Tuition & Parents – A Changing Dynamic

20130907_KC Tutors_GCSE_001

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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Streaming and Setting. Should we or shouldn’t we?

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29051923

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!?

Centralise UK Compulsory Education NOW

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.

Gove exists in parallel universe – stop politicising education!!!

Gove wants tests for four-year-olds

Education secretary Michael Gove strongly indicates that he wants to introduce formal assessments for four and five-year-olds when they enter school in England.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/uk-26008500

 

On what is Mr Gove basing his sweeping self congratulation? Mr Gove appears to live in some fantasy parallel universe.

 

‘State schools will be able to stay open longer, so that there is more time for after-school activities, and the education secretary has repeated calls for tougher discipline.’

 

Has anybody consulted teachers on these life changing statements? How will teachers be empowered to toughen discipline? Will legislation be passed to allow punishments without the possibility of litigation?

 

Regarding the criticisms by Sir David Bell; I entirely agree. ‘Sir David was part of a group of business leaders and academics who published a report last week calling for a more independent, non-political approach to education policy.’

 

At last somebody talking sense. Michael Gove needs to stop looking in the mirror and actually try and improve the education system apolitically.

 

For me what credibility he might have had is now non-existent.

 

Although Tristram Hunt is commenting from a purely political standpoint (always say the opposite of the other side), I entirely agree that there should be, ‘… a qualified teacher in every classroom.’

 

Be interesting to see what happens with that if Labour get in.

As IT moves forward we should seek to tackle cyberbullying

Cyberbullying on rise – Childline
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-25639839 >

As a father of three and Managing Director of a company providing web-based learning this a very worrying report. For children today the world is a very different place than it was for myself growing up in the 1970s and 80s.

Sadly, bullying and racism were ever present then as they are now.

In a pre-internet world these issues were somewhat easier to identify. The problem now is that in a Facebook / social media world it is easier for cowardly bullies and racists to remain faceless and untraced.

ChildLine should be praised for giving young people a place to turn.

My eldest, at nine years old, is only too well aware of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat etc.. It is up to me as a parent to police it. In my opinion facebook should have an age ceiling of at least 16. There is so much out there that is unsuitable it cannot be filtered by parents with increasingly computer savvy children; they should not be allowed to access it.

The world has changed and we should embrace the change. However, it is happening so fast that it is difficult to keep up and therefore difficult to understand what our children can get access to via the internet.

Also, for children, there is bound to be pier pressure, as there are bound to be children who’s parents allow them to access social media when they are younger. It is also easier for us beyond a certain age to forget that all this content can be accessed on mobile phones – no computer necessary.

So when should I allow my children to have a phone? Great for parent to child contact and safety, but the rest?

This is a debate that will run and run as information technology gallops forward. As a parent I find it all very worrying.

The fact that Webtutornet records all lessons and allows no computer sharing is for a very good reason.

 

A politicised education system will always fall short!

With regard to the recent news that the UK is lagging behind in terms of global education standards I have to say I’m afraid Mr Gove is clutching at straws,

‘Mr Gove told MPs that his reforms, such as changing the curriculum, school autonomy and directing financial support towards poorer pupils, were designed to prevent schools in England from “falling further behind”.

These ‘reforms’ contribute to the problem, not the solution. Standards have been dropping for years at Secondary Level; not the standard of teaching but the ridiculous system teachers are forced to battle with.

We need a standardised, centrally run system with challenging exams and meaningful vocational qualifications running in tandem. If you fill students’ heads with the nonsense that they are necessarily gifted because they achieved a A* (ludicrous idea!) they are naturally going to believe it.

Unfortunately achieving a top score in a less challenging exam is going to leave you lagging behind your piers who were properly tested.

Unfortunately a heavily politicised education system designed to produce results, not education, will always fall short.

These results are a clear demonstration of its failure.

I must reiterate that the hard working teachers on the ground are entirely blameless; they can only deal with what they are given.

Will nobody reverse this obvious downward spiral?

 

Flaws in the CRB / DBS enhanced disclosure check process

THE DBS AND ENHANCED DISCLOSURE CHECKS

 

At Kensington & Chelsea Tutors Ltd we have been carrying out Enhanced Disclosure criminal background checks through the Criminal Records Bureau for approaching a decade.

Recently the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) has merged with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA) to form the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Following the creation of the DBS some of the rules for applying for Enhanced Disclosure checks have changed.

