Published January 2015 

    At a time when most parents are tightening their belts and schools fees are outstripping wage increases, forking out extra money for private tuition may be viewed as an unnecessary luxury. In some instances, this may be the case. Not all students require private tuition all the time. But if you fall into the camp where 25 per cent of children nationwide will at some point receive private tuition (this is higher in London) then how
    can you make sure that your monthly investment is really worth it?

    The first tip for parents is to do your homework and make sure you have the right tutor. This means finding someone who knows in detail the syllabus or subject that your child is studying, has a strong academic record in their own right, has a track record of success in improving grades and/or helping children through school entrance exams and of course has all the necessary security and background checks available. A well-respected tutoring agency will have done all the aforementioned background checks for you as a bare minimum. If you were referred to the tutor through a friend, then make sure you do these checks yourself.

    Ahead of your first lesson, discuss with the tutor your child’s specific requirements and the aim of the tuition programme. The more background information and context that you give to the tutor, the more the tutor will understand your objectives and the more likely that the tuition programme will be effective.

    Very often, you will be able to tell after the first lesson if the tutor is right for your child. Having the right chemistry and rapport between the tutor and student are crucial if the tutoring programme is going to be a success. If your child says he/she enjoyed the lesson or is looking forward to the next lesson already then you are really onto a winner. After a few weeks, speak to your child’s teacher; very often we have found that the teacher will approach the parents first to say what an improvement they have noticed in the child’s school-work. Make sure, however, that the tutor is kept under constant reassessment.

    Private tutoring, when it is needed, can help students in a number of ways. For students who are struggling, the one-to-one attention can be instrumental in building confidence and self-esteem. In a typical school, a child will receive approximately 6.5 minutes of one-to-one classroom attention from a teacher every week in English or Maths. With a private tutor, students benefit from the undivided attention of a tutor who, for one hour, tailors the lesson to focus on the student’s specific weaknesses and areas for development. This allows the student to fully understand a topic, consolidate his/her knowledge, make more substantial progress, and ultimately become more confident about his/her academic accomplishments and progress. For students who are excelling at school, private tuition can be an ideal way to stretch and challenge students beyond the restrictions of the school year. Tutoring can also be valuable for students who may have always received A’s in the past, but may not have the study skills required to navigate a new level.

    Whatever the reason for private tuition, it is important that parents take a more holistic and long-term view as to whether it is worth the investment. Of course, passing exams and acquiring as high a score as possible in school entrance tests are one measure of the effectiveness of private tutoring, but it should by no means be the only measure. Actually, a far more important indicator of whether tuition is worth it is whether it instils in your child a love for learning that will last a lifetime and which can be applied to a wide variety of disciplines. Showing your child that they can achieve something if they put their mind to it instils an ambition and drive that will reap returns for years ahead. It’s about giving students the confidence, the ‘can-do’ attitude and the core life skills that are applicable to all aspects of life; whether it be communication skills, organisational skills, evaluating arguments, analytical thinking, creativity, structuring and forming arguments and asking questions. If tutoring can play a role in developing these skills and preparing your child for their working life in the years ahead, then it’s worth every penny.

    Cyrus Afkhami is Founder of My Tutor Club, a leading private tuition company based in London that provides private tutoring for all levels (both in-person and online) as well as 13+ / GCSE / A-level revision booster courses, Schools Advisory consultancy and 11+ school interview practice to students in the UK and abroad.

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