Tuition & Parents – A Changing Dynamic

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In my thirteen years in the tutoring industry there have been enormous changes in peoples’ perception of tutors and tutoring. No longer is the word tutor whispered with shame over a morning coffee, now a tutor is seen as a positive support mechanism to our children no matter where they are, either geographically or academically. But why has this happened?

But be in no doubt, it has happened. In 2002, when I founded the agency, my ambitions were not to set up a huge company, they were simply to work for myself and use the skills I had learned through teaching to make a career change and take more charge of my own working life.

At the time I was under no illusion that there were hundreds, even thousands of students out there desperately searching for the right tutor; that simply was not the case. But I had seen how a trend had started in schools for parents to ask teachers for extra help on their own time or indeed to ask if they knew of any tutors locally. This was new.

However, back then it was almost exclusively parents whose children were struggling or perceived to be falling behind. It was almost an embarrassing admission of having underachieving children whether that were actually the case or not.

Things have changed. In the past decade private tuition has metamorphosed from a dark art into a mainstream pursuit.

Instead of hushed tones, it is shouted from the roof tops. It has become a badge of honour.

As more parents used tutors for their ‘struggling’ children, more became aware of the concept and realised that tutors could be used not only as a parachute but also as a booster to push their children to the top of the academic pile. Simultaneously in those years the internet began its whirlwind takeover of the world’s consciousness.

So an opportunity arose for those with spare money to push their children ahead of their peers. Private school education was now not the only way of spending money to get your children ahead of their contemporaries. So a mixture of genuine parental desire to selflessly help their offspring and also large elements of vicarious competitiveness pushed things forward.

And so an industry was born.

When private tuition gradually came in from the cold the role of the agency fundamentally changed. Previously parents only had a few places to look for a tutor and a few other parents to ask. Not anymore.

And with choice comes empowerment. Agencies and tutor lists are springing up every day offering the ‘best’ tutors. It is a growth industry and that brings in more players. Parents are now far more discerning about their choice of tutor, but paradoxically have an ever expanding tutor world to pick from.

Be careful. Use an agency. Use an agency that has met and vetted all of its tutors and use an agency with some longevity. It takes a long time to personally interview and vet thousands of tutors.

Finally, if you find an agency you can trust, trust in what they say. Increasingly parents want to see multiple CVs and arrange interviews with potential tutors. We have been around for a long time and understand the dynamic. We don’t get it wrong very often.

Nevil Chiles is Managing Director of Kensington & Chelsea Tutors – www.kctutors.co.uk

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GCSE Religious Studies – A Court Case Over Humanism

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-34765202

Three families are in court this week because non-religious beliefs are not included in a new GCSE Religious Studies Syllabus.

I agree that there should be some scope within the broad remit of the study of religion to take into account the non-religious beliefs that run alongside mainstream religions. However, these people are going to court over a GCSE syllabus! I’d have thought that the title of the qualification is explanation enough. RS is the study of religions and religious beliefs. Innovative students writing essays about (say) Christianity could use examples of Humanist beliefs to shed light on the way our attitude to faith and religion have changed over time; that would get them great marks. But where does it stop? Darwinism? The study of science in general?

I would understand this much more if it were an argument over an A Level qualification. What we’re talking about here is compulsory education, the point of which (surely) is to give students a general and broad-based grounding in a subject before they either leave school or move on to A Levels.

A Levels are a time for digging deeper into subjects and that should be encouraged on the road to still greater investigation at University.

I myself, with three children in Primary School, had an animated conversation twelve months ago over the school Nativity play. My point was that it was being presented as facts, when facts they are not. No better than any other form of indoctrination. Then I stepped back and realised what an idiot I was being. It’s tradition, it’s fun and as long as children are encouraged to keep an open mind and not forced to replicate the beliefs of their piers or parents, it is a good thing. I want my children to be inquisitive and understand right and wrong, but I also encourage them to believe in whatever they want to believe in, regardless of what I might think.

Bamboozled by i-World

I am sick of devices. iPads, iPods, iPhones, xboxes, wiius, playstations, etc., etc.. After getting my three children to school this morning I realised that the carnage had been slightly less painful than usual. I had nearly cleaned up the mess before leaving and we were actually on time!

The reason?

An in-house ban on all electricals before school, including television. Don’t get me wrong, my kids are not obsessive about it, they do plenty of sport and other stuff but as an exhausted parent it is easy to let this stuff creep up on you.

It feels like the whole world is becoming virtual with everybody spending most of their time staring at screens. I am just another parent bemoaning the present. ‘It wasn’t like this in my day’ etc.. Just like every generation before this. Much about the internet et al is positive, but it is all too easy to let it overtake you.

My children’s behaviour this morning was subtly different and we had a good laugh despite the stress.

That is not a coincidence.

Choosing a Private Tutor

During my thirteen years in the tutoring industry I have seen an enormous change in the way private tuition is perceived. In the last five to ten years having your child tutored has moved from a dark art to a badge of honour. Granted, my experience is very London-centric, but from what I read this seems to be the case right across the UK – and indeed the rest of the world. Back in the early years of the new century when I founded K & C Tutors there was an element of secrecy and possibly a little embarrassment connected to engaging a tutor. Is your child stupid? Nowadays having a tutor is seen as a strong support mechanism rather than a lifeboat. Because tutoring has become so mainstream many new agencies have been established and inevitably, with the light speed growth of the internet, so have a myriad of websites offering lists of tutors and providing a shop window for individual ‘tutors’ to place themselves in. Be careful when choosing a tutor. Now I’m bound to say this, but using an agency is by far the best way to choose the right tutor as long as correct procedures are in place. Does the agency interview EVERY tutor they offer? Does the agency carry out Enhanced Disclosure background checks through the Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS)? Does the agency check tutors’ academic backgrounds and experience? Does the agency understand the ever changing education system in which they exist? At K & C the answer to all these questions is a categorical YES and it has been since day one. However, this misses one crucial point, our years of experience mean that we have insight and empathy – a CV only tells one superficial side of the story. Much depends on personality and match. Only experience gives you this and we have lots of it. Cost is also a critical factor. An industry that is talked of as ‘booming’ will inevitably attract individuals and organisations keen to get their pound of flesh. One very important thing to remember is that within certain geographical areas (for us it is London) the best tutors will be signed on with several agencies but those agencies will charge them out at different rates. At K & C we charge NO REGISTRATION FEE which makes us very unusual and our prices remain lower than all our immediate competitors. And these are competitors with far less experience.

The Inevitable Chaos of a Knee-Jerk System

A-levels: Schools uncertain over choices, says Ucas

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-30847047

Permanent Root-and-branch change is needed in the Secondary system. Universities and Business Leaders should be involved in the structuring of these qualifications. In my opinion something akin to O Levels and A Levels of 1975. But I’ve said all this before…

Why can’t somebody stand up in government and have the courage to make sweeping reforms?

Oh yes, there’s an election looming…

Wales to sit separate GCSEs – That will REALLY help!!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-29872090

Why oh why doesn’t somebody in government get hold of this ridiculous system? We need ONE examination route for each subject at compulsory level and the exams need to be hard. Then we can MEANINGFULLY COMPARE the academically able and those who are less able. Not being an academic is not a crime, the sooner a student can focus on their strengths the better the outcome. Lets sweep away this ridiculous ‘everybody passes’ culture.