Writing this makes me nervous. It has been on my mind as a topic for several years, but until now I have avoided committing my thoughts to writing. This is partly self-preservation: I am not keen to receive an onslaught of complaints. Mostly, though, it is a desire to protect other people; I have met numerous private tutors without formal teaching qualifications, all of whom seem committed and passionate, many of whom clearly do a great job. I do not wish to denigrate what they do.
My concerns about the explosion of unqualified tutors offering
their services do not mean that all tutors without professional qualifications are to
be avoided; however, I do have serious concerns about some of them and I
believe that parents should approach the situation with their eyes wide open.
Let me be clear from the outset that my core concerns are in a particular area, namely tutoring support towards a specific examination goal. If your child is struggling in a subject and you would simply like their confidence boosted, there are a huge range of tutors that can probably help with this, including your enthusiastic nephew in his second year at university. However, if you would like your child tutored to a particular examination, and particularly if you are relying on the tutor to prepare them for that examination in its entirety, I would urge parents in the strongest possible terms to think carefully about what kind of tutor they employ.
Private tuition has exploded in recent years and the number of parents choosing it as an option for their child has risen to a record high. More and more parents are spending money on the service and the plethora of private companies touting for business in this field is frankly bewildering. I have been approached by dozens of providers keen to add me to their books and to take a slice of my profits for doing so. I have registered with some services that allow tutors to maintain full control over their work, and some have been diligent in chasing up evidence of my qualifications and experience. Most, however, have not.
It is my belief that this industry will soon face regulation; the government is already under pressure to address the fact that there is no current requirement for tutors working with children to have a DBS check. It would not surprise me if, within the next three to five years, tutors are forced to go through some kind of registration process at the very least. Will this make a difference to the concerns that I have? Highly unlikely.
If I were seeking a private tutor to guide my child towards
a particular examination, these are the questions that I would be asking:
1. Is the tutor a qualified teacher? If so, what experience do they have? What was/is their specialism (both subject and age group), what kind of school did/do they work in and for how long? What were/are their results like?
2. If they are a retired teacher, has the syllabus that they will be teaching to changed since they retired? How have they ensured that they are up-to-date with the new specification? (Full time teachers in service have training provided, much of it directly from the examination boards; when I retire from classroom teaching, I will choose to set aside funds to pay for my own training when required).
3. Have they ever worked as a professional marker? If not, why not? I would make this a priority question if I were considering an unqualified teacher. Anyone with the right subject knowledge can apply to work as a professional marker; you receive superb training and you get paid for it! If a tutor hasn’t opted to do this it would suggest to me that they have no interest in gaining an insight into the examination process.
4. How much experience have they had with one-to-one tutoring? Can they give examples of students that they have helped and can they share testimonials from parents who can vouch for previous successes in the relevant examinations?
In addition to these questions, a fairly recent article in
the Telegraph, written by a qualified teacher and experienced tutor, gives some
really good advice on how to choose the right tutor for your child. Ignore it at your peril. In my next blog post, I will be sharing the most shocking case I have come across to date of how an unqualified and inexperienced tutor can let you down.