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 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.
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”
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.
Surely this is a sensible policy? By reducing standards and allowing almost everybody to ‘pass’ their exams the government has entered into a world where the difference between students is being masked. Not everybody is an academic and that doesn’t matter. Every pupil should be given an equal chance. Gathering people of similar abilities together is surely going to make teaching easier and more efficient. It also introduces (DARE I say it) competition; something that we are surrounded by every day of our lives. Let’s not pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s hard enough taking my 8 year old son to football tournaments where everybody ‘takes part’ but nobody wins. God forbid that somebody should lose!?
Imagine if we had just one body setting examinations for 16 year olds in the UK. The government is constantly looking for ways to save money; printing costs alone would save millions. I don’t think parents and the public in general have any idea of the ludicrous work load put upon Examination Officers these days. At many schools it is a full time job! At many private schools children in the same class will be sitting different exams for the same qualification! Mistakes are often made because of the complexity of so many different papers for the same subjects. Results comparisons are meaningless and standardisation is virtually impossible.
We need ONE body setting the examinations for core subjects at 16 and EVERYBODY should sit identical examinations for each subject. This would save money, raise standards, avoid errors and make statistical comparison of results have some meaning.
Here’s my take on the following news story from BBC education…
Exams all online within a decade
Traditional exams will die out within a decade in favour of online assessment, predicts a private schools leader
We will need to be careful with this as some subjects lend themselves to computer-based exams much better than others. Software will have to be carefully written. Do we spell and grammar check? Will it be done on special devices to prevent users accessing the internet or other in-built tools?
This is the inevitable future and we should embrace it; but we need to do it carefully and gradually. I do hope future generations don’t lose the ability to write. I find it hard to get used to it myself these days and I was born in 1970!
I suppose the one great advantage is that everybody’s ‘handwriting’ will be legible!!
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COMMENT FROM NEVIL CHILES, MD OF K&C TUTORS & WEBTUTORNET
BBC website story http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-23973213
It has to be true that pupils receiving extra help will be at an advantage.
For almost all students receiving private tuition there will be a cost and so cold hard economics will obviously come into play.
Here at K & C Tutors we were involved with Westminster Council in a scheme called Making Good Progress which gave struggling pupils ten hours of both and English and Maths tuition during school time and funded by the government. Unfortunately the scheme ended with the sweeping public cuts following the recent economic downturn.
Surely this kind of project is the way forward to bridge the gap?
Here’s my take on this recent story that appeared in the national media
Summer-born need exam score boost
Are there really people sitting around thinking up this nonsense? Can you imagine the arguments? When would the cut off date be? How would it be quantified? Some things in the world are not perfect; there are probably only a limited number of parents who think about the academic year when producing children!
There is no doubt that somebody born on September 1st is likely to be at an advantage in comparison to a child born on August 31st however grade inflation is a ridiculous, divisive answer.
It would be fair to cite birth dates as a mitigating circumstance but grade changing is an unworkable answer. If younger children are struggling they should be helped and encouraged by their teachers. Do we tell younger students they don’t have to try so hard and older ones that their hard work will be less well rewarded.
Does an argument based on such spurious evidence as this carry any weight?
“More than 60% of September-born pupils achieve five A* to C grades, compared with less than 54%”
Is it me or is that not virtually the same?
“August-born students are also around two percentage points less likely to go to university when they leave school, one percentage point less likely to attend a leading university and one percentage point less likely to complete a degree.”
We are also told younger children, “… are more likely to start smoking younger than their relatively older peers.”
Give me strength!!!.
FOLLOW NEVIL ON TWITTER @webtutornet / @kandctutors
Here’s my take on the following education story that appeared on the BBC website…
GCSE change unpredictable results
The government’s overhaul of GCSEs in England could see exam results varying more than normal for several years, the exams regulator Ofqual warns.
I agree entirely that the current system allows schools to ‘play the system’
and any way of stopping this should be encouraged. I also believe that some weight should be given to English Language and Maths instead of them being lost in ‘the best eight’.
However, the whole system remains FLAWED. It needs to be simplified so that there is only one exam per subject at compulsory level without multiple boards setting exams. There also needs to be more focus on vocational qualifications for the less academically able. We are still stuck in a results driven culture; top grades mean top students, low grades mean lowly students. The focus should be teaching the right stuff not the grades!
I am pleased that the modular system is being phased out and that extending questions are coming back into the frame. A ‘test’ should be testing; only then can you differentiate between students. Not everybody can excel – many have talents that are beyond the academic. They should not be seen as failing if results are poor they just need to be steered in a different direction.
It will be interesting to see these changes unfold, but they go nowhere near far enough.