When I was growing up, I didn’t know anyone who had a private tutor. In the eighties, tutoring was reserved for well off families who were pushing their children to excel. In contrast, lots of my children’s friends have tutors and I eventually found myself asking, does my child need a tutor?
My Child is Struggling, do they Need a Tutor?
Some children are more academic than others. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem occurs when school becomes a less pleasant experience because they are struggling. Weather this happens can depend on your child. Some children really aren’t fussed about doing well at school. For others, not understanding a topic can be distressing.
One of the other key reasons for using a tutor is when a child has the ability to keep up with school work, but has become behind for some reason. Most work our children do at school builds on work they have done previously. If a child hasn’t understood the previous work, they will likely struggle with the new work. Tutoring can be a great way to help a child catch up on what they’ve missed. It may only be needed in the short term as the child may not struggle once they’ve caught up.
Tutoring can also be useful if your child has learning style that isn’t well catered for at school. We all learn differently and class teachers can’t realistically adapt their teaching to meet the needs of every a child in a class. Tutors can identify how a child best learns and adapting their methods to suit.
Why we Decided our Son Needed a Tutor
It can be difficult to decide if your child would benefit from having a tutor. My son is a July baby and so one of the youngest in the class. When he moved from infants to juniors he was behind in all of the key subjects. We decided not to go down the tutor route at that point. With a bit of support from us at home, by the start of year 5 he had caught up in reading and maths.
His writing and spelling however were not progressing in the same way. He enjoyed maths so encouraging him to do extra at home was fairly easy. He loved stories so he was eventually written by the reading bug and became a fluent reader. Writing and spelling however, bring him no joy. Even with rewards for extra work and enticements like using the iPad for practice, he still wouldn’t really engage with it and attempts just ended in tears.
As we weren’t making any progress at home we decided to explore the option of a tutor. We discussed it with our son and he was surprisingly keen. Lucky for us, he loves adults, so the idea of spending an hour one to one with an adult just focussed on him was really appealing.
What Type of Tutoring Should We Choose?
There are a few different types of tutoring you can consider. Some tutors work with children in groups. These can be good if children all need the same thing but realistically this is only likely to be the case when bright children are being pushed to excel rather than when children are struggling. Some private tutors are willing to work with pairs of children so that you can split the cost with another parent. This can work well if your child has a friend at a similar level.
At Tutoring centres like Explore Learning or Kip Magrath, children work individually on tailored programmes on a computer or on paper. Tutors are on hand to help with problems and give feedback. These centres can be better value than one to one tutoring but this may be balanced out by slower progress.
Kumon works slightly differently. While most tutoring focusses on the school curriculum, they focus on developing independent learning skills.
One to one tutoring means that work can be tailored specifically to your child’s needs and feedback can be immediate. This was the best option for us as it was the idea of one to one attention that made it appealing for our son.
“We have a private maths tutor, the school was in special measures and I wanted to give them a bit of a boost. It is working really well, she is friendly and brings plenty of information to each lesson. It costs £25 for an hour.” Karen from Really Missing Sleep
“We use a private tutor for both GCSE Maths and Science. It’s made a significant difference. I believe the main reason is because my daughter doesn’t like to put her hand up to ask questions in class. They have definitely improved her confidence in these subjects. The tutors have identified huge gaps in her knowledge and are addressing these. They are also helping her with the right way to answer exam questions in order to obtain the necessary points per question. It costs £65/week.” Carly from Mom of Two Little Girls
Another option is online tutoring. This takes place via video/audio conferencing and allows student and tutor to talk live and get feedback on their work. Modern technology means that screen sharing can be used so that children can work collaboratively with the tutor. It can be very successful for some children:
“My son had some online Maths tutoring after he said he was struggling with understanding some things in Maths. We used an online tutor where my son and the tutor could speak via the microphones but couldn’t actually see each other. They could both use the screen and that worked really well for my son. It meant he could do the tutoring in the comfort of his own home and on an evening after school. He liked being able to use the computer and it gave him a real boost in confidence. I think sometimes gaining some confidence in their ability is the major factor in helping a child and a tutor is perfect that for!” Tantrums to Smiles
“I’ve also used online maths tutoring where the children could hear and speak to their tutor but not see them. My children were in Years 3 and 2 at the time, and I was interested to see if it made a difference – it did! After just a few weeks my son’s Year 2 teacher pulled me to one side to say she had noticed that maths had suddenly clicked and he was doing so well with it at school. She didn’t know he was having tutoring at that point. Both of my boys are good with their numbers but I found that the tutor was able to talk through problem solving with them in a variety of different ways, and use questions that really appealed to their individual interests, so that they were fully engaged in the topic as a whole and almost didn’t realise how much they were learning. I hadn’t thought of using a tutor at that age but just wanted to give them a bit of a boost in a supportive and fun way when it was clear that the curriculum didn’t feel as though it was covering all the gaps. For us it worked really well and is definitely something that I’d recommend and use again.” Jo from A Cup of Toast
What Will my Child do with a Private Tutor?
