Does your child need a tutor?

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At a glance

Guidance on tutors - what they do, how they might benefit your child, and how to track down the right one.

What does a tutor do?

A tutor helps a boy with his school work © 'Rob @ Fotolia.com'

A tutor is a teacher you pay to work with your child, either on a one-to-one basis or as part of a small group. Usually the tutor focuses on a particular academic subject, or they may coach your child in a particular exam technique.

A tutor often helps a child who is struggling with their studies, or needs a boost to do better at school or do well in an exam (perhaps an entrance exam or a particular subject at GCSE or A-level). But sometimes a tutor is taken on to stretch a child with an exceptional ability in a subject.

Because the tutor is working with your child in a more focused way than would be possible in a class of 25 or 30 children, a lot can often be achieved in a short time.

But tutors can be expensive - they can charge around £20-£50 an hour. Some tutors work online using instant messaging or Skype (which allows you to see and speak to each other). Online tutoring costs less, typically around £15 an hour.

A cheaper option is to sign up for an online automated tutoring service which will provide on-screen exercises. It costs around £100 a year to subscribe for this kind of service.

Could my child benefit from tutoring?

Your child might benefit from being tutored if:

  • Results/grades/achievements are lower than expected.
  • Your child’s confidence is slipping and they could do with a boost in a particular subject (or across the board).
  • They need to improve their grades in order to pass a forthcoming exam.

However, it’s very important to talk to your child’s teacher before you make the decision to hire a tutor. There may be extra help that could be provided free of charge in their school. Or the teacher may have other ideas about how to help your child.

How to find the right tutor

Many different people work as tutors. They include:

  • Teachers who want to earn extra cash
  • Retired teachers
  • University and college students, or recent graduates

Many work through a tutoring agency. To find an agency in your area, search online. You can also ask your child’s teacher, or other parents, to recommend an agency or a tutor.

Tutors have different styles and approaches to working. It’s worth thinking about what approach you feel would work for your child, and talking it through with a possible tutor. You should also think about where the tutoring would take place. Some tutors come to you, while others work in their own homes. What would best suit you and your child?

It’s vital to make sure a private tutor has had a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) check. Remember, you are placing your child in a vulnerable position, and you must do all you can to ensure the tutor can be trusted. Don’t take anyone else’s word for it - check them out yourself.

If you feel your child would benefit from tutoring, but are daunted by the cost, consider the online or website options.

Alternatively, think about whether you or your partner could provide regular one-to-one help for your child (but bear in mind that this is often difficult, because you are emotionally involved). Or perhaps you have a friend who’s a teacher, or who speaks a language your child needs help with, who might agree to help your child?

Tutoring is controversial because it comes down to paying out potentially large sums of money - but if you feel strongly that your child would benefit from it, explore all the options.

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