How do I find a tutor for my child?
Whatever your reason for using tutoring services outside of school, you’ll want to get the best bang for your educational buck. Our quick checklist will make sure you find the most effective tutor for your needs.
How do I find the best tutor for my child’s needs? Nothing beats word of mouth so ask around those for those coveted local tutors’ details. Talk to your child’s teachers – many offer home tuition outside of school. A good tuition agency will match the right tutor to the child and top agency tutors are vetted and trained. Tutoring centres are big business – look for them in local ads. Online tutoring is also growing and can be a convenient solution.
What should I beware of? Always check references and DBS records meticulously. Watch out for agencies asking for an introductory fee or those tying you into a ‘package’ before you’ve met the tutor. Make sure you read the small print before committing to a hefty contract. If using website agencies make sure they are regulated.
Does your child need one?
For some children a tutor is essential as they are off school with a long-term health problem. Occasionally, families who are travelling for an extended period take a tutor with them to keep junior’s brain ticking over. Others need someone to maintain schoolwork during a difficult period – an exclusion or a family break-up. School-aged film stars have their own tutors who keep them up to speed in between takes.
But when, and how, should you give your child a helping hand?
People often use a tutor:
- At age 7 to ensure a child is up to speed for prep school assessments.
- In year 5 (aged 9/10) to prepare a child for entry, at 11+, to the local grammar school or selective independent school. Most grammar schools (and some independents) test verbal and non-verbal reasoning as well as maths and English.
- In year 6 (aged 10/11) aged to bolster basic maths or English competence ahead of KS2 examinations.
- To assist with common entrance subjects - perhaps to ease the anguish of algebra or Latin.
- To shed light on a tricky GCSE topic.
- To ensure A level grades are a match for UCAS offers.
- To improve schoolwork following a dip in a grades on a school report.
- To put a youngster back on track after a dodgy exam result.
- Following a bout of illness or unexpected family set-back.
- When a specific learning difficulty is suspected or diagnosed.
Schools do not ‘test’ children of under 5 – they may look at how they interact with adults and with other children, whether they can concentrate, whether they enjoy playing or listening to a story, but tutoring a child of this age is nonsense and you should be suspicious of those who offer it.
We are sceptical of those who offer coaching in verbal and non-verbal reasoning. There are test papers in these things available from our online bookshop and it is usually sufficient to give your child plenty of practice while gradually encouraging her to up her speed. If a child has real problems with these papers, you are probably wise to have her assessed by an educational psychologist.
Children who are off school for prolonged periods, for example through illness,should be helped by the local authority’s home tuition service, and this should be your first line of enquiry. Whether they provide what you need is another matter.
Finding a tutor
Word-of-mouth is the most effective and popular way to source good tutors especially as, generally, the best tutors do not work for an agency – they don’t need to.
A good tutor, especially in English, maths or science, is a local treasure. Their name is guarded jealously by parents who, are often less than keen for other people’s children to have the advantages they are buying for their own.
How and where do you find top-notch tutors?
A lively local network, and simply knowing people, is the way to find out who in your area is reliable, friendly and has good results.
However, the best local tutors are usually very busy and may well have waiting lists. If you need someone who will be flexible on account of your son’s karate competitions or music lessons or the au pair’s English classes, you may well find yourself relegated to the bottom of a long waiting list. It’s also more difficult if you are out at work all day or new in an area and don’t know who to ask about good tutors. Try talking to your child’s teachers, if they are prepared to discuss your concerns. Many teachers may be happy to help a little outside school or know of other people who tutor. However, all too often, sadly, the teacher is defensive and feels you are being critical, or it is the teacher herself who is the problem and your child needs some support to overcome the deficiencies of the school provision. Parents whose children have just done the relevant exam are often the best source.