Debating Private Tuition

As a child, I can remember vividly my Mother’s ‘private tuition set-up’. A maths teacher at the local high school, she supplemented her income for many years by giving private tuition in the evenings. Most weeknights, students (sometimes three or four in an evening) would make their way down the hallway, through our dining room, and into our very long kitchen – one half of which provided the work station for the lessons.

At 14, I became part of the ‘special maths club’ (much to my chagrin – I hated maths), and would have a maths lesson once a week, with my Mum, under extreme duress. Generally I would have to be bribed with the promise of a bar of chocolate to cooperate. Fortunately, I passed my GCSE maths with an acceptable grade (Mum’s relief was palpable). Many years later, I would continue the family tradition and deliver private tuition myself (although not in maths!).

Private tuition has its fair share of supporters and critics, although there is certainly no argument that it is a booming industry in the wake of Covid-19. Some tutors have seen their bookings doubled, and there are many new private tutors in an industry that was already 250,000 strong.

Online tuition, in particular, has unsurprisingly rocketed. Indeed, Noisy Classroom has seen a growth in demand for its online offer. As well as our work with schools, we provide online private tuition (for individuals and small groups) in debating, speaking and listening, presentation skills and more. But do the pros outweigh the cons, and can online tuition have  additional benefits beyond the immediate objective? I decided to take a look for myself.

One of the most commonly cited drawbacks in relation to private tuition is the cost. The average hourly rate for private tuition is somewhere between £30-£60 in 2020. At the lower end that would equate to more than £1,000 a year (on the basis of a lesson a week during term time). This can vary wildly, but the more experienced the tutor, the more they can command. Not all families will be able to afford this. Conversely, it could be argued that £1,000 a year is a great investment in your child’s future, and in most cases there isn’t a large upfront cost. Some tutors may even offer ‘free taster sessions’ so you can decide if it’s really what you want.

Another reservation that parents sometimes have is ‘what if my child doesn’t like the tutor’? The last thing that you want as a parent is for your child to develop a deep dislike for the subject based on a clash of personalities with a tutor. We’d advise that you shop around to find a tutor who is a good fit for both you and your child. Have a chat with them and get a feeling for their style. Just as a clash of personalities can instil a deep dislike of a subject, research shows that a supportive tutor who is on the same wavelength can result in improved performance for the student.

There is extensive, high-quality evidence demonstrating the potential of one-to-one and small-group tuition as a cost-effective way to support pupils who are falling behind in their learning. The Teaching and Learning Toolkit suggests it can boost progress by up to +5 months. Randomised controlled trials funded by the EEF have also found positive effects for a range of tuition models. Private tuition helps counter the fact that children learn at different rates and with different styles. Skilled specialist tutors can assess an individual’s needs and set the pace and style necessary to achieve results.

I thought about the different tuition I’ve personally experienced and delivered over the years. I asked myself what broad benefit it all had in common. And, whether it was maths classes I took along with my Mother’s numerous other pupils, the art classes my daughter took, or the speech and drama tuition I delivered myself, the common factor that I could see was that in every single instance the pupil developed confidence. Without exception, and no matter the subject, confidence grew exponentially.

At Noisy Classroom, of course, we’re literally in the business of delivering training that will develop confidence. However, every good teacher or private tutor, no matter what their subject, holds this promise of increased confidence and self-esteem in their hands. The gift given by teachers and tutors to their students – aside from the gift of subject knowledge itself – is one that reinforces self-belief, and that, in my opinion, is worth every penny.



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