Some private tutors will come to your home and others will teach them in their own house. Some will offer you the choice of either or may tutor in a public place like the local library.
Before the first session, most tutors will ask to see a copy of your child’s latest school report to help them set appropriate work. This will usually be followed by the an assessment at the first session.
Private tutors can just focus on one subject or offer a mix, often English and maths, if your child is finding both challenging. They can also focus specifically on something your child is struggling with at the time. For example if they are studying factors in maths and finding it tricky you can ask the tutor to spend some of the session going over it.
Tutors will often use worksheets with children. These may be ones they put together themselves or ones they have paid to access. These provide a structured way to work through a topic with the tutor there to guide them and provide feedback.
Some tutors will also set homework for your child. This is generally optional. We have chosen to have homework alternate weeks. This means that on the week we have maths homework from school we get English homework from the tutor and avoid the trauma of having two lots of English homework in one week. This was important for us as we didn’t want tutoring to feel like a punishment.
“There are many reasons for choosing to employ the services of a private tutor. As I am one, I would advise that you and your child have an initial meeting with the tutor to discuss your requirements in person. Take along some examples of your child’s work. If it’s sensitive information and you do not wish to upset your child, inform the tutor via email or over the phone beforehand. The more information we know in advance, the better. It helps us to build a more accurate picture of your child’s strengths and areas to improve. Us tutors can then work out how to fill the gaps and push your child further forwards.” Vikki from Blossom Education
What Qualifications Should a Tutor Have?
For private tutors supporting primary age children, a teaching qualification is standard. Most private tutors are former teachers so have a good understanding of methods used in schools and what the curriculum requires.
“When finding a tutor make sure that you are using a qualified person, ideally a teacher. This may cost a little more but a qualified teacher has the knowledge, skills and experience to assess, understand and discover the barriers for your individual child. They can unpick what has prevented them learning these skills in the classroom and find alternative way to teach them using different learning styles. Knowing the previous and following steps to learning can help the child progress quickly whilst also ensuring that understanding is thorough and not just short term cramming- this is a balancing act so again, use a suitably qualified person. A good tutor will be able to access and use your child’s school policies (these are available on the schools website) and deliver learning using the same strategies. This will avoid confusion for the child when back in school. A qualified teacher will also have DBS police clearance (do check this if they are not working in a school). Ensure that the tutor has a quiet, clutter and interruption free place to work with the child. Most importantly, a good tutor will be able to build a positive relationship with your child and build their self-esteem and confidence, regardless of their academic ability. They should be patient, positive and not stress the child. After all, this is a person who is much more than just an exam result statistic.” Melanie Varey, primary school teacher, reflexologist and blogger at Two Plus Dogs
Private tutors at secondary school level are sometimes former teachers but may also be students studying the relevant subject at a higher level. These tend to be hit and miss because they might know their topic really well but may not have the teaching skills required to explain it clearly.
At tutor centres the staff are often students or graduates who are essentially supporting the teaching materials the company has developed.
How Much does Tutoring Cost?
The going rate for one to one tutoring where we live is around £25 an hour but this varies depending on your area and the level of experience the tutor has. Group tutoring obviously costs less, usually more like £8 an hour. If you share a tutor session with another child then it’s usually half of the hourly cost each.
Tutor centres usually charge a set amount a month for a certain number of visits. This can work out at between £15 and £30 an hour.
If you are hiring a student to teach a specific subject at secondary level who isn’t a qualified teacher you may pay a bit less, more like £18-20 an hour.
Online tutoring starts at around £15 an hour up to £30 an hour.
I’ve Decided my Child Needs a Tutor, How do I Find One?
The best way to find a private tutor is by recommendation. Ask at school, in Facebook groups or on forums. You may find the best ones have a waiting list so it can take a while to get a place.
Alternatively you can use a website to find a tutor in your area, for example:
If you’re looking for an online tutor, you can try:
If you aren’t going by recommendation then try and book a one off session first to see how your child gets on with the tutor. You should also ask to see the a DBS check certificate so that you know your child will be safe with the tutor.
Tips for Getting the Most from Tutoring
- Give the tutor as much information as you can – the more the tutor knows about your child the more they can tailor their approach to help your child
- Try to get your child on board with the idea – A child made to go to tutoring against their will is unlikely to make much progress. If your child isn’t keen consider waiting a few months and suggest it again
- Consider shared sessions with a friend – If money is tight or if your child isn’t keen on the idea of tutoring then going with a friend can help
- Talk to your child’s teacher – they can give you valuable information on what the tutor should focus on and how your child learns best
- Consider homework – If your child is willing to do extra work at home they will progress more quickly
- Attend regularly – Missing sessions can make it harder for children to progress
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