About home tuition
In October 2013, The Tutors' Association was launched. According to The Times, 8 October 2013, the launch was "another sign of how rapidly the sector [of tutoring agencies and freelance tutors] has grown." An article in The Guardian, October 2015, reports a rise in the proportion of tutored pupils of a third, from 18% in 2005 to 25%. That is to say 1 in 4 children, according to these figures, received private tuition during 2015. And yet, despite its evident popularity among parents, the language around private tuition is often negative. "Now a £6bn industry, tutoring is hugely controversial," The Guardian notes.
The Tutors' Association (TTA) was formed to address these concerns, bringing a measure of regulation to the industry. Although membership is not mandatory, The Association does maintain a National Register of Tutors and Companies that are members. To become a member a tutor must provide a checkable CV, references and current Disclosure & Barring Service Certificate (DBS). In some measure then, if a tutor is a member of TTA, some of the work of checking out a prospective tutor is already done. TTA has published Codes of Ethical and Professional Conduct to which members must conform and which parents and students can use to check their tutor's practice.
TTA provides this shortlist of checks of your prospective tutor
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Members of The Tutors' Association must hold a current DBS Certificate and, by default, a degree in their chosen subject at Secondary Level or any degree at Primary Level, although in special circumstances, given particular training and experience, this requirement may be waived. Contrastingly, according to a recent survey performed by thetutorpages.com, two-thirds of tutoring agencies did not require their tutors have a degree and one-fifth did not subject their tutors to a DBS check (quoted in his Address at the launch of The Tutors' Association - Graham Stuart MP, Chairman of the Education Select Committee, 2012).
One of the attractions of personal tuition is choice. You decide who to employ and, given some elapse of time, you decide whether you are, or your child is, getting on well with your tutor. One of the difficulties is finding the right tutor. And there is very much choice. When I'm on my travels I pass a small Private Tuition business in the centre of town and I see young students arriving with their book bags to climb the steps and knock on the door. There are weekend schools that tutor in the basics of English and Arithmetic. I hear of college students offering home tuition for a few pounds per session (sometimes as low as £5). Sometimes an acquintance or relative fits the bill. On the other hand, there are Tuition Agencies that variously perform background checks on the tutor's they keep on their books and take a percentage of the tutor's earning. And there are freelance professional tutors who do their own advertising and transact arrangements directly with their customers.
The principal focus of this article is freelance private tuition.
Given the importance of getting a good education in an ever increasingly technical world, this diversity is considered
by many as a good thing. There remain concerns, however. Consider this: "[Tom Maher (TTA Chairman)] estimates that there are
at least 1 million people who earn money from teaching pupils outside school ‑ but admits the lack of monitoring means
the figures are hard to pin down. 'Ipsos Mori calculated it was 1.5 million, so mine is a conservative estimate,' he says.
In contrast, there are 442,000 full-time teachers, 370,000 nurses and 118,000 solicitors in England and Wales."1
As commented a parent: "Being able to pay a tutor means I can advantage my state school-educated children; what's more, my investment improves the exam results of my children's school, further muddying the waters. Tutoring heaps inequality on inequality; it adds an invisible advantage that skews the genuine quality of a school's teaching and gives some children chances others don't get."2
What is more, there are genuine concerns that tutors may target particular National Test, Qualification Exams and Entrance Examinations - coaching students to gain an advantage in these; "gaming the system". "Private tutors are now dedicating themselves to ensuring that children win a grammar school place. The result is a widening class divide and some children studying for up to six hours a day." Some tuition agencies appear to guarantee success in exams and tests and reportedly some of the techniques involved are coaching children regarding set questions and responses specifically taylored for an impending exam or test and which are learned parrot-fashion.4 Tutors can earn, according to The Times and other sources, up to £100 per hour.3 And so the countervailing claim by some Grammar Schools and others of the existence of tutor-proof tests. The national average charge is £22 per hour1,5 and that a quarter of children across the country have had private tuition suggests it is no longer entirely the preserve of the wealthy.
I sincerely hope that, on balance, private tuition is neither "corrosive" nor exploitative.1 "Most of the practitioners," according to Tom Maher, "are genteel, accommodating, flexible and above all caring."2 Another more positive view is offered by Henry Fagg, founder of The Tutor Pages: "The other half of the story is the transformational educational experience offered by tutors, and many parents realise this. In some cases, a private tutoring session can be the first time a child has been recognised as an individual, in contrast to the league table-obsessed system they are immersed in. Increased self-reliance and confidence are often cited as outcomes of tutoring, sometimes because the child has finally felt able to express themselves without the threat of ridicule in the classroom. Private tutors are able to broaden a child's horizons, act as a role model, instil a love of learning and more."3 In part, the TTA Code of Professional Practice requires that tutors must:
For my own part I write up each session and then subsequently prepare for the next. Preparation often involves printing resources that may be needed. Just the same, over-preparation is to be avoided and although I find preparing well crucially important, I also need a willingness to set aside that preparation, wholly or in part, in response to a student's own ideas about what should be covered. After all, independence in the student is a primary objective. If ever this objective is subverted, I think, it is difficult, if even possible, to undo the damage. I have to begin with the intention. In pedagogy, this is an aspect of reflective teaching which has been part of my teacher training and which is consistent with my self-directed studies in psychology and sociology. Evaluating and preparing for lessons also features in teacher training so that I find myself perplexed by quoted figures regarding tutors' earning. Whatever a tutor charges a customer cannot be what they earn - not given that they prepare for sessions and given ordinary business expenses.
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