As we reported earlier this week, a consultation is now underway which may lead to new rules providing a form of regulation for the private tutoring industry.
Tutors will be expected, but not obliged, to abide by minimum qualification standards and sign up to a national association for tutors after concerns were raised that poor tutoring may actually be damaging education. Though membership will not be compulsory, it is intended to act as a kite-mark for the industry.
Before we get carried away with praise for the new the idea, I have a number of reservations, let me explain….
Incompetent tutors – myth or reality?
It is feared that some tutors are preying on parental anxiety over school places and exam grades. Problems also arise when tutors, thinking they know best, undermine the work being done in school causing confusion for students and parents.
Do we believe all of the recent media hype? How common is this incompetent tutoring, how many instances have you actually heard about from your friends and acquaintances from direct experience? I think that this problem is over-blown by the sensation seeking media.
It’s no secret that word of mouth oils the wheels in the private tutoring machine. Whispered recommendations run this show and good tutors are passed from family to family. It’s my guess that news of a ‘bad’ tutor gets around the chattering classes as quickly a good one. One bad session, one perceived grievance and the copybook of any young tutor looking to make their mark is blotted before they’ve turned the page.
An effective tutor is one that can actually teach the child one on one. Do you really need a degree to do this? Asking for minimum qualifications, too, is all well and good – but according to this article that’s a step further than some teachers are subject to.
My guess is there’s as much myth and rumour about who’s diamond and who’s rough as there are solid facts.
How will the association work?
Associations are voluntary groups, focusing on common aims and set of objectives. What will the remit of the association be? Who will run it and how will it operate? Will it have teeth?
Okay, we will get policies, practices and guidelines no doubt, along with a list of accredited tutors. But is this enough?
How much will it cost to set this up and run it, and who will fund it? We can be certain that it won’t come out of the public purse, so who stumps up? The tutors or tutoring agencies – one thing we know for sure is that families will be the ones that pay for it.
Professional standards are there for doctors, solicitors, accountants and the like to demonstrate that they have a level of competence in a complex specialism. Their institutes set out paths to qualification, continuing professional development and hold their members accountable when things go belly-up.
So under the new association what will happen if someone complains about a tutor? Is it investigated, and if it is, what if the tutor is found to be incompetent, do they get struck off?
Who will really benefit from signing up to an association of private tutors?
Will a hard-strapped teacher sidelining as a private tutor a couple of nights a week for a bit of extra bunce really be inclined to shell out for the pleasure? My guess is it won’t be worth the hassle and their pool of happy clients – with whom relationships have been built – won’t be quick to show them the door.
What about those that do sign up, pay up and commit time to professional development? Well, they’ll have to put their fees up to cover it for one – they are in it for the money, lest not forget. Hourly rates will go up, some parents for whom cash isn’t really an issue will pay of course, perpetuating the trend in tutors for the super rich in London. But where does it leave the parents of modest means, who are already scrimping and saving to pay for tutoring? Will they be willing to pay for the honour? I doubt it.
If this is what is going to happen, then membership for most tutors will be irrelevant.
Lets not throw the baby out with the bathwater
Look don’t get me wrong – for me (and for many parents) it isn’t just about raising the standards of private tutoring, it’s about protecting our kids. In most other professions where adults have direct contact with children DBS / CRB checks are mandatory parts of the process.
I also want there to be a standard code of conduct and an improvement in standards across the board.
I am left asking the question ‘who will really benefit from a new national association of tutors’. I will not deny that negative perceptions of tutors, paying for regulation and concerns about the actual uptake worries me. I guess that this is what the consultation process aims to highlight.