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There have been a spate of articles recently about the “crisis” in teacher recruitment. Such pieces cite a number of factors which might be responsible, but one that stood out to me was the suggestion that there is a “trend for middle-aged teachers to become private tutors” which is “stripping the profession of experienced people”. I’m not sure whether this is true – I’ve not seen any data on it, but the TES recently provided an example of this phenomenon in an article by a “successful history teacher” explaining why he was leaving the profession to set up his own private tutoring company – I won’t link to his website, but like a number of such sites, he offers some pretty basic revision videos and other “resources” which I imagine are supposed to convince you of his suitability as a tutor.

I don’t blame anyone for leaving the profession – I’ve left teaching in the past, and consider doing so again at least once every school year. Teaching is an incredibly demanding job and I can see how private tutoring might seem like a lucrative alternative –  some Physics tutors are charging as much as £108 per hour and I know that, as a Physics teacher myself, I would have no shortage of clients if I charged a  minimum of £50 an hour. Sure, you might not earn quite as much as a full-time teacher and you’d miss out on paid holidays, but there would be none of the endless admin, marking and other aspects of teaching in a school that seem to grind teachers down, and you would still be making a useful contribution to society by helping young people learn. So why teach when you can tutor?

That’s a question for which teachers, as a profession, must have a good answer – not just for experienced teachers but for young graduates who see tutoring as an easy way to earn money without having to go through teacher training or having to take on the responsibilities of teaching in a school. So, what’s my answer? Well, it’s much the same one I give when asked why I returned to teaching – I don’t think I’d get the same sense of satisfaction from tutoring  I get from being a classroom teacher and I’d miss being part of a school community.

Private tutoring may offer some of the financial rewards and indeed some of the same sense of satisfaction that comes from helping a young person understand your subject, but more often than not, such tuition is only accessible to the rich and helps to entrench privilege. Furthermore, private tutoring cannot offer the tutor the diverse range of experiences and opportunities for personal growth that teaching in a school can, such as the responsibility of running a department or being form tutor or helping with the school musical, and so on. Schools are hugely important to society and it would be a tragedy if we failed to keep or attract the best teachers to be part of them.

I’m sure other teachers will have their own answers to this question and hope that some of them might comment below.

  • There are lots of reasons: the buzz from interaction with a class; the opportunity to inter act with children across the school; the challenge from whole class teaching; the social support role; peer support from ones colleagues; the whole school enrichment initiatives;the daily management and organisational challenges of working in a school. To name but a few! Tutoring is a different type of job and whilst it pays more, would never tempt me.

  • M Baines Dec 29, 2015 Reply

    I think there is room & demand for both teaching & tutoring. Pupils sometimes need one-to-one help which is sadly not achievable in the class room sometimes and it can be very rewarding, as a tutor, to get the ‘aha’ moment with a tutee.

    As a physics classroom teacher however, it is wonderful to be able to get pupils engaged with equipment, demonstrations and experiments, working in groups, sharing ideas and experiences. None of this is really available to a tutor.

    So no ‘conclusion’ here really, just acstatement that (for me in my subject) both have their place & I enjoy both!

    • Alom Dec 29, 2015 Reply

      Thanks for your reply. Yes, it is incredibly sad that, as school teachers, we can offer very little in the way of one-to-one support for our students.

  • Dr Aust Dec 29, 2015 Reply

    Once the latest round of University restructurings ramps up I dare say there will be a steady supply of burnt-out 50+ ex-academics ready to fill in any gaps in the A-level tutoring roster…

  • Ian Jan 12, 2016 Reply

    An interesting question, and it shows where we are that the automatic assumption is that tutoring would somehow be ‘better’. I’ve blogged my responses – ie babbled on for ages but on my site. It comes down to the thought that we’ll know teaching is recognised and rewarded appropriately when the natural question is to ask why someone would tutor when they could teach instead.

    https://teachingofscience.wordpress.com/2016/01/11/why-teach/

  • Lucy Parsons Jun 29, 2016 Reply

    I ‘tutor’ (actually I do way more than that – coaching, writing and speaking) because I’ve made a lifestyle choice to bring up my children as a WAHM who has greater flexibility than a classroom teacher. I deeply miss teaching the subject that I love I. The classroom. I never miss having a tutor group, doing break duties, marking or staff meetings.

    In order to market my business I create weekly blog and social media posts which are consumed by hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students every week for free. I am regularly thanked for this free output and toad it’s made a massive difference to many students taking exams. My paid for services and books help me to cover the costs and recompense me for the time I spend helping others. Whilst the fees may appear high I earn nowhere near what I did as a full time teacher – but my business is work in progress.

    I know I don’t have the physical stamina to be a full -time teacher giving my best to my students whilst also caring for my own family in the way they deserve. My business is a way for me to share my training and talents with the world alongside being the mother I want to be.

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