LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM -- (Marketwired) -- 07/18/13 -- A plan to establish a national association to represent private tutors and set minimum qualification standards for the industry has run into trouble after a poll revealed a lack of support for some of its key features.
The poll published today, carried out for The Tutor Pages website (www.thetutorpages.com), shows seven out of ten private tutors believe the attempt to require people who work in the industry to hold degrees could exclude many quality tutors.
Under plans put forward by the Centre for Market Reform of Education (CMRE) think tank and backed by several of the UK's largest private tuition companies, all members of the new association would have to hold at least a general degree. Those who teach children over the age of 11 would be required to hold a degree in the subject they tutor, or one in a broadly comparable field.
But according to the poll of 500 private tutors, carried out for thetutorpages.com, the UK's leading private tuition website, 71 per cent think requiring tutors to hold a university degree might exclude quality tutors, while 69 per cent believe requiring tutors of children of secondary school age to have subject-specific degrees is too inflexible.
And in another setback for the CMRE and the tuition companies behind the scheme, more than nine out of ten tutors polled (94 per cent) said they thought many excellent private tutors would decide not to join the association.
The CMRE has been consulting private tutors and tuition agencies about its plans, which include a new code of ethics all members will be expected to abide by. The consultation period, which began in May, was due to end yesterday (July 17).
The think tank says the association, to be called The Tutors Association (TTA), is needed to ensure higher standards and act as "an independent arbiter of the quality of private tuition" in an industry where there is currently no formal regulation of qualifications. It said self-regulation was needed to address public concerns about the variable quality of private tuition.
But two-thirds of tutors polled by thetutorpages.com said neither parents nor anyone else had raised concerns with them about quality in the private tuition industry. More than half (56 per cent) also said they did not think the proposed association could be an independent arbiter of the quality of private tuition and believed that it would not ensure higher standards in the industry.
A similar proportion (56 per cent) also believed current regulation was sufficient and no self-regulation was required.
Henry Fagg, director and founder of thetutorpages.com website, said many freelance tutors were ambivalent at best about the proposal to set up a self-regulating body. "I think we're dealing with a clash of cultures, where many private tutors have turned away from mainstream education precisely because they believe that regulation tends to hamper learning. Historically, Aristotle didn't need a regulator to tutor Alexander the Great, and neither did Ezra Pound when he mentored T.S. Eliot. There is also a suspicion that large tuition companies could use an industry association to steamroll their interests, at the expense of the independent freelance tutor, pupils and parents."
Views of individual tutors
Many of the tutors polled were sharply critical of the CMRE's plans. Dr Alex Moseley, former university lecturer and founder of Classical Foundations, a private tutorial service in the Vale of Belvoir, East Midlands, said: "Standards are already set by parents' wishes and tutors' abilities. Parents are quite capable of assessing whether a tutor is up to standard or not by how they deal with their child.
"Feedback is instantaneous and the market is working. What the CMRE will do is add a layer of intrusion into a highly competitive market."
London tutor Mischa Foster Poole, said: "There is already too much emphasis on measurable 'outcomes' in Education, at the expense of the less measurable incremental teaching of skills like critical thinking, reasoning, analysis, creativity and style, and a love of learning.
"The strength of private tuition lies in the flexibility with which tutors can approach the needs of their students, unhampered by the over-regulation which has messed up school education to the point where private tuition is now so much more in demand. To provide good education, teachers need to be free to teach."
Matthew Barnes, a tutor in Oxford, commented: "This country is driving itself into the ground under a mass of unnecessary and self-defeating bureaucracy and the process needs to stop right now. Under the discipline of the truly free market poor tutors get fired very quickly.
"Although 'trained teachers' are regulated to death there are enough poor ones still around to create a massive demand for private tutors. If tutors are 'regulated' in the same counter-productive way that teachers are there will be no refuge to which parents can turn."
