Private tutoring puts children at risk, says independent schools head

(90 Posts)
muminlondon Fri 11-Oct-13 16:51:29

www.standard.co.uk/news/education/private-tutoring-puts-children-at-risk-8874013.html

Interesting topic. Apparently there are twice as many tutors as school teachers in England. I haven't found any statistics that reveal the most popular age at which children are tutored, but it must peak at 9-10 before entrance tests?

daphnedill Fri 11-Oct-13 23:12:29

Maybe I'm being cynical, but the article in the OP seems like a PR release for the recently launched Tutors' Association. The people behind it run the big tutorial agencies, who take a big cut from tutors' fees and are miffed that many tutors work entirely independently.

I work as a private tutor and currently tutor for 11 hours a week and have never used any of these agencies, although my details are posted on the "contact" websites First Tutors and Tutorhunt, which don't take a cut from the tutors. It's quite interesting that Neil Roskilly (the CE of the ISA) should be quoted in the article - he had a letter published in the Telegraph a couple of days ago www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/letters/10367680/Dumbed-down-exams-are-to-blame-for-low-literacy-and-numeracy-levels.html

It appears that the people behind the Tutors' Association would like private tutors to operate as mini private schools, which would massively increase the cost of tutoring, because tutors would have to pay a registration fee.

People need to use their common sense when hiring private tutors. My leads now come mainly from personal recommendations and I give parents a folder with my qualifications, a CV, a copy of my DBS certificate and references. However, somebody just looking for somebody to give a primary school child a bit of guidance with homework (for example) might really be looking for a bit extra with after-school babysitting.

Mummyoftheyear Fri 11-Oct-13 23:41:40

Conversely, tutoring a child who'd benefit or who is in NEED, when you have the means to do so (out of principle) also puts them at risk of:
Falling further behind
Becoming demotivated
Diminishing self-esteem
Worsening behaviour during lessons

I'm not for one moment implying that refusing to tutor a child would necessarily engender any / all of the above. However , I'm absolutely convinced that these can be the consequences of failing to support a child who is in need. Of course, it
shouldn't be down to the parents to provide such support. Schools ought to identify and appropriately meet needs (weakness in subject ability, lack of confidence, etc.). But we live in the real world. And it'd be at our children's cost to hold on to principles while our children fall further behind.

Mummyoftheyear Fri 11-Oct-13 23:46:35

However, tutoring a pupil who is already at a HIGHLY academic and competitive school, just to keep them en par with their peers would lean me towards asking whether it's the right school for them.

daphnedill Fri 11-Oct-13 23:52:22

Did you make a typo in your first post, because it's a bit confusing?

I agree with your second post. This article from 2002 is interesting www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1400590/No-end-of-a-lesson.html

Note that this is the same Tom Maher who now thinks tutoring is dangerous...hhhmmm

I would be very annoyed if I were paying thousands a year for a private school and still feel that my child needed tutoring. I really wonder how such children cope when they don't have tutors on hand to guide/cram them.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 12-Oct-13 01:42:10

Tutoring for indie 11+ in this part of London is an industry, fuelled by parental anxiety which in part it helps generate. It's like an arm's race and bears little relation to what the schools actually require. I agree with the article that many of the tutors long ago lost touch with modern educational methods, if they were ever acquainted at all, my DD has been paid handsomely for tutoring and clearly I think the tutees lucky wink and they love her but as to the requirements of 11+, well she sat it 10years ago.... I know many parents who realise they got it wrong sending their children to sit around a crowded kitchen table where their DCs were bored out of their minds, and hated doing boring and old fashioned exercises with little personal attention, all for the reassurance of a back up view on whether they were bright enough to get in. Whatever anyone says on here what the schools want is bright stimulated and interesting kids not those who have been bored rigid. I have no problem with tutoring that addresses a weakness, and is enjoyed and stimulating but around here some of what goes on is not far short of child abuse, and Kenlee on a par with what I saw in Hong Kong.

