Selecting the Right Tutor
If you are lucky enough to be able to choose from a number of tutors, there are certain things that you should look at before you decide which one to employ.
Does the tutor really know about the selection process in your area?
It is easy to assume that a tutor in your county or area is familiar with the requirements for the 11+, but that is not always the case. You can find out what the tests consist of by looking at the 11 Plus Regions in the Schools section of this site or by contacting your Local Authority or the school concerned. (If you like the tutor and think they would suit your child, but they don’t appear to have quite the right information about the test content, you may want to consider putting them right by politely pointing them at this website!)
What is the tutor’s track record?
You should not be afraid to ask what their pass rate has been over several years. You should also ask for references from parents of children they have tutored previously. If possible the references should be local to you, and ideally for children who have attended the same school as yours. That allows you to trace the references more effectively and to satisfy yourself that they are genuine.
Does the tutor have relevant qualifications?
Ask to see proof of their qualifications in the form of teaching certificates or other academic certificates. Not every tutor is a trained teacher, but anyone tutoring a child should have a good academic background. A tutor should also have completed a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check within the last five years and be happy to show you their clearance form. Every serving teacher will have one, and anyone working with children or vulnerable people in another capacity will also have one. If the Tutor does not have one in any other capacity, they should have completed one in their role as a tutor. A recent CRB check is absolutely crucial if your child will be attending one-to-one tuition in the tutor’s own home – accept no excuses. Even if the Tutor is CRB checked, if you feel uncomfortable about their attitude towards your child either when you first meet them, or at any time later on, you should be looking elsewhere immediately.
N.B. The CRB is run as an Executive Agency of the Home Office by civil servants, and delivers the service through a number of strategic partnerships. It acts as a one-stop-shop for organisations, checking police records and, in relevant cases, information held by the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA). You can find more information about their work on the CRB website.
What tutoring methods will they use?
A good tutor will assess your child’s strengths and weaknesses and tailor the tuition accordingly. This is where one-to-one tuition is particularly valuable. If your child has special needs you need to discuss with the tutor what experience they have in the field and how they will approach the special needs in the way that they tutor.
What time will the tutoring take place?
A session at 8pm in the evening will not benefit any 10-year old, as their attention span will be short and they will be tired at school the next day. Nor will a child benefit from the session if they are tired after another extra-curricular activity. Also, try to make sure that the time slot you choose is as convenient as possible for the whole family. Your child needs to be happy and relaxed before a tutoring session, not anxious about running late or surrounded by a stressed family who are trying to juggle too many commitments.
Where will tuition take place?
Most tutors will teach in their own home if they tutor individually, or in local village halls if they teach groups of children. Occasionally you may find that a tutor is willing to come to your home rather than expecting you to travel to them. If you have several other children this may be more convenient, but note that the tutor may charge more for doing so, especially if they have to travel beyond their local area. If the tuition will take place in the tutor’s own home, check what the environment for the tuition will be. Do they have a separate quiet area where they teach? Or will your child be working at the kitchen table while the tutor’s family comes and goes? Tuition in a noisy area of the house will be far less effective than in a dedicated area.
What is your role as the parent going to be?
There will be homework involved, perhaps on a weekly basis in the early stages and then more frequently as the Eleven Plus tests approach. There is also likely to be homework to do during the summer holidays, as most 11+ exams take place in the autumn term. Make sure you understand how much commitment is expected of you throughout the process. With a one-to-one tutor who can be more flexible in their teaching programme, it can be a good idea to volunteer to oversee your child completing full test papers at home. That ensures that the tutor’s time is spent actively teaching your child, not simply watching them complete papers.
What is the cost?
Charges vary considerably among tutors, even in the same area. The most expensive tutor is not necessarily the best one! You can get some idea of the going rate for your area by browsing through our Tutors Directory where most tutors state their hourly rate.
Some tutors will ask for payment on a weekly basis, while others may ask for large amounts in advance, and that may not be affordable for some families. If a tutor asks you for the full cost of tuition in advance, rather than in two or more payments, you should consider very carefully before committing to the payment. If your child does not get on with the tutor, or it becomes clear that he or she does not have the potential to pass the 11+, you will have lost a great deal of money.
Will you still be charged if you cancel a session?
If you are paying on a weekly basis, does the tutor have a cancellation policy if your child is unwell or you have to cancel the session for other reasons? What notice do they want for cancellation? Are they willing to arrange an alternative time slot if you do have to cancel? What arrangements will they make if they have to cancel a session? It is always best to agree on this from the start, to prevent misunderstandings and unpleasantness later.
Will the tutor assess your child before you commit to tuition?
Some tutors will do an assessment before taking your child on. You will usually have to pay for this, because it is still taking up the tutor’s time, even if there is no tutoring content in the session. Even if the tutor does not assess your child, all reputable and experienced tutors will tell you from a very early stage what your child’s chances of passing the tests are.
Is the tutor happy for you to sit in on the assessment session or a tutoring session?
Provided you feel that your child will not react adversely to you being in the room, it may be worth asking if you can attend one of the sessions. Not all tutors will agree, but you should expect a sensible explanation from them as to why they would prefer you not to be there. The advantage of sitting in on a session is that you can see for yourself how the tutor works and how your child relates to the tutor. Does the tutor seem to bring out the best in your child? Does he or she have a confidence-boosting attitude to the tuition?
What feedback will they give you, and how often?
Regular feedback is crucial throughout the process. It enables you to take a realistic view of your child’s chances of success, and to plan your schooling options accordingly. A good tutor will be absolutely frank with you at all times. Find out if there is a specific point during the preparation process when they will tell you if your child is unlikely to pass.
If it becomes clear that your child is not 11+ material the tutor should explain that to you, and they may even suggest that they do not coach your child any further. You may suspect that the tutor is merely protecting their pass-rate by doing so, but a good tutor will not be concerned about their pass rate. Their motivation is more likely to be that they do not wish to take your money unnecessarily or give you and your child undue hope about their chances of qualifying for a grammar school. A good tutor will work with you to make the decision to cease tutoring and will help you to manage your child’s feelings about it.