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.


Schools ‘must do more’ to help disadvantaged pupils – Are they presently not trying??

Schools and teachers are not to blame for social immobility, disadvantage and poverty. This is a grass roots social problem, so blame can really only be apportioned in one direction – towards the Government; past, present and future.

There is an implication here that schools and teachers carry a bias. Teachers want to teach and they want ALL their pupils to succeed regardless of their social status. The suggestion that they can and should ‘do more’ for those with less is insulting to the profession.

The government needs to cut the red tape, unify the system and support teachers better instead of always making them the scapegoats for problems which are totally unconnected to the classroom.

Delimiting University Numbers is Madness

Why does the government want to fill the nation with undergraduates? Nonsense politicising AGAIN. “removing the cap on aspiration”. What utter nonsense from the Department of Education and Skills in the run up to an election.

Who’s going to pay? We’ll be creating a graduate population with crippling debt and questionable qualifications. Let’s not forget that students don’t feature on unemployment figures. The government knows that private providers can already smell the money. Very convenient that it makes them look good and costs them little.

Short-termist nonsense from government as ever.

Does nobody in these departments ever start a meeting by considering what would be best for these human beings who they are pushing to becoming undergraduates? Vocational training perhaps? Employment?

Top GCSE grade to be given to just 3% in English and maths

Just read the table below and wonder at how this is going to pan out. Everybody will be totally confused from students through to employers and universities. Why can’t the government just admit that terrible mistakes have been made and rectify them. A* always was an idiotic idea – basically an admission that exams are too easy. And exams ARE too easy. Does anyone at the D of E understand what the terms ‘Examination’ and ‘Testing’ literally mean? Go back to A-E grades that everybody understands and make the exams hard. Surprise, surprise, only the top students will get top marks.

“The new approach will also mean:

  • Broadly the same proportion of students will achieve a Grade 7 or above as currently achieve an A and A*
  • For each examination, the top 20% of those who get Grade 7 or above will get a Grade 9
  • The bottom of Grade 1 will be aligned with the bottom of Grade G”

What do you do with millions of extra graduates?

This is where demographics and governmental aspirations clash. It’s a bit like the rain following the plough. Creating more graduates doesn’t necessarily boost an economy. We need to learn lessons from this with our ever increasing further education sector. We need to help the young develop skills that are beyond the academic. China’s economy rests almost entirely on global consumerism which makes it a long-dormant volcano; who knows when – but it will erupt.

At least here in Britain (maybe tomorrow a smaller one!) we have the opportunity to balance the population and restructure the education system before it’s too late.

As the article says…

“China’s education ministry has already indicated that it wants to turn 600 universities into polytechnics, providing more technical and employment-related courses, rather than academic and theoretical subjects.”

Will this be too little too late?

Ofsted warning over provision for school leavers

We need PROPER vocational skills taught in schools alongside core subjects. Help the less academic gain vocational skills whilst still having the opportunity to study mainstream academic subjects.

Improve Compulsory Education for Future Generations

We are being left behind by the rest of the world because our compulsory secondary education system is confused, complicated and not testing enough.

Standards have been dropping year upon year for decades, reflected in higher and higher ‘pass’ rates and a greater quantity of ‘top’ marks. Look at the attached Graph. O Level & GCSE Achievement 1953 -2009

(Source: House of Commons Library – Standard Note SN/SG/4252 – Social & General Statistics)

This lowering of standards has fed right through to Higher Education. Top Universities are finding that freshers do not possess the knowledge which their high marks should reflect. Mathematically heavy subjects are particularly badly effected. Engineering Undergraduates at top Universities often have to have extra lessons in Mathematics because their assumed and necessary knowledge of Mathematics is just not there.

This is because we have dumbed down our examinations.

There needs to be a revolution in the examination system and it needs to happen NOW.

Through Kensington & Chelsea Tutors I come across students from all over the world. I have been consistently shocked by how we are being left behind by other nations, particularly in the 11 – 16 age range. The difference is particularly noticable in Mathematics and Science where students abroad are tackling far more testing material than students of the same age in the UK.

Unless this changes the future looks bleak; we need reform to keep the UK competitive.


Students choosier with fee rise
With A-level results approaching, a study says that higher fees are going to make students in England more "choosy" about their university decisions.
If I were applying to be an undergraduate in late 2012 (thank God I’m not!) I too would look very carefully at the institutions and courses. With so much likely debt it is very important to choose a course that carries some weight after graduation. Only then can you begin to pay back that massive loan!
At least this is an indication that students are thinking about the courses they are applying for and not just ducking out of work for a few years and (dare I say it) having fun.
At least I was fortunate enough to be able to study and have fun without accruing enormous debt. Those were the halcyon days of student grants and before tuition fees had to be paid by the student.