Historically an employer who wished to carry out Disclosures could apply to the CRB to become a Registered Body. Once thoroughly vetted, and after a mountain of paperwork, this status could be achieved. From that day forward the Registered Body was empowered to carry out checks under strict guidelines – this is still the case.

After a form had been completed by both the applicant and the Registered Body it was submitted by post to the CRB. When the relevant checks were completed the CRB issued a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure to both the applicant and the Registered Body – THIS IS NO LONGER THE CASE.

NOW ONLY THE APPLICANT receives a copy of the Enhanced Disclosure certificate.

THIS IS ABSOLUTE MADNESS.

The DBS says that Registered Bodies must ask the applicants to bring back their Certificates once completed. This is impractical, wrong and dangerous in so many ways:

  • The length of time the application takes to process is random and unknown depending on the applicant.
  • Applicants’ prospects of employment are delayed because they are forced to wait for the certificate and then take it back to the Registered Body.
  • The onus is on the applicants (NOT THE REGISTERED BODY) to be forthcoming with their certificates.
  • The applicant may live a long distance from the Registered Body’s offices.
  • The applicant has paid £44 (unless a volunteer) for the check and may be quite rightly unwilling to send it in the post.
  • The Registered Body has no guarantee that the certificate is genuine no matter what watermarking etc. the DBS says should be present.
  • The Registered Body should not be put in the position of authenticating certificates provided to them by the INDIVIDUAL BEING CHECKED – IF AN INDIVIDUAL ACTIVELY WANTED TO GAIN ACCESS TO CHILDREN (in our agency’s case) ASKING THEM TO PROVIDE THEIR OWN PAPERWORK IS FRAUGHT WITH THE POSSIBLY OF FORGERY AND IS ULTIMATELY ENDANGERING THE PEOPLE THE DBS IS DESIGNED TO PROTECT

The newly formed DBS has also launched an Update Service where theoretically future warnings or convictions etc. are uploaded onto their database and both applicants and Registered Bodies have the ability to log in and check – on paper a very good idea and one which in principle would make multiple applications by an individual a thing of the past. The DBS implies that the Updating Service removes the need for Registered Bodies to receive copies of the certification.

To quote from the DBS’s information:

‘To coincide with the launch of the Update Service the DBS will no longer automatically issue a copy of your DBS Certificate to the Registered Body who countersigned your DBS application form. Employers and recruiting organisations will need to ask you for sight of your DBS Certificate. This is to give you greater control over your information.’

UNFORTUNATELY THERE IS CURRENTLY A HOWLING FLAW IN THIS PROCESS. An applicant’s subscription to the Updating Service is NOT MANDATORY! In fact there are a set of criteria:

  • The applicant must pay an ANNUAL fee of £13 for the pleasure of being part of this scheme – an enormous disincentive.
  • They need the application form reference number in order to apply before their registration; this is easily forgotten as it was not part of the process previously.
  • If they fail to register before their certificate is issued they have 14 days from THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE to apply or they will no longer be eligible. They have to be relied upon to do this.

Given these criteria there is ample scope for applicants not to register.

  • In many cases the applicants won’t care whether their status is updated or not and so why pay?
  • PEOPLE WITH AN INTENTION TO OFFEND WHO MAY HAVE SOMETHING TO HIDE IN THE FUTURE WILL CLEARLY NOT APPLY.
  • It may be a one-off application because they are applying for a job. The onus to check is on the new employer, the applicant has no personal obligation.
  • They may assume that future applications will be paid for on their behalf which is often the case; this is the case in the teaching profession. In which case, why bother? AND WHY PAY?

This is what the DBS says about this new system:

‘These checks are to assist employers in making safer recruitment and licensing decisions.’

Well, let’s look at that. Let’s see where that leaves Kensington and Chelsea Tutors; we do up to 30 or 40 checks a month. IT IS WORTH NOTING HERE THAT ALL WE WANT IS THE SAFETY OF CHILDREN. WE WANT A SAFE EFFICIENT WAY OF VETTING APPLICANTS WHOM WE MIGHT GIVE ACCESS TO CHILDREN.

Here are the scenarios we find ourselves up against:

  1. An applicant is interviewed and has no previous Disclosure. We will carry out a check and encourage the applicant to subscribe to the Update Service. We will have to rely on the applicant to show us their certificate and to subscribe. We obviously would not consider an application until we have seen a certificate; this process is much more prolonged as we no longer receive certification. IF the applicant subscribes to the Update Service we can log in and check. If the applicant DOES NOT subscribe to the Update Service the Disclosure becomes a one-off as before and neither we nor any other potential employer has access to updated information. At least before we had physical evidence that we had carried out the check, now we just have photocopies or letters and numbers on a piece of paper.

