What value … qualifications and experience ?

Ever wished you could have a nice, well-paid job where you are your own boss and nobody even checks your qualifications? A job where you can directly influence the future of your subordinates without any regulation whatsoever? A job where you create and impose the rules?

Simple. Become a freelance tutor in whatever subject you liked at school.

No, seriously: The jobs are there and you really don’t have to search long for opportunities. Just google “how to become a Maths tutor” – I did – and admire the results (or stay horrified if you are a parent). First three websites are enough to never trust any tutors ever again. They either dwell on why parents are so willing to pay for tutoring their children, why is it “fashionable” to have a tutor or how much they are willing to pay for one. Here are some particularly juicy bits:

I charge £30 per hour and I’m not charging more than anyone else in the area – a prestigious university and higher degree helps, London it can be up to £40 – I don’t do too much though too little time but once you get one you’ll get half a dozen from the same school knocking at your door…

If you live in an area where the 11 plus is still around you can charge £25-£35 per hour just to ‘babysit’ the children whilst they sit past papers. You can download the papers on-line and take several children at once.

I began by offering a few hours of maths tuition a week, the subject I had enjoyed most at school. I had no formal teaching experience.

The problem is the complete lack of regulation in the tuition industry. Anyone can be a tutor – there is no agreed system to sort out the wood from the trees. Currently tutors don’t even need Enhanced CRB Disclosure as they would need in school, not to mention any qualifications to teach. It’s not enough to understand Maths or Science: To earn that £20-£40 per hour a tutor has to develop understanding not simple restate rules they have heard before.

“It isn’t enough to have good maths (or English or Science) skills of your own”, says Sharon Hughes, a Maths tutor with a great deal of experience. “Tutors need to be able to communicate various ideas to learners with a massive range in ability and completely different learning styles. An approach which works for one learner might not make sense to another.”

How to make sure the person you hire is suitable for the job? How to maximise the chances your child will pass their GCSEs? How to find someone who will work with the student, not only “babysit” them while they fill some online tests?

Here’s what we suggest as a start:

1. Always ask for details of a recent Enhanced CRB check. Better safe than sorry.

2. Be sure they have a proper knowledge of the subject before you agree to pay them. This one may seem pretty basic, but there are too many Geography graduates that teach Maths or English.

3. Always ask the tutor about the methods they use and why they think they’re suitable for your children. If they can’t justify why their approach is suitable for your child, don’t bother paying them.

4. Compare the tutor’s experience to what you need. Does he specialise in tutoring Key Stage 2 when you need somebody to prepare your child for GCSEs?  

5. Spend some time doing research. Check other parents’ opinions and, more importantly, what other pupils think of their tutor. Are they satisfied? Are they improving? You need to know.

And most importantly, stay calm. There are good, helpful and qualified tutors that can successfully help your child and don’t consider their job to be easy and well-paid “babysitting”. All you have to do is to find them.

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