Benefits and Drawbacks of Private Tuition

Recent findings clarify that the UK Private Tuition industry is a flourishing market. The Sutton Trust reveal findings that one in four pupils have had private tuition. In London, the figure increases to nearly one in two.

At first glance this might suggest a negative reflection on our school education system. In theory, no pupil should need additional tuition beyond their school education. However, there are many reasons why pupils might benefit from additional support in some subjects. Reasons might include, time off from school due to illness, family re-locating, difficulty with some subject content etc. Additional tuition can help overcome these difficulties and assist the student to work towards their level of ability.

Clearly the learning process in a class of thirty pupils will be considerably different to a one to one situation. The classroom has to move at a certain pace and has very limited individual attention. On the other hand, one to one tuition allows the student to be more expressive and inquisitive to master understanding of complex subject material.

Every parent wants the best for their children. Giving them the best educational opportunities will be high on a parents list of priorities. If that can be achieved with additional tuition support, then most parents will seize the opportunity. Thus, the continuing expansion of the private tuition industry.

Private Tuition comes in various forms, from live in tutors to occasional sessions. The growth of private tuition over the past ten years has been steadfast, despite the global financial crash of 2008. This year, 2015, saw the launch of National Tutoring Conference. The Tutors Association launched in 2013 with focus on bringing some degree of regulation to the industry.

Getting the right Tuition.

Just getting a tutor is not the answer, indeed, far from it. Getting the ‘right’ tutor is paramount. The key to success is to first identify the need for additional tuition at an early stage. This may not always be obvious. Clearly if a pupil has missed a deal of school time due to illness the need for additional catch up support will be easy to identify. However, if a pupil is gradually slipping behind on a subject then this is less easy to detect. In either case, finding the right tuition to meet the needs of the student is essential or the problems of the student may be exacerbated. You may know of a plumber who is exceptionally good at his trade, however, you would not hire him to repair your faulty electric wiring!

There are certain criteria to consider when selecting a tutor. Firstly, getting a tutor that is appropriately qualified and a specialist in the subject of delivery would be essential, particularly from GCSE upwards. A tutor should be able to provide such evidence easily. Tutors who provide tuition in a wide range of subjects might warrant further query as it is unusual to be a specialist in a number of diverse areas.

However, tuition is not just about increasing subject knowledge, though that would be the primary factor for starting additional tuition. A very important part of the process is to increase the student’s confidence, particularly in cases where they may have fallen behind due to difficult subject content. One without the other results in ineffective tuition, at best. To that end, one big difference between classroom teaching and one to one tuition is the relationship and rapport between student and tutor. In one to one tuition, it is essential for the tutor to build up a good rapport with the student. The student needs to be at ease with the tutor and feel they can ask any question or clarification on any points. Whilst the process is a formal teaching and learning process, the student needs to be sufficiently relaxed with the tutor to be fully engaged in the process. Of course, this rapport will take time to develop and will be different for each individual student.

How to evaluate the effectiveness of additional tuition.

Private Tuition is a completely unregulated industry. Effectively anyone can setup as a private tutor and there are no formal qualifications required to be a tutor. As mentioned above, subject specialism and relevant experience would be an absolute prerequisite before engaging a tutor. It is not necessary for a tutor to have DBS certification, though clearly, this should also be a prerequisite before any tuition begins.

For the most part, the students themselves will quickly determine whether the tuition is effective. To that end, the student’s own reflections are probably the most valuable measurement of the quality of the tuition. On rare occasions, it can happen that the student and tutor just do not ‘click’, but that does not mean the tutor is not an effective tutor.

It is important to get regular progress updates from the tutor. It is also important that you can rely on the tutor to ‘tell it like it is’ rather than to tell you what you want to hear. In most cases payment for tuition is direct from parent/student to tutor. This can pose the problem of a tutor sugar coating any feedback. However, both student and parent should already be conversant with the student’s ability, general progress, work rate etc., and so feedback from the tutor should largely be confirmation of what you already know. Any particular divergence from this, either positively or negatively, should be queried further.

Computing Tuition – GCSE and A level.

At Digital Miles, we provide one to one tuition in Computing and IT. Initially, this started after taking early retirement from teaching Computing and managing IT systems – as well as having provided private tuition for many years. What was unexpected, though perhaps not a surprise, was the number of requests for tuition at GCSE level Computing. Sadly, Computing in the school curriculum is an area that has been neglected for a number of years. Belatedly, the Government realised there was a serious dilution of programmers and computer skilled people. GCSE Computing was introduced as one means of addressing the problem – most definitely a horse and stable door scenario! However, due to the earlier years of subject neglect, there is now a significant shortage of experienced teachers to deliver Computing. Through no fault of their own, many non specialist teachers are having to gain their experience ‘on the job’ often with inadequate training due to school budget pressures and/or a less than empathetic school leadership.

Our students at Digital Miles are all from Outstanding or Good rated schools. If a student is getting A’s for all other subjects and C for Computing does suggest the probable cause lies outside the realm of the student. Earlier in this blog, the potential reasons outlined for adopting private tuition are likely to be varied and not solely due to any particular inadequacy of the school system. In contrast, for the subject of Computing, unfortunately the reasons for adopting additional tuition are indeed more likely to be down to the inadequacy of the school system.

The future of education.

In conclusion, the continuing rapid growth of private tuition in the UK suggests there is a very definite requirement for such services. This continued growth in itself changes the nature and face of private tuition. What was once a resource for the few is becoming more mainstream with an acceptance that private tuition is often beneficial and/or necessary in certain circumstances. The competitive nature of grades for places at the best schools, colleges and universities compound the need to ensure every opportunity is used maximise performance.

However, currently the industry is wholly unregulated and thus there is a need to ensure the right tuition is being sought for the individual student requirements. Many will also argue that private tuition should not be necessary and provides an unfair advantage to some. Organisations such as the Sutton Trust seek to bring private tuition to underprivileged areas.

There is also a definite North / South divide with the substantial majority of tutor agencies and provision in London and South UK. Doubtless though, when it comes to University places, this divide will not be considered.

Without doubt, the traditional model of mass educational delivery in classrooms of bricks and mortar buildings may be less recognisable in future years. The Internet has been one of the major impact changes in our generation. Anytime anywhere education is now available worldwide. The growth of private tuition in tandem suggests the future will gradually move towards a more individualised model of education. Additionally, education is no longer something that happens from three years old until ripe old age of twenty one. Education is now a life long process. For those that don’t or can’t take full advantage during their school years may find themselves a number of steps behind, not just in their school years but also in their life years!

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