Some years ago I had shared with me the experience of a private tutor who, in part, had to say that she found the work of engaging one-to-one with students one after the other fairly exhausting; in contrast her male colleague considered the work something of a breeze. Reading news reports about the tuition industry with figures in the region of several £billion and the number of private tutors numbering into the many tens of thousands paints a picture of an industry awash with money and of tutors cashing in - "preying on the anxieties of parents," perhaps. My own sympathies lie with the first experience - the process of working one-to-one is demanding and can be pretty exhausting. And I'm inclined to believe that there are a great many private tutors modestly working very hard for their students. The work varies: some students are already highly motivated and self-starting so that the work of providing support is much more straight forward. Other students' needs are much more complex.
Given that the average across the UK that a tutor charges is £22 per hour1 then evidently the quoted figures of tutors earning up to £100 per hour are reporting the exception rather than the rule. And there are costs. If a tutor travels an average of 5 miles between clients there is an immediate expense of £2 per visit. There are additional costs for printing and other resources and professional fees which average to around £1 per session. Costs are small but not insignificant, representing about 15% of the charge to the customer. Then consider that an itinerant tutor is spending 20% of their time travelling. Add to this the time necessary to prepare for each session. So, a sensible estimate of the average tutor's hourly rate is somewhere around £8 - £11.
A member of The Tutor Association is bound by its code of practice, requiring that the tutor:
In teacher training a much stressed essential quality is having high expectations which I've understood for myself to be vital. I must challenge students, usually by presenting an example that takes them a little bit further in terms of their understanding and ability to cope with novel situations. In fact, this is also the examiners job - to test the student's understanding. An exam contains questions that presents topics or problems in an unexpected form. More than in school, working privately informs me of the range of expectations and abilities across the education system and this does feed into my own expectation for students. Nevertheless, it is perfectly possible to undermine an individual student's confidence if expectation is not properly mananged and it surely requires a reflective approach. In this regard I draw upon my understanding of the notion of a student's proximal zone - that region of learning and understanding that is just beyond his or her comfort zone1.
Education is not entirely about qualifications but also character development. About developing as a person - perhaps this first. Although economic security is of course important, getting a well paid job doesn't necessarily lead to greater happiness or represent the student's main objective. There is the range of interest that education promotes and which provides for a happier life. There is personality and a sense of social responsibility which bear some relationship to education. But learning has its ups and downs. Invariably, the process seems most difficult just before that new concept or application is mastered. And then afterward, it is entirely human to want to coast for a while, taking some pleasure in the newly acquired competence. In one-to-one tuition this sequence of focussed effort and, with some relief, grasping the topic at hand is visibly apparent if my own focus is on the student and on the content of the topic rather than on myself. But learning is cyclical - we have to go through that process over and over. It is the tutor's or teacher's job, I think, to offer support at that point when the process seems most difficult and the reward, from the student's perspective, seems most distant; and then afterward to ask for renewed effort to go further. It's tempting to suggest that one-to-one tuition is the best scenario to accomplish this but I don't think this is the case. Rather, I think a classroom setting with a good teacher is much the same and that both contexts have their pros and cons. Rapport has its part to play in both cases in different ways.
Return to: About home tuition