In 2017, studies showed that Australia's private tutoring market was growing by over 4 per cent a year — increasing numbers of parents and adult learners are seeking supplemental instruction, at all levels and in all subjects. Tutoring is even becoming a career path, instead of a part-time job.

If you are thinking about trying to find a tutor, you are likely to have many questions.

Should you go with a tutoring company or a private tutor? Is home tutoring safe for your child? Will the expense be worth it? Will it add to, or alleviate your child's stress?

Questions and rumours abound.

Ask all your questions before deciding on a tutor.
Get all your questions answered before employing a private tutor. (Source: Visualhunt)

There are so many tutoring programs and private tutors out there, the choice can feel overwhelming. You need to weigh up so many factors: price, personality, learning style, benefits versus disadvantages.

Five of the main questions parents and students often have are addressed in this guide:

  • What are the pros and cons of home tutoring?
  • Is the key to academic success to find a tutor?
  • Is private tuition worth the money?
  • Why are private tutor rates so high?
  • Is it safe to use in home tutoring services?

It is important to ask these questions and have them answered before you make a decision about whether to hire a private tutor.

What are the Pros and Cons of Home Tutoring? 

Home tuition refers to the location of tutoring sessions — either your home or your tutor's.

If neither of these is suitable, you could also consider arranging to meet your private tutor and have your lessons in a public place, such as a library, park or coffee shop. As long as the location is convenient for both tutor and tutee.

If your preference is for your tutor to come to your house, one of your requirements will be that your tutor can travel — whether they have a car, ride their bike or catch public transport, you need to know they'll be on time.

Asking your tutor to travel to your home is very common. It's convenient for the parent as it saves petrol and time. Be aware, though, your tutor's travel costs and time will be factored in to their rates.

Some tutors will have a dedicated space in their own homes for one-on-one tutoring. This can provide a very relaxed learning environment, and allows the tutor to have everything they need at their fingertips to deliver a great session.

Before you agree to go to your tutor's house though, you need to assess the risks. Do you feel comfortable (especially if you're the parent of a younger child)? Does the tutor have the correct insurances? Ask to see a Working with Vulnerable People (WwVP) card, too (or its equivalent, depending on where you live).

What if you're the tutor?

If you're a tutor and run your tutoring business from your home, it's essential your house is tidy and there are no occupational health and safety hazards. Even something as small as a loose piece of carpet could present a safety risk to your clients.

As a tutor, you also need to make sure you have the appropriate level of public liability insurance. This will cover you for any damages or injury sustained by you or your clients when they are in your home.

In addition, while a WwVP card or its equivalent is not mandatory for private tutors, many have them to provide peace of mind to their younger clients and their parents.

None of these points are essential but having them all in place before you begin will win you more tutoring jobs as parents will trust you.

What is involved in online tutoring?
Good online tutoring platforms are an easy way for tutors to find students, and for students to find a tutor. (Source: Visualhunt)

Online tutoring has seen a huge rise in popularity in recent years. The reason is simple — convenience. Online tutoring is the ultimate 'in home tutoring' — both parties get to work from the comfort of their own homes, or anywhere else as long as they have internet access and a webcam.

Multiple tutoring companies offer online tutoring to serve different purposes. Superprof is a fantastic platform, catering for a broad range of interests and needs.  Superprof is straightforward to use, and provides a number of options regarding how you access the tutoring services. Best of all it's free to join — tutoring fees are reasonable and go straight to the tutors.

With an extensive online community, accessible in all corners of the globe, you can do English tutoring in Spain, or work with a French tutor in Paris. As long as you have a computer, you can live anywhere and tutor, or be tutored, by anyone anywhere in the world.

Tutoring overseas is becoming increasingly common, both online and by people who have relocated. Many tutoring companies are expanding into overseas' markets.

Many people take on tutor jobs to supplement their income. They may only offer evening sessions, or weekends. This is not an issue with Superprof as tutors and students negotiate directly with each other to find times that suit.

Ideally, as a student, you will get to choose how formal or informal you want your session to be. Perhaps you'd prefer to discuss concepts with your Biology tutor over a coffee but when it comes to test prep, you really need the structured lesson in a less distracting environment.

Take your time to make your decisions, and ensure you are happy with them and feel they are safe and will achieve your goals. Also, to have the best possible chance of your sessions yielding results, it is recommended you negotiate fees, timetables and content well ahead of time.

