The Differences Between Classroom Teaching and Private Tutoring

The Differences Between Classroom Teaching and Private Tutoring

The classroom teaching vs private tutoring debate

The UK continues to play host to a fierce classroom teaching vs. private tutoring debate. During the last year, there have been accusations that falling levels of teaching are contributing to stagnant performance in many school pupils within the UK. In turn, some have suggested that it's this supposed decline in teaching standards that has been the catalyst for the huge rise in the number of private tutors.


However, not everyone agrees. Observers such as Emma, a novelist from North London express an opposing view. She believes that it's actually due to the need for her children to ‘keep up with the Sophies and Jacks who are all doing really well’, that has driven the boom in private tutors.


The debate shows no signs of easing up, but just what are the differences between the role of teacher and private tutor? And why is there often reluctance for parents to admit that they use private tutors?


The most prominent difference between the role of a teacher and the role of a private tutor lies in the numbers of students being taught.


With private tutors tending to work with individuals one on one, sessions are tailored to suit the ability of that student. A private tutor’s main aim is to build on areas where a student may lack knowledge or understanding and to help them become more proficient. This could be in preparation for an exam or could be a focus towards a particular module.


A teacher on the other hand, looks at setting lesson plans that are attainable for a whole group of students. Albeit in some circumstances where they must provide material to challenge more able individuals. In addition, teaching often isn't as flexible in terms of the way subject should be studied and there's a constant pressure to deliver information using new material rather than repurposing old resources.


It is no secret that large numbers of schoolteachers make the switch to private tutoring, seeking higher pay and fewer hours. A 2012 poll by The Tutor Website showed that 53% of qualified teachers considered private tuition a feasible alternative income to classroom teaching. And with the numbers of private tutors estimated at around the million mark, it is clear that many teachers have indeed made the transition.


Mr Chris Battle, is one such example. A self-employed maths and science tutor, he highlights a key difference between the two occupations.


‘It was a revelation to have a teaching job in which the main focus is on the learning of the students, not managing their behaviour.’


When questioned on the advantages of private tuition over classroom teaching, he said:  ‘you have more time, especially if you want to do other things, such as write books, or pursue other ventures.  You spend a lot more time in contact with parents so the great institutional divide between parents and teachers isn't as apparent.  A lot of teachers get very anxious about parents' evenings, which I never quite understood.  As a private tutor, it’s your role to communicate with parents and to be accountable for the material covered during lessons.’


The opportunity to work one on one with students and to see their improvement at close quarters is seen as another advantage.


‘Tutoring is essentially all the positive aspects of teaching - I can really get to know my pupils.  It is incredibly rewarding to see a pupil make progress and see their face light up when they master a certain topic that they thought was impossible.  I feel like I'm really making a difference.’


Janette Wallis, senior editor of The Good Schools Guide, hints at the reluctance that parents have towards discussing tutoring. In 2013, figures showed that there were an estimated 24 per cent of pupils using a private tutor. That number rises to 40 per cent in London. If large numbers of parents are using private tutors, why doesn’t anyone want to admit it?


Barry Sindall of the Grammar School Heads Association offers one theory. 'The vast majority of heads are not in favour of private tuition. It creates pressure for children and is really about parental anxiety.’


Whilst parents want their children to keep pace with their peers, there is evidently reluctance from some to admit to having to call someone in. However, this is not a view shared by those working within the industry. Marketing Manager of Fleet Tutors, Deborah Hogarth said the following:


‘I remember when hiring a tutor was considered an indication of failure. These days it's seen as positive, about children achieving potential. There's been a sea change in attitudes, and in private tuition itself.'


Are you a private tutor that once worked as a schoolteacher? What do you feel is responsible for the increase in private tutors? We’d love to hear your views below.


By Chris Hislop


Image credit: Barbara Kay -

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