by Chris Hislop
As the sun begins to set on another British summer, the focus of students and parents turns towards the new school term. At the same time, ever-increasing numbers of private tutors are preparing for a new academic year and some, for the first time.
According to a 2009 Ipsos MORI survey, there are an estimated 1.5 million private tutors currently working in the UK. These numbers surpass those of classroom teachers and even NHS workers. Parents are now seeking tutors who can provide the knowledge needed for students to pass an exam and the tools that will help inspire independent and creative thought.
In such a competitive environment, just how does a private tutor ensure that they are best placed to meet the needs of the 1 in 4 children now using private help?
Embracing New Technologies
Matt Mudie, director of Ipswich Tuition Centre believes that now is the time to embrace new technologies and broaden the appeal to prospective parents and students.
‘I find that technology greatly enhances my existing student-teacher interactions. Skype and interactive whiteboards are great, but even more so, websites such as Khan Academy and MyMaths take homework to a new level, giving students instant feedback, and compiling excellent progress reports for parents, students and teachers.’
A completely free software, Khan Academy has been credited with allowing students much more personalized instruction with their digital learning. In the increasingly online educational landscape of tablets, touchscreens and smart phones, there is a strong feeling amongst the education fraternity that this is the perfect opportunity to put the chalk to one side and log-on. In fact, a BBC Radio 4 series from earlier this year found the classroom of the future is less teacher-facing and more interfacing.
The series, My Teacher is an App, which is still available to listen to online, finds that more and more secondary students are using online learning software as part of their daily school lives.
It All Comes Down to Planning
How do tutors ensure that they start the academic year with enough students? Matt believes that with exam preparation being the lifeblood of the industry, it’s critical that tutors have an awareness of every exam that will fall during the next 12 months.
‘It is very important that private tutors are aware of all upcoming exams and have a plan for how to prepare students to sit them. This should be a continuous action, not just a preparation for the new school year.’
‘At this time of year we run lots of extra lessons for students preparing for the 11+ exam.’ (Matt’s closest grammar school Colchester holds theirs on 20th September).
Finding New Students
Matt feels that now, more than ever, is the time for private tutors to work on building connections and attracting prospective students looking for a little extra help with passing.
‘Traditionally, we have more students between November and March than at any other time of year, so it is definitely a good time to be marketing and networking.’
The private tutoring industry was built on ‘word of mouth’ enquiries. Indeed, at 58%, word of mouth was still the most popular means by which students were recruited in 2009 by Ipswich Tuition Centre.
However, Matt suggests that it’s no longer acceptable for private tutors to overlook the importance of their website.
‘A good website is vital; all-but-two of our new business enquiries since August have involved our website.’
For Those New to Private Tuition
As Britain becomes the self-employment capital of Western Europe, it seems inevitable that the number of private tutors in the UK will grow. As an experienced hand, Matt offers some advice for those just getting started this year.
‘If it is your first year tutoring I would recommend constant, small tests for all students. Try to map out what the student will learn over the year that they will learn with you, and then constantly test and track their progress. Be sure that they know the fundamentals, and challenge them regularly. The small tests will show parents, students and tutors the level of academic progress, and whether the tutoring is meeting the goals of parents, student and tutor.’
As the new academic year gets underway, it will be interesting to see where we are in 12 months time.
Are you a tutor? How have you prepared for the new academic year ahead? Do you seek to embrace new technologies and reach out with your marketing? We’d love to hear your comments below.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/8047705@N02/5530819321