Is the Key to Academic Success to Find a Tutor?  

What are the benefits of home tutoring?
Working with a private tutor can be great for your confidence, which, in turn, leads to improved achievement. (Source: Visualhunt)

If you find the right tutor for you, and you're willing to put in the effort, it stands to reason that your private academic tutoring sessions will provide for long-term success.

For example, you are far more likely to achieve a better score if you do your research and employ a skilled maths tutor who can help you prepare for your final exam.

Similarly, if you have a personal tutor who can provide you with targeted conversation practice in the lead up to your Japanese oral exam, your final grade is likely to improve. In these instances, a classroom teacher, dealing with 20 or more students, can simply not give everyone individualised attention.

Tutoring services are fantastic for test preparation, but what about your long-term goals and success?

If the student possesses the right work ethic and attitude towards improvement, a home tutor can offer so much more than homework help and fact-cramming to get you through that last exam.

The best tutors, with the most committed students, will tap into their student's learning style and work on equipping each student with a repertoire of study skills, effectively providing the long-term skills for any subject from trigonometry to English literature.

Great tutors, whether they are a Primary-level reading tutor, a tutor of High School Maths or a chemistry tutor at university level, will ignite passion, spark confidence and give their students the tools to move forward to further academic success.

In Australia, it is becoming increasingly common for children to have a private tutor, often for several subjects. Tutoring centres are big business, sometimes working with children as young as 4 years of age. Parents are keen to have the best opportunities for their children, and this often translates into investing in education.

Interpreted by many as a loss of confidence in our education system, and by others as Australia's move towards increasingly competitive higher education opportunities and job market, whatever the reason there is no doubt demand for tutors is rising.

The change in the culture of the classroom, and the crowded curriculum making it near impossible for teachers to teach anything in depth, it is true that many children do not receive the individual attention they need to understand new concepts, or just keep up. These days, parents are also time-poor, and are often unable to assist their children with homework and revision.

It's only natural that parents look towards tutoring to fill the gaps.

For many reasons, tutoring is often seen as the 'fixer' for misunderstood concepts, or as short-term assistance to pass an exam or fix a particularly tricky assignment or project. There is a place for this, and it fits a need.

However, students who routinely struggle with academic concepts, or learning in general, are in need of longer-term solutions which may include ongoing or periodic private tuition in a particular subject, or intensive work on time management and study skills, followed by application to different subject areas.

Whatever the reason for engaging a tutor, it should be seen as an investment in your future, or your child's.

 Is Private Tuition Worth the Money?  

Everyone wants to get value for their hard-earned money — so this is a very important question.

How much does a private tutor cost in Australia?
Private tutor rates can be quite expensive, so it is important to make sure find a tutor who can help you achieve your goals. (Source: Visualhunt)

If students are parents are willing to pay higher prices for tutoring, they are going to expect quality. Quality means lessons of a high standard which result in a improvement in grades and/or increased confidence.

When you feel you are getting this, you know your tutor is worth the fees they charge.

There are three key points to consider when you are looking for a private tutor:

  • the outcomes, or grades, you want to achieve
  • how much you can afford
  • where it will fit into your weekly schedule

In short, the tutoring services need to meet your goals, within your allowable budget and time frame.

Money will often be the deciding factor. Private tuition is not cheap, but don't fall into the trap of thinking that higher fees will always mean higher outcomes.

As the potential client, you know your goals and it's up to you to do the research. Compare the available options — would an online tutor meet your needs, or do you feel more comfortable with the idea of a local tutor? Ask around. Look at advertisements in libraries, schools and community spaces. Have a look at what websites like Superprof and Gumtree have to offer.

When you know what is available, are clear on what you need, and have a good idea of how much you are willing to pay, you can start enquiring about individual tutors. You will want to know about their experience and background. Remember that depending on the level you are at, and the subject you need tutoring for, a tutor with less experience may also be just as good as someone with years of experience.

Of course, if you are at university, specialising in a particular niche area, you will be looking for someone who has that level of education or is practising in the field. Be prepared to be charged more for this, but don't agree to pay more than you are willing to spend.

Ask your tutor if they'd consider a trial lesson — this way you can both see if you are a good fit for each other, without having the pressure of a long-term commitment. Some tutors may even offer a free tutoring session for the first time.

