BBC Radio 4, You and Yours. Monday, 4th May 2015.
Private Tuition is a huge growth market in the UK, surveys suggest that one in every four young people now has a private tutor at some stage, but with lessons costing around £25 a time some people are concerned that private tuition is adding to an inequality, giving children with better off parents an even greater advantage.
Catherine Carr reports on the tutoring programme set up to include those who’s families can’t afford to pay. She went to Paddington Academy in London where Imdad Ali in year 13, has been tutored in Maths by Tom Linton.
Imdad, Paddington Academy student
If you think about it in a Mathematical way its like there’s 2D where you learn through school, with your teachers, and you could say tutoring is an extra dimension, so 3D. It teaches you a different way to do problems and how to solve them.
Tom L, Tutorfair Tutor
It is kind of a contrast when you give them problems to solve at the beginning of the year, and it’s a combination of the actual problem solving ability and the body language that goes along with it, and how that shifts over time as well.
I took the role of head boy at the start of the year, mainly from the confidence I gained form being tutored in Maths. A feeling where I know more than I think I know. I didn’t have much confidence before, but he [Tom Linton] teaches me ways to check if I have the correct answers or not. I can see my grades getting higher and higher each time I answer a question.
Catherine Carr, BBC Reporter
Across town at Clapton Girls’, Salimah is on her lunch break, like Imdad she is in her final year, and has had help from a tutor, Lucy Kerr. Lucy took me to meet Salimah, who has had some pretty exciting news.
Salimah, Clapton Girls'
The tutoring I have had started around September, mid-September. It was mainly to help with my application to Oxford. We started off with my personal statement, looking at ways to structure it so that it flowed better. I then waited for interviews, and then I got an interview, and then I got in!
Lucy Kerr, Tutorfair Tutor and Oxford Graduate
I think to give Salimah the chance to meet someone who has studied at the place that she wants to study gives her a nice insight on what to expect especially on interview day, because very often people are going to interviews with really no awareness of what to expect. Also importantly, no awareness that it is possible to enjoy the experience. Salimah had four days in Oxford that I think you really enjoyed!
Both Salimah and Imdad were taught by tutors from Tutorfair. I went to meet one of their founders, Edd Stockwell at their East London offices.
Edd Stockwell, Tutorfair Co-founder
Hi Catherine, lovely to meet you, welcome to Innovation warehouse, where Tutorfair HQ is based. Tutorfair is a website where parents can find tutors for their kids, and for each student who pays, we give tutoring to a child who can’t afford it. Everyone at some point missed something at school, and it’s really really useful to have someone sit down and explain it to you. Good teachers do this all the time, parents do it with their kids, and parents paying tutors to help them is just an extension of that. But when you realise how effective that is, and you realise that there are some people who really can’t afford it, well then you really have to find a way to give it people who can’t afford to pay.
The tutors that I’m looking at on this list, the cheapest one is about £25 an hour and the most expensive one is about £45 an hour. You say that people can’t afford it and some people can’t afford it, but actually the vast majority of people can’t afford tutoring.
I think it’s about a quarter of students in the UK have a tutor, and I don’t think that is particularly split by economics massively, there’s large socio-demographic reasons why in Asian cultures it’s particularly prevalent. But I completely agree that the middle class do buy tutoring because it’s a really effective thing to do for your child’s education.
Dr. Lee Elliott Major
Those from richer backgrounds are three to four times more likely to be investing in private tutoring. My name is Dr. Lee Elliott Major, I am the chief executive of the Sutton Trust. We do have concerns, as what we observe is an escalating arms race of social mobility. 23% of young people say they’ve had private tutoring across the country. London is the capital, over 40%. But what you see is a very stark gap between the education haves and have-nots. It’s something like 17% of those from poorer backgrounds and 29% of those from richer backgrounds
The Pfitzner family live in West London, after school nine year old Farley is powering through some long multiplication with her tutor. Her older sister Bella will start in January. Their mum Blanche, explains why she is happy to spend what amounts to hundreds of pounds a month on tutoring.
The London day system particularly is quite tough to get into, so you’ve got to get quite high percentages now. So, we thought that the best thing to do when she wasn’t doing brilliantly is to get a bit of support as they get so much homework too, which I can’t do!
What proportion of your friends at the school gates would you say have employed the same tactic?
I would say quite a lot, but secretly as it’s all a bit of secret squirrel stuff. The school is quite against it, so it’s not openly discussed, as they like to see their kids succeeding naturally. But I would have thought that quite a big proportion are doing it.
Dr. Lee Elliott Major
For most people this is prohibitive, and that’s why the Sutton Trust is looking at different models of how you can provide tutoring for those that don’t have the money to do it. But we’re also evaluating different models like Tutorfair, the Tutor Trust. These not for profits that have emerged from this market, but it’s too early to say which ones are actually having an impact.
We just helped our 2,500th student for free , and it’s a one for one promise, so the charity is a little ahead of how many we’ve helped on the business side of Tutorfair.
How do you decide how to select the children eligible for free tutoring?
So we partner with inner city schools who have a high proportion of students on free school meals. The class teachers choose the students they feel will benefit most, and our tutors go into those schools to work with those students.
The process is more complicated than that in the school’s eyesore, and it takes a motivated school leadership, but given that it can work. Both Salimah and Imdad were provided with tutors from Tutorfair.
Well I really grateful that I got it, as I know a lot of people didn’t get the chance to have tutoring. I think that is as shame as well that only a small number of people did have that chance.
If you don’t mind me asking, would your parents be in a position to pay for tutoring for you it were not offered to you in this way?
Definitely not, I have five other siblings, so yeah, that probably would have never had happened.
So my parents are not actually in work, because their health is pretty bad. I think I am a very lucky person I guess to get this opportunity. There are lots of people out there that need it as well.
Dr. Lee Elliott Major
I think that you need something national on this, because the evidence shows that the inequalities are driven largely outside schools, maybe we should have a scheme where we use a bit of pupil premium money for private tutoring outside of schools. What can work across the country is the big question. So it think whoever gets into government after May, I think this is a question for them.