As the results from A-levels and GCSE papers are being published, the media is busy ranking schools and celebrating the successes of independent and grammar schools. However, little attention is given to the impact of private tutors on these results.
Having worked as a private tutor for six years, I strongly believe that private tutors are playing a substantial role in enhancing the results of independent and grammar schools. My tutoring journey began with helping a neighbour’s son who was struggling in his physics course at a local comprehensive. He managed to pass with a grade C, which was impressive considering his previous performance. This success led to more pupils seeking my help in A-level maths and physics. By the end of the year, these students had moved from underachieving to receiving A and B grades.
Initially, I believed that my teaching skills were responsible for these impressive results. However, subsequent experiences with parents of my first pupils made me realize that the quality of education offered by independent schools is not enough to achieve excellent results. Parents sought my services to help their children with statistics, a subject I was not proficient in. With hours of preparation, I helped these students achieve A grades in statistics, and this experience made me understand that individual attention to students is essential to enhance their learning experience.
Private tutoring is appealing to middle-class parents who feel that their children need every possible advantage to compete in a highly competitive education environment. However, there is a shortage of maths and science teachers, which is having an impact on both independent and state schools. The independent schools are paying high salaries to attract teachers, but the quality of education remains poor in these subjects. Some independent school teachers resort to outdated teaching methods and have insufficient subject knowledge, which can be detrimental to students’ performance.
In conclusion, while the media hails the success of independent and grammar schools, it’s essential to acknowledge the role private tutors play. Private tutoring offers individual attention and support that enhances students’ learning experience, even in high-performing schools. The shortage of quality maths and science teachers is concerning and needs to be addressed to improve students’ education.
There are several reasons why middle-class parents seek my assistance, including the standard of maths and science teaching. Additionally, the competitive environment of independent and grammar schools can negatively affect pupils’ confidence and self-esteem, leading me to be sought after by teenagers in lower sets of these subjects. In comprehensive schools, students may be better able to accurately assess their abilities and potentially be encouraged to consider maths and science careers.
Many parents seek tutoring services to support their child’s admission to Oxbridge. Obtaining top grades in GCSEs has become a prerequisite for gaining an interview, leading to an influx of requests for help during the Christmas period. Other than maths and science, there is demand for tutoring in various other subjects which can make scheduling lessons challenging due to other tutors’ bookings.
Located in areas such as Islington, Camden and Hackney, I provide tutoring for children of prominent figures such as politicians and television personalities. These middle-class parents, although New Labour supporters, opt for private tutoring to avoid the inconsistencies of the state school system. While some suggest that this phenomenon is due to class dynamics, it is worth noting many parents send their children to primary schools with comprehensively mixed intakes.
One major concern for parents is that the increase in students from less privileged backgrounds in local schools, coupled with behavioural difficulties, can result in a rougher environment. Independent and grammar schools have significantly fewer students with these challenges, reducing this concern. A recent survey has shown that 5% of London’s school children receive private tutoring, a figure that may increase in the coming years.
It is worth questioning whether the academic achievements at independent schools truly align with the schools’ quality. Furthermore, top universities should consider offering admission not just to students with high grades and financial means but to bright children from state schools without access to additional tuition.