Choosing a tutor can be a very personal and highly-involved process. Parents are overwhelmed with choices, ranging from teachers that tutor part-time, full-time tutors, and even university students looking to earn some much-needed cash. In this article, our top Chemistry tutor Carl lists 7 reasons why choosing a qualified teacher is the best option to help your child achieve academic success.
This one comes at the top of the list. To gain Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) in the UK, a teacher has been through a rigorous training programme, where they are taught to:
For tutoring, a particularly valuable aspect of this training is the focus given to the relationship between teaching and learning. Understanding this helps teachers plan and personalise sessions so that maximum progress is made.
Anybody can call themselves a tutor. To call yourself a teacher however means strict criteria have been met. Firstly, a teacher must have made the grade and gained entry to a teacher training programme, most commonly through some form of Initial Teacher Training. These are postgraduate courses, so the minimum requirement is a good degree in your chosen subject. Places at leading training centres are highly competitive and selection is tough, usually taking place over a full day. Successful applicants are thoroughly vetted through multiple rounds of interviews, teaching observations and scrutinised group activities.
During training, time is divided between the training centre (which may be a university or a school) and placement schools. During placements, performance is continuously assessed through a gruelling cycle of observations. Teachers not meeting the required standards are deemed a Cause for Concern and must either improve, or face failure.
After qualifying, teachers go through the same selection process to get a teaching job. This means that if you hire a tutor that is a teacher, you have the reassurance that their teaching capability and suitability to work with children has already been vetted – twice.
Private tutoring is an unregulated profession. A private tutor is accountable to absolutely nobody in terms of their competence, professional code of conduct, and suitability to work with children.
Teaching on the other hand is a highly-regulated profession with a governing body, the National College of Teaching and Leadership (NCTL). Teachers must first demonstrate their suitability to work with children through a clean criminal record. After qualifying, the NCTL award QTS and maintain a list of professional Teacher Standards that teachers must commit to and uphold. Membership isn’t voluntary; without QTS, you cannot teach in state schools.
It is oft-said that nothing is more important than education. The importance placed on education puts teachers firmly in the spotlight, both in the media and in their professional environment. To cite from the current Teacher Standards:
“Teachers make the education of their pupils their first concern, and are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct.”
Maintaining those standards in schools and colleges is largely achieved through scrutiny in the form of lesson observations, and ongoing training. Junior teachers report to heads of faculty, who report to senior leadership. There is a system of management and oversight in place whose aim is to ensure pupils receive the best possible education.
Educational changes don’t occur frequently, but when they do occur they tend to be sweeping. Look at the recent A Level reforms for instance. Then there are the constantly-emerging improvements to teaching practice. To ensure teachers keep up-to-speed with all these developments, and to share good practice between colleagues, schools and colleges have Continuing Professional Development (CPD) programmes that staff must attend (in fact, part of the commitment a teacher makes to the Teacher Standards is to improve teaching practice through continual training).
For teachers, training doesn’t end once QTS is gained.
This one is especially important since the goal of tuition is often to get the best possible grade. Teachers work in the school system, so have inside knowledge of the education sector and the examination process. They can tap into a valuable network of knowledge and a bank of resources that a private tutor simply cannot.
Many teachers also work as examiners for GCSE, A Level or the International Baccalaureate, an experience that offers unrivalled understanding of mark schemes and assessment processes. Currently, all the major examining boards and the International Baccalaureate only recruit examiners that are qualified teachers.
Teaching is a vocation. You certainly don’t go into it to get rich. You do it because you genuinely want to make a difference to a young person’s life, and to enjoy the unmatched job satisfaction doing that brings. Most teachers care passionately about children and education and demonstrate this through making the commitment to teaching, and through taking on the huge responsibility the job entails.
Sometimes, parents feel a student at a top university or a top graduate would make the best tutor, the logic being that since they must themselves have gained excellent qualifications, they’re ideally placed to help others do the same. Personally, I find that logic a little shaky; it’s a bit like saying the best person to teach you to drive is someone that passed their test last week.
Qualifications are only one part of it. Effective teaching isn’t about how much you know, it’s how well you transform what you know in a way that makes it accessible to learners, and how well you are able to adapt your teaching to the individual needs of your students. As described earlier, developing these skills is where most emphasis is placed during teacher training.
Hopefully the points above should help persuade you that when faced with the myriad of choices in hiring a tutor, a qualified teacher is the smart option.