Although it is commonly reported that around 1 in 4 children (25%) in the UK are receiving private tuition, new research from The Tutor Pages now puts that figure at around 1 in 7 (15%), or around 900,000 children across the country.
The reason for the error is a confusion between the number of pupils who have ever had tuition, and the number who are currently receiving tuition. Media stories have consistently misreported the former figure, rarely mentioning that it relates to the lifetime of the student.
The figures are a useful corrective, and might help to cool the hysteria in some sections of the media over private tuition. Newspapers will often focus on inflated private tuition numbers, often combining this with stories about ‘super-tutors’ charging the earth or panic over 11+ tutoring (despite the fact that only 5% pupils attend grammar schools). Another approach is to give publicity to a minority of headteachers who decry the use of private tuition, in spite of the obvious benefits to pupils (which are very diverse, it must be added) and the obvious boon to schools’ own league table results.
Private tuition in the UK needs to be set in context, where it is a thriving global phenomenon. Its effectiveness is corroborated by research, and it is used by families of diverse backgrounds. Private tuition reflects values of personal choice and flexibility in education, and its prominence and take-up have been accelerated by the digital age.