 

  1. An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure but has not subscribed to the Updating Service. The first thing is to establish when the Disclosure took place; this is crucial to its credibility. It is an impossibility for any background check to have any forward moving absolute validity; THE APPLICANT MAY HAVE COMMITTED A CRIME THE DAY AFTER THE DATE ON THE CERTIFICATE but prior to the interview. The Updating Service could have solved this problem notwithstanding the omissions outlined above – IT IS NOT COMPULSORY. Unless a check is very recent we normally insist on a fresh one being carried out. We then run into the same problems outlined above; will they sign up? We can’t force them.
  2. An applicant is interviewed and has a previous Disclosure and HAS subscribed to the Updating Service. In this case we can view the original document, go online and check for updates and given that we take it as read that the DBS have done their checks correctly everybody is happy. The future problem is if the applicant fails to continue to pay their annual fee then updates are no longer available. They cannot re-subscribe as many more than 14 days will have elapsed from the date on the original Disclosure. In this case we will have to check them again.

TNE SYSTEM IS OVER-COMPLICATED, OPEN TO POTENTIAL FRAUD AND THEREFORE POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS. IT IS ALSO UNHELPFUL TO THE REGISTERED BODIES WHO ARE JUST TRYING TO DO THE RIGHT THING.

 

IT WOULD BE SO SIMPLE TO MAKE THIS AN EFFICIENT, SAFER SYSTEM.

  1. NO PAPER FORMS – THESE CONTAIN VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRE GAMET OF AN INDIVIDUAL’S CRUCIAL PERSONAL DETAILS – THEY CAN GET LOST IN THE POST OR STOLEN. IDENTITY THEFT IS A REAL POSSIBILITY. WE ARE IN A DIGITAL AGE. REGISTERED BODIES SHOULD HAVE A SECURE ENCRYPTED LOG-IN WITH A GADGET SIMILAR TO THOSE USED FOR ON LINE BANKING. FORMS CAN BE FILLED IN ON LINE.

 

  1. INDIVIDUALS, UPON THEIR ELECTRONIC FORM REACHING THE DBS, SHOULD BE ISSUED A USER ID.

 

  1. ONCE THE CHECKS HAVE BEEN CARRIED OUT AND THE DISCLOSURE ISSUED BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE SEPARATELY ALERTED BY EMAIL. THEY CAN THEN LOG IN AND PERUSE THE RESULTS.

 

  1. EACH APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY PUT ON AN UPDATING SERVICE. IF THERE IS A CHANGE IN STATUS BOTH THE REGISTERED BODY AND THE APPLICANT SHOULD BE AUTOMATICALLY INFORMED BY EMAIL THAT A CHANGE HAS OCCURED. EACH CAN THEN LOG IN AND SEE WHAT THAT CHANGE IS.

 

 

  1. IF A REGISTERED BODY WANTS TO VET AN APPLICANT WHO SAYS HE OR SHE HAS HAD A DISCLOSURE CARRIED OUT ALREADY (WHICH WILL BY DEFINITION BE UP-TO-DATE) THE REGISTERED BODY SHOULD CARRY OUT IDENTITY CHECKS AS IS THE CASE WITH FULL APPLICATIONS AT PRESENT. ONCE SATISFIED AND UPON RECEIPT OF THE APPLICANT’S CERTIFICATE NUMBER FROM THE APPLICANT THE REGISTERED BODY CAN LOG IN AND CHECK THAT THE DETAILS MATCH AND THAT THERE ARE NO UPDATES.

 

  1. IN THE CASE OF 5 (ABOVE) THE NEW REGISTERED BODY WILL ALSO RECEIVE UPDATES REGARDING THE APPLICANT DESPITE NOT HAVING ACTUALLY CARRIED OUT THE ORIGINAL DISCLOSURE.

 

  1. THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE UPDATE SERVICE. REALLY THERE SHOULD BE NO CHARGE FOR THE CHECKS THEMSELVES; IT SHOULD BE A PUBLIC SERVICE HELPING TO KEEP CHILDREN AND VULNERABLE ADULTS SAFE. HOWEVER, IN A WORLD OF AUSTERITY MEASURES BOTH APPLICANTS AND REGISTERED BODIES ARE RESIGNED TO THE COST. THIS SHOULD REMAIN AT £44. IN THE FUTURE IMPROVED DIGITAL METHODS WILL REDUCE COSTS.