The brilliant thing about the UK tutoring industry is that there is something for everyone. There are such a great variety of price points, qualification levels, delivery methods and customer service styles on offer, that the problem for parents is really to consider what is important to them and make sure they find a tutoring service tailored to these needs.
Safety considerations when choosing a tutor
Safety is usually one of the first considerations for parents when looking for a tutor. Some parents are happy with a recommendation from a friend at the school gates and would like to see perhaps a reference from a previous pupil to assure them of the tutor’s capabilities. However for many parents, a more formal assessment around safeguarding is important and this should include in the first instance, checking the tutor holds an up to date, valid Enhanced DBS Certificate and making sure that parents insist on seeing this document. Why? The Enhanced DBS Certificate replaces formerly named CRB check and shows all convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on police records for that individual. The ‘Enhanced’ element of the check provides a search to show that the tutor is not on the governments ‘Barred List’. This is a list of people who have been blocked from working with children and vulnerable adults for safety reasons. Tutors are unable to obtain an Enhanced DBS for themselves as individuals, the request must be instigated by an organisation they work with and so this is a benefit of working with a tutoring agency who can source and keep up to date these vital documents for their tutors.
Read more about safeguarding and child protection policy.
Which qualifications to look for when hiring a tutor
Most parents want their child’s tutor to have a high level of understanding of the subjects they teach. For GCSE and A-Level subjects, an undergraduate studying the subject being tutored is the minimum level of expertise to look for. This level of knowledge is relatively inexpensive to procure and indeed there are several large platforms that specialise in this kind of tutor. These tutors have the benefit of having taken GCSEs and A-Levels relatively recently and being young and (hopefully) bubbly. When you interview tutors at this level, make sure they also have some experience of teaching and that your child will not be their first tutee. University students obviously know their subject matter to a high level but will have probably not have any knowledge or practice in teaching. Another downside of hiring students is that they can be flakey and sometimes disorganised.
The optimum qualification to look for, if you want the best tutor for your child, is a subject specialist who also has training in child development and pedagogic theory, ie. a teacher! A teacher will have usually taught every type of child, including those who learn in different ways and may also be able to spot some block or reason your child may not have been performing to their full capabilities, for example, they might have an additional learning need such as dyslexia.
Hiring a tutor using an agency or signing up for a platform
If you’re still living in the ‘analogue world’ and like to deal with humans, your main options as a parent are to find a tutor are to ask friends for a recommendation or contact a local agency with a good reputation. In this instance, after a consultation, you will be matched up with a tutor and hopefully, you like the cut of their gib and so does your child. If you’re a digital native you might prefer to sign up to one of the many tutoring platforms that have aimed to disrupt the tuition market over the last five years and in this instance, an algorithm will show you a list of relevant tutors and it will be up to you to contact the ones you like the look of, much like a dating agency. You can then schedule an interview and hopefully lessons going forwards.
If you go down the agency route, look for one that knows your local area well, for example if you are looking for support with school entrance, they should have tutors with track records of success at the local schools you hope your child might attend. Look for agencies that know their tutors well and have strong safeguarding protocols, such as ensuring all tutors have Enhanced DBSs and a high level of qualifications to teach.
The advantage of the online platforms is that you can put your feet up with a glass of wine in the evening and scroll through lists of tutors until you find some that resonate with you. They often have video introductions, so you can get a sense of them before you approach them. Platforms often have useful add-ons such as showing tutors availability and their schedules, allowing you to book directly on the website. Obviously the downside, again like a dating site, is that the relationships with people you meet online tend to be somewhat flakier than people you meet in person and so the tutors you meet book online might stand you up or ghost you after a few sessions. They tend to be affordable.
Read our list of the top 10 tutoring agencies in London.