Many subjects now have options of online learning, via apps, websites and YouTube clips, and these can sometimes be very helpful if you are looking for a quick fix on a specific concept or skill. This style of pre-prepared, static assistance is particularly common with languages and ESL.

Language apps and free, or cheap, online classes can be a viable option, but at some point, you are going to need authentic speaking practice. Language tutors who are native speakers will provide support, in-depth knowledge of grammar and that necessary 'real', two-way conversation.

Online learning has its place, but when it comes to answering your questions and providing relevant examples and real scenarios, a private tutor is well worth the money you will be paying.

Why are Private Tutor Rates So High?  

If you have been tutored in the past, or have recently spent time investigating different tutors or tutoring centres, you will already know there is a vast difference in rates, with some private tutor rates seeming exceedingly high. As we've just discussed, however, in home tutoring can be a worthwhile investment.

Working with a private tutor, who understands your needs and your learning style, will usually result in significant improvements. You may pass an exam you were destined to fail. You could move to a B grading from a D. It all depends on your goals, your effort and the rapport between you and your tutor.

The traditional classroom environment, and the tutoring environment are completely different. With private tutoring, you have:

  • exclusive one-on-one attention
  • no distractions
  • less pressure
  • individualised instruction targeted specifically to your academic and learning needs.

Along with parents, teachers are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of private tuition. Many teachers support it, and will willingly work with the tutor to achieve the best outcomes for the student.

Understandably, however, a lot of people are still concerned about whether they will get value for money. It is a lot of financial output without the rock-solid guarantee of success.

If this is how you are feeling, find out if any of your friends or colleagues have used private tutoring. Ask your child's teacher if they have any recommendations or advice. Look at online forums. Talking to people who have had direct experience with tutoring will help you weigh up the pros and cons.

Work out your budget. Perhaps you feel you could manage $60 for weekly one-hour session. Consider that this investment could assist you to gain a university offer into your desired course, or prepare you for a career overseas.

There is tutoring available in some subject areas at $20 an hour. Depending on your goals, this may work for you, but it's worth bearing in mind these tutors may still be students themselves, and only one module ahead of you. $40 an hour is a solid, base-level benchmark where you should expect some degree of expertise, but not actual teaching qualifications.

Paying top dollar does not absolutely guarantee you top-quality tutoring, and paying an unbelievably low rate does not mean you won't learn anything. Word of mouth, testimonials and trying the tutor out are the best ways to tell if this tutor is right for you.

So, whether you are thinking about setting up your own business as a private tutor, or looking for private tuition for yourself or your child, there are many factors to consider.

Everyone has the right to access tutoring.
Free tutoring services are available for those who are eligible. (Source: Visualhunt)

Not everyone is in the financial position of being able to afford tutoring fees. This does not mean you don't have the right to access academic support, and several organisations around Australia recognise this.

There are several charities that work to provide volunteer tutors for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Smith Family runs a learning clubs program, providing after school academic support, tutoring and study skills for free. TLG (Teach, Learn, Grow) and Weave Youth and Community Services are two of numerous other charities reaching out to help young Australians with their schooling.

Look online, or ask your school to find out what is available in your area.

Is it Safe to Use In Home Tutoring Services?

Money, potential for success, and convenience are all factors requiring consideration when deciding about tutoring.

For parents, however, the physical and emotional safety of their child is likely to be of the most importance.

There are three key aspects you will want to see when you look at a potential tutor's profile:

  • current, accurate and relevant qualifications in the subject they are tutoring
  • prior tutoring or teaching experience, perhaps backed up by teaching qualifications
  • evidence of current background checks with the required documentation.

As a parent, you want to know the tutor you are employing to work one-on-one with your child has experience working with young people — and the documentation to prove they've undergone the relevant police checks. Ask the tutor for references, contact details of current or past students. A reputable and trustworthy tutor will happily offer you these things.

Knowing you need to find a tutor, but also feeling you can't afford one can be demoralising, but don't give up. There is help available out there at a price you can afford.

In summary, when you are looking for a tutor, get the following things clear in your mind first:

  • Where do you want to take classes?
  • Are you comfortable there are no health or safety risks?
  • What are your goals? What do you want to achieve out of the tutor/student relationship?
  • What is your budget?

Check out Superprof for tutors from Sydney to Perth.

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.