Over the last decade, the demand for private tutoring in Australia has seen dramatic growth with an estimated one in four families engaging private tutors for their children. In financial terms, investment in private tuition has seen a 40 per cent increase, leading to it becoming a $6 billion industry.
The seemingly overnight influx of hundreds of tutoring agencies into Australia has caused some concern, however, with many academics, including maths teacher extraordinaire (and 2018 Local Hero award recipient) Eddie Woo, urging caution. They warn that while a good tutor can do wonders for students, a bad tutor can cause irreparable academic damage.
So, how do you sort the good from the bad?
When you go online and enter search keywords like tutors near me, you will get page after page of tutoring agencies vying for your business. It's a good idea to spend a couple of hours asking yourself a few questions and doing a little research first.
Knowing what level of help you need, how much time you have, and how you prefer to work and learn is the first step.
Then, you'll need to know how to find out what skills and tutoring styles are offered by different agencies and tutors, and the information you should be asking for when you call to make an enquiry.
Of course, it's also a good idea to talk to someone who has had experience with the tutor or agency you're thinking about. Testimonials and word-of-mouth recommendations are great because you are hearing the opinions and experience of students like yourself.
Let's get you started on your journey with some information about the different types of private tutoring available throughout Australia, and some tips to help you access the right level of support for you.
Academic Support Tutoring Agencies
The most commonly requested tutoring support at every level of education is in English and maths, however, most agencies also offer other subjects, particularly for secondary school students.
Agencies tend to offer face-to-face lessons onsite for individuals or small focus groups, but they also cater to other methods of delivery, including online and at the home of the student.
Some Australia-wide tutoring companies are:
- Kip McGrath (maths and English only, primary school level students through to Year 12)
- Cluey Learning (Year 2 to Year 12, maths and English only until Year 10, chemistry for Years 11 and 12)
- FirstTutors (wide range of subjects, online and in-person, primary school through to university and adult casual)
- The Tutoring Company (Year 1 to Year 12, catering for maths, English and science)
- Kumon (maths and English only, generally primary and high school students but also caters for adult learners)
How Do Tutoring Companies Work?
Procedures vary between agencies but usually involve an interview to discuss education needs, and sometimes a diagnostic assessment to determine the level of each student. Once this is completed, students will be matched up with a qualified tutor, either one-on-one or in a small group.
You will probably be expected to pay in advance, per term or in blocks of hours. Rates can vary and start at around $30 an hour for a small group lesson.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Tutors employed at larger companies will generally be retired teachers or tutors with a vast amount of experience in their field. These days, most companies teach according to the Australian Curriculum so your tutor will understand exactly what you should be achieving at school and the skills you need at each grade level.
Tutoring companies and their employees see a large number of students each week, so they generally do not have time to liaise with your child's teachers. Sometimes the lessons are pre-structured rather than individualised and you are usually restricted in terms of time flexibility.
Online Tutoring Platforms
An online tutoring platform takes some of the work out of searching for your ideal tutor. Some of the platforms with tutors all around Australia include:
- Australian Tutoring Association
Platforms such as these provide a safe online environment to connect students and teachers or tutors. They will usually cater to a wide variety of topics, from academic to recreational.
On the Superprof platform, for example, a tutor will list their teaching areas, student level, type of tutoring, education qualifications, experience, skills, location and hourly rate. Potential students need only to peruse the available teachers, select one and get in touch. Almost all Superprof tutors provide the first hour for free so you can both assess your experience and decide if you wish to work together.
There is no commitment to pay until you find the private tutor you want to work with.
Once a student has connected with their tutor, it is up to the pair of them to negotiate the time, location and frequency of their sessions.
Freelance Private Tutors
Many tutors who are listed on online platforms work in a freelance capacity. All this means is that they are not tied to a particular company. With this comes the benefit of the tutor being able to set their own hours and their rates.
Not all freelance tutors are listed on online platforms, however, and you may find them through their own website or social media advertisement, particularly if tutoring is their fulltime career. Alternatively, they may only be tutoring a few hours a week in order to earn some pocket money.
There are no rules governing freelance private tutors to say they must have education qualifications or experience in the field they aim to teach. For this reason, it is even more important that students carefully check the credentials of any tutor they are considering employing. At the very least, for peace of mind, you can ask to sight a working with children certificate of registration. You should also ask to see references and testimonials from past students, and even talk to them if you can.
This is not to say you shouldn't work with a freelance tutor as there are some exceptional freelancers out there. However, it is worth your while to be cautious. A reputable tutor will not mind being questioned.
Types of Private Tutoring
Whether you want to employ someone for private tuition, or are thinking about looking for work as a private tutor, it is important to understand the different types of private tutoring and what they entail.
When face-to-face tuition is offered, you will usually meet up at the student's home, the tutor's home or in an agreed public location, such as a library or coffeeshop.
The benefits of in-person tutoring often come down to a preference for seeing the person you are working with in real life, rather than as a computer image. Often this will help the tutor and student develop a closer connection, which in turn can aid the achievement of outcomes and success.
Disadvantages are the need to travel, which adds to cost, and the potential difficulties surrounding location, such as safety and noise control.
Younger children often respond better to in-person tuition, and there is a level of peace of mind for the parent as well as they can be nearby during the lesson.
The world is moving to an increasingly online environment and with ever-growing advancements in technology, online tutoring is certainly attractive to more and more people.
The clear advantages of online tuition include the fact there is no need to travel and if the best tutor for you lives on the other side of Australia, or even in another country, it's not a problem.
Disadvantages are obviously technology-related — poor bandwidth and misbehaving hardware can really put a dampener on your lesson. Obtaining quality equipment can also present a financial issue for many students, although the cost of the tuition itself is usually cheaper.
If your subject lends itself to online learning, this form of tutoring is definitely worth considering.
Sharing a tutor with a small group of students is not only cheaper but it also allows a greater opportunity for progress as students learn from each other through discussion and teamwork.
Small tutor groups usually take place in a face-to-face environment, simply because it's easier to manage the conversation. However, depending on the subject, student level and the size of the group, tutors will also run small group sessions online.
Whether you need help with homework, lessons in time management and study skills, or you have to brush up on your maths knowledge for work, hiring a private tutor is a worthwhile investment. It doesn't just have to be academic either. Private tutors can also be hired for recreational activities, including art, music and singing, and yoga.
The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running.
~ Simone Weil ~