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August 2017

Getting the most from tutoring

By | Career coaching, Study advice | No Comments

The tutoring industry is burgeoning but how can you tell a good tutor from a bad one? And how can you make sure your child gets the most from the sessions? Natalie Lancer from MyUniApplication asks Leah Warren, Director of Watling Tutors (www.watlingtutors.com) all about it.

One way to tell a good tutor, says Leah, is from the types of questions they ask about your child. They should ask what level they are working at and what is being covered at school. It may not be necessary to spend the entire first session doing a ‘strengths and weaknesses’ assessment; instead, your tutor should ask to see examples of work, which you could scan and send to the tutor in advance. They need to have a clear grasp of what your child is struggling with in order to create a bespoke work plan to help your child.

It is important that the tutor is familiar with your exam board’s specification as different exam boards have different expectations.  For students going for an A* at A-level, make sure the tutor knows how to move from an A to A* answers. Leah explains that for English, this would mean introducing the student to a wide variety of texts and criticism. Similarly, make sure the tutor knows how to move the student to a Level 9 for GCSE.

If the school are not setting enough homework to develop your child’s skills then encourage your tutor to set work every session. To get the most from the tutoring sessions, encourage your child to do the homework and look at it as a formative exercise, i.e. it helps the student identify with what they need further help.

Don’t be afraid to ask the tutor about their track record, but do be aware it’s not all about A*s – it’s about the value they have added. For a student projected to get an E, a B grade is a massive achievement, more so than moving from an A to an A*. Ask for references and other parents’ testimonials about the tutor.

It is important that tutoring is a positive experience for your child. Check there is rapport between the tutor and student. Of course, verify the tutor is DBS checked. The tutoring session should be a safe space where the student can feel they can ask any questions and be supported.  Until the student is 8 or 9, they can probably only concentrate for 40 minutes. Beyond this age, one hour works well. Make sure the tutoring takes place in a quiet place, away from any interruptions. Also, in each session, the tutor should give clear direction to the student about how to move forward. This might mean they give notes, examples or set things to learn. Older students shouldn’t be afraid to be clear with their tutors about what they do and don’t understand and what methods help them learn.

It is important to cultivate an open relationship with the school, teacher, parent and tutor – tutoring does not need to be a secret. Remember, we all want the best for your child. When the teacher writes a report on your child’s progress, it would be helpful to show this to the tutor so they can address points directly.


Natalie Lancer is an expert in mentoring students and can advise on GCSE and A-level subject choice, UCAS personal statements and interview technique. For more information, contact Natalie Lancer at natalie@natalielancer.com or on 07747 612 513.  www.myuniapplication.com; www.natalielancer.com.