4 Tutors on a live discussion

What does a ‘Professional Tutor’​ look like?

This week I took part as a panellist on a live Q & A session where we discussed What does a ‘Professional Tutor’ look like? I joined three other very experienced Tutors (Tracy Landsberg, Jay Shurley and Jo Broadey) who are also like me in The Tutors Learning Network (https://tutorsnetwork.org) where we support each other with networking and quality CPD each week. 

Our panel session was live-streamed into our parent’s page https://www.facebook.com/tutorslearningnetwork  and has now been uploaded to our YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRyfegdxwmU&t=126s

We discussed four main points that came together to explain what we think makes a ‘Professional Tutor’. The tutoring industry is currently an unregulated one, and this means that there are no hard and fast rules that anyone setting up as a Tutor must follow. 

Our first question was – Do all Tutors need to be qualified? – It depends! We were slightly divided on this issue, but we all agreed that we are better Tutors because of our Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) and previous classroom experience. I know that I certainly am! We agreed that subject knowledge and the ability to teach it was paramount. There are exceptions to the rule of good, educated, knowledgeable Tutors who don’t actually have QTS or classroom experience.

Being a great teacher and being a great Tutor do use overlapping but subtly different skill sets. Some people can be good at both and having been a good classroom teacher means that you are more likely to have the skills also to be a good Tutor. Tracy explained that because she had been a Head of Department, she was able to train to be an exam board senior examiner and in turn, she has then been able to hone her teaching and then Tutoring skills even more. 

Next, we considered – What should I ask a new Tutor? A valid DBS certificate which whilst not required legally, in our opinion, is crucial. QTS status, qualifications and experience, which exam boards are they experienced in teaching, testimonials, and insurance are also obvious questions to ask. These things are needed to make a person tutoring into a professional business.

Does the Tutor have another job? Are they still in the classroom as well, or now just a full-time Tutor? Whilst the answer to this question doesn’t particularly matter, it is one that parents should be asking. A current teacher has masses of ongoing behaviour management experience and current subject knowledge but may well only be tutoring a handful of pupils each week, so their 1-2-1 tutoring skills are not nearly as fine-tuned as those of us tutoring all day. 

I suggested, how experienced is the Tutor in teaching children with learning differences? If your child is Dyslexic, the Tutor must understand the best strategies to teach them. Also, to ask about the technical set up that the Tutor will be using. It is non-negotiable that both the Tutor and pupil should be on a video call for the lesson’s duration and that a virtual whiteboard is used that the child can write on. So, they are not passively learning but fully engaged. 

The third question was – What makes you ‘professional’?  This split into being ‘professional’ in what you do, so ‘acting professionally’ and ‘being a Professional Tutor.’ Many of the questions that you should ask a Tutor would show levels of professional conduct. Additionally, evidence of planning and resources but also adaptability; clear communication both within lessons and with parents; good timekeeping and feedback.

For me, I am a ‘Professional Tutor’ because it is my main job and because I behave in a professional manner.

I believe that someone who is a University student and doing some part-time tutoring on the side can’t really be described as a ‘Professional Tutor’ in the same way. That said, they may well still be good at what they do…

Our final question of the evening was, How can parents spot ‘Red Flags’?

  • The most obvious one was poor ratings if the Tutor is on a searchable tutoring platform. But this is only relevant if the Tutor is on such sites.
  • Any reluctance to explain qualifications or background can be concerning. But to contrast this, with identity-theft ever-rising, it isn’t wise for a potential Tutor to be expected to send clear scanned copies of all their qualifications and DBS to a parent without redacting some of the more identifiable information. This request can be the cause of some Tutors hesitancy to send such documents. Personally, I would send redacted copies or just hold them up to the camera in an initial video call. 
  • Poor proofreading of any social media posts is a no-no too.  
  • Someone who is offering many subjects all to a high level! If a single Tutor is offering two or more subjects to A-Level, it is improbable that they will be a quality Tutor in both subjects unless they are highly linked. A-Level Maths & English Lit = NO! But A-Level Economics & Business Studies or Biology & Chemistry = YES. 
  • Offering an extremely low price for 1-2-1 tuition such as £5/h – why are they trying to undercut the competition? This could be because they are a sixth-former trying a side-hustle to get some pocket money. In which case, if you are sure they have the subject knowledge you are looking for and money is tight, some parents may give it a go. But a Professional Tutor should be valuing their time and expertise and charging at least £30/h for quality 1-2-1 tuition. 
  • If they are making guarantees for exam results. Results can never be guaranteed… and anyone who is offering them is selling snake oil! Anyone saying “guaranteed to raise attainment to an A*” in marketing is a big RED FLAG. 
  • The Tutor is outwardly unsure of their ability to teach the subject or level or, indeed, teach confidently online. That’s not to say Tutors should be cocky and arrogant of their ability, but if they are outwardly unconfident to teach your child, they won’t instil any confidence in you either. However, this can also be a sign that what you are asking them to do for your child doesn’t match with their teaching style or usual business practice. If I am asked to tutor a child for an entrance exam intensively, I could do it, but I know that I’m not the best fit, and I would be hesitant to agree to do so as this isn’t my niche anymore. I now just specialise in teaching Neurodiverse children Maths in a practical, visual and holistic way that empowers them and helps unlock their potential.
  • The Tutor doesn’t show any understanding or knowledge of how to teach your child who has additional needs. If you mention some buzzwords regarding their learning difference and the Tutor doesn’t know them or instil confidence or trust, it probably means that they don’t have enough experience in this additional needs area. 
  • If lessons start and you don’t like the way the Tutor is interacting with your child and you have a feeling that they aren’t right for your child, do say something to the Tutor. 

Above all trust your instinct as a parent, you know your child best and if you have any doubts you can always find a different Tutor instead. 

There are many good places to search for a Tutor which give some measure of reassurance that you are likely to find a fellow Professional Tutor. These may be tutoring organisations such as The Tutors Network – we have a directory for parents which is free to use on our website (https://tutorsnetwork.org/business-directory). There is also The Tutors Association (https://thetutorsassociation.org.uk) and The Qualified Tutor (https://www.qualifiedtutor.org) which are both attempting to become the industry standard to show quality assurance. A Tutor showing, they are a member of either of these organisations will be certainly showing professionalism. 

We really enjoyed being on the panel and answering the questions parents have asked our organisation. Our next panel will be on May the 4th and will be “Helping the forgotten Middle’

Good luck with your search for a Tutor!