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

GCSEs should be overhauled – AT LAST SOME SENSE!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-19454838

Has somebody with the power to change our uselsess Secondary Examination system finally come to their senses?

Sir Michael Wilshaw is talking sense. But let’s not just overhaul useless GCSEs, let’s scrap them completely and install a challenging, relevant examination regime with a single qualification for each subject. Let’s do away with the nonsense of multiple exam boards at the same time – PLEASE.

We need to do this NOW so that we have a stable system moving forwards. Perpetual change is also very damaging to students and teachers alike.

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.

Bigger classes for budget efficiency – WHAT NONSENSE AGAIN

Does the government just trawl through statistics in an effort to find a way to lower standards through budget cuts? How can anybody seriously put forward the point of view that larger class sizes will not effect standards? Why can’t the government focus on improvement rather than cost cutting?

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-29063679

What’s the point of compulsory education?

It’s a big question with many answers; often conflicting. I have been involved in education professionally for nearly 20 years, I am state educated but have had intimate ties with private education throughout that time.

The answer to the question is enormously affected by demographics. Most privately educated children will aspire (or at least their parents will) to A Levels, University and a career to follow. This will also be the case with many state educated pupils. However, (mainly) within the state sector there will also always be enormous quantities of students for whom school is just compulsory. They have to go and they look forward to leaving; often with few prospects and very little idea of what to do next.

It is these students that the system lets down the most.

If you leave school at 16 what should you know? Most people will agree that a basic knowledge of English and Maths (numeracy and literacy if you prefer) is a given – but what else?

In our heavily politicised system there is far too much emphasis on passing (so that the government can say what a good job they’re doing) and far too little on content.

To take one example it is possible for two students to both get an A* (A* being of course a nonsense concept in its own right) at GCSE without having done a single question in common. How can we possibly compare pier groups in this way? With multiple Examination Boards the statistics are meaningless. With this system there is also no standardisation of content excepting broad National Curriculum guidelines.

We need to sweep away the nonsense of the multiple exam board system, set up panels consisting of a mixture of academics and representatives from industry to decide exactly what people ought to know at 16 for each subject. There should be a single syllabus for each subject and everybody should sit the same examination.

Beyond 16 is the time to academically diversify, compulsory education should give everybody a solid grounding; even if they never read another word in their lives. Telling them they’ve ‘passed’ a meaningless exam helps nobody.

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.

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.

 

 

Online UK exams inevitable BUT be careful!

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
http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/news/education-24174535 >

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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