Since so many parents ask me how to go about finding a tutor for their child, I invited the founder of a tutoring agency I know well to share her thoughts.
The start of the Autumn term is always a time for change and often, with change, comes panic. With your children starting new school years, schools and subjects, the September thrills of reuniting with friends, buying new school bags and showing off new hair cuts can quickly give way to feelings of uncertainty and trepidation. Worries about school work and progress are common. Tutors can address your anxieties about your child’s target grades, their new teachers, new subjects or sometimes children simply benefit from learning in a one to one environment for a confidence boost or a reminder of their ambitions to do well. Calling on the help and support of a tutor is many parents’ first port of call in the Autumn term and we have had a very busy start to September as we help parents and children recalibrate and acclimatise to new challenges.
The right tutor can support school work, guide a student through homework and coursework and also boost confidence, morale and foster a “can do” attitude. But with more tutoring agencies and individual tutors around than ever, the choice can be overwhelming and also intimidating. Where to look? Who to trust? What criteria should you use when selecting the right person with whom to entrust your precious child’s precious education? The below tips should help guide your choices:
Many tutors will claim to be “qualified tutors”. This is a contradiction in terms- there is no qualification required to be a tutor. This means that tutors might have no formal teaching experience and other than attending school themselves as a student, may have little idea of how school life and pressures actually operate. But why does this matter? Schools, subjects and exams change all the time. Usually at least every 5 years to be precise, especially at GCSE and A Level, although this year one of the Independent Girls’ Consortiums have totally revamped their entrance exam system and format. Therefore, if tutors are not in the system themselves as teachers, they will usually not have much more of an idea than you have of exam expectations. Ideally, you should look for a teacher with current or recent school teaching experience and or examining experience – a great perk for GCSE and A Level tutors. These qualified teachers will be far more au fait with current syllabi, exam requirements, school work loads and marking criteria. While your next door neighbour might have a very helpful daughter/ nephew or friend to offer you who charges less, you will get far more value per lesson from a professional teacher who can guide your child with expertise and certainty. At Strive Tutors, all of our tutors and admin staff are qualified, experienced teachers and many of us are also 11 plus assessors and GCSE and A Level examiners so really know what is required and how to teach it. Do your homework on your tutors’ teaching backgrounds.
2. The Chemistry
The dynamic between a tutor and student has to be right. You cannot expect your child to enjoy or benefit from spending an hour a week with someone who they do not like or feel comfortable with. I would always recommend speaking to a tutor on the phone to see how you like the sound of them and how they respond to your queries. Agencies can be useful here as good ones will be able to brief you in on a tutor’s background, success rates and approaches and guide you to the very “fit” for your child. Scheduling a trial lesson to see how your child and the tutor click should be the next step and assuming all goes well the rest should be straightforward. Do not expect rapid leaps to be made after the first hour – progress is not always linear- but over time you should see your child’s confidence, attitude and grades improve.
Always secure a regular slot with the tutor to make sure that everyone knows where they need to be when. While life changes for everyone from time to time, make sure that the tutor gives you notice and is also willing to accommodate your schedule changes. It is a two way street and respect for their time means that they will respect yours.
Frank Sinatra might have claimed that the best things in life are free but this is certainly not the case with private tutoring. However, it is not always the case that the most expensive tutors are the best and the line between being ripped off and underpaying must be navigated carefully. Tutors in London can command anything up to £250 per hour depending on exactly what is being taught but the average range seems to sit between £40-70 per hour for students in Key Stage 1-5 and you usually get what you pay for. All of my team will come to your home for lessons but it is worth asking a tutor if their hourly rate includes travel and if they offer any discounts. We know that often families with multiple children might need multiple tutors and we offer quantity led discounts on monthly spends to ease the financial burden.
Tutors might also be able to offer specific targeted support and it is worth checking their Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) training and experience. If your child has a learning need that requires a specific and targeted approach, ask tutors about their relevant experience and of course, for examples of when they have worked with similar needs with success. All teachers with QTS will have SEND training and most will have relevant experience. My team of teachers at Strive can all work with SEND in a targeted, paedagially sound and sensitive manner and we would always encourage parents to share Ed Psych and other reports to ensure that the tutor is fully briefed on the student’s learning history. Equally, it is important to ask tutors if they can collaborate with school teachers as and when needed. Sometimes children benefit from tuition more when their tutor and school teacher are working in tandem to support their learning and progress. We often work with schools, subject teachers and Heads of Year to support individual students and find that this can really benefit the student as well as the teacher. Remote tutoring has also become increasingly popular and many opt for tuition via video call with on screen back up to make notes and write essays and answers. Again, check with the tutor that they can accommodate your child this way and ask what technology they use. A taster session can usually make your child feel more at ease and this method of teaching has become increasingly popular with parents all over London, the UK and the rest of the world.
I hope these 5 tips will help you pick the best tutor for your child and should you need any more guidance or help please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or look us up at www.strivetutors.com We work with some of the best teachers in the UK and cover all key stages and subjects. Good luck with the start of term!