When you are paying upwards of £15,000 a year to have your child privately educated, the prospect of forking out for extra tuition may not sit well with you. But that is exactly what seems to be happening as an increasing number of parents look to “top-up” their child’s already expensive education with a private tutor.
The first group are those who are struggling with a particular subject and benefit from one-to-one tuition. This does not necessarily imply a problem with the school, as even with the smaller classes of an independent establishment, teachers cannot always give all their pupils the attention they need. Or it may be that a different approach can provide that “eureka” moment, when it starts to make sense.
The second group consists of students who are already excelling but whose parents want to ensure they go on to their preferred school or university. For both groups, extra tuition is particularly popular in the run-up to exams, with maths and sciences the most commonly chosen subjects, although foreign languages are also high on the priority list.
Many parents believe that getting their child into the right prep school is a pivotal moment in their education and, in the two years since he founded the agency, Henry Pike has seen the focus shift from GCSE-age pupils to 13-plus to 11-plus, and now to seven- and eight-year-olds.
For struggling pupils, tutoring can boost confidence and give previously underperforming children a track record of success. This creates a momentum of its own, says Henry. For pupils who are already doing well, tutoring can offer scope for fine-tuning exam and revision technique. Securing top grades to meet your offers is now much more crucial than in the past as offers tend to be quite high. Tutoring is also useful for boys who need a bit of a confidence boost — for example, pupils with special needs — or for those who require help with work discipline.
For some parents, peer pressure is a factor. With so many hiring a tutor, the concern that neglecting to do so could leave your child at a disadvantage can be a powerful motivator.
If you do hire a tutor, regular sessions maintain momentum. Once a week is typical, once a fortnight at a push but any less frequent and the benefits are likely to be lost in between meetings. At Crescent Tuition, Henry recommends two hours as the optimum length of each session, with one hour for under-13s.
The cost? Crescent Tuition offers flat rates, GCSE and below is £30 per hour and A Level is £35 per hour. Rates in and around London may be higher.
Getting the best our of your tutor
The most important factor is whether the tutor can develop a rapport with your child.
We ask for references and check that their qualifications are appropriate and that they’ve been screened by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). Book an initial session before committing further.
There should be no need to supervise sessions and your presence in the room may be off-putting, although for younger children you may want to be in an adjoining room. We recommend an adult to be present in the house.