There’s been renewed interest in the demand side of private tuition: why do more parents seem to be employing private tutors in the UK? Recently, the education journalist Nick Morrison has written about how he believes the popularity of private tuition is not down to school failure. This would certainly chime with the fact that pupils attending independent schools are actually more likely to receive additional private tuition than those attending state schools.
Instead, Morrison suggests that the rise in private tuition is caused by parental anxiety, that is, parents who are ‘desperate for their child to gain a competitive edge’.
Whilst this might be true in some cases, it is perhaps simplistic. Employing a private tutor can also be seen as part of a narrative of increased personal choice, flexibility and empowerment, no doubt in part brought about by the digital age. This is a view explained eloquently by Tom Maher, former president of TTA.
Then there are all the other more standard reasons for employing a tutor: to support a child who has missed school due to illness, to help a child from overseas cope with school work, to boost confidence, to help with special needs, to teach a subject not covered in school, to supplement home schooling and so on.
As for the supply-side of private tuition, Daniel Boffey, writing in The Observer, has this to offer. As the economy improves (so the argument goes), teacher shortages are the result of fewer graduates being interested in the safe option of becoming a classroom teacher. He suggests that the relatively poor financial rewards and conditions currently on offer in the state sector has meant that those interested in this line of work are increasingly turning to the better-paid and more flexible career path which private tuition can provide.