How to Choose a Private Tutor

Feb 22, 2021

The private tutoring industry has surged during the pandemic. With so many out of education at the beginning of the year, there are definite gaps in learning that schools have struggled to combat. Private tuition has picked up the slack. 
So what do you need to think about before choosing a provider that’s right for you? 
Why tutoring? 
The benefits of private tuition are well documented. One to one is the best way for students to learn as they get the attention they need and the learning is wholly tailored to them. There’s no wasted time, everything has purpose, and everything is focused on their style, ability and weak spots. 
This was true before the pandemic, as students in private tutoring achieved higher grades than those only in mainstream education. There’s a reason tutors for the 11 + and entrance exams are widespread: it’s not taught in schools. Essential skills, alternative methods, confidence building are all benefits of private tuition that aren’t always available in mainstream. 
What to look for? 
So you’ve decided to go for it, but you don’t know where to start. Prices, experience, agency, individual. What do you look for? 
Prices are generally the most important thing for parents when considering a tutor. In the current economy, it has become increasingly important for tutors to remain fair and affordable, especially for low income families. Here’s a breakdown of some of the things to consider in terms of pricing. 
Experience generally determines price point. A more experienced tutor with a PGCE will almost always charge more than a university student. This is purely because they have real world experience in the subject. This does not determine whether they suit your child’s learning style best, but it will mean they understand exams, assessment, and the content more. 
High Street agencies tend to price based on long term tutoring. Their rates will be low, but their services will be in small groups of varying abilities, sometimes ages, and time will be split between students. It’s a good social learning environment, but not always as tailored as one to one sessions. 
Prices are also down to your discretion. As a parent, you need to know what’s affordable for you and be able to stick with it. There are lots of situations that occur that are out of our control (as we have found out this year). Ask questions, get quotes, find out about the person providing the tuition. This is a sure fire way to know whether something is worth it. Ultimately it’s up to you to choose a service that will benefit your child, and if a service doesn’t, you are well within your right to cancel. 
Independent vs. Agency 
On social media, there is a lot of debate about independent tuition agencies versus large tuition agencies. There are definite benefits and weaknesses to both that have to be considered before making your final choice. 
Independent tutors work on their own. They aren’t connected to an agency and work freelance. This can be really useful as it allows you to build a personal relationship and feel closer to the tutor. They also tend to tutor smaller numbers, allowing for a focus and care to be taken that might not be possible with a larger agency. However the downsides are just as important to consider. Booking an independent tutor can be difficult; their availability is generally more limited (they might have another job/be studying) and they could put you on a waiting list. After building a personal relationship, it can be hard to end tuition if it isn’t up to scratch. If there’s an illness, it leaves you without an alternative; if this is for a prolonged period of time, it can be difficult to leave. They may have specialisms as well and be unable to tutor a wide range of subjects, and their reporting processes may not be as honed as agencies. 
Large agencies can be great for consistency. There are a lot of tutors, and most of the time one will be able to cover if there is sickness. They generally tutor across the curriculum, from early years to A Level, but they may not have specialists. They have also got the corporate red tape, meaning there are processes in place for almost every eventuality. They can be less expensive, but they can also be less individualised. They are also less personal, which is great for professionalism, but the joy of a tutor is that relationship that is built between student and tutor. 
Finally, there are small agencies that have independent tutors. These can be the best of both worlds! Tutors individualise to students needs, processes are in place for progress reports, there’s a personal touch with smaller organisations, and most of the time there are tutors to step in that have similar experience and teaching styles. The decision is yours and really depends on what you are looking for in a tutor. 
Online vs. Face to Face 
Currently, face to face is not an option for many. However, knowing the differences can help when we finally go back to normal, and knowing who provides this can aid your decision making process. 
Online has clear benefits to learning. It can be interactive, it’s in a comfortable environment, and it’s quick and easy to set up. Once a time is set, it’s the same every week and it can be undertaken pretty much anywhere. A lot of students have nights at their family members homes, perhaps evenings alone, or even holidays. Online tutoring allows for flexibility in this regard as there doesn’t have to be a set place or time for tutoring. You can also look for tutors further afield than you normally would. If you live in a small town, it can be hard to find a tutor that suits your child. On the other hand, some students struggle to focus online and need that face to face interaction to be able to work optimally. 
Face to face provides a more personal interaction. Worksheets can be given, interactive activities can be performed and having the presence of a tutor can help with focus. This is especially true for younger learners and learners with additional needs. However, some students with additional needs perform better online as the barrier is comforting and they feel less pressure. 
This choice is ultimately down to you and your child. Having tutored in both areas, the best approach is a combination of the two. This allows for consistency between yourself and a student in any circumstance. For example, I have had students where we work online or face to face based on the day. If one of us is ill, but not so bad that we cannot work, we will do an online session. If there are issues in timings, we move to online so there is flexibility. Then when there are no issues, we move to face to face and undergo a different style. It helps with learning how to work in different situations and understand how to behave appropriately in different environments. 
Decision made! 
You’ve weighed up the options and you’ve chosen your tutor! Congratulations! Remember, whatever you decide, this is a service you are paying for. It needs to be suited to you, your situation and your child’s needs. These can change as well, so make sure whatever option you choose can accommodate this. 
Have we missed anything out? What would you want to know when choosing a tutor that we haven’t considered? What have your experiences of finding a tutor been? Let us know.