Secret Teacher: as a private tutor, I’m guilty of worsening inequality

Teaching is a profession that makes me feel guilty. As someone who comes from a working class background I’m painfully aware of the inequalities in our education system – and as a private tutor, I’m now part of the problem. I’m a fully paid up member of what the Sutton Trust calls “the hidden secret of British education”(pdf), but I hate that I’m contributing to the widening attainment gap in our schools. The Secret Teacher writes in The Guardian.

You may not see tutoring as a particularly great sin. You may even be one of the four in 10 state teachers who take on this extra work, out of school hours. After all, there are a raft of justifications tutors can use to explain our choice, from paying bills to raising some extra holiday cash.

In my case, I live in a rural area where teaching opportunities are limited. The type of work I tend to attract is often temporary and paid by the hour. Private tuition is one of a number of jobs I take on to piece together a living, and my main source of income. I charge between £25 and £28 an hour, which is fairly standard, but is still more than three times the minimum wage. And it’s very rewarding to see such rapid progress with children who really benefit from one-to-one attention.

Yet I can’t stop worrying that while I’m helping those students I work with, others lose out. No child should be given an academic advantage over another simply because of their parent’s ability to pay.

As an adult, I feel a sense of despair when I consider pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Despite the government initiatives, pupil premium funding, and the best efforts of teachers to close the gap, the majority of these children are still failing because of where they come from. Research from the Education Policy Institute estimates that if we carry on at this pace it will take at least 50 years before disadvantaged pupils achieve parity with their more affluent peers.

I’m looking into ways that I might be able to offer more affordable tuition, perhaps through small group sessions in my town. If this grows, then I may be able to offer some free places. I’ve also applied to TalentEd, an educational charity that provides small group tuition in state schools to children who show promise and who are on free school meals.

I sometimes wonder if I would pay for a private tutor if my own children were struggling in a particular subject area or just needed that little push to achieve that top grade. So far, my daughter has refused all offers of help with her English homework, even when preparing to take a test. I once asked her why. With her head buried in her books, she absentmindedly replied: “It feels like cheating.”

Read the full article Secret Teacher: as a private tutor, I’m guilty of worsening inequality

Are you a private tutor? Do you feel the same way? Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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