Getting a tutor to help with your child’s education only used to happen in a limited set of circumstances; generally in the case of a student struggling with their sixth form studies and only ever in the months leading up to the examinations. Nowadays, though, it’s a different story. The educational charity The Sutton Trust published figures recently suggesting that 40% of parents living in London will pay for private tuition to boost their child’s state education.
Furthermore, the figures reveal that this is not a phenomenon limited to KS5 or even KS4 students. Private tutors are being hired to coach pupils from both primary and secondary schools. Many also work year-round – not, as we might previously have expected, solely in the weeks before the exams. And no longer should we expect all our tutors to be classroom teachers, supplementing their pay with a few evenings’ tuition, (all declared to the taxman, of course). Tutoring is seen as a flexible and profitable occupation, and it is popular with recent graduates, who school students find it easier to relate to compared to older teachers.
In order to provide extra support, a high percentage of parents are willing to pay the typical cost of £22 per hour, according to analysis by the private tutoring website First Tutors. This indicates that parents are being proactive when it comes to their children’s education, which is surely a good thing. And whereas in the past, when the hiring of a tutor was something students may have felt ashamed of, now they and their parents can feel some relief in the knowledge that they are in the company of 40% of London’s population!
Concerns that students from poorer households are disadvantaged by the fact their wealthier peers are able to pay for specialised support are loud, and rightly so. There are also those who feel that a good state education shouldn’t require additional tuition, and that the league tables, currently tempting teachers to concentrate their efforts on those on the C/D borderline but not those who could achieve top grades, need to be axed in order for equilibrium to be restored between students of all incomes. Neither of these things can be ignored. It is, however, increasingly clear that private tuition is becoming more popular, more acceptable, and more visible. That should speak volumes for those responsible for the government’s education policies.