What do you think about tutors?

7 May

Guest post by Voice member Dr Rosemary Russell

‘Excuse me Miss, my tutor didn’t agree with your answer!’ As it turned out, in this case, the tutor had got the question totally wrong, and their suggested solution displayed a fundamental flaw in their understanding of the problem.

For teachers, tutors are a fact of life. However, while teachers in maintained schools are subjected to Ofsted inspections and criminal record checks, there are no required quality control checks on private tutors.

Currently, anyone can set up and claim to be a tutor; there is no regulation for tutors. Teachers have to pick up the pieces in class. Parents who seek such help for their children are very vulnerable, to say nothing of the risks to their children from possible rogues and paedophiles.

I hold a part-time post teaching mathematics to senior students (Years 9-13) and I am also a private tutor of mathematics.

In my role as a private tutor I have found that parents speak very candidly about how they feel about their children’s maths and the difficulties they face trying to be responsible parents and give support.

My research for my PhD was about parental involvement with their children’s maths, and looked at a number of factors, including attitudes and what parents actually did to help their children with this vital subject. It involved parents of children from Year 1 right up to sixth form level.

For maths, at least, it is clear that some parents see themselves as a provider of knowledge for their children. They not only help with homework or activities that school sends home, but also, of their own accord, set questions and buy support materials to help their children, and engage tutors.

This attitude is not confined to one social class, and it is not necessarily to push their children. Mathematics is a harsh subject that can leave remarkably deep scars, and some parents who struggled with maths themselves at school are desperate for their children to avoid the pain they endured. For others, it is simply a role that they see themselves as having: as far as they are concerned, they are just being responsible parents.

A student may need extra help through no fault of the teacher or the state education system, as in the case of a friend whose daughter had missed much of her A-level Decision Mathematics course due to illness. If the parents themselves cannot help, the obvious step for these parents is to employ a tutor to do it for them. Getting extra help is quite normal and it happens in both the maintained and independent sectors, but it is often not openly discussed.

Parents voiced their concerns to me about the lack of regulation during my research. I made some recommendations at the time when the General Teaching Council (GTC) could have possibly done something, but the GTC no longer exists and the situation is different now.

The issues involved need to be faced instead of being left hidden.

Your experiences

So, what have been your experiences? Whether as a teacher in a class, having to deal with a situation where you have a student who is also being tutored; or as a parent, engaging or trying to find a tutor for your child; or as a student, who has had the experience of having a tutor; or indeed as a tutor.

Do let us know.

Finally, do you think anything needs to be put in place about private tutors?

If yes, what do you suggest?

Do have your say below! 

Further information

Dr Rosemary Russell is author of Help Your Child With Numeracy: Age Range 3-7 Years, and, Help Your Child With Numeracy: Age Range 7-11 Years (both Continuum). She is a consultant and practising teacher.

Her website is: www.maths4mumsanddads.co.uk

Her PhD, Parents Helping Their Children With Mathematics, was awarded by the University of Bristol in 2002.

The views expressed are Dr Russell’s. Details of her books and website are included for information only and do not represent an endorsement by Voice.

15 April 2013

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18 Responses to “What do you think about tutors?”

  1. Carole Burnett 28. Apr, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    I feel there is a dangerous loophole in the protection of children. In many other professions or roles where adults have contact with children, CRB checks are used to identify their suitability; this may include multiple checks, if the adult’s contacts are in different roles or jobs. Children may be being made very vulnerable if this workforce of people are not strictly monitored.

    • Adam Creen 24. May, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      How is it strictly monitored if the checking is done by The Tutors Association, a new and untried unofficial organisation, an offshoot of the CMRE who are an unregulated think tank? And how much will it cost? Will it be just for big tutor agencies and individuals like Rosemary and myself get left out in the cold? Am I being blackmailed into joining with the threat that no one will employ me if I don’t? What powers will TTA have to shut down dodgy tutoring outfits? This smacks of big business and the gravy train.

      My new education blogpost: “Tutoring – who knows best?”

      • Dr Rosemary Russell 11. Jun, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

        Your blog raises some interesting questions, but I think your dismissal of the proposed code of ethics perhaps highlights the problem – it’s all blindingly obvious to us as trained professional teachers, but what about those who are not qualified teachers? Some agencies are offering a very wide variety of tutors, some of whom appear to have had no training at all.

  2. Dr Rosemary Russell 29. Apr, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

    Interesting to see it relating to other professions.

  3. Richard Fraser 07. May, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    The Guardian: “State schools paying private tutors thousands for extra help”

    @warwickmansell on Twitter: “Guardian splash by @jessshepherd1 has implications for performance pay. Who takes resp for results: teacher or tutor?”

