When is the right time to get a tutor?
Parents often ask ‘When is the right time to get a tutor for my child?’ It’s difficult to give a simple answer, because it will always be an individual choice made by each family. It is a decision based on what is best for your own child. The simplest advice is to consider a tutor when your child:
- begins to struggle with a subject
- falls behind in school
- has an important exam or test to pass
- is determined to get a high grade in exams
At that point, it is worth looking at private tutoring as an option.
Regarding the question of when is the right time to get a tutor, it is actually easier to explain what to avoid and what has the poorest return in terms of academic results and value for money.
1) Be specific, not vague
Try to be specific about your timeframe and your expectations. For example, if you know that it will be a short-term contract focused on an upcoming test, it will be in everyone’s best interests if you communicate that clearly to the tutor at the outset. You will undoubtedly get the best results and value for money if you make the timeframe and your requirements clear to the tutor. If the tutor is unaware of a specific aim or a specific timeframe they will design a programme based on their evaluation of your child’s current needs. This will be helpful and it will not be wrong, but it may not achieve your primary objective.
Be prepared for the tutor to refuse the job if it is a tight timescale. Not all tutors work intensively and they should know their own strengths as an educator. You may need to find a specialist tutor who has good success with intensive, short-term exam preparation. Expect to pay a higher fee for intensive work, as it is more challenging for the tutor.
2) Don’t leave it too late
The biggest single mistake parents make when considering the right time to get a tutor is to leave it too late. Do not leave it until the very last minute, a scant few weeks before the exams, to search for a top-class tutor who you hope will be able to turn things around in a few sessions. This is unlikely to achieve good results or to be good value for money.
Firstly, top tutors become booked up very quickly. The best tutors may be booked up months ahead of the annual GCSE and A-level exams.
Secondly, it isn’t realistic to expect just 2 or 3 sessions to make much of an impact before an exam. To get best value for money and best outcomes you need to book a tutor in good time. There are cramming courses available, but if you choose that route you should factor in that there is likely to be a premium rate charged and a minimum number of sessions required. You will also be competing with everyone else who needs help just before the exams, so commercially you will be at a disadvantage.
3) Is your child ready to work with a tutor?
It will only ever be the right time to get a tutor when your child is ready to work with one. Ask yourself if your child is at the stage and mindset to work with a tutor. This obviously applies more as the child gets older, but to get the best outcomes from tutoring and the best value for money you need to have the cooperation of your child. Quite simply, a tutor cannot force a child to listen, work, or participate if they have really set their mind against it – nor should they be trying to do so.
A good tutor should be engaging, creative and use new approaches to a subject that will be different to school. They will create bespoke lessons tailored to your child’s needs. But your child still needs to be willing to participate in the first place! It is worth having a preliminary chat with your child before making tutor enquiries, especially if they are a teenager, as they usually know their own minds. Teenagers, incidentally, also tend to know exactly where the problems lie with their own work, so a conversation with them before you contact a tutor will make your job very much easier.
It is clear that each individual family needs to ask themselves when is the best time to get a tutor? The answer may be different for each family. However, timing is important and it is likely you will get the best outcomes and value for money if you communicate your expectations to the tutor, don’t leave it too near an exam, and have the cooperation of your child.
About Dr Rose
Dr Janet Rose is Director of The Tutor Team. She is a University of Oxford graduate, a trained teacher, and has been tutoring successfully for 13 years. See her profile here
Janet also manages The Tutor Team Facebook page, where you can get study tips, educational videos and posts every week