Trustworthiness is a broad term.

When parents are looking at private tuition for their child, whether online tutoring or a face-to-face service, they need a teacher they can trust.

The obvious choice is a tutor with good qualifications, a level of education experience and testimonials. Personal rapport and positivity are also important—kids need to like their tutors.

Above all, however, it is important to feel safe with your private tutor—both physically and mentally—to allow quality learning to take place.

Taking the time to search and make your choice is essential to help you achieve the results you are seeking.

What makes an effective study space?
Having a dedicated study space, free of clutter and distractions, will help keep you safe so you can achieve the best home tutoring results | source: Unsplash - Robert Bye

When you start your search to find a tutor, it's essential to carefully read information and ask questions about the person you are employing to work with your children.

Selecting A Private Tutor: What Information Should I Search For?

You will have your own list of requirements when you are looking for home tutoring. These may include academic qualifications in specific subjects, and tuition or teaching experience.

To get you started and help narrow down to your final choice, remember to check the following, keeping in mind your personal preferences:

  • Qualifications: does the teacher have the education background or academic qualifications they say they have, or to the level you require? Don't be afraid to request evidence.
  • Education degree: would you feel more comfortable with a professionally trained teacher who has a university degree and practical experience in schools?
  • Criminal history check: has a National Police Check been carried out and a certificate issued?
  • Working with children check: anyone who works with children under the age of 18 must have the relevant certificate to show they are cleared for working with children and vulnerable people. Ask to see this certification and make sure it's current.

Pre-employment screening of adults who work with children is mandatory across most states and territories in Australia.

Do not hesitate to ask if you can view relevant certifications.

If you're satisfied your chosen pool of tutors have the necessary clearances, but still can't decide, try these ideas to help you make your decision:

  • talk to students who have worked with the tutors previously
  • request the contact details of former students, parents, schools or employers so you can make enquiries and gain information about the quality of services they provide
  • ask to view a referee list and take the time to follow up on these by email or phone

You can find a tutor on Superprof for almost all subjects, including maths and English, or any other area where you need academic study support, new skills acquisition or private tuition in a leisure pursuit or hobby.

Online tutoring or at home tutoring is also available throughout Australia with Superprof.

Is it a Good Idea to Hold an Interview Prior to Starting Home or Online Tutoring?

The answer to this question, and whether or not you decide to interview, is entirely your call. Meeting a private tutor before the first lesson is, however, a good way to how comfortable you and your child feel with this person. An informal chat will also help both parties gain important information to maximise learning potential and ensure support provided will meet the student's needs. It is worth investing time in this process.

What questions should I ask a private tutor in an interview?
Having an informal chat prior to the first lesson is the best way to find out if student and teacher will be a good fit | source: Unsplash - Christina @ wocintechchat

Conducting a phone interview is okay, but meeting someone in person is always best. If you are considering an online tuition service for your student, make use of a video call, preferably via the platform you'll be using, to meet each other. The primary function of this interview is for parents to assess whether the instructor will be a good fit for their child, but it would also be appropriate to ask about costs and fee packages for the tuition service.

Feel free to ask any questions that will allow you to assess whether this person will meet your needs. Anything that will enable you to build a professional trusting relationship, such as experience and qualifications, is worthy of noting.

Your discussion should involve positive questions that will elicit detailed responses. Observe and try to read things like body language and voice, as these will give you valuable information. Students benefit more when the adults they work with are friendly, supportive and approachable.

Remember to discuss other details, including the time and location of sessions. The space for the lesson needs to comfortable, tidy and accessible for the student and teacher. You should also determine whether you, as the parent, need to be present throughout the lesson or visible and within hearing distance with the ability to check in regularly. Obviously, this is not so important for university level students, but for a primary school student it is essential.

The child's bedroom is not an ideal space for either party. A clear table or desk and comfortable chairs, in a space free from distractions and other family members, are basic requirements.

Your first instincts will probably be correct. If something feels wrong, or you start to feel uncomfortable, you are free to conclude the interview or cancel the lesson.

What are the Best Questions to Ask?

The following questions are just a start:

  • What experience do you have teaching (your subjects)?
  • What other services do you provide? (e.g. CV writing, exam preparation)
  • What study resources do you provide or recommend?
  • What information do you provide about progress, and how often?
  • Where do you work?
  • What remote options do you have?
  • How long are your sessions?
  • How much time should I allow for school study and extra work you provide?
  • Do you offer a group or block booking service, and are there discounts for these?
  • What do your fees include? What is extra?
  • Is there an option of a free trial lesson?

When I Find a Tutor, What Can I Do to Ensure my Child is Safe?

Employing anyone to come into your home, or going to their house, naturally involves a number of risk factors. Health and safety aspects are vital to check, along with personal insurance and relevant police checks.

Every parent's first priority is the safety and wellbeing of their family. It is expected that you will want to ensure everything is correct and that you will want to ask questions to ascertain this. Obviously, these checks will include whether or not the teacher has public liability insurance or other personal injury insurance.

You should also ensure they have had a criminal history (police) check and a current working with children and vulnerable people card. Remember that the latter certification is mandatory throughout most of Australia.

In terms of safety, if lessons are being conducted in your home, you must ensure the study space is tidy and free of hazards. If the sessions are to take place in another location, you should also check the work space for potential safety hazards. In both cases, you will want to make sure you can easily monitor the session, particularly for younger kids.

Going to the tutor's house has the potential to make you feel less comfortable. For extra assurance, and to help your child feel safe, a mobile phone switched on to speaker can provide reassurance.

If students need to travel to their sessions, either provide the transport yourself, or arrange for a trusted person to accompany them. If the child is making their own way to the session, always ensure they have their phone.

Allergies and other medical issues, whether they are the student's or the tutor's, are an important consideration. These may involve minor hayfever, such as allergies to pet hair, through to serious reactions including those to nut products. Other medical issues, including epilepsy, should also be discussed. It may be prudent to ensure you are on hand should an emergency arise. At the very least, if relevant, a medical action plan should be provided.

Online lessons are not an excuse to be complacent about safety. Parents are always advised to keep a close eye on their children when they are online and cyber safety is just as important when they are receiving lessons via computer and webcam. Things to pay particular attention to are where the lesson is taking place and what is going on in the background.

How can children stay safe during online tutoring?
Be vigilant during your child's online tuition sessions | Source: Unsplash - Bruce Mars

Keeping an eye on your kids during their online lessons is highly recommended and easy to set up.

  • Make sure the computer is located in an open space.
  • Directly supervise the session or leave the door open if you are not in the same room.
  • Check files and links that are shared during the lesson.

Make sure you know how everything works, and test out the equipment by meeting the tutor via webcam before the lessons begin. Familiarise yourself and the student with the processes and technology.

At any time, if you have any safety concerns, the Australian Government Health and Welfare Services website is the first place to look. It also has a list of state and territory-specific links for further assistance.

Everyone will likely have a 'tuition' story to tell, whether positive or negative. Of course, there are pros and cons to private tutor services and it is worth approaching your search with all the facts.

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