Are Tutors Really Necessary?

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Judith Aitken

Judith graduated from the University of Strathclyde with a first class honours degree in Primary Education. Judith taught in Scotland and London in the state and independent sectors before becoming a full time tutor. She has successfully placed children into some of the most prestigious...
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After a long day of school, is it really necessary for children to receive extra tuition?

Before entering the world of tuition, I had always viewed this area of education with slight hesitation. A bit of a grey area, I wasn’t sure if tuition was the best option for children who have spent a long day at school, especially as it didn’t do my generation any harm to come straight home and go straight back out again, playing on the street with neighbours until it was time for dinner!

After almost two and a half years now of working as a full-time tutor, I am of the opinion that although very helpful for some, tuition absolutely isn’t the right decision for everyone.

Who is it for?

* Tuition has to be one of the most rewarding jobs when you are working with children who haven’t quite grasped a particular concept in school. Perhaps only one lesson is needed with a tutor for a child to have their “lightbulb” moment.

Providing one-to-one time with a child just isn’t feasible as a classroom teacher, so an hour with a tutor who has tailored the lesson to suit the needs of an individual can be invaluable.

* Teachers are under pressure to cover a lot of content over the course of a term, and sometimes the pacey nature of learning in a classroom can result in some children falling behind. The nature of tuition allows for a slower pace of learning, where the tutor and child can get into the “nitty gritty” of ideas and concepts.

The luxury of time ensures that children are able to go back into the classroom with more secure knowledge and understanding.

* Higher ability children can sometimes run the risk of “coasting” in the classroom, so spending time with a tutor can help to provide a real challenge. I worked with a pupil who was a very talented writer, and introducing them to the concepts of metaphors, similes and personification before they were taught in school allowed him to take his writing to the next level!

It is so important to unlock all children’s academic potential, and I feel that occasional tuition is an excellent option for those high flyers in our class.

Who isn’t it for?

* I find it no coincidence that working as a full-time tutor is only an option in very few areas of the country. The reason this career is possible while living in London is due to the volume of parents who wish for their child to sit for school entrance exams.

While 7+ and 11+ exam prep are the main focus of my job, I will only offer tuition to children of such a young age under certain circumstances. For example, tuition needs to be in short, sharp bursts and learning needs to vary from “active” games and activities to more formal written work.

Tuition for exams is not hot housing; it is so important to be honest with parents about the likelihood of their child passing the exam from the offset, and make them aware that the job of a tutor is to teach new skills, not to work relentlessly through past papers.

Although families are paying you to work for them, it is ultimately the tutor who sets the tone and decides which learning strategies are best for the child.

* Some parents panic that their child hasn’t get grasped a concept and very often tuition is not the answer. A five or six-year-old child simply isn’t academically mature enough to handle sophisticated concepts such as 24 hour time. Spending an hour a day working on this idea still won’t work as they just “aren’t there yet!”. Time is the key here – give it six months, introduce the concept again and Bingo! Your child’s got it!

* If tuition is giving children a negative view of learning – stop it. Immediately. I’m not talking here about an A-level Maths student who grumps and gripes about a lesson because in coincides with the latest episode of Made in Chelsea. I’m paying particular attention to our younger learners.

In my mind, as soon as a primary school aged pupil starts to see learning as a chore and links it to boredom and frustration – it’s game over. The fundamental job of any educator is to foster a love of learning.

As tutors, we have the luxury of being able to tailor lessons to meet the specific needs of the learner, so we should grab this opportunity with both hands and ensure that we are helping to create engaged, motivated and happy learners!

7 thoughts on “Are Tutors Really Necessary?

  1. Having moved from teaching secondary maths to running a Kumon centre, I can confirm that tuition definitely has its place.

    I have students ranging from age 3 to age 14, varying in ability from basic reading and counting to A-level analysis and pre-Uni Maths. In all cases, the aim is to foster a love of learning and promote independent learning skills.

  2. I definitely think tutors are important for a child, they will provide a dedicated session for the student, meaning that the student will learn the way they feel best!

  3. The admissions process for selective schools is becoming more and more competitive to the extent that often more than 2000 students will apply for around 100 places. Being naturally talented and an all-rounder is not sufficient when many of the other applicants are in the same position. In fact most parents will employ a private tutor since schools do not adequately prepare students for the challenges of the 11+ exams at the top private schools. It is unfortunately the case that applicants without a private tutor are immediately placed at a severe disadvantage compared with their peers who may have been preparing for these exams with a private tutor for several years.

  4. I don’t think it is possible to compare generally the quality of teaching of all private schools and secondary schools. However, one can compare directly the results of specific schools. If one looks at the Telegraph’s list of top 100 schools organised by A-level results, the top section of that list is dominated by independent schools. One cannot definitively say if that is due to the quality of teaching or the selective nature of the school intake, however students at these schools perform on average much better than students at most state schools if you look at the percentage obtaining AAB at A-Level. Also, the class sizes are smaller and these schools have enough money to recruit an appropriate number of teachers whereas in some state schools class sizes are at the legal limit or teachers are teaching subjects which are not their speciality. It is a very unfortunate situation.

    1. If one cannot compare the quality of teaching between schools, I’d argue it’s even harder to compare pupils’ performance between schools, yet we choose to do it and think this is a reliable measure of quality. Meanwhile, we have no data on parental influence, income and IDACI versus outcomes and destinations. It’s simply guesswork…

  5. Great article! I think tutors are great for kids when you find a suitable one. We have been using tutors for a few years now and the kids have really become more confident in themselves. We’ve also made sure to keep track on our own with Beestar so that the kids can practice the skills they need to remember before their tutoring sessions. Tutors are valuable!

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