Are private tutors for children just the latest educational ‘arms race’?

The debate about the state of Britains schools rages on, but one thing is clear: parents are ever more addicted to hiring tutors to help their children succeed. New figures show that one in four UK children, and almost half in London, have private tuition to help them with school work.


The proportion of tutored pupils has risen by more than a third over the past decade, from 18% in 2005 to 25% now. In London, 44% of pupils had private or home tuition last year, compared with 34% in 2005. The number of tutors offering their services has burgeoned, as has the number of tuition agencies, leading to fears about an unregulated home industry.


Social mobility charity the Sutton Trust calls it an escalating arms race in education and wants a means-tested voucher system to allow worse-off children to buy private tuition if needed. The headteacher union, the NAHT, has said it is unhealthy for children.


Now a £6bn industry, tutoring is hugely controversial in both state and private sectors. This year a survey found that 62% of parents of children sitting the 11-plus exam for grammar school entry in England had employed private tutors. This led to a tutor-proof 11-plus, developed by Durham University, to try to keep the playing field level. Lee Elliot Major of the Sutton Trust said: You are four times more likely to get a private tutor if you are in the top fifth of the income range, so we are worried about the gap outside the school gates. Its also true that this escalation in families investing in childrens education is fuelled by the most anxious generation of parents ever.


Last week, the annual conference of the Independent Association of Prep Schools was told that schools needed to move away from obsession with exam success towards a more rounded education, and should warn parents against the overuse of tutors to hothouse their children. So what do the experts think?






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