While the response from tutors was generally cool, however, there was support in principle for a national association with 62 per cent of tutors saying there was a need for an association to set and maintain industry standards.
One supporting voice came from Louise Armstrong, a tutor in Colne, Lancashire, who said: "Much as I dislike paperwork, requiring tutors to be qualified and to work more closely with schools, has to benefit the students, therefore I support it."
But tutors were divided about whether the CMRE, a think tank pushing for the marketization of state education, should be behind setting up the new association. Only half of those polled (52 per cent) said they were happy with the think tank's involvement
A typically ambivalent view came from Gordon Braddock, a tutor in Emsworth, Hampshire, who supports The Tutors Association plan, but with reservations: "The quality of private tuition probably varies more than the quality of teaching in schools, colleges and universities which are accountable and monitored by OFSTED or similar organisations.
"I feel a professional body is a good idea, in principle, but it will be controversial and may be divisive, even threatening, in practice. Some sort of certificate of competence and conscientiousness or membership of a professional body which has a minimum standard for its personnel is a good idea in principle."
Support for tutors working in state schools
Despite the ambivalence of many tutors, 62 per cent of those surveyed agreed with the new association's aim of using self-regulation to give the private tuition market greater access to providing one-to-one tuition in state schools.
Less than one in seven (13 per cent) of the private tutors in the poll currently do any tutoring work for state schools yet nearly two-thirds of those who do not (65 per cent) would like to be able to do so.
Such a development would be controversial with many teachers and heads in both state and independent schools. There have been repeated complaints from headteachers in recent months about parental anxiety about school tests, entrance exams and university admission fuelling a boom in private tuition.
In April, Clarissa Farr, high mistress of St Paul's Girls School in London, said all tutors should be required to register with the schools which their pupils attend, so that all parties can work together. Her view did not find favour with tutors in today's poll, however, with 58 per cent disagreeing with her remarks.
Tutors overwhelmingly believe one-to-one tuition is helpful for state schools in teaching gifted and talented pupils or children who are struggling and need additional support. A massive 95 per cent agreed with this proposition.
Summary of key points
-- 71% think requiring tutors to hold a university degree might exclude quality tutors-- 69% believe requiring tutors of children over the age of 11 to have subject-specific degrees is too inflexible-- 94% think many excellent private tutors will decide not to join the association-- 67% say no parents have raised concerns about quality in the private tuition industry-- 56% think current regulation of the tuition industry is sufficient and no self-regulation is required-- 56% do not think the new tutors' association could be "an independent arbiter of the quality of private tuition"-- 56% do not think the association as currently proposed would ensure higher standards-- 62% of tutors think there is a need for an association to set and maintain industry standards-- 52% are happy that the Centre for Market Reform of Education are behind the initiative, while 48% are unhappy-- 62% agree that with new association's aim of using self-regulation to give the private tuition market greater access to opportunities in state schools-- Only 13% of those surveyed currently do any tutoring work in state schools but of those who do not 65% would like to be able to do so-- 59% disagree with Clarissa Farr, high mistress of St Paul's Girls' School who said in April that all tutors should be required to register with the with the schools which their children attend, so that all parties can work together.
Notes to Editors
1. The online poll of 500 private tutors was carried out for thetutorpages.com during late June and early July 2013.
2. The Tutor Pages - www.thetutorpages.com - is the UK's leading tuition website and allows parents and students to contact private tutors for free.
3. Nine out of ten (90 per cent) private tutors who completed the online poll have university degrees and just under half (44 per cent) have qualified teacher status (QTS). Nearly half (49 per cent) have other relevant teaching or coaching qualifications in music and other performing arts, sports, teaching English as an additional language, accountancy, law and a wide range of other vocational subjects.
4. Of the tutors polled, 88 per cent tutor secondary aged pupils, 59 per cent primary, 9 per cent nursery and pre-school, and 74 per cent adults.
The Tutor Pages Ltd