    BBC: “Does your child need a tutor?” [www.bbc.co.uk/schools/parents/does_child_need_tutor]

  4. Alison Thomas 24. May, 2013 at 10:05 am #

    I am both a teacher and tutor. I understand the difference and have never felt that I have had to pick up the pieces regarding students that benefit from extra tuition outside school. The truth is that some students will not ask questions in a class of thirty, but will in a very small group or a one-to-one session with a tutor. Regulation is needed. However, I have seen as much questionable teaching as I have tutoring . OFSTED challenges the profession to a point, so we shouldn’t expect regulation which is low on the central governments agenda to be a save-all solution. There is too much scaremongering out there about tutors and tutoring. The reality for me is that I find the students who receive extra tuition to be willing participants in class and quite independent learners too; a skill lacking in many classrooms.

    • Dr Rosemary Russell 11. Jun, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      I think the difficulty arises more in science and mathematics. I do not know which subject(s) you tutor.

  5. Henry Fagg 13. Jun, 2013 at 6:28 pm #

    Hi Rosemary,

    Your comment that “Currently, anyone can set up and claim to be a tutor; there is no regulation for tutors” is not really the case. There are lots of areas of UK law which apply to freelance tutors: for example, trade descriptions, fair trading, health and safety, tax, and the Safeguarding of Vulnerable Groups Act.

    I think it’s quite helpful to separate out the issue of safety from the issue of quality of provision in this regard.

    Regarding safety: it’s useful for parents to know that they can employ a private tutor with a DBS (formerly CRB) certificate. Yet it’s not the be all and end all, since unfortunately the vast majority of offenders are not known to the authorities at all [https: // news.liv.ac.uk/2008/06/11/sex-offenders-register-provides-limited-protection-for-children]. In other words, parents need to be vigilant whether a tutor presents a certificate or not.

    And regarding quality: some would say that it’s up to the parent to assess the suitability of a tutor, and not a regulatory body. I think most parents understand that some form of qualifications are a necessary prerequisite for tutoring.

    As Adam mentions, these issues have recently come to the fore with the CMRE proposals for an Association of Tutors. I’d urge any private tutors to view these proposals at [www.thetutorsassociation.org.uk], and also to take part in a survey on the suitability of the proposals for freelance tutors [www.surveymonkey.com/s/TutorpagesTTA1].

    • Dr Rosemary Russell 15. Jun, 2013 at 11:01 am #

      I agree that separating safety and quality issues is useful, but the facts remain that anyone can set up as a tutor and, despite the laws of the land under which we all live, there is no regulation of tutors: no training, no standards, no inspection.
      An ironclad regulatory structure is neither possible nor desirable – there will always be friends and relatives pitching in, and word of mouth recommendations. However, I think some framework can be achieved that would benefit children, schools, good tutors and the majority of parents who are far less well equipped to find a good tutor than those of us holding this discussion – it is so easy to forget that we are part of a network.

  6. Richard Fraser 17. Jul, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    Voice’s policy response to Tutors Association consultation: Proposals for the founding of a new professional association for tutors

  7. Richard Fraser 29. Jul, 2013 at 12:28 pm #

    BBC News: “Summer of tutoring ‘awaiting many pupils'”: [www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23465178]

  8. Richard Fraser 06. Sep, 2013 at 9:51 am #

    BBC News: “Private tuition boom for wealthy ‘risks learning gap'”: [www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23973213]

  9. Henry Fagg 14. Sep, 2013 at 3:30 pm #

    My recent blog post on the rise of private tutors in state schools may be of interest:


  10. Dr Rosemary Russell 02. Nov, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    Very interesting. Thank you for pointing this out.

  11. Dr Rosemary Russell 22. Oct, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Interesting article in The Daily Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11177183/Children-aged-three-tutored-for-places-at-top-schools.html

    It is good to see that Will Orr-Ewing from Keystone Tutors is giving some sensible advice to parents. It is good too that it draws attention to the existence of the Tutors’ Association (pity name is incorrectly given as Tutoring Association in the article) and the code of conduct tutors have signed up to. See: http://thetutorsassociation.org.uk/ethics

  12. nata 24. Mar, 2016 at 6:50 am #

    Well written. I enjoyed this blog post. It was inspiring and informative.

  13. Richard Fraser 13. Jul, 2016 at 10:05 am #

    “Private tutors ‘must face criminal records checks'” (BBC News)

  14. MyTutoring 12. Jan, 2018 at 3:53 am #

    Very interesting post. Thank you for sharing.

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