Even worse is the super selective tutoring industry, there can never be any educational value in making children sit tens even hundreds of reasoning tests. It is shameful that state grammars have allowed tutorable tests to prevail.

Adikia Sat 12-Oct-13 02:43:00

I actually agree with the article, there's a woman i used to work with who is now a tutor and she has mediocre GCSEs, no A-levels and has done one OU course (AA100), She's lovely but has no more knowledge about the 11+ or national curriculum than any interested parent could find on google.

She is also very rarely asked by a parent to see her DBS

I know there are some very good tutors out there bit there are also some terrible ones.

handcream My brothers (11 and 13) and sister (15) passed the 11+ without any tutoring, as did quite a few of their friends, it does happen, admittedly I had some tutoring to pass mine but that doesn't mean MNers who claim their DC didn't are fibbers.

daphnedill Sat 12-Oct-13 03:30:30

I know there are some very good tutors out there bit there are also some terrible ones.

It seems the tutoring business is like indie schools. There are some excellent ones, but also some which are truly awful. Regulation still allows the awful ones to operate - until the parents get wise and start to withdraw their children. I am very doubtful about whether the Tutors' Association will raise standards, although it will certainly provide jobs and income for the regulators ie. the owners of big tuition agencies.

I tutor French and German, mainly to pupils in state comprehensives. Other posters have pointed out the patchy provision of MFL, which is one of the reasons pupils benefit from 1-1 tuition. It doesn't help that languages are usually taught in classes of 30 and often in mixed ability groups. I know for a fact that all the pupils I have ever tutored have achieved higher grades than the schools predicted. The pupils who have shown least improvement have been those from indie schools, where they have already had the advantage of small class sizes. There is a limit to how much some pupils can improve, unless the work is done for them (which I won't do).

I think this kind of tutoring is very different from the cramming for London selectives described above.

Bonsoir Sat 12-Oct-13 07:01:38

MFL are a bit of a special case because all DC can benefit massively from extra exposure to the MFL they are learning, be that tutoring, home stays, summer courses, films and TV or pretty much anything. No-one is going to learn a MFL purely from classroom exposure.

Kenlee Sat 12-Oct-13 07:03:25

Anyway I say its courses for horses. Some parents tutor the hell out of their children sone want their kids to actually enjoy their childhood.

I think tutors for understanding is a great idea. Although I do think aggressive pass paper tutoring is wrong.

Btw at my daughter's indie she did the tests but they had a nice conversation with her. I think all schools should be able to do the same. Just to see if the kid is really bright or just tutored bright.

Elibean Sat 12-Oct-13 11:19:27

HomicidalPJC (great name) we found one through word of mouth. dd's friend had a bit of maths tutoring, dd heard her friend enjoying it, and actually asked to go....

I would never, ever, ask my child to spend an hour learning with someone who makes her feel bored, less competent, or miserable - let alone an hour a week for a term. But I know people whose kids have been shouted at, made to feel inadequate, etc etc by so called tutors - all in the name of getting into their parent's choice of school. Mostly out of fear.

As dd has a good relationship with her ex-tutor already, we'll be able to ask said tutor to do a bit of verbal reasoning with her, for confidence's sake, and to cover the maths that she won't have covered at school. No more. And we're only looking at schools that give interview at least as much weight as tests.

Thankfully, there are some tutors out there who love kids, focus on enjoyment of learning, and know how to raise confidence smile

wordfactory Sat 12-Oct-13 12:20:20

Thus far we've never used tutors in the academic subjects, but I've never really understood people's aversion to them.

Why is it so different to swimming lessons, music lessons, tennis lessons?

muminlondon Sat 12-Oct-13 12:35:50

'I know people whose kids have been shouted at, made to feel inadequate, etc etc by so called tutors - all in the name of getting into their parent's choice of school. '

shock Elibean that's awful. I think the original comments by the independent schools head may have referred to that kind of damage. Not all tutors are like that, obviously.

