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How Do I Even Start to Find the Right Tutor

27 Sep 2018

You have given the question due consideration. You have talked to your child and their teacher(s) and you have decided that your child would benefit from learning with a private tutor. Now all you have to  is find the right tutor.

The guidelines below will help you to navigate the increasing number of private tuition options available to students in the UK.

The private tuition industry is unregulated. One of the core objectives of The Tutors Association, which was established three years ago, is to bring standards into the industry to help protect parents and students. Their members sign up to a code of conduct, so either starting here or using it as part of the checking process is recommended. Just because a tutor is not a member of TTA does not mean that they are not a competent and conscientious tutor, however if they are a member, this should provide reassurance.

  • Independent or Agency?

Independent tutors are generally independent because they can afford to be and because they are very good. You will only tend to find out about them by word of mouth, and even that can be difficult, as parents, particularly those whose children are being tutored for competitive entrance exams, are notoriously protective and reluctant to share their gem of a tutor! Parents of students who have already sat the relevant exam are arguably more generous with their information.

If you do manage to track down what sounds like a great private tutor, be prepared to have to go onto a waiting list, fit in with the tutor’s availability and travel to their home or place of work. They will probably be among the most expensive options.

Agencies offer choice and should be able to fulfil your requirements quickly. They vary enormously in the level of service they offer.  This ranges from those who hand pick, carefully screen and interview their tutors and meticulously match a student with a tutor, to those who simply provide a list of tutors and leave the rest of it up to the client. Expect to pay more for the former but to be able to enlist willing support if you are not happy with any aspect of the process. At the other end of the scale, less money generally means less service: all the agency are doing is acting as a conduit between the client and the market.

  • Face to face or Online?

Traditionally, private tuition has been face to face until the last few years have seen a move towards online tuition, which some students and parents embrace and others feel instinctively nervous about. Online tuition eliminates the time and cost of travel and in some metropolitan areas the delays that are an intrinsic part of travel anywhere. For students who have limited or no face to face options, perhaps because they live in a rural location or need support in a specialist subject, online tuition solves the problem.  A student in Land’s End can be working with a tutor in John O’Groats.

Some students prefer online to face to face.

As one parent remarked :

“I was very sceptical about using an Online Tutor. Surely it needs to be face to face? However I couldn’t find a local tutor for the subject we needed so it was online or nothing. How wrong was I? My son is shy and somehow this is easier for him, plus when I have had Tutors before there is a lot of chatting and tea making, lateness due to traffic etc – having to keep the rest of the house quiet. Online doesn’t impact on me or the rest of the family at all, my son arranges the sessions which can basically take place anywhere”. (Polly : Surrey)

Online tuition tends to be used more for secondary school students than for Early Years and there is as yet no concrete evidence that it is any more or less effective than face to face.

Online tuition does require vigilance. Parents and carers need to make sure that the technology works and that the tutor can manage this as well as coach in their subject. It is a good idea to select a provider who records the tutorials, both for security and to facilitate reviewing the content.

Basic skype technology has allowed traditional face to face tutors to extend their services into online while dedicated online agencies use a bespoke interactive classroom environment. While the relative efficacy depends more on the quality of the tutor, anecdotal feedback indicates that the interactive classroom is enjoyed by the students. Make sure however that the tutor has been trained to use the technology and tools!

  • How Much Should I Expect to Pay?

Currently, according to The Tutor Pages annual survey, the average cost per hour is around £30 for KS1 and KS2 rising to £37 for A level tuition. This is an average and as such serves as a benchmark . Clients will encounter significantly higher and lower rates than this and of course the advice is to make the comparison and ask yourself what you are getting for your money ether way.

This comparison is also worth making if you are looking at an agency which allows tutors to set their own rates rather than the agency charging a straightforward uniform rate.

What a prospective customer should avoid is any provider who insists on an upfront payment for more than a single tutorial or a contract that commits the client to a long term relationship before they have had the chance to experience the service and satisfy themselves about the quality of the tutor.

Qualified teachers generally charge more than tutors who do not hold a teaching qualification. Parents take comfort from the fact that they are paying for professional teaching skills and experience. Do not however underestimate the value of an undergraduate or recent graduate who can relate to a teenage student and has recent vivid personal experience of the exam process.

I would like to let you know how pleased we were with Gavin's work. Despite having to study for exams himself he was committed, well prepared and enthusiastic in his work with Louise, and has helped her focus and come to grips with areas of both Maths and Chemistry. She is now more confident she can do well in her exams.


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