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A Warning from the Chalkface

Teaching & tutoringPosted by emma@ecwilliams.me.uk Thu, August 16, 2018 08:42:14

An extreme case of unprofessional tutoring ...

To illustrate the risk that I believe parents are taking when they employ a tutor without asking the right kinds of questions, I wish to share the story of a student in my current school. It is perhaps the worst case I have come across of a family being let down at the hands of an unqualified, inexperienced and frankly unprofessional tutor.

At the end of Year 9, this student opted not to continue with Latin to GCSE within the school Options system. However, her mother decided that she would like her to pursue the subject outside of school through private tuition. Sadly, this parent did not seek my advice, and the first I was made aware of the situation was when the child came to see me in the January of her final year and asked if she could sit the Latin Mock examination along with my students. She explained that she had been receiving private tuition over the last two years and hoped to sit the exams that Summer.

It was fine for her to sit the Mock that I had written, I said, but there would be a problem if she had studied different texts from the ones that my students had been working on.

She looked at me blankly. “Texts?”

“Yes,” I said, “the verse and prose literature that you have studied. Which texts have you covered?”

To cut a long story short, it quickly became apparent that she had not studied any texts or indeed any sources material. This meant that she had not covered around 50% of the examination material. When I pressed further, it transpired that she also had not been given the required vocabulary list of around 350 words to learn. I was aghast.

I contacted the girl’s mother urgently. Upon further investigation it turned out (of course) that the child had not even been entered for the exam, her mother completely unaware that this is a formal process that must be done (and indeed paid for) well in advance – it doesn’t just happen by magic. It took me some considerable time to explain that not only was it probably too late for her child to be entered that year, it would also be simply impossible for her to sit the four compulsory written papers and perform well in them given her lack of formal preparation; even giving the tutor the benefit of the doubt that she had taught the grammar well (I must admit I am doubtful about this), the child did not know the required vocabulary and the literature papers would be a complete mystery to her.

Remarkably, the child’s mother defended the private tutor hotly, insisting that she was happy with the service she had provided. I pointed out that this tutor had taken her money, claimed to be preparing her daughter for an exam that she knew absolutely nothing about and failed to advise her on the entry process. Still, she defended her; it was quite extraordinary. In the end, we agreed to disagree on the woman’s professional qualities. The only other contact I had with the girl’s mother after that was when she passed on a brief request from the tutor in question – could I send her a link to the subject specification?! Unbelievable. Given that this was publicly available information and something she should have looked at two years previously, I’m afraid I refused.

This case is obviously extreme, but it does illustrate the potential risk that parents are taking when they assume that all tutors are the same.





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