Finding a Tutor
The world of private tutors is a mystery to most people. A world seemingly reserved for the well-off to throw money at their children in order to maintain their edge over the disadvantaged. What follows is supposed to be an easy-to- follow guide to navigating the tutoring jungle.
You see, there are only three questions that you need to consider if you are thinking of employing a private tutor: firstly, will my child benefit from one-to- one tuition, secondly, how do I know if a tutor is any good and, thirdly, can I afford it?
Let’s deal with the third question first. Up until this year, I’m not going to lie, the answer was probably no. It was pricey for A level and GCSE with the going rate ranging mostly from £40 to £50 an hour and upwards. Anyone charging £30 or less will be useless. I used to offer to do forty-five minutes for £35 but even at that price I would have baulked at spending that much each week on any of my own children. The good news is that the advent of Zoom lessons means that the price has come down significantly. I charge £20 for GCSE and £24 for A level for half an hour lessons that often overrun. That’s doable for many people. And in case you’re worried that you’ll be wasting your money, ask for a free lesson so that your child can see if the tutor is someone they like and can learn from and is also sufficiently on top of the technology to be able to use it effectively.
Now question one. If you’ve decided that you’re going to fork out on a tutor for your offspring how do you know whether they will benefit or not? Okay, assuming that you’ve picked a good tutor, I have bad news for you: they cannot make your child work harder - and that, I’m afraid, is the sole criterion that determines whether a student will improve. The tutor doesn’t have a magic wand any more than their teachers do – if the child is work shy they simply won’t achieve their potential. If your child is lazy, employing a tutor might assuage your conscience and perhaps make a marginal difference but that’s all it will do. In short, a student needs to be committed to improving and a tutor can support and facilitate that effort, not be a substitute for it.
Finally, how do you find out if a tutor is any good? What are you looking for? Firstly, the non-negotiables: they must have a degree in the subject, have taught in a school for at least ten years and have recent experience of teaching the relevant examination board that is setting your child’s examination. After that they must be an exceptional teacher so you’ll need to speak to some of the tutor’s past students to find that out: most of my own students are referrals.
A good tutor will be like my wife who tutors A level and GCSE English. She was a HOD and has accumulated years of experience teaching a myriad of different types of students and exam boards – that’s important because different boards and levels of student ability need to be approached differently. And, most of all, she’s a brilliant teacher – she explains things well and appropriately because she knows what she’s talking about and will have assessed your child’s needs. She is also well-organised and won’t waste a second of your child’s time. Plus, as an added bonus, the student will like her.
I hope that’s helped to give the uninitiated an insight into finding a good tutor. Beware, there are many out there who will take your money while hardly benefiting your child’s education. You have been warned.
I've been tutoring for over twenty-five years. I started when he was Head of Maths at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Girls and needed the money. Now I'm retired from teaching in schools and don’t need the money. But what else am going to do at teatime except watch television?