Martin Browne: We must help children from all walks of life reap the benefits of private tutoring
The use of private tutors to assist children of school age is growing throughout the UK '“ and Edinburgh is no exception. The private tutoring industry, however, is very diverse and covers a wide range of activities, from learning centres to in-home tutoring. The reasons for choosing a tutor for your child are just as diverse and can range from issues with their understanding of a subject to exam preparation. Choosing the right service for your child is key.
Private tuition isn’t teaching or a replacement for teachers. By mentoring your child and boosting their confidence, both in the subject and in exam preparation, they are getting lessons in life skills which go well beyond what is usually possible in school. Teachers do a great job, but a tutor will add a whole different dimension to the learning process.
Changes in the education landscape in England has seen a massive growth in private tuition, a trend likely to affect Scottish cities such as Edinburgh, as pressure for school and university places increases. For example, children in London as young as three-and-a-half are now routinely being tutored as the first step in a school-entrance system which continues all the way to university.
The pressure on entrance to good schools means that buying a house in a catchment area is often no longer enough. The growing demand for places from pupils from across the UK and overseas increases competition for everyone and private tutors are engaged to give any advantage they can to parents and their children.
Figures for the use of tutors are not easy to come by given the diversity of the sector, but the accepted reality is that most children with tutors come from the state sector – perhaps as high as 85 per cent. In Edinburgh, nearly one in four children are educated at independent schools but, in my experience, the majority of children who are being provided with private tuition attend their nearest local-authority school.
The common perception is that it is only children from wealthy backgrounds that can afford private tutors. As we can see, the reality is very different. However, there are many children for whom private tuition is out of reach. Charities like Positive Help offer volunteer tutors to help children from disadvantaged families with their homework. We have recently partnered with Positive Help to help with this process, but we need to see more private-sector tutor companies lending a hand, or running schemes where parents donate free hours for tutoring for disadvantaged children.
As competition for school places gets tougher, children from all walks of life need all the additional support they can get, and this support, through tutoring and other one-to-one mentorship schemes, must be made readily available to all.
Martin Browne, Tutor Doctor Edinburgh