"Having grown up in North London, I attended Merchant Taylors’ School. I went on to complete a Mathematics Degree from the University of Warwick and, in 2011, completed my PGCE from the University of Oxford before returning to North London to teach Mathematics at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Boys’ school for four years, the last two of which in an additional role as Deputy Head of House. I have been a private mathematics tutor for the last 14 years. I currently tutor over 180 students myself and oversee all the teaching and learning at Trefoil Tutors.
- Academic qualifications – Our advice is that a tutor should have a top grade in the qualification one higher than the level they are teaching. For example, a tutor claiming to be able to tutor GCSE Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry, should have a top grade in all three subjects at A level. This is a guideline which is followed by many top schools. Having spent the last 14 years tutoring, my personal advice would be to find a subject specialist, particularly if you are looking for KS4 lessons or above. By this we mean a tutor who specialises in teaching only one subject, and this certainly our ethos at Trefoil Tutors.
Although opinions on this may vary when it comes to preparing for the 11+, our quantitative analysis of over 200 students from the last ten years has categorically shown that working with separate subject specialists for English and Mathematics has greatly improved the chance of obtaining a place at a candidate’s preferred school.
At secondary school, students will receive the guidance of a subject specialist and it is of paramount importance that, in tutoring, we expect the same standards in order to augment and support the work done by the classroom teacher.
- Safeguarding – As tutoring is currently an unregulated industry, it is of paramount importance that parents are aware of the child protection provisions which can be put in place to help their children learn in a safe environment. At the very least, I would advise that a parent checks that a tutor has a valid DBS certificate. I would be sure to check that this is recent. As a guide, at Trefoil Tutors we renew these every two years.
I have seen a number of online tutors claim to be “certified” tutors when in reality, what they mean is that they hold a DBS certificate. Although this is vital, all a DBS certificate ensures is that the person offering lessons is not barred from working with children due to having a criminal record.
Further to this minimum requirement, I would strongly urge parents to check that the person offering tutoring has undergone a child protection workshop; another provision we put in place for all our staff and tutors at Trefoil. Safeguarding courses are relatively straight-forward to complete and some tutoring companies offer their own.
Finally, when considering engaging a tutor for face-to-face lessons, I would also advise parents to check that the tutor has some form of first-aid training.
- Teacher training – I am not going to argue that in order to be a good tutor, you must be a qualified teacher; indeed, many top independent schools employ non-qualified teachers. However, I would advise that you look for a tutor who has undergone some form of training in how to teach and has shown a commitment to the education sector. This can come in many forms, be it someone who has enrolled into a PGCE or Teach First Programme, someone who has undertaken a prolonged work-experience at a school or someone who has worked with children in Youth organisations and programmes.
I have seen a number of students and recent school leavers advertising themselves as tutors saying they have top grades themselves and therefore can teach, and I would like to remind parents of the phrase: “being a good patient, doesn’t make you a doctor”.
Parents will often say that “finding a qualified teacher is difficult”. Having simultaneously taught full-time and tutored, I can testify that teachers’ time outside of school is precious (hence why we try to optimise this in our small group lessons). Finding a tutor who is an NQT or FQT is rare, but possible, and many have long waiting-lists. If this is not possible, I would check to see whether the tutor has experience in and around schools.
- Insurance – I would always advise parents to check that the tutor offering lessons has the appropriate insurance to do so. Whether the proposed lessons take place at your home, theirs or online, this is often a sign that the tutor is completing the due diligence for the services they are offering, which includes data protection.
Finally, I’d like to raise the point of longevity. In our fourteen years in the industry, we’ve seen the tremendous effects of long term tutoring in terms of building sustained progress, confidence, motivation and enjoyment. Before engaging a tutor, my advice would be to have a conversation with the tutor about their long-term commitment to the role.
Over the last decade, we’ve seen tutoring evolve from “going to someone’s house and working through a textbook” to becoming a profession in itself. It is important that parents are aware that there are some outstanding tutors offering professional services to augment and support the work done by classroom practitioners.
Above anything else, please ensure that your children are safe. Having tutored in North London for over a decade and having taught at an outstanding secondary school, I am surprised that tutors are not held to the same academic and pastoral expectations as teachers. When sending your child to school, you would expect that the teacher standing in front of your child has the appropriate academic, safeguarding and pedagogical experience. In the world of face-to-face and online tutoring, it is of paramount importance that we do not lower those expectations. With so many people offering their services, I hope this is a useful set of guidelines to follow before appointing a one-to-one tutor."
If you would like any further advice on tutoring in the North London area, please do not hesitate to get in touch on 0203 565 0539 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.