You've decided to take the plunge and find a tutor for your child. It's a considerable expense and a commitment for many parents. So how do you get the best out of tutoring? And how do you avoid being the parent tutors really don't want to work with?
How to choose a tutor
There are three ways to find a tutor: word of mouth, agencies, and tutors' own adverts.
You should look for a qualified teacher who has plenty of experience teaching children the same age as your child. Recommendation has its attractions, but what suits your friend's child may not suit yours.
If you approach an agency, ask lots of questions. The most important are does the tutor have the right qualifications and experience? Many agencies register unqualified teachers. They sometimes offer secondary teachers for primary subjects. A geography teacher is not going to be much use if your seven-year-old needs support with their reading. If you find your tutor independently, they should provide evidence of their qualifications, references from other parents - ideally phone contacts - and a CRB check. But above all, use your gut instinct. You wouldn't leave your child in a stranger's house if you knew nothing about them, so it's no different if he or she is a tutor.
How much should you pay?
Fees can vary depending on where you live. As a guide, a qualified teacher should be paid at least the same hourly rate they would earn in a school.
For newly qualified teachers the hourly fee is at least £25 for primary tuition. Expect £30 for GCSE and up to £40 for A level science subjects.
But if the tutor has additional training or 30 years' experience, you'd expect to pay more. If the tutor charges £10 an hour (the same as a cleaner in some areas), then you need to question their training and experience.
You are paying not just for the time they are with your child but also for preparation time, photocopying or printing they have done, books they have to buy, wear and tear on their home, and time and fuel if they come to you.
What should you ask a tutor?
Most tutors are more than happy to answer as many questions as you want. If they aren't , then alarm bells should ring! Ask them about their qualifications, experience and fees.
Do they set homework, are you supposed to help with it, do they charge for missed lessons? It's worth establishing if and when you can call them in between lessons if you need to. Clarify whether they will liaise with your child's teacher if necessary – by phone or in writing - and if they expect additional payment for this. If your child is going to the tutor's home for lessons, you need to be happy it's suitable - clean and quiet.
How to persuade your child to be tutored.
Some children will jump at the opportunity for some one-on-one attention, others may not be so keen. It can be tricky if your child is very resistant to the idea of tutoring. Start with a few lessons if the tutor is willing. Suggest to your child that they don't need to carry on if they really hate it after half a term, and most will enjoy lessons once they see the benefits. A short-term bribe can work wonders.
Tutoring is very personal though: there can be a personality clash and if your child really doesn't like their tutor, it's best to stop and find another one.
How not to be the parent tutors hate.
Good tutors are in demand. They can pick and choose which families they want to work with. Why should they battle with a reluctant child or a nuisance parent?
What do tutors hate? Essentially, not communicating enough or too much, and being unreliable.
Jo has been a tutor for many years. "What matters is that parents are reliable. I allocate my time to them and it's a commitment. If they cancel lessons regularly because their child has a party invitation, or they want to go shopping after school, or they make a dental appointment - which could be made at other times - then their child is getting the message that their lesson is not important."
Knowing how much or how little communication with your tutor can be key to your child's progress. Stephanie has tutored children with special needs for over 10 years. "Parents should be involved. Some will barely exchange a word when they drop-off or pick up. I like to discuss what we've covered in a lesson and what homework their child has been set. Support at home is still essential and this means knowing what we are working on each week."
Jo says: "I make it clear to parents that I am available for a chat about progress, but I expect them to be considerate. Calling me on a Saturday evening, or after 9 pm on a weekday is not acceptable.
"Parents need to be conscious of a tutor's own family commitments. At times I have tutored 15 children in a week; if all these parents called me for a chat then I'd have no time for anything else."
Another bugbear is parents who want to discuss progress while their child is in earshot. Jo says: "I find it very difficult when a parent asks how their child is doing when the child is listening. Sometimes with teenagers this is acceptable, but if it's bad news, then I don't want their child to hear. I suggest they call me and we discuss it confidentially."
Tutoring can really help some children but it's worthwhile giving some careful consideration to who you choose as a tutor as well as monitoring your child's progress in order to get the best out of it.
More on Parentdish: