The difference between tuition and teaching is vast, and nothing brings this home more than conversations about the cost of private tuition. So, what better topic to celebrate the 1st birthday of the TeachAllAboutIt website than a discussion about the cost of education?
It’s a brave move discussing the cost of tuition openly, especially on social media. As a society, we have become incredibly polarized in our view of access to education and discussing the payment in exchange of tuition or resources has become a taboo subject. I’d like to dispel some of the myths in this post and explain why tutors charge what they do.
According to prospects.ac.uk, the average hourly rate for a private tutor in 2019 is between £30 – £60 dependent on experience, location, and sucess rate. That’s not to say that some tutors don’t charge outside of this range, but from experience upwards of £35 per hour for GCSE is pretty standard. So why do tutors charge so much per hour?
Firstly, it’s important to remember that private tutors are outside of the mainstream education system, and as such are businesses in their own right. Unlike independent schools, they do not have charitable status and have a delicate balance to create in making their lessons as accessible as possible, whilst also earning enough to cover what they would otherwise earn in a classroom (remember that a school will purchase resources, books, and office space on behalf of a teacher, whereas a tutor is responsible for purchasing everything from the fees that they charge).
In so many business networking groups, the phrase “you get what you pay for” crops up again and again, more often than not when someone talks about being burnt by a too good to be true deal. This is often switftly followed by the sharing of a form of the diagram above which is a visual representation of the standard IT phrase, “you can have fast & cheap, cheap & good, or fast & good, but not all three”.
But how does this apply to private tutors?
Well, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” applies just as much here as any other industry, albeit with an extra dimension of the free to access learning.
Fast may apply in a number of ways. In the case of private tutors, fast can mean a number of aspects – this could apply to availability. Expecting a prime space to be available immediately is a tall ask for popular tutors. In fact, most will offer a waiting list of up to 6 months or more. Seeking a tutor during the quieter summer months is highly recommended as tutors are often fully booked within the first few weeks of the autumn term. Alternatively fast could apply to the length between starting tuition and the exam. Spaces are not only limited towards exam season, but the nature of tuition becomes more intensive and often means additional independent work or longer sessions.
Cheap is a subjective term for tuition. Parents have questioned the cost of £5 for a group lesson, only to be followed by a parent who questions why I only charge £41 for an A Level lesson. Comparing tutors to each other requires a certain understanding that not all tutors have the same baseline of education and training that teachers do, and indeed not all tutors are solely working as tutors (this may or may not be a positive for you). All of these are factors to consider when comparing on price – An A Level or undergraduate student will generally charge far less than a qualified teacher. Lower cost lessons are absolutely available with highly qualified tutors with high success rates, but expect these to be in groups or with larger volumes of independent study. My advice to all parents considering tuition is to ask for qualifications of the tutor (DBS goes without saying) – having a teaching qualification will give your child’s tutor insight into the psychology of learning. There’s a reason why all teachers must hold this post-graduate qualification, and it’s not to show off!
Good lessons are an expectation from any tutor. I cannot contemplate offering a student or parent lessons that wouldn’t help them progress, after all what is the point of tuition if not to help the student make progress and build confidence? However, high quality tuition requires preparation, time, and effort. In turn, good tuition requires either a longer time within groups or using independent resources, or the cost of the more intensive 1-2-1 lessons. Ultimately, if I don’t feel that I can provide you or your child with the highest quality of tuition, it’s likely that I will offer you a place on my waiting list or refer you to a colleague. I know very few tutors who wouldn’t do similar.
Free lessons are one of the most searched for term for private tuition. As a private tutor, I work with a huge array of families. No two family situations will be the same, just as no two students will be the same, and financial situations are no different. The Venn diagram highlights this well – most full-time tutors will be engaged with a certain amount of pro-bono work either through their own company, or by working with organisations like The Tutors Network. Either way, the free tuition that you are able to access will be paid for through balancing the fees of other students to allow for lower cost access for those that need it.
Whatever you are looking for in terms of tuition, take the time to talk through your needs as a family as well as the educational needs of your child with your tutor. You never know what solution they may be able to come up with!