Tutoring has become associated with gaining an unfair advantage, but I think most of it is probably catch-up tutoring, specialist provision and exam revision, etc. It's often a short-term thing with a specific goal. Some schools also offer revision classes, free instrument tuition, catch-up classes etc. (which is better as not many can afford to pay). What you describe is hothousing. I also think children should have a say in which school they go to!

Shootingatpigeons Sat 12-Oct-13 12:42:35

* word factory* I would avoid making my DDs endure swimming or music lessons etc. if they were miserable experiences. The problem around here is that amongst anxious parents faced with a selection process they cannot control some of these tutors have managed to build up mythical reputations for somehow having the magical formula to get their DCs into schools, without which they stand no chance, their names and contact details are passed around in secret code "Mrs W" being a famous one, and they are even able to run waiting lists and interview and test children for entry to the tutoring factories they have been running for decades ( which are anything but magical sat crammed around a kitchen table doing old fashioned worksheets with little personal attention, and certainly no focus on encouraging the creative thinking and imagination the schools own preps will be focusing on). I know many parents who regret in hindsight putting their DCs through that miserable experience.

I think some sort of regulation and proof of professional development should be brought in. I and my DDs have had very positive experience of tutoring which has helped my DDs immensely (both are dyslexic), with literacy skills prior to 11+ and with French prior to GCSE but they have been trained teachers who made the sessions fun and stimulating as well as addressing particular weaknesses in proven ways that we have talked through ahead.

Mummyoftheyear Sat 12-Oct-13 15:18:34

I tutor. I do think that tutors should all be CRB checked, hold teaching qualifications and have insurance. That said, I've met a number of CRB checked, trained teachers who I'd not want as a tutor for my children! Much is also to be said for HOW material is delivered and the importance that a tutor places on developing a pupil's self- esteem ( in regard to a subject) and motivation. Having a 'can do' attitude is an essential ingredient to success - one that needs to be fostered.

daphnedill Sat 12-Oct-13 17:41:39

I agree with you. A CRB, teaching qualification and insurance don't guarantee a good tutor any more than the opposite is true.

I'd hate to see a situation where unregistered tutors are forbidden from tutoring. Registration will push the price up, because will pass on the costs, so tutoring will be even more inaccessible to pupils of poorer parents. As I wrote before, I really am very cynical/suspicious about the motives of the agencies behind this.

People really need to use their common sense when employing tutors. If children are sitting around a kitchen table doing outdated worksheets, maybe parents would be better off going to WH Smith and buying a few of the many books/CDs available and spending a couple of hours a week with their children themselves.

Elibean Sat 12-Oct-13 17:52:28

muminLondon yes, awful sad Thankfully, I've only heard a few stories like that - but then again, I don't know many tutored kids and their families, so I've no idea of numbers! But one girl in particular (aged 7) is already at a selective indie, and was being tutored to move to a different selective indie, in SW London. Thankfully her parents were also horrified, and asked around for an alternative - but as Shooting says, they were hugely anxious parents just trying to do what everyone told them to do. They've now taken their little girl to the same tutor dd1 had, who is a) a trained teacher and b) lovely.

As for extra-curricular misery, I've witnessed plenty of horrible swimming lessons - and pulled dd2 out of one a few weeks back, in fact. She's now swimming with a lovely teacher, and doing brilliantly - having been traumatised (for 5 minutes, till I pulled her out) by the sort who shouldn't be teaching young kids at all. Makes no difference whether its academic or extra: teaching via misery, fear or boredom is not ok.

MagratGarlik Sat 12-Oct-13 19:48:20

I tutor, have a CRB check, qualifications etc etc etc. I still provide all my paperwork to parents when asked and will not tutor under 18's without a responsible adult being accessible (not necessarily in the same room, but certainly not in the house alone with a tutee or behind a closed door). I know some tutors are unqualified, don't have CRB/DBS etc, but I do think parents need to check, rather than relying on regulation.

