How do I know if finding a tutor is right for my child or myself?

When I was researching the work of teachers as part of the PhD I completed in 2007, a common problem they all encountered and communicated to me was that they felt that they could not give every student the attention and support they needed, particularly due to the overcrowded curriculum  and increasing levels of administration that detracted from their quality teaching. Since I began tutoring students in 1994, it has become apparent that not only are some of our teachers struggling in our contemporary classrooms but so are the students.

I am often asked ‘How do I know if my child really needs a tutor?’. We all want the very best for our children and school is such a large part of their childhood experience. Consequently, we want this to be a positive experience that will provide them with a solid foundation on which to build their learning throughout their lives. Tutoring can supplement the important learning that takes place within the formal school system and can have many positive benefits for each child. After discussions with numerous teachers, tutors, researchers, parents and, most importantly, the children (and adults) who have accessed tutoring over the last 23 years, I have developed a list of 10 reasons why a child (or an adult learner) may need a tutor:


1)     Your child (or the adult learner) is struggling with particular aspects of the curriculum or a subject(s). This could be due to a variety of reasons such as the student being absent for an extended period, they haven’t developed the prerequisite knowledge essential for learning gains in that subject, or they just find it a particularly challenging subject or concept. Individualised tuition that uses a program especially designed to foster each student’s learning can help to build competence and understanding in a particular subject which then often translates across the curriculum to other subjects.

2)     The student needs to prepare for an important exam or assessment. Many students require extra learning support when they know their learning is going to assessed in a formal way that will have an impact on their future learning and life choices. Exams such as the Higher School Certificate (HSC), the year 9 NAPLAN requiring students to achieve a Band 8 in Reading, Writing and Maths, the UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test), and end of semester university exams can have a significant impact on the next step in each individual’s future learning. Quality tuition can provide the learning support, knowledge and skills that are essential for success in these exams.

3)     The student needs to be challenged and extended to maintain their learning enthusiasm and feel stimulated. Tutoring is not just relevant for students who are finding their subjects difficult but can also be extremely worthwhile for those who manage the current curriculum very competently. These students can benefit from tuition that extends and challenges them in various ways to not only broaden but also deepen their knowledge and skills across the curriculum. This helps to keep them engaged and interested in their learning.

4)     The student has requested the learning support of a tutor. Quality tuition cannot be delivered without the existence of a comfortable and engaging relationship between the student and tutor. When the student is ready to commit to tutoring, the best results may occur as they are fully engaged in the process. This means they will also be more likely to consolidate the learning gains made during their time with their tutor outside their sessions as well as at school.

5)     The curriculum has become increasingly broad and deep compared to previous generations. Schools have been referred to as the ‘wastebaskets of society’ (Hargreaves 1994, p.5) and, as a result, many social, cultural and psychological concepts are now taught at school that would have previously occurred in other environments such as the home. Consequently, teachers have to cover a large volume of content across the curriculum at extremely high standards, often in a shorter period of time than they would prefer. Some students then find they do not have adequate time to deeply learn before they are moved onto another topic or concept. Individualised tuition can help to consolidate the important learning that occurs within our schools but at a pace that is more suitable for each student.

6)     The student’s confidence and satisfaction with school and their learning has diminished. When students are finding it difficult to learn or if they are depressed, stressed or anxious, their confidence can significantly decrease which can have a ‘domino effect’ across all of their subjects. A diminished self-esteem can result in an internalised negative self-concept with the student labelling themselves as not being a ‘good’ learner which can limit their future learning. Quality tuition delivered by experienced and appropriately qualified tutors with excellent communication skills can help the student to rediscover their positive learning identity and enjoy their learning again.

7)     The student needs to learn the knowledge and skills that will help them to perform better at school.  An appropriately qualified tutor with excellent communication skills can help students become more confident learners as well as teach them how to perform better in exams and other assessments such as speeches, debates, presentations and other tasks. As good tutors rarely teach in large groups but instead provide individualised attention to only one or two students in each session, they are able to find multiple ways to help students to comprehend concepts and demonstrate their understanding until the student feels confident they have achieved their learning outcome. Quality tuition can also foster self-reliance in each student that will translate across the curriculum and create strong foundation for lifelong learning.

8)     The student is moving from one phase of learning to the next and requires extra support during the transition period. Students experiences numerous transitions during their education and tutors can provide extra support during this challenging time. It may be moving from one grade to the next, graduating from primary school and moving to high school, beginning the HSC or leaving high school and entering the world of tertiary education. Tutors are well aware of how difficult these transitions can be and tuition centres can be a positive learning environment with educators that cover the entire learning continuum and are able to effectively help each student navigate these new learning environments and help them to understand the increased expectations relating to their learning.

9)     The student has learning challenges that can affect the way they learn at school. Many students can find the contemporary classroom overwhelming which can affect their ability to learn in that environment. Others may have diagnosed learning difficulties such as dyslexia or have other diagnosed conditions such as Sensory Processing Disorder or are on the Autism spectrum, all of which have varied impacts on their learning. Extra support from a tutor, particularly when this occurs within a multidisciplinary team of the classroom teacher, occupational therapist, speech therapist, psychologist, parents/carers and the individual student, can help the student to maximise their learning and overcome the challenges presented by their learning difficulties. High quality individualised tutoring offers flexibility and is continually evaluated to positively foster each student’s learning.

10)    The student would benefit from the learning support, mentoring and role modelling of a highly qualified tutor. Students often respond very positively to adults who can objectively provide support and mentorship outside their immediate family. A highly qualified tutor should not only offer learning support but they should also be fostering the emotional, social and psychological development of each student. These tutors can act as positive role models that promote lifelong learning that will provide a solid foundation for the student’s learning throughout their lives.