My opinions on recent BBC education stories


More teenagers Neet – not in work or education


It is important for teenagers to be in work or education after compulsory education ends. However, let’s make sure that if teenagers remain in full time education between 16 and 18 that the qualifications they are working towards are meaningful. Either hard A Levels or vocational qualifications that can lead to a job.


Public schools lack moral compass, WellingtonCollege head says


This is an interesting story. Conceptually Academies are a good idea but as we encourage greater and greater separation from control of the curriculum and finances are we not moving towards a more disparate system? We need standardisation, particularly in the curriculum, in order to accurately measure students against their piers.


Boys’ reading skills ‘must be tackled’


I agree that this is more of a social / parental issue. Boys need to have the importance of literacy instilled them along with the joy of reading. This is increasingly difficult in our multimedia, information age but with three children of my own I understand the importance of nightly reading and encouragement. Without that, many children would never chose to read a book!


New brainbox test ‘is dog whistle to middle class’


I am entirely in agreement that these tests are a bad idea and create elitism and increased competition. Every child should be given equal opportunity regardless of ability. Pushy parents will have their children specifically coached for these tests increasing the already heavy pressure on our young people.


Exams need ‘fundamental reform’, MPs say


At last somebody talking of fundamental reform. The dumbing down of our exams has been happening for decades. Schools are under pressure to produce results for the sake of league tables and so individual subject heads are bound to search for the Board which produces an examination that they feel is easier for their students. Conversely, the Boards obviously want to maximise the number of Centres that sit their particular examinations.


A single, carefully regulated examination body would make for a clear, understandable system with meaningful results that allow accurate comparison.


England’s schools ‘letting future maths stars down’


The fundamental problem is that examinations in this country are comparatively easier than in the other countries in the study. How can we encourage more gifted students if they score 100% in the tests that are put in front of them? As children progress they should be given harder material to study to stretch them intellectually. Is that not the point of streaming? More gifted students should be in the top group where they can be pushed. Less academic students should be helped to achieve their potential too, but the two goals cannot be achieved in unison.

This is reality, not elitism. Help the weaker, push the stronger.


Of course we need a reformed examination system first that actually produces tests that are difficult even for the most gifted individuals.


University applications from the UK fall 8.9%


Hardly surprising with tuition fee debts potentially up to £27,000 for a three year course. This is significant debt. What proportion of graduates will emerge with a qualification that enables them to get a job that can service that kind of debt? Let alone raise a mortgage too.


The government seem to think that increased applications reflects higher standards. Does it not also reflect an increase in the quantity of available ‘University’ places?

How many of the courses that are taken really help towards a future career?

Perhaps we should survey graduates to see what happens to these indebted individuals when they join society following University?


Violinist Nicola Benedetti attacks school music cuts


Unfortunately Music is often seen as a less ‘mainstream’ subject so is likely to be hit by cuts before other subjects. I agree that this is totally unacceptable, education is the foundation of our future prosperity. Music and musical education is a fundamental part of society and should be encouraged.


Exam board says pupils given wrong grades


This is an inevitable consequence of a ridiculously complicated examination system. Dispense with multiple Examination Boards and Centralise the system. Standards will rise, administrative errors will fall. Everybody will know where they stand.


Reading and writing catch-up classes for poorer pupils


I think this is an excellent idea. Any help for students from disadvantaged backgrounds should be encouraged. The way that this is delivered does, however, need to be carefully managed. I agree with Nansi Ellis that teachers should be more able to use their professional skills to help such students with fewer constraints from the primary curriculum. Surely that curriculum has partly failed them by the time they need extra help?


100 more free schools approved for England


The birth of these free schools is clearly a result of lack of faith in the system as it stands. This is understandable, but the government should be focusing on the present structure not some vote winning gimmick. Surely this is heading towards greater privatisation and less central control. The free schools cause havoc within the present system with many parents not knowing where they stand. I agree with Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, what is needed is improvement and funding to the existing system, not fragmentation.


Ministers ‘rush to approve private degree courses’


Why is the government approving so many barely regulated courses and institutions when it is bleeding the established Universities dry of funding? A cynic might look towards unemployment figures and interest paid on student loans. Future employers will surely look towards graduates from established institutions? Many students will be in excess of £50k in debt after a three year course. In many cases this will not be money well spent for the individual but it will be a nice little earner for the institution.