inherent risks with the practice are obvious to see.
The market is varied and it can be quite easy to find a tutor specific to the needs of your child. From tutors who specialise in supporting children with special educational needs, or children who are gifted or talented, to the Mary Poppins-style residential tutors, who live in-house with the family acting as a full-time companion for the kids and keeping them occupied through the holidays and overseas trips.
But for most parents it’s about finding someone with the skills to boost their child’s mark in a specific subject or before a specific exam. Finding the right tutor for your child is very important, so here are my tips for dodging the cowboys and finding the gold nuggets.
Tips for finding the right tutor
Be sure to do your homework and find a reputable company or individual who has been offering tutoring services for a number of years. Ideally they should have a demonstrable track record and can produce references on request. A Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) or Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check is invaluable for peace of mind.
If you do commit to take on a tutor then regular sessions are advisable to maintain momentum. Once a week is typical, once a fortnight at most but any less frequent and the benefits are likely to be lost in between meetings.
One of the best ways to find a tutor is to go on the personal recommendation of someone you know and trust. It may be worth approaching your child’s school to ask if they can suggest someone – quite often teachers are sidelining as private tutors, though the school may not actually know about that.
Ideally any individual should either have a teaching qualification or at least three years’ experience. Strength in specific relevant subject areas is important to ensure you’re getting a genuine expert, particularly in languages where there is a lot of demand for good tutors.
Make sure you meet the prospective tutor first and if possible try to get an independent view from other parents. It’s important that you keep up a dialogue with your children to ensure they’re happy with the new relationship – children can feel their lives are being invaded by an unsympathetic outsider and learning outcomes can be affected. Good tutor-pupil rapport is key.
You also need to be clear about what the specific aim of tuition is (both with child and tutor) and agree achievable goals that you can keep track of. Most often it’s about passing entrance tests and achieving results in exams, but it could also be reaching a certain level in French or mastering the violin.
Now, I know what a lot of you are thinking – how on earth will I be able to afford that? It’s right to say that affluent parents are at a distinct advantage over others, tutoring costs vary hugely and depend on academic level required. Expect to pay more for A-level standard over GCSE. Good tutors tend to charge anything from £30 – £60 an hour, but it’s not unheard of for fees to be as high as £1000 for so-called ‘super tutors’.
You might want to talk to your friends and organise sharing a tutor between yourselves to save on costs, though the inherent benefits of one-to-one attention will be lost. That said, group sessions work really well for subjects such as foreign languages by encouraging conversation practice. Ask around see if there are other parents with kids on a similar level willing to give it a shot.
My best advice, however, is to turn your attention online. Bespoke online tutoring companies like Superprof have done all the hard work for you and invariably offer a cheaper, more modern service. There’s a huge pool of DBS and CRB certified, well-qualified tutors covering the spectrum of curriculum topics waiting to help you and your child. And with the average cost of one of our tutors coming in at just £20 an hour, parents on a budget can log on, sign in and keep up with the running pack.