If you are thinking of hiring a private tutor for your child and for their eleven plus journey, it is important to find the right person. With no national data base of qualified tutors, it is on the parents' shoulders to ensure that anyone they employ is reputable.
However, there are several things that you can ask and do, that will enable you to make an informed decision, even if you have never considered private tuition before. Having been a teacher and tutor for many years and having used tutors for my own children for various things, I will highlight some of the things that you should expect from a tutor, might hope for from a tutor, and what a tutor might expect of you.
About the Prospective Tutor
You may find a prospective tutor by word-of -mouth (which is usually the best way), or by utilising a tutoring company website such as Tutor Hunt. Either way, before you meet, ask them to provide evidence that they have an up-to-date, enhanced criminal background check, and ask for two references. Do not consider any tutor that cannot provide these. An experienced tutor will be able to provide references from past families that they have worked with, whilst someone new to tutoring should be able to provide references from a school, university or other teaching professional. You may also ask for teaching qualification certificates. Unfortunately, there are a few tutors around that are very poorly qualified, if at all, and who will fail to deliver adequate eleven plus tuition.
With these in order, it will be time to meet the prospective tutor. In most cases your child will spend many hours with this person over a year, and so it is important to find the right fit. You can expect to have a free introductory meeting with them, and this is usually of no cost to yourself.
Any good tutor that you meet will not only be prepared to tell you about the service they provide, answer questions and give you enough information about themselves for you to feel comfortable, but will want you and your child to feel reassured.
From my experience almost all prospective parents are very considerate of both myself and my home. However, once, when meeting a prospective tutee, a parent asked if I owned or rented my home. Although we do own our home, I felt uncomfortable with this irrelevant and personal level of questioning from a stranger and chose not to accept the family. On the other hand, one dear lady upon first meeting admired my kitchen and opened my fridge, and although this may be considered more invasive, she was so sweet about it I didn't mind! Quality tutors are in demand; they expect to be respected as professionals and will be assessing whether they believe your family are as a good match for them, as vice-versa.
Personality of both the tutor and tutee, alongside the tutor's experiences and expectations come into play. If the potential tutor is not showing that they can develop a good rapport with your child, look elsewhere.
Any tutor worth their salt, will show a genuine interest in your child. They will not speak to only the adult in the room, but direct as much as possible of the conversation towards the child. They may ask things such as 'What subjects do you enjoy?', 'How do you feel about doing some extra work?’, ‘What do you like doing out of school?’ This is not about interviewing the child, so do not worry about how they answer, particularly if your child is shy; it just a way of respecting their views and involving them. You can also expect the tutor to want to spend a while, maybe up to half an hour, discovering a little about their current academic ability in the three key areas of reading, verbal reasoning, and maths, and to try out a little non-verbal reasoning with them. Hopefully the tutor will also offer your child the opportunity to ask questions too.
What Else Will the Tutor Ask?
Your tutor will need key information such as contact details, child's D.O.B, any allergies and medications, who may collect them etc., but will also need a few more pieces of information to make an informed decision.
From you they will want to know how school is going, why you are considering the 11+ and which schools are under consideration. Ideally, they would like you to be prepared to discuss your child’s strengths and what they find more challenging. Knowing any concerns your child or you have about tuition will help you all. Some of this information can be relayed by phone or email if that is more suitable. In my case, besides a conversation with us all involved, I like the parent to fill out a short information sheet about their child whilst I spend a short time getting to know the child's academic level.
What to Ask the Tutor
· What experience do you have tutoring?
· Fees and scheduling?
· Do you expect homework and if so, how much?
· Should I help my child with any homework?
· What can I do to help my child at home?
· Can you tell me a little about the school destinations of previous tutees?
· Am I expected to provide materials and if so, which ones?
Many tutors will ask you to provide materials, but also have resources of their own. Be certain a tutor is fully aware of the content of the CEM eleven plus exam. This differs considerably from other test providers. Also, you will be paying for private tuition, and therefore, although many resources may be alike, your tutor will want to tailor the lessons and resources to suit your child's individual needs. For example, if your child finds maths relatively simple, but struggles with comprehension, the resources picked will focus more on the weaker area.
You may like to ask the 11+ pass rate of previous students but do be aware that a high pass rate does not necessarily mean great tuition as this would depend on the academic calibre and number of candidates. Some tutors will only accept tutees that they already believe to be of a very high academic calibre, and in this case, the tutor's 'pass rate' is likely to be very high, regardless of the quality teaching. Many tutors will accept a wide range of abilities because they recognise how much difference a single year can make at this young age, and they do not want to deny children with a reasonable chance of success, the opportunity. However, the tutor in question should be honest about the realistic chances of a child reaching the required standard.
All tutors should be willing to report on your child's progress. Whilst some might prefer to do this formally, in my case, I speak with the parent following every lesson, and make myself available by phone, to speak at very short notice regarding any concerns. Whilst I do not provide a formal reporting record, from time to time, I will write a note to the parent in the Home Work/Vocabulary Exercise Book that is used every week.
Some tutors will be willing to come to your home to tutor your child. This may be a clear advantage to you, and you might be prepared to pay more for this facility. There should be a designated quiet working space either way.
For the tutor, in most cases, the most convenient situation, is to have children come to them. This convenience goes beyond simply saving them a journey, but allows them to have resources on hand, that would be impractical to bring from house to house. Although parents rarely stay at a tutor's home during tuition time, there should be a place within ear shot of the lesson for them to sit and wait if they prefer to stay.
It may also be worth considering other factors such as animals in the home (we have a golden retriever who is usually a big 'hit' but when necessary is kept away from those a little fearful of dogs), other children in the house, and the distance that you will need to travel.
We wish you luck in finding a tutor that suits your child. We are not a tutoring company ourselves but hope this information will help you decide a upon someone that is well-informed and that can offer an enjoyable and worthwhile experience.