To tutor or not to tutor? The honest tutor’s perspective!

To tutor or not to tutor? That is the dilemma. I thought I ask honest tutor Erica Gillingham for her perspective on challenges, homework, parents’ dilemmas and the BIG question about State versus Private schooling.

Image by Mark Maclaine,

Image by Mark Maclaine,

What are the challenges that parents face with children in primary school?


One of the biggest challenges is their own subject knowledge. Some of the techniques children are currently taught are very different to the way parents learnt. Two examples of this are using phonics to teach reading and spelling and the way children are taught to work out certain mathematical calculations.

Another challenge for working parents are time constraints which can be a big problem as primary schools expect parents to take an active role in their children’s home learning such as reading with them everyday and doing homework projects with them. For a family with more than one child this challenge can become daunting.


What are the most frequent dilemmas parents come to you with?

A dilemma many parents come to me about is whether they should tell the school that  their child is being tutored. My advice is always yes! Tutoring works most effectively if tutors are working on targets the child is set by the school so that the children can feel the positive effects of the tutoring in all aspects of their academic life. In London 40% of children have tutoring at some point so it shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment for parents.

Is State school so bad?


Absolutely not! There are good and bad schools out there and they exist in both the private and state sectors.  With excellent teachers and sometimes outstanding facilities in the state sector the only consistent advantage to the private system is classroom size. However, state school teachers are very well trained to deal with the large classes and it can lead to better differentiated and more creative teaching.

Image by Mark Maclaine,

Image by Mark Maclaine,

What type of schools do most of your pupils come from? State or private?

I have a 50/50 split with my students. Geographically speaking, tutoring happens in both types of schools so it can depend on the area and how many private schools are in it.

Some people are pro homework and others do not believe in it? What’s your view on homework? What type of homework is best for children to get the most out of it?

I think homework can be very positive if it is tailored to the child and not just a photocopy out of a workbook. The child should either be able to it totally independently to allow them to grow their confidence or it should be designed as a ‘family project’ encouraging parents to become involved in their learning. There is nothing worse than homework that is too hard for a child and creates battles in the family home where parents are nagging them to finish something the child is struggling with or the parent is trying to support the child but potentially using methods that confuse the child. If this is the case the parents should speak to the class teacher.

What are your techniques to make kids connect with you at the first session?

Mark Maclaine, 10

Image by Mark Maclaine,

I find out in advance what their interests are so I can tailor the content of the session to intrigue them! I also create exercises around getting to know each other so that they can get to know me as a person and feel I understand a little bit about who they are.

As parents, we ask ourselves whether it is really necessary to pay for tutoring… shouldn’t state school provide a good enough education for our children? Or are the standards at secondary school too high for year 6 school children?

Yes, schools should provide a high enough standard of schooling but so should families take responsibility to be part of their child’s learning. If a child needs an extra boost and parents don’t have the confidence or time to help them then a tutor can be a great solution.


Erica Gillingham works for Tutorfair. If you want to try Tutorfair for yourself, click here and enter a competition to win 5 hours of FREE tutoring worth up to £250.

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