Is private tutoring right for my child?

Private tuition is as old as education itself. Any student of philosophy knows that Socrates tutored Plato, who tutored Aristotle, himself tutor to the young Alexander the Great. Tuition has long been seen as the most effective way to support a child’s education, providing them with a personal mentor and role model as well as a teacher.

Today private tuition has lost none of its popularity. It’s estimated that around a quarter of children in the UK receive tuition at some point, the majority of whom receive help in advance of important tests, either entrance exams to secondary schools or public exams such as GCSEs and A Levels.

The current appetite for tuition isn’t without its detractors, though. Many ask why they should invest yet more money in their children’s education at home when they are already paying significant sums to world-renowned British schools, and the fact that children today are burdened with so many extra-curricular activities – sport, drama, music and everything in between – means that the merits of burdening them further with extra lessons is cast into doubt.

Tutoring can be a fantastic resource, providing encouragement and reassurance to pupils feeling overwhelmed by their schoolwork, and boosting the confidence of others that are doubting their own abilities, but that doesn’t mean that every child should be tutored. Indeed, in some cases it can even be detrimental to a child’s progress, especially if the pupil in question isn’t being given enough time to simply relax and switch off.

5 reasons you might want to hire a tutor for your child:

1) To make sure he/she doesn’t fall behind

It’s impossible for classroom teachers to give each child the attention he or she deserves, and if a method isn’t understood properly, or if reading or writing skills develop too slowly there’s very little that can be done in school to sort out the problem. It goes without saying that falling behind can be disastrous for a child’s education, particularly if a child is already struggling before they reach secondary school. Poor marks early on can have serious ramifications, with apathy, resentment and bad behaviour a likely result of not being able to keep up in class.

Having help at home is invaluable in correcting problems that emerge in the classroom. A good tutor will identify a child’s weaknesses and take proactive steps to strengthen them. This might mean going over maths problems, helping to choose the right books, guiding revision, or more generally re-teaching topics that have already been covered in class.

If a teacher says that homework is routinely being done badly, or if your child complains that they’re struggling to understand what’s being studied in class it might be worth enlisting extra help before these problems get out of hand.

2) To provide tailored advice when preparing for exams

The second reason for getting a tutor concerns exams. There are techniques that every candidate needs to be familiar with to succeed. For example, in the comprehension section of the GCSE English exam, a candidate might not know how to echo the question, or how to analyse a simile – techniques that are required to achieve a good mark. Choosing an experienced tutor means having access to a variety of tricks and tips that can dramatically improve your child’s score, and set them on the path to on a good overall grade.

The most accomplished tutors will have thousands of hours’ experience working with pupils and preparing them for exams. They will know the syllabuses and have their own special techniques to get the best out of their pupils. They can recommend helpful books and resources, and be able to advise the parents on best practice for things like homework and reading. In this regard tutors can be as much a guide and support to parents as they are to their children.

3) To make education personal

Tutoring is not simply a teacher sitting at a desk with a pupil and telling them what to put down onto paper. It’s a personal relationship. Why is this important?

It’s important because a top tutor is a highly educated, high-achieving individual. If they’ve graduated from a top university, they know what it means to work hard. They know about discipline, time management and having a positive attitude. Introducing your child to such an individual means providing him or her with an excellent role model, and often a friend too.

4) To make life easier

It’s a fact of life that children argue with their parents, and there are inevitable tensions when a parent asks their child to sit down and do their homework.

One of the benefits of tutoring is it allows parents to skip out these tensions. Yes, there might well be objections to the tutor coming over, but it’s rare for children to display the same level of opposition to a stranger as they would to a parent. The tutor can be the one to soak up any opposition, leaving the parents to enjoy the time they have with their children, rather than being engaged in a shouting match about maths exercises.

5) To broaden your child’s education

A tutor can be far more effective than a classroom teacher in that they don’t have to stick to a prescribed curriculum. If your child wants to really explore their subject, a tutor is someone that can guide them.

The truth is that many academic disciplines are interlinked. It is meaningless to learn history without politics, philosophy and theology, and impossible to dissect biology without chemistry, and chemistry without physics. A tutor will allow lessons to branch away from the curriculum and embrace wider fields of thought. They will allow lessons to follow the imagination and natural curiosity of the pupil, fostering greater understanding and making learning something exciting, inspiring and fundamentally enjoyable.

3 situations when tutoring might not be the right choice:

1) Tutoring can’t compensate for bad home habits

Regular bedtimes and mealtimes are essential to good academic performance; young people simply can’t work well if they’re either hungry or tired.

Homework should ideally be done at the same time each night, too. No amount of tutoring will help if children aren’t making an effort to study themselves, and so parents should take it as their responsibility to organise time for this each night.

Excessive periods on devices will have a detrimental effect to their learning and should be curbed.

2) Your child isn’t relaxing or being rewarded enough

Given the overwhelming pressure to get children into good schools and universities, parents can be forgiven for feeling anxious about how well their little ones are doing at school. At the same time it’s vital not to overburden children. Free time and play are also important for a child’s educational development, and it’s often the case that the best way to help your child is by asking them to do less, rather than more.

3) Your child is too young

Some London schools now offer a 4+ exam, and it can be tempting for young families to seek help in preparing for entrance exams from the earliest age possible. Children need play to develop their cognitive and motor skills, and they won’t respond to excessive teaching at an early age. Even when they start to become more amenable to tuition, at around the age of 5 or 6, teaching should still be very physical – rather than teach maths with pencil and paper it’s far more effective to employ lego and other physical metaphors.