A parent’s guide to finding the perfect tutor

Whether it’s for exam preparation, to catch up on Covid learning loss, tackle problem areas, build confidence, or support a child’s enthusiasm for a subject, more parents are looking for the perfect tutor. 

However, once you’ve decided that tutoring might help your child, it can be difficult to know where to start. From personal tutoring by local teachers, to undergraduate students, to tutoring agencies, to online options, there is a huge amount of choice. How do you find a tutor with the right qualifications and experience, who will also be a good fit for the particular needs of your child?

Here at School Guide we aim to give you all the information that you need to navigate all the options and make the right choice for your child. 

What are the benefits of private tutoring?

When it works well, private tutoring can be transformative. It allows teaching to be completely focussed on your child’s needs and their particular way of learning. Personalising learning in this way can really help to identify and tackle gaps and areas of weaknesses in a child’s learning. 1-1 support can improve a child’s confidence and help them to develop effective study skills. It can improve their enthusiasm for a subject and their general engagement with learning. 

Some of the many reasons parents use private tutors are:

  • To help with preparation for a particular exam, most often the eleven plus, GCSE’s or A Levels. This might be to tackle problem areas, improve achievement levels or familiarise a child with the exam. 
  • To provide additional support for a child with Special Educational Needs.
  • To help a child catch up with work missed during the pandemic or due to illness. 
  • To teach a child more effective ways to learn and to build their confidence.
  • To support a child who finds it difficult to work effectively in a classroom environment, a problem that has often been made worse by interruptions to school based learning during the pandemic. 
  • To encourage or nurture a child’s passion for a particular subject. 


How do I know if my child needs a tutor?

Your child’s teacher is the best person to discuss this with initially. They should be able to advise if they think tutoring would be helpful. There may be other things that are worth trying first. Teachers will be able to know if there are any additional resources available at school or any extra support that they can give. There may be online resources or apps they can recommend that might help.

Do ask your child whether they think they need extra support. Obviously, for tutoring to work well, your child needs to be on-board with the idea and willing to engage with the process. Some children will be enthusiastic about getting extra help whereas others might need some persuasion. Involving your child in the decision to get a tutor and the choice of tutor might help with this. 

How to find a tutor

It’s helpful to take a bit of time to think about exactly what it is that you’re looking for in a tutor as each child has different needs. 

Some things to consider are:

  • Do you need your child to be prepared for a particular exam? If so, the tutor’s experience and success rate at that exam might be most important factor. 
  • If your looking to tackle some problem areas and give your child a confidence boost then the tutor’s personality and how well you think they will get on with your child might be key.  
  • Are you looking for longer term support for your child or a quick fix for a particular problem?
  • Does your child have particular educational needs that mean you need a tutor with experience in that area? 
  • How does your child learn best? What teaching approaches suit their personality? Thinking about this will help you to get a tutor who is a good match for your child.
  • Would your child learn best with a more rigorous, structured approach or a more relaxed games or play based approach?
  • Would in person or online tutoring would work best for your child?

Once you have a clearer idea of what type of tutor you are looking for it can be helpful to talk to your child’s teacher.They can often recommend local tutors or may even do some tutoring themselves. Other parents are often a good source of tutor recommendations too. 

For a wide range of tutor recommendations see our Tutor Directory.

The best way to find out if a tutor will be a good fit for your child is to ask for a trial lesson. This will enable the tutor to assess what help your child needs and your child to judge if they get on with the tutor. Children always learn best if they feel comfortable and relaxed with the person who is teaching them. 

What qualifications should I look for in a private tutor?

Although the tutoring sector is booming, tutors are not currently regulated, so anyone can set themselves up as a tutor. There are no formal qualifications for the role. This means that you will need to check that a tutor has the qualifications and experience that are important to you. Tutoring agencies should do their own checks on tutors’ qualifications. Some tutors are members of The Tutor’s Association which has a code of conduct and offers training and qualifications. 

As a minimum all tutors should have a DBS certificate verifying that they have been checked to work with children. Tutors should have a copy of their certificates and be happy to show them to you. Tutors should also have had experience of working with children and strong communication skills. 

