How to choose a tutor

Tutoring can be a great way to accelerate learning - but it is crucial to find the right person for the job. Here are the questions to ask potential tutors before you hire

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What qualifications does the tutor have?

Find out about the tutor's education - what school and university they went to, what they studied - as well as asking if they have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS). Remember that 'experts' don't always make the best tutors; core knowledge is vital, but it can be equally important to ask if they took the same tests/exams your child is going to sit.

What tutoring experience do they have?

Bear in mind that for certain subjects, such as UCAS applications, or degree-level help, a tutor who has recently been through the same process and been successful can be just as helpful, even if they have less tutoring experience.

Can they provide testimonials from previous clients?

Hearing what other students and parents have to say about a tutor can be the best way to find out what they might be like. Think of it like booking a restaurant online - it's always useful to have a nosey at some reviews first.

Which examination board(s) is the tutor familiar with?

Ask your child's teacher which exam board they use, so that your child and the tutor are aligned. The syllabus for each board is available online, and often past or practice exam papers. 

A tutor with experience as an examiner can also be really valuable, and this is something which may not always be advertised, so it's a good question to drop in.

Does the tutor have a speciality?

Some tutors are specialists in exam practice, while others are best for confidence-building or for making learning fun. Some tutors have had successes with students taking specific tests/exams; these tutors will be able to tell your child exactly what to expect and help prepare them to be at their very best. Don't be afraid to ask the tutor how they approach certain areas.

What 'extracurriculars' do they do?

Many of the most popular tutors are those who are involved with interesting non-academic activities, have other jobs alongside tutoring, or who have won prizes at school or university. Having broad interests can be an indication of dedication, willing and hard work - all of which are vital in the work of a tutor.

Is the tutor's documentation up to date?

For some parents this is very important; for others, testimonials serve as sufficient evidence of a good tutor. Experienced tutors and anyone who is a teacher should have all the right documentation to hand. Asking the tutor to bring their DBS (the government's new name for the CRB Criminal Record check), and one or two academic certificates along to the first lesson is advisable.

How long do their tutoring relationships usually last?

Depending on the horizon you have in mind for your child, it's a good idea to have an idea of whether you'd like tutoring to be long-term, or if you are simply looking for a few lessons before an exam or interview - and to communicate this with the tutor.

What is the tutor's approach to independent learning?

Knowing this can be a good step towards ensuring the tutor and your child will work well together and make good progress. The best tutors are aiming to get their students to a point where they no longer need them!

How do they make lessons engaging?

It's helpful to ask the tutor what ideas they have; will they use "fun" learning materials, or engage through mutual interests? Good tutors will quickly learn what the best approach is to engage your child, and will often ask for your advice on this.

If appropriate, what is their attitude to liaising with a child's school teacher?

Tutors liaising directly with school teachers is not common, but it can be beneficial for the tutor, and the teacher, to do so in order to help ensure that teaching methods and goals are aligned.    

Who arranges all the required resources, worksheets, books and paper for lessons?

an important question to remember. Often parents provide these materials, but tutors are always eager to advise you on which books to order, or even order them for you.

How does the tutor conduct assessments?

Keeping track of progress is vital. Tutors' assessment methods will all vary, as different practices work for different people, so be sure to ask what approach they use.

What feedback can parents expect from the tutor and when?

Some tutors prefer to communicate in written reports, some will ask to schedule extra time for a meeting once a month or term, and others will try to give feedback in person at the end of each lesson. Think about what would work best for you and your child.

How long are the tutoring lessons?

Ask yourself, 'can my child concentrate fully for an hour, or are half-hour sessions more achievable?' This will entirely depend on the age of your child and what you and the tutor think is sensible, and it's a good idea to ask the tutor how long they would recommend. Either way, breaks are vital, so don't forget to schedule those in too.

Can parents contact the tutor between lessons?

Most tutors are delighted to be in touch in between lessons. Websites like Tutorfair offer free messaging for parents for this purpose.

Do they set homework?

Many tutors choose not to add to the workload of a student. However, a small amount of work (or past papers during exam time) can be beneficial. Be involved in arranging the homework schedule so it fits in well with school work, and if in doubt about helping, the tutor will be able to advise on what is best.

How can parents assist with their child's progress when the tutor's not there?

Some parents will have a tutor to help with all of their child's homework; for others, 10 hours of one-to-one tuition is a big investment. It's crucial to remember that you can benefit from the experience without lots of expense. Ask the tutor what advice they can give on strategies or skills you can work on with your child.

What Mumsnetters say about finding a tutor:

  • "Our tutor had already tutored other pupils from my son's school and so was familiar with the syllabus and exam timetable etc, which is very important. You want the tutor to be focusing on the right stuff and getting the student ready on time."

  • "My friends and I usually find tutors for our children through personal recommendation."

  • "If you're hiring a tutor to get your child into a school, pick one with a track record in succeeding for the school(s) you're aiming for, and let them gently prepare, stress-free, over time."

This content has been provided by TutorfairMumsnetters who book through Tutorfair get an exclusive £5 off their first home tutoring session with code: MUMSNET2

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Last updated: 8 months ago