Research recently published by the Sutton Trust has shown that more than a quarter of secondary pupils in England and Wales now get private tuition outside school.
The reasons for the increase are multi-faceted.
It could be a result of the increased demands of reformed GCSEs and A levels.
It could be a symptom of the increased pressure that young people are now under to achieve the top grades.
Indeed, there are several potential factors in play here.
Of course, if it shows that parents are prepared to invest in their children’s education then it should be seen as a positive thing.
However, we hear more and more these days about how divided and unequal our society has become.
And the rise in private tuition could just be another example of this inequality.
Private tuition has implications for social mobility
The highest levels of private tuition can be found in London.
The Sutton Trust study discovered that 41% of secondary school pupils in the capital have private tuition outside school.
That’s a statistic that will shock and surprise many people.
Now the charity, which focuses on increasing social mobility, has called for financial support to be given to disadvantaged families, so that children from poorer backgrounds can have access to private tutoring too.
It’s rare that any sort of private tuition is available for anything less than £25 per hour.
What this means, of course, is that a large number of parents simply cannot afford to pay for tuition for their children.
Private tuition: the hidden factor in exam results?
It’s difficult to accurately measure the impact that private tuition has on exam results.
Although the quality of tutoring and the effect it has on attainment is difficult to track, it stands to reason that it gives an advantage to those young people who receive it.
The individual one-to-one attention that can be given in a private tuition session is a luxury that cannot be afforded in a whole-class setting.
It allows a level of individual focus and emphasis that is impossible to achieve in a class of 25-30 children.
In whole-class teaching, it is often the most needy pupils in a group who demand the most attention.
So much time can be taken up by classroom management.
The overall pace of a lesson is generally set by the needs of the majority in a class, not the individual.
In a one-to-one scenario, the pupil can have the undivided attention of the tutor.
This is obviously a massive bonus.
It’s in this sort of environment that students are likely to blossom.
Things are far more likely to ‘click’.
Tuition creates a wealth gap
For obvious reasons, there are concerns that the most affluent families have an unfair advantage when it comes to private tutoring.
34% of more well-off parents have paid for private tuition.
This compares to just 20% of less well-off families.
Poorer pupils get far less private tutoring and less help with homework or support in general at home.
It’s no surprise, therefore, that the attainment gap exists.
Should ‘tuition vouchers’ be issued?
In a culture where private tuition has become so widespread, the chairman of the Sutton Trust, Sir Peter Lampl, has called for a scheme to be introduced to make private tuition available to the most disadvantaged pupils.
The suggestion is that this might be achieved by providing tuition vouchers that are means-tested.
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