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.