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Online Education Explosion: Tutoring: who is regulating, and who is really teaching your child ?

COVID-19 continues to transform the education world, and is bringing to the fore areas such as online tutoring which was previously a niche market which is now exploding. Disturbingly, it is still unregulated by government or accrediting bodies.
A brief Google search for an "online tutor" takes you into an unregulated world, where anyone can set up a tutor agency and anyone can set themselves up as a tutor.

Tutor Agencies

Tutor agencies are popping up everywhere, capitalising on the post Covid panic and the UK government's call to arms for tutors to deliver the ''panacea" for learning loss, after the extended school closures during lockdown. Larger tutoring agencies and advertising platforms are happy to offer tutors who are not qualified, are not trained teachers, and individuals who would not be allowed to teach in UK state schools, and most reputable independent and private schools.

Unlike teachers who work in a school setting, there is no requirement for private tutors to have a disclosure check, unless they are registered with the Tutors Association, but those are few and far between, and a lot cannot afford their membership fees. The National Education Union is calling for change, highlighting cases of teachers who have caused serious harm, and this is only going to be more of a concern with the steep rise in online tutoring, and the increasing ease of online abuse.

Both tutoring agencies and tutors who belong to the Tutors Association are required to have disclosure checks, but again there are still relatively few of the total number of independent tutors and agencies signed up to this organisation. Most tutors in our research had not even heard of the Tutors' Association.

Sifting the good from the bad

Sadly, many tutor agencies merely act as brokers, funnelling through anyone who wants to register on their platform either as a tutor or parent seeking support. Some of the tutor agency owners are educators, but more often than not they have little or no interest in educational outcomes, and have seen a lucrative business opportunity rapidly expand.

Many of these agencies are not seeking to assess the quality of the tutors, or the learning outcomes, but are simply looking for "goods" to offer, at a range of prices to suit all pockets; running their business in an FMCG model, moving "tutor products" through their platforms, at a fast pace to meet ever growing "customer" demand.

Parents trust an agency with a good website to provide them with adequately qualified teachers, and for those advertising their services on Facebook pages to offer the same. Sadly, this is very often not the case.

Facebook Online Tutor Pages - beware!

More and more businesses are attracting customers on facebook, and the online tutoring businesses is prolific on social media. Type in "online tutors" into your facebook search bar and you will find a plethora of pages - put up a request for a tutor and you will be inundated with more offers than you can possibly sift through in one evening.

Most of these offers will be from unqualified teachers, people who are not sure what a DBS is, or why they would need one, and in the the author's experience either exaggerated their experience, or at the very worst end of the continuum, lied about it. Whilst trying to source high quality teachers for families, we found that approximately 70% of the tutors online on facebook pages were not qualified, did not have any DBS check, and could not provide testimonials that could be verified from customers.

There are however, a few good quality teachers on these pages, but they are hard to discern from the bad. What hope does a parent have who is trying to decide which of the 50 responses to follow up, and how to follow up? Who is giving them advice, and who is stopping unscrupulous operators flooding this market?

Parents - you value your child's education enough to to find them a tutor, so make sure they will do more good than harm, and that you are getting a good return on your investment.

As with everything we get what we are prepared to pay for, and you will need to pay more for good qualified teachers.

Parent Tips For Success:

Check the qualifications of your tutor.

For the best quality and outcome for your child, a tutor should be a qualified teacher holding either a PGCE or BEd or at the very least, if they are not, they should have an up to date DBS check. Ask for parent testimonials, and verify them, from non teacher tutors, if you still wish to use a tutor who is not a qualified teacher.

Expect regular feedback and assessment .

Good quality, trained teachers will be able to provide you with the feedback you need to see how your child is progressing towards their goal. They will assess your child as soon as they become their student, and will be able to discuss their plan for improvement. They understand the attainment targets the government sets, and if they have taught in an independent school, the standards expected there also. A good teacher tutor will provide you with a written report at agreed intervals, so you can clearly see progress and potential issues.

Expect a clear roadmap for your child.

Based on their extensive knowledge and training in assessing students, a qualified teacher tutor will be able to discuss a clear road map for you to enable your child to make the progress you expect. Most importantly, due to their training, they will also be able to identify any particular challenges your child may have, and they will have the professional toolbox and skill set to be able to address these effectively.

Invest In A Qualified Teacher Tutor.

See above.

Find A Tutoring Agency Run By Educators.

See above.

Remember to give your child the best chance they can to succeed, you will need to do your research and practise due diligence, in this exploding world of online tutoring. This is an important investment and cutting costs may do your child more harm than good!

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