There is a very real danger that regulation will not improve standards, but will ensure lots of paperwork (rather like the Ofsted effect on schools). I think there is a very real question to be asked that if school standards are increasing due to increased monitoring, why is parent confidence in the school system seemingly decreasing?

Regulation and monitoring will not necessarily increase quality, but will increase the standing of those with the time and admin capabilities to 'play' whatever monitoring (and no doubt, eventually, grading) system.

daphnedill Sat 12-Oct-13 20:28:01

Agree with you 100%, Magrat.

losingtrust Sun 13-Oct-13 14:06:44

Tutoring is rife round here too and we have no grammars but parents want good Sats results. A lot of peer pressure on those of us who don't get tutors in.

muminlondon Sun 13-Oct-13 14:24:56

Perhaps it depends on the school but with new Level 6 SATs it's a way of stretching the brightest children. In some schools even if children don't pass the paper, they still benefit from teaching at that standard. In other schools, the government has included the new measure of 4B in the latest league tables, as well as progress rates from KS1. There are also the new SPAG tests - spelling, punctuation and grammar. And from 2014 there is a new primary curriculum. So I don't see the need for tutoring, especially if the tutors aren't themselves practising teachers who are completely up to date.

MagratGarlik Sun 13-Oct-13 21:30:46

I think tutors do have a responsibility to be professional in their approach to their work and that, like in any other profession means following CPD and keeping yourself up to date, just as classroom teachers must.

I can't comment on tutoring primary children, as I never tutor at primary level - it is outside of my experience and expertise. I focus on older students, given my background. I also work first and foremost identifying and focusing on weaknesses in subject knowledge/understanding rather than coaching exam 'tricks'. Many students benefit from having someone go through key concepts with them, spot and iron out misconceptions before they become too deeply set and to act as support to their learning at school. Other students are particularly able and want someone who will explore the subject beyond the school curriculum and encourage a wider interest in the subject - not all extra-curricular interests and hobbies have to be sports or music based.

daphnedill Sun 13-Oct-13 22:40:49

Would you/do you pay to go on courses? I charge £25 per hour (of which over £5 is usually spent on travel), I pay for insurance and materials and I'm registered as self-emloyed. With travel and preparation and the tuition itself, I spend at least three hours on each individual pupil, but only get paid for an hour, so I actually earn less than £7 per hour. If I had to pay for courses and professional registration, there's no way tuition would provide me with a viable income. The tuition agencies (who are behind the registration) often pay their tutors even less, when preparation time and travel is taken into account.

morethanpotatoprints Sun 13-Oct-13 22:52:58

Does this include H.ed children too. My dd has private tuition for language and 3 music lessons. It depends on what criteria they used in the research and whether they were looking at purely academic subjects and dc in the system.

MagratGarlik Sun 13-Oct-13 23:16:02

I charge a sliding scale depending on level and subject, but I'm outside London, which probably makes a difference. On average, my rate is similar to yours, Daphne.

I'm also registered as self employed, pay for insurance (though get a massive discount via one of the unions). I do still keep up my registration of professional societies, which provide CPD opportunities, I attend courses via one of the teaching unions, I'm an examiner for one exam board which helps keep up curriculum knowledge and I'm still a research active scientist. Being research active has an advantage in that I regularly peer-review for journals and I'm an active editorial board member for three journals.

I do spend far longer preparing for lessons than my hourly rate covers, but my thinking is that when I was teaching at school and university I did the same, so I think it is just par for the course.

daphnedill Sun 13-Oct-13 23:26:34

I'm an examiner for an exam board too, but I no longer belong to any professional associations, because I don't think they're very good. I teach languages part-time in a special school and keep up-to-date by reading various blogs and message boards. I rely on my tutoring income (10 hours a week) to survive and I honestly don't think I could do it for any less, so registration (£100+) and paid-for courses (£250+) would push my rate up. I already feel guilty enough that some people can't afford it - and I know some parents struggle to pay me - but I can't afford to be a charity. Going back to the OP, I certainly don't think I'm dangerous!

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