How to find a good tutor

It’s that time of year where the intentions to find a tutor over the summer become a reality and parents begin to realise that the best tutors get booked up well in advance. Here at Maths and Science Tuition, we’ve been in the fortunate position of having a waiting list for quite some time. As a result, we’ve expanded our tutoring services to offer additional lessons. The question that comes up again and again is, how to find a good tutor?

In this article we’ll discuss some of the terms you’ll hear and some of things to look out for. There is no formal accreditation, no OFSTED and no ‘Kitemark’ to work from. So, it’s up to parents to do your research and carry out appropriate due diligence.

A path many go down is to head straight for a tutor agency. Keep in mind that many of the best tutors do not work through agencies. They simply don’t need to because they are established and have the reputation, supported by testimonials, to be able to work completely independently.

Here’s a list of tutor categories and my view, based on my experience in the field over the past 20 years or so.

‘Super tutor’: This is nothing but a media coined term. There is nothing super in our experience. This isn’t meant to sound harsh. It’s more a case of those that position themselves in this way very often have limited actual experience on their CVs, or on LinkedIn, for example. You may hear or read of them in tabloids as being those that working for super rich families in exotic places making hundreds if not thousands of pounds per hour. Be aware that those tutors that do work for the elite, or super rich families, are usually bound by strict confidentiality clauses. In other words, there’s very little evidence to back up the claims, as seen in number ‘super tutor’ TV interviews this year.

‘Career tutors’: Those that have taken to tutoring as their full-time role and income. The very best tutors will be those that are independent and have their own client bases. They compete with the likes of the agencies off their own merit. It is very difficult to get to the top but the best will be often fully booked with long waiting lists. Tutors in London can typically command a rate well in excess of £50 per hour if they are independent and those working through agencies often charge more. Something you may never think of, but is worthy of consideration is that a full-time professional tutor will structure their working day around the availability of their students. This ensures that the tutor is energised and at the top of their game at the right time!

‘Teacher tutors’: These are typically school teachers during the day and looking for some part time or supplementary income. Often very experienced but will usually charge a lower rate as they already have a day-time job. Typical charge locally will be £25-35 per hour. It is worth checking the qualifications to teach at the level of tuition required. The main consideration here is that a full-time teacher, by definition, has already done a full day’s work by the time they take evening lessons.

‘Jobbing actor tutors’: Those doing tutoring purely as a stop gap. There are lots of these in London and most will be through agencies. The agency may well charge a hefty fee to to the parents, however, it’s unlikely the tutor will see more than half of it. This in turn may have an impact upon the attitude and effectiveness of your tutor. Furthermore, a stop-gap tutor may be here today and gone tomorrow, which can cause an issue if your child forms a good connection, only to be left high and dry. This also applies to anyone tutoring as a ‘side gig’.

‘Student tutors’: Often undergraduates, or even confident sixth-formers, student tutors are usually those looking to get ahead of the game in terms of building a nest egg for university or gap year travel. It also provides healthy and referenceable experience on a CV. This option can provide a low cost option for those looking to pay the least (up to £20 per hour typically). By definition, a student tutor is unlikely to be equipped to deal with challenging issues or difficult students.

So far, this has helped shed some light on the subject, but let me make some additional points which I feel will help you in your search.

Your chosen tutor must be up to speed with all new changes to the curriculum, not just right now but on an ongoing basis. For your own peace of mind, every parent should ensure they ask the question about DBS checks. Most reputable tutors will have this in place. Is it fool proof? No, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Tutors should also be able to provide references. In speaking to a brand new tutor, while they may not have tutor-specific references, it is still worth gaining character references.

As is well documented in this blog and on the MST website, I believe that you truly do get what you pay for. The tuition market is so broad that everyone can find a tutor at their chosen price point. But it goes far beyond the Waitrose Vs Lidl type comparison.

All too often a parent will come back to MST, having taken a ‘cheaper’ option, because it hasn’t worked and there is now serious work to do and to catch up on. That really is not money saved!

Further more, at MST we believe that a good private tutor will deliver far more than a thorough understanding of the subject matter and great exam results. A great tutor will inspire and build confidence that a student can take with them for life. In fact, this is one of the joys of being a successful private tutor!

Something that I truly believe is vital is a genuine passion for education, for tutoring and for helping students to excel. Credentials are for nothing without the ability to connect with a student and to encourage the best from them. In my opinion, this can be one of the most overlooked traits when looking for the best tutor for your child.

As an example, this is feedback I received after a trial lesson recently:

“We’re really pleased that you are happy to tutor our son. I feel you have understood his maths need brilliantly after one session! He was really enthusiastic afterwards too – which is great”.

This is part of what you are paying for in skilled, passionate and professional tutor.

I will leave you with a couple of quotes:

“The best way to find a good tutor is through word of mouth. Other parents (with no connection to the tutor) are more reliable than any advert, open testimonial or ‘independent’ website rating.” Shaun Fenton, Headmaster of Reigate Grammar School

“The best tutors are usually the local ones who are knowledgeable and experienced and whose names are guarded by your friends and neighbours until their children no longer need tutoring.” Susan Hamlyn, Director of The Good Schools Guide Advice Service

As always, if I can be of assistance, do feel free to get in contact for advice or to discuss your specific requirements.


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