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 –


GCSE Religious Studies – A Court Case Over Humanism

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.