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How to Become A Tutor

By Alan Peters,

24 Jan 2020

Anybody can be a tutor.  However, not everybody can be a good one.  Some experience of teaching is really a must, but assuming that as given, there are then three options
  • Employment as a 1-1 tutor in a school (a decent, if decreasing, option but not the subject of this blog);
  • Tutoring through an agency;
  • Private tutoring.
Working for an agency is a good starting point for those looking to tutor as their main source of income.  Of course, the agency is going to take their cut, but an expectation of a decent remuneration per hour is reasonable. An agency is the best bet for providing a regular supply of tutees while you get your names known.  To become a tutor and find enough work, word of mouth is crucial.  That is another reason why tutors with a background in teaching have a head start. Private tutoring is the most lucrative option.  It works perfectly both for those who want to earn a bit of pocket money for their summer holidays, or do the job full time. Effective Tutoring Anybody who goes into this field expecting to make an easy buck or two is in for a disappointment.  Tutoring is intensive and tiring, both for the teacher and the student. Other than that, a good lesson looks like any other good lesson.

It’s just that there will be no OFSTED inspector or senior manager breathing down your neck as you try to teach. Planning is easier than for a class, because you are dealing with just one student and so can readily identify your tutee’s starting point, learning style and end target.  However, it is good to have plenty of reserve activities to hand.  Start with a fun introduction to recap on the last piece of work, get the student to ‘do’ rather than ‘listen’ and end with something that reinforces the aim of the session, but in a fun way.  As an English tutor, I had a collection of word games ready to call upon at the end of the hour to reinforce whatever we had studied. Resources are easy to come by.

Online resources are usually free and readily available; the TES has a good sharing scheme and bookstores often stock study guides.  Or you can develop your own, bespoke, material. It’s worth spending ten minutes at the end of the session with the parent to explain what work has been covered.  That might be an unpaid ten minutes, but helps to establish a good relationship with your student’s family.  It also engenders the trust that the tutor is interested in their child, rather than just making a few quid on the side. Where To Find Tutees There is plenty of demand.  The Good Schools Guide lists a number of reliable agencies, word of mouth works well.  Ensure you are clear on matters such as where the tuitions will take place, how you will be paid and when, and what charges are made to the families seeking a tutor. Private tutors can advertise.  Parish magazines are a good bet, as is a note in the local post office, but word of mouth is what will really generate business.  A little word of caution – if you are tutoring while holding down a teaching job, it is wise to check your school’s policy on the matter.  It is also frowned up to recommend to a parent that one of your students would benefit from a tutor, then offer to do it yourselves. Some General Information On Tutoring
  • Anybody can be a tutor.

    However, maths and English specialists are likely to get most work, followed (distantly) by science and language teachers.  Music teachers are in demand, but that is a slightly different field, and not the subject of this blog.  Teaching art, Geography or IT might generate some pocket money, but no more.
  • Consider the market.
    • Young children up to about nine rarely use tutors.

      However, some do, often those with pushier parents, but sometimes where, for example, illness has led to a gap in understanding.
    • SATs offer absolutely no benefit to those who sit them.

      Don’t expect a market here.
    • However, if you are lucky enough to live in an 11+ grammar school area, there is likely to be considerable demand.

      Most 11+ exams feature some kind of IQ test, and research suggests that 3 years of tutoring for these can make a ‘significant’ difference.  They will also often have an English and Maths test.
    • There is no doubt that wealthier areas see parents willing to pay more for their tutors.

      But never charge less than £25 an hour for private work; we are professionals and should be paid as such.  An expected rate should be £40 for most of the country, with £50 in the wealthier areas.  Parts of London, Surrey, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire will generate £100 per hour for some types of tuition, such as preparation for independent senior school.
    • The syllabus for these can be very different to work covered in the maintained sector.

      Exams can be ones that senior schools set themselves, while many traditional public schools require either 13+ or 11+ Common Entrance (see the ISEB website).  Scholarship exams are tough, often being pitched at a difficulty beyond GCSE.
    • Tutors are often sought for students coming up to GCSE or A level exams.
  • Private tutors do not need a DBS, although an agency will need one.
  • It is advisable to work at the student’s house.

    By its very nature, tutoring is on a 1-1 basis, and having other people around (such as a tutee’s family) offers a level of protection much needed these days.
  • Sometimes people seek a tutor to accompany their children on, for example, a year long world trip.

    (Gabbitas specialises in this type of job advertisement).  It is hard work, and not suitable for all, but can offer enormous returns.  A friend once spent a year travelling the world expense free on a lovely yacht.  She cleared £100000 at the end.

    However, be very clear of your duties if you consider this kind of work.