Private Tuition – the moral dilemma

The ‘moral dilemma’ of hiring a tutor and why this remains a subject that can divide a room.

‘Tuition’, ‘Private Tuition’, ‘Tutoring’ has, in the main, been a topic that raises strong opinions from adults, parents, teachers and anyone that feels the need to add their two penn’orth.

It is a service industry that provides bespoke intervention and support for a student of any age, any subject and at any time.  Not a relatively new concept, dating back to Ancient Greece, the need for a tutor has historically stood the test of time and yes, it comes at price.

As a concept it is quite simple. Parents or students hire a tutor to, mainly, prep for forthcoming  exams. These can be at any stage – Key Stage 1 to 11+ style entrance exams; GCSEs to A level; PCGE literacy and numeracy tests and at degree level. 

In fact, there isn’t a single stage in an individual’s life-long, learning journey in which tuition isn’t available to them. It is also one of the biggest growth industries year on year with an ever increasing demand.

It is worth noting that it is a completely unregulated aspect of education but all tutors working with young people must have an available DBS and parents should demand to see this and question the tutors qualifications to ensure the quality of tutoring is up to scratch.  

Tutoring can come in many forms and has the flexibility to provide varying services. 

Generally tuition is:

121 – whereby a local tutor comes to the pupil’s house 

121 at the tutor’s house 

Small group tutoring at a public venue 

Online 121 tutoring via Skype, Facetime, Zoom etc  

Price ranges from approx £15 – £45 per hour depending on many variables: group size, the experience of the tutor or the level of subject.  Either way the demand is high and finding a good tutor can be the most difficult task of the concerned parent, especially at this time of year.

Yet, this is an area for discussion that can evoke and prevoke some of the strongest responses from people regarding the subject.

‘I think it is disgusting that we, as parents, have to pay extra for our kid’s education’

‘If school were doing their job right, there’d be no need for this’

‘It’s completely elitist, for the privileged and not fair on them that can’t afford it’

Pupils over rely on their tutor and don’t learn it for themselves’

Paying additional for education that is free. 

This is probably the most common argument against tuition.  Education is a right and as a result of the 1944 Education Act it is an individual’s fundamental right to a ‘free’ education funded by the state. 

My response to the person who thinks that it is morally wrong is always the same.  You don’t “have to pay” for anything. Tuition is a choice. You choose to pay for tuition, you opt to hire a tutor, this is absolutely not a mandatory requirement and if you are principally opposed to this – then don’t hire a tutor. 

If school was doing their job properly…” 

I have yet to work in a school; visit a school; know of a school that isn’t filled with individuals doing their absolute best – often to the detrement of their family life, their health and their well-being but sometimes schools can’t do everything.  They can’t plan for unforseen circumstances that mean a department runs with supply staff for two terms; results drop; behaviour isn’t where it should be. It happens.

Also, it is a school not a magical Kingdom that can meet every single need of every individual child, even though it tries so very hard to do so.

I have never heard a mum dropping her child off for dance lessons saying ” I really object to paying for these sessions, this should be covered in PE!” Same with Judo, swimming lessons, Ballet, Street Dance or in fact any afterschool provision that we willing sign our children up to.

We shell out for school trips, driving lessons, phone contracts and prom packages that will make your eyes water.  Yet, paying for academic afterschool intervention, tuition in English and Maths still goes against the grain and we are up in arms. 

However, this attitude is shifting and parent’s are more open to this idea than say, twenty years ago.  

Tuition widens the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

The notion that tuition is elitest and only available to affluent parents is an opinion that is also changing.  There is the Pupil Premium funding that sits with schools for children and parents who are struggling financially and is designed to bridge the education gap. (I am fully aware that this falls woefully short and austerity measures in our society creeps us ever closer to Dickensian England.) 

However, most schools do use this funding to offer tuition to pupils, provide quality intervention and after school tutoring. Funding is not supposed to be a barrier and schools work hard to ensure that ‘pot’ of money provides the same level of opportunity for an children. I have seen this used really creatively and effectively.

Tutoring creates an over-dependancy and pupils rely on their tutor to pass their exams.

Some argue that tutors end up hot-housing pupils, inflating grades and create an over-dependancy by which children don’t study hard in class or complete home study because ‘they can do it with their tutor.’

I have no doubt that some children may do this but in ten years of tutoring and managing a very large team of tutors, I can’t say that this is something I am aware of.

Like everything, there will be pockets of excellence and areas that not are so good. It is the responsibility of the tutor, child and parent to pull this together and utilise what can be an affordable, powerful – long or short-term solution to a problem.    

If we walked into the doctor’s and the receptionist shouted  ‘next’ and 30 patients with similar but not identical ailments needed attention, diagnosis and treatment then as a rule of thumb some of those patients would need to be seen on an individual basis to receive what they need.

It’s not about the quality of teaching and learning but when the numbers decrease to manageable sizes the results improve. That’s tutoring!

Tuition, Private Tuition or Tutoring is actually something to be embraced.  It is a solution to a problem, it can really turn a pupil around and provide a new found confidence in learning. 

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