Do you have a DBS?
This is the most important thing to check before you let a private tutor work with your child. Have they passed a police check recently? This is the DBS that checks for criminal records and if a person has been barred from working with children.
Let’s just think about that for a moment. Could the person you have hired to teach your child have a criminal record? Could they be barred from working with children due to gross misconduct? Worst case scenario, have they been charged with offences against children or vulnerable adults? Are you happy to have a person like this alone with your child either in a room or online?
There is often an assumption that because tutoring is teaching, the industry operates like a school and has protections in place. It does not. Private tutoring in the UK is completely unregulated. Anyone can set themselves up as a tutor, without qualifications, training, experience or a police check. Most of us in education find this very scary – but those are currently the rules. Reputable, professional tutors will absolutely have a DBS and they will be happy to show it to you. If you are booking an independent private tutor – ask to see it. If you are using an agency ask them to confirm their tutors have a DBS.
What qualifications do you have to teach my child?
If you see a tutor advertising to teach your child something, be it English, Maths, or any subject, you will be assuming they are qualified to teach it. But are they? In a totally unregulated industry there is nothing to stop anyone taking your money to teach your child without having a qualification to their name. Are you happy to pay good money for that?
Do not be afraid to ask what qualifies them to teach this subject. Having a degree in the subject or a closely-associated subject is a very good indicator that they can teach it and will have the knowledge required. However, you may also want someone with a teaching qualification. You will certainly want someone who has experience teaching the subject and is familiar with the qualification. If you are not sure – ask them or the agency to confirm it.
We have a client who only wants tutors with a Post Graduate Certificate in Education or an Education Degree. That is absolutely their prerogative and we can always help. We have another client who is clear that he only wants tutors who are Examiners in their subject to tutor his children. This is a big ask, but luckily we have a number of Examiners on our books, so we have been able to help. The key message here is to decide what level of qualification you are looking for when you approach someone to work with your child.
How many years experience as a private tutor do you have?
Qualifications are great, but does the private tutor have any teaching experience? If not, if they are a student for example, are you happy with that? Any form of teaching is a skill, and good teachers get better with experience. Over time we build up our teaching techniques, we learn what tends to work and what doesn’t usually work with a student. We become proficient with using different software packages to teach. We see the same student challenges over and over again – and we learn how to deal with them. We know which parts of the course are likely to cause the most problems. We know how to spot and tackle gaps in understanding and we know how to teach essential skills as well as the course content.
Experienced teachers build up a bank of resources to use with our students and in a one-to-one situation we become expert at judging mood, voice and facial expression to gauge if the student is understanding. And yes – that is entirely possible in online lessons.
An experienced private tutor will be able to change things up quickly for your child. They will have gone into the tutorial with a plan, but if your child needs something different, or if the plan isn’t really working, an experienced private tutor will be able to adapt quickly. The confidence it takes to do this comes with experience.
That is why it is more expensive to engage a skilled teacher to work with your child than it is to work with an unqualified student.
Are you a member of a professional body with a code of conduct?
Whist the industry is unregulated, we do have our own professional body The Tutors’ Association which is always working to raise standards in the industry. Is the tutor you are considering a member? Or is the agency you are considering a corporate member? Members of the association agree to a professional code of conduct – The Tutors’ Association Code of Professional Conduct
What is your teaching style as a private tutor?
If you are paying for private lessons, then it makes sense to find a tutor who will be a good fit with your child. Every tutor is slightly different. For example, some have a more relaxed teaching style, whilst others are more formal, some like to use interactive whiteboards, others PowerPoint, some use games, others use the Oxbridge tutorial/supervisions style. You can take your choice. But think about what your child responds to best and try to match their needs to the right tutor.
This bespoke choice is one of the very best things about having a private tutor. If you go to a reputable agency, they will be able to offer an alternative if your first choice doesn’t turn out to be a perfect fit. At The Tutor Team we find this happens only rarely, but sometimes a students’ needs might change, and we offer another option.
Will you be supplying my child with resources?
Professional tutors build up a bank of resources over time that they can use to teach and support your child. This includes materials like worksheets, PowerPoints, quizzes, games, practice exam papers, plans, mind maps, revision aids, word banks, timelines, essay guides, mathematical shapes etc. These can be invaluable to your child and add value to the service you are receiving.
Will you give me a lesson report afterwards?
If not, how will I be kept informed of my child’s progress and problem areas? Some agencies use a management software like TutorCruncher which asks the tutor for a lesson report at the end of the lesson. At The Tutor Team we have this set up so the tutor must make the report before you can be charged for the lesson.
But what if you are using a smaller agency with a different system or you have found an individual tutor? Will they give you 10 minutes at the end of a lesson to fill you in? Remember they will probably be straight into another lesson so won’t have time to hang around too long. Can you book a parents’ session to received detailed feedback? If so be prepared to pay for it as tutors usually charge by the hour.
What is your cancellation policy?
This is important, because this is a really easy way to damage your working relationship or potentially lose your tutor. It is best to get this cleared up right at the beginning. What if you cancel the tutor? Do you still pay? Is there a deadline before which you can cancel for free, but if you cancel late you will still be charged? The most common timeframe is probably 24 hours – if you cancel outside 24 hours before the lesson you will not be charged, but within 24 hours you will still be charged.
Professional tutors will use their discretion. For example, for a good client whose child comes home from school ill, I suspect most tutors will waive the fee. But if you keep cancelling them for spurious reasons, or worse just don’t show up, you are very likely to be charged. Remember that a good, professional tutor will be in demand and may even have a waiting list with a student ready to go straight into your slot. Remember also that this is their income to pay their mortgage, bills etc. This is especially true of full-time tutors who will be relying on this money. Therefore, it is very sensible to get this sorted out before it becomes an issue.
How do I pay you?
Another thing to get sorted out right at the beginning is how you are going to pay. What are they expecting? If you have an independent face-to-face tutor, they may well be expecting you to have the cash to hand them at the end of the lesson. It will be a bit embarrassing if they are standing there waiting to be paid and you haven’t been to the cash point.
They may want a BACS transfer. Is there a deadline? Do you pay the same day or will they give you a few days to pay? What happens if you don’t pay on time? Will they levy an administration charge if they have to keep reminding you?
If you are using an agency they should have this well and truly organized. In the case of The Tutor Team and others using TutorCruncher, you may get an electronic invoice with a button to pay. It will be very fast as you will have already registered your card on the encrypted system. Another option with agencies, and one we now use, is automated payment where your card is simply debited once the tutor has sent you your lesson report, and you get an electronic receipt.
Are you looking for a professional private tutor to help your child reach their full potential?
You can contact a tutor here
Or contact our friendly and knowledgeable office team to get a bespoke tutor match
A Bit About Me
I am Dr Janet Rose, an Oxford University Graduate and a trained teacher. As well as being a mum, grandmother and education blogger, I am the Founder & Managing Partner of The Tutor Team
Based in beautiful, rural Wiltshire, our offices are in an old converted water mill. We are a family business, where I work with my daughter Tess, my son Anthony and my daughter-in-law Anita. I am also ably assisted by Lisa, my wonderful PA. We understand parents’ concerns about their children’s education, because we are all parents ourselves. That’s why we set extremely high standards for our tutors and are very proud to have a team of 81 qualified, experienced teachers and university lecturers offering high-quality private tuition.