In many cases the best qualification for tutoring is a teaching qualification. Do check that teachers are offering tutoring for a similar age group or subject to their area of training. As well as having valuable classroom experience, tutors who are teachers usually have a strong knowledge of the exam systems and some are even examiners as well. 

Even if a tutor is highly qualified in the area that they are teaching, they will still need to understand how children learn and be aware of the curriculum that has to be covered. This is especially important if you are looking for a tutor for a particular exam, less so if it’s to support your child’s interest in and enthusiasm for a subject. 

If you are looking for support for your child for a specific exam, the eleven plus, GCSEs or A Levels, then it is important that the tutor has experience of teaching to that exam, that they know the syllabus and understand the mark scheme. 

If tutors are offering support in specialist areas, such as dyslexia or special educational needs check that they have qualifications in these areas and that they are members of the relevant professional bodies, such as BDA (British Dyslexia Association) or PATOSS (Professional Association of Teachers of Students with Specific Learning Difficulties). 

Questions to ask a private tutor

Here's a checklist of some of the specific questions you might want to ask a prospective tutor: 

  • What is your educational background?
  • How much tutoring experience do you have?
  • What teaching styles do you use?
  • Where will the tutoring happen and what availability do you have?
  • How much tutoring would you recommend and how often?
  • What are your fees and arrangements for cancellations / holidays?
  • Have you got a DBS certificate and can you show me a copy of it?
  • Do you have some references from parents of previous or current pupils?

Most importantly, look for someone who is enthusiastic about the sunject they will be tutoring and about your child. Do they ask relevant questions about your child and seem genuinely interested in them?

How often should my child have tutoring sessions?

This will depend on your aims for the tutoring. If it is to tackle a few problem areas and improve confidence, a session a week should be enough. If you are looking for dramatic academic improvements, more time will be needed. 

Tutors advise starting tutoring as early as possible, as soon as you realise that it will be helpful.  Particularly for eleven plus, GCSEs and A Levels, it can be easier and less stressful to iron out problems and build confidence earlier rather than later. 

What is the cost of hiring a private tutor?

Costs can vary hugely depending on which type of tutoring you opt for and which part of the country you are in. An unqualified student might charge from £20 an hour. For a qualified teacher expect to pay £40 an hour or more. Tutors with lots of experience and proven results will usually charge more. Some London tutoring companies are charging £80 an hour or more. 

The cost of tutoring might also depend on whether a tutor travels to your house or not. Online tutoring is usually cheaper than in person tutoring, although this won’t always be the case.

Bear in mind that you are paying for the time the tutor spends preparing for the lesson and marking work as well as for the lesson itself. 

Consider online tuition – proven to transform results

Accessing expert tutors and helping your child achieve their potential has never been easier thanks to online tuition. Market leading online providers like EdPlace take the best parts of in person tuition and make it accessible and stress-free at the click of a button. Whether your child is revising for their GCSEs, taking the 11 plus exam or just needs support, finding the right tutor to unlock potential and improve results is made easy with online matching - no more scouring the internet or asking at the school gates for recommendations. The flexible nature of online tuition also allows it to seamlessly slot in to your day-to-day. Online tuition experts EdPlace take it one step further by providing both a mix of online sessions led by subject experts, and award-winning assessments and activities created by qualified teachers, so progress can be tracked and measured all in one place.



How can I assess the progress my child is making with a private tutor?

An experienced tutor should be able to advise on the progress that a child is likely to make after an initial assessment and will keep you updated on their progress throughout the process. If you want to discuss your child’s progress with their tutor it is worth allocating some of the tutoring time to do this. Do be clear with the tutor how much feedback you would like to have as this varies from parent to parent. 

Often, your child will be the best judge of whether the tutoring is working for them. Do check in regularly to make sure that your child is enjoying the tutoring and feels that it is helpful. Hopefully your child’s teacher will notice improvements in your child’s work. 

Another important, although trickier to measure, sign of progress is any improvement in your child’s confidence and enthusiasm for learning. In the longer term, gains in these areas will have more of an impact than short term grade rises. It is a difficult balance to get right, but a good tutor should enable a child to become a better, more confident, learner themselves, rather than spoon feeding them the information to pass a particular test. 

If you or your child is not happy with the tutor you are working with, don’t be afraid to make a change. All tutors and all children are different and sometimes it can take a few attempts to find the right combination.