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If having your own private tutor feels a step too far, you could consider a tuition centre where children do set work under the supervision of a member of staff.

Tuition centres – the basics

These private educational institutions are all rage in areas such as Singapore, Malaysia, India and the Middle East and now they are growing like wildfire over here. Significantly cheaper than a visiting tutor, these centres involve children either doing extra learning in small classes or working through academic tasks individually and under supervision – either with a worksheet or on a computer.

Where can I find one?

Any Google search of ‘tuition centres near me’ is likely to give you heaps of choice, with examples such as:

Kumon is among the best known. The 70,000+ students in the UK and Ireland do daily worksheets in English or maths (or both) tailored to the student’s ability, attending the tuition centre once a week where they are assessed and sometimes tested, moving up the levels. The business is franchised.

Explore Learning has 139 centres around the country, mainly located in shopping centres so parents can shop while their children get on with their maths or English tuition on computers in the centres. Most children attend their nearest centre at least a couple of times a week, with a maximum of up to nine sessions a month.

Trefoil Tutors is an example of a tuition centre with only one location and where tuition extends beyond maths and English to science and economics and 11+ and 13+. They provide weekly 90-minute-long lessons in small groups, modelled on Oxford-style tutorials. Parents get regular feedback.

What to look out for

Assessment – how do they assess your child and work out their specific needs? Is there an opportunity for a trial run? The tuition should meet your child’s individual learning needs.

Class size – smaller classes mean your child’s individual learning needs are more likely to be met.

The tutors – don’t assume tutors are trained teachers. With Explore Learning, for example, tutors are rarely qualified teachers and more likely students or mothers returning to the workplace, although all are trained in the teaching materials and behaviour management.

Teaching style – How are the children taught – workbooks, computers, tutor-led classes etc? Work out which will be most beneficial to the way your child learns. And how do the tutors interact with the children? Do they motivate them? Do they try to make the learning fun?

Reviews and recommendations – a fancy brochure or website shouldn’t be enough to win you over. Read reviews and testimonials and talk to other parents whose children have tried it.

Case study: Jo’s 14-year-old son Adam has been going to Kumon since he was 6

‘Back when Adam was in year 2, his teacher told me he seemed to be struggling in maths. A few of his friends were doing Kumon so I thought I’d give it a go. We had an assessment at home and then he started attending the centre once a week, while doing short worksheets on a daily basis which take around 10 to 20 minutes ech. He didn’t take long to catch up with his peers, although it was a struggle getting him to do the work every day and sometimes led to arguments and/or bribery. But we stuck at it and after a year or two, it became second nature for him to do it as soon as he’d had his breakfast in the morning – although we have had bad weeks where he winds up having to do them all at once or when one worksheet took him absolute ages. Both those scenarios put him in a very bad mood. It’s not fun as it’s very repetitive, but that’s the point – it embeds the foundations of maths so they can the more complicated stuff comes more easily. Some of my friends’ kids have absolutely hated it, but I think for more self-motivated, organised children it’s helpful.’

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