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Do you really need a tutor?

Do you really need a tutor?: Headliner

Thoughts on the benefits - and potential pitfalls - of employing a tutor

There is no doubt that tutoring can be immensely beneficial, but there is currently a worrying trend of over-tutoring driven by a belief that children will achieve their goals only with the help of a tutor.  In many instances, this simply isn't true.  Do not engage a tutor simply because all of your friends seem to have done so - this doesn't automatically make it right. Equally, do not be afraid to employ a tutor if you feel it will genuinely benefit your child.

Nowadays there seems to be some sort of unspoken rule amongst many parents that getting tutors outside school is the norm, and without this extra support their children will flounder. Increasingly, having a tutor is being seen as necessary rather than simply helpful. Of course there are many benefits to employing a good tutor, which include:

  • Identifying and plugging gaps in knowledge, thereby helping children to achieve their potential.

  • Providing personalised, engaging and effective one-to-one support to children in their studies - revisiting any areas of the curriculum with which they struggle, and stretching them academically in areas of particular interest.

  • Guiding children in their preparation for exams. Having an 'outsider' to oversee the revision process can be immensely beneficial, as well as helping to maintain family harmony!

  • Acting as a mentor, helping children to develop good study techniques and overseeing individual study programmes, providing a level of individual support that would not otherwise be possible.

  • Boosting confidence, thereby enabling children to achieve of their best.

There may also be times when parents feel that there are areas of weakness in their child's current school, or that they themselves want the confidence of having somebody involved in their child's education to whom they can easily and regularly turn for honest feedback and reassurance, over and above that provided by the school.

In all of these instances, the expert support and guidance of a good tutor can be immensely beneficial. However, this isn't the same as thinking (for example - as many do!) that because a child will be taking the ISEB Pre-Test in three years then employing a tutor right away is the only way to go. It isn't. There are pitfalls as well as benefits to engaging a tutor. These include:

  • Over-tutoring, particularly at a young age, can cause unnecessary pressure and stress for a child.

  • If your child is at a good school then the school knows what it is doing, and the teachers have an awful lot of experience in helping pupils to succeed. Trust the school (and talk to the school); having a tutor may not be necessary.

  • There are now an increasing number of very good online adaptive learning platforms. For a motivated child these can provide outstanding, targeted support and completely remove the need for a tutor.

  • Whilst academics are of course important, spending too much time on academic studies can lead to the neglect of sport, music, art, drama, hobbies etc. Not only do these other areas make for a balanced childhood and contribute to a child's good mental health, but many senior schools are looking for students who have a breadth of skills, and who will get involved in the wider life of the school.

  • If a child can get into a school (or higher sets) only with the help of a tutor then they will need the ongoing support of a tutor to keep up academically, and therefore they won't get the most out of their time there. This could lead one to question whether they are at the right school in the first place.

  • Some tutors are very good; some are less so.  Just because somebody has a degree from a good university, or significant tutoring experience, does not automatically mean that they will be the right fit for your specific needs.  Finding the 'right' tutor can be difficult, and expensive.

With all of this in mind, think carefully before you go along the tuition route. Take advice (not just from friends but also from your child's current school and/or other educational professionals) and consider carefully what you want to achieve. Talk to your child as well - if they buy in to having a tutor to help them then they will achieve so much more from the process should you go along that route.

Only after having done all of this are you best placed to decide whether or not to employ a tutor.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you feel I may be able to offer any useful advice.

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