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.

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?

 

Free School head checks scaled back… unbelievable!

** Free school head checks scaled back ** Documents leaked to the BBC show ministers agreed to scrap pre-appointment checks on inexperienced free school heads despite warnings from civil servants.

< http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24653574 >

Why do we allow this sort of thing to happen? Would companies consider employing managers of any description if they had no previous experience?

And yet the government is endorsing a system of ‘free’ schools where no qualifications are required. Although there are perfectly good teaching staff with no formal teaching qualifications, To base an entire teaching hierarchy on this premise is fraught with potential problems.
As in almost any profession or skill there is no substitute for training and experience. Only with plenty of both can quality be guaranteed.
Unfortunately, perpetual changes within the teaching profession over the past decade or so have made it less and less attractive as a career prospect. Mountains of paperwork, league table pressures and backsliding over pension promises are just a few of the reasons why teaching is not appealing to our talented graduates.
Introducing an easy route in is not the answer. The answer is proper training, proper pay and a clearer, less complicated education system. If we had this, teachers might get the respect they deserve and encourage future talent to lend their skills. Teaching as a career should be in demand, not a last resort.
Headships should be earned through service and experience in the same way that employees in other fields progress through the ranks as their experience and expertise grow.
This is all just more cost cutting in disguise. And as with all cost cutting the victim is quality.

 

 

Here’s my take on this recent story on the BBC Education website

** Most A-level grade predictions wrong ** An exam body reveals that most A-level grade predictions from schools are incorrect when final results are published

http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24625972

Grade prediction is actually very difficult to do accurately. It is relatively easy to band a student within a few grades but very difficult to be precise unless they are at the extremes of ability. With the enormous pressure of league tables it is no wonder that there is a tendency for predicting higher grades. Independent Schools, who come off best in this study, often have less to prove. I don’t think we should be too critical – it is an inexact science and there are various factors which can effect the end result, not least examination nerves.