Whether it's SATs, the 11+, GCSEs or A-Levels, there seems to be no end to the tests and exams our children have to work through. There's always something for them to study for, some target to reach, and it brings a lot of pressure. Stress is apparently at the highest level it has ever been in the under 11s, and as a parent it's hard to know how to help. One solution could be tutoring - it's not going to remove the pressure, but a good tutor can make thorny educational issues easier to understand, and those impressive exam results easier to attain. The question is, how do you know which tutoring style is best for you and your child?
Tutoring comes in three different formats: DIY, online or the more traditional professional face to face. Each option has its pros and cons:
DIY tutoring comes with two obvious and major benefits. The first is that it allows you to spend meaningful time with your child, we're all busy these days and by the time we've got home, made dinner and got the kid's homework out of the way it's pretty much time for bed. Getting involved in tutoring allows you to spend that little bit more time together. It's also the cheapest option - why pay someone else for what you can do for free? Good question. Ask yourself another one and try to answer it honestly: if you had to sit down and do all of your children's homework, what marks would you get? Even the best of us have holes in our education. Can you still remember Pythagoras' Theorem, and if you can do you think that you could clearly explain it without confusing your children? What about split infinitives, clauses and tenses? No matter your age, you can guarantee that the national curriculum syllabus has changed significantly since you were at school, as well as the way in which things are taught. There's also the question of whether you want to deal with the tension which inevitably comes with tackling troublesome subjects with your children. While you might be the ultimate authority for your kids, they're more likely to sulk and answer back when you're struggling through the Industrial Revolution than when a tutor tries to do the same! If you have more than one child the problems multiply.
A viable alternative to the DIY approach is online tutoring. It can be relatively cheap, easily accessible, flexible - with more than one tutor available you're not tied to a particular schedule - and a range of subjects can be covered by a professional teacher. The most significant benefit here is that your child is (or at least should be) taught by a qualified professional; an expert in their field. The difficulty though, as with anything online, is checking that the tutor is who and what they say they are. Then there comes the issue of technology, a huge number of UK homes still do not have high speed internet, this can lead to lag and interrupted tutorials. Finally, there's the problem of discipline, if a student is struggling with a lesson, they can simply log off; the internet holds a whole world of distractions, and disorganised students can easily forget about lessons.
In comparison to online lessons, traditional face-to-face tutoring can seem a little antiquated and old hat. It also comes with more of a financial impact, but there is still a lot to be said for getting what you pay for. Like DIY tutoring, this form delivers one-to-one, personalised lessons, focused on the academic areas where a pupil is struggling. Unlike the DIY option, the tutors are trained in up to the minute teaching practices, have a comprehensive working knowledge of the national curriculum and the emotional distance to instil discipline without invoking a sulk of epic proportions! When working face-to-face, tutors are also better able to read their pupil's mood and adapt lessons accordingly. While online tutoring can provide many of these aspects, it usually lacks the understanding which comes from a one-to one service.
Everyone learns in different ways and different types of tutoring will suit different children and different families. The important thing is that if your child is struggling at school you do everything you can to make the learning process as smooth as possible for them. In that case tutoring is worth serious consideration.
Ash Parsa is co-founder of Impact Tutors, a trusted network of professional tutors.