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Help! I think I’ve wasted a small fortune on tutors



You thought that hiring a tutor or two would be money well spent – as secure as a gold-plated pension plan. So what happens when it doesn’t work out quite as you’d planned? Charlotte Phillips investigates.

It was all so simple. Call in the tutors in a couple of times a week, hand over the dosh and bingo   job done.

But now it’s all falling apart and you’re absolutely gutted. Instead of your super-safe investment, it’s as if you’ve emptied a sizeable piggy bank straight into a Ponzi scheme. Or Carillion shares.

At the very least, you thought you’d end up with better, brighter children with all the bad marks taken out. Instead, it feels as if they’re just the same as they were when they started. Possibly worse.

And it’s not as if the tutors were in any doubt about your goals – children prepped to the eyeballs to sail through the entrance exams to their first-choice selective school, scholarships the icing on the cake.

Familiar story? Niggling fear of things to come? You’re not alone. So we’ve asked some leading tutors to explain why parents can end up feeling short-changed and how to avoid it.

Your child didn’t actually need a tutor in the first place

In at least one part of the country (that will be L**d*n, then), hiring a tutor isn’t so much a considered purchase as a reflex action. But it can be unnecessary for all sorts of reasons, something that reputable tutors won’t hesitate to point out.

‘If students aren’t happy, if they’re too young, if the goals are unrealistic, it doesn’t take many ingredients to create a situation that is not a positive one,’ says Lawrence Drew of Owl Tutors. And if tutees aren’t in the right frame of mind to benefit, ethical tutors won’t push it, he says. ‘If we thought it wasn’t in the interests of the student, it’s not something we’d want to partake in.’

You assumed there were guarantees

If we haven’t yet arrived at peak competition in the most selective schools, it can’t be far off. The result, says Lawrence Drew, is that even very able pupils can miss out on places. ‘Sometimes your child might be a genius and doing fantastically well and still not get into top schools.’

Lynne Nathan at Able Tutors was recently asked to guarantee that a child would gain a place at their first-choice senior school. She refused. In addition to the normal hazards of day to day life – like a child feeling off-colour on exam day – there’s also the sheer weight of competition. ‘There might be 11 children sitting for one place,’ she says. ‘We say that unless the child is at the top there’s no way. You can’t just be average or bright, it’s even more than that.’

Your expectations were too high

While there’s nothing wrong with wanting your child to reach or exceed their potential, a healthy dollop of reality is an essential component in the process, stresses Emma Storey at Bespoke Tuition. ‘Use as many sources as you can to gauge your child’s individual level. Then draw up a range of schools that include some back-ups, not just the best-case scenario options’.

Comparisons with other children, if not odious, are definitely a temptation best resisted. ‘Your child is unique and needs treating as such,’ she says.

‘Use as many sources as you can to gauge your child’s individual level. Then draw up a range of schools that include some back-ups, not just the best-case scenario options,’ she says.

Comparisons with other children, if not odious, are definitely a temptation best resisted. ‘Your child is unique and needs treating as such,’ she says.

You insisted on instant results

Assuming tutors can produce instant results can be a recipe for all-round misery. ‘If only it was as easy as to slot a tutor in every Wednesday at 4pm, pack them off with a cuppa and a biscuit and have an all-singing, all-dancing child genius by suppertime,’ says Emma Storey. ‘I’m all for an optimistic outlook. But let’s be realistic. Over-pressurised students? Try over-pressurised tutors.’

And while intensive exam preparation can be effective, she says, that’s only as long as students are also learning to think for themselves. ‘Ask yourself if your tutor is teaching your child how to learn, how to study, how to think, how to revise. These are lifelong skills which are well worth the cost.’

Slow burn, in other words, trumps quick fix.

You didn’t ask for updates

Tutors worth their salt will provide regular updates on your child’s progress. At Owl Tutors, for example, goals are reviewed monthly. Ideally, it will be flowers and roses all the way. But if it isn’t, this should trigger a frank conversation with parents and a resetting of goals to ensure a better chance of success.

‘It’s tricky,’ admits Lawrence Drew. ‘I’d be lying if I said people are delighted when we get in touch to deliver bad news, but we take some comfort that in the long run it was the right thing to do.’

You were (just a little bit) fixated on exam success

Counter intuitive maybe, but good tutoring is not just about entrance exam success, says Emma Storey at Bespoke Tuition. Her advice? Get your priorities right. ‘A happy, confident child is a much bigger achievement than a burnt-out, vitamin D deficient study-aholic. The best tutors will incorporate study skills into every tutorial to ensure that they are giving children the tools to flourish as confident, independent learners.’

Do you have any stories about wasted money on tutors? Share them on Twitter or Facebook, using the hashtag #chalkandchat


Chalk & Chat 2018


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