Private tutoring is a great way to earn a little extra cash.
- Tutoring groups of one, two or three is easy compared to teaching classes of thirty.
- You can concentrate on giving the pupil(s) your full attention undisturbed by intrusions from others, so you can achieve a high level of progress quickly.
- As a private tutor, you are not bound by rules, which stop you excluding pupils for wrecking the lesson for others, or cheekily answering you back. In the unlikely event of a pupil giving you problems, you can stop tutoring them any time you want.
A few precautions
- It is better not to tutor children in your own school. In fact most headteachers will not allow it.
- Tutoring alone does not bring in enough money for a comfortable lifestyle, but any teachers who try it full-time should sort out a private pension, otherwise they will be doing it for the rest of their lives.
- Beware of the tax man. It is important to budget for an annual payment to the Inland Revenue and put your tax form in on time to avoid paying a penalty. Remember to keep a record of any expenses, eg fares, you have incurred to set these off against income, for tax purposes.
Where to find your tutees
The only difficulty is to find the first pupil because once you have started, parents are usually so pleased their child is improving, they are eager to tell their friends and so you can have a steady stream carrying on for years. The best way to acquire pupils is by word of mouth. Ask around and you can usually find someone who knows someone who wants a tutor. Advertising in the local paper, shop ‘nosy board’ or library often works.
What do you charge?
It varies in different parts of the country.
Working for an agency is the worst way to find pupils.
Working for an agency is the worst way to find pupils. They set their rate so low and take about one quarter of your earnings for several lessons. Then it is difficult for you to charge a proper rate because when parents recommend you, they also tell them the price.
One guide is to telephone a local tutoring agency and ask how much they charge for primary and secondary. Whatever they tell you, add on 25-50%, depending on the parent’s ability to pay.
Setting the terms
When you find a pupil, explain your terms to the parents - some teachers give it to the parents in writing. These points might be helpful.
- If they cancel the lesson with less than one or two day’s notice, you still expect to be paid for it.
- You can soften the blow by telling them that if you, yourself, cancel within the same period of notice, you will give them the next lesson free.
- If you have to spend a lot of time outside the lesson, marking their work, eg essays and exam papers, charge half the hourly rate for that, full rate if it is A-level or AS-level.
- They might want to bring the pupil along to meet you first. This seems reasonable, but sometimes parents ask for a free trial lesson to see if their child likes you. Perhaps agree to the trial lesson, but not free.
A few tips
- If parents regularly cancel the lesson, tell them you will only continue on the basis that they pay for each lesson a week in advance and the payment is not returnable, if they cancel; likewise if they regularly have no cash with them and want to pay in arrears. If they refuse, you might as well discontinue the lessons - it's not worth the trouble.
- If parents regularly inconvenience you by picking their pupils up late, start charging extra for childminding.
- It is better not to go to a pupil's house unless it is very convenient. Even if you can charge for travelling, you waste a lot of time and it reduces your hourly rate. One might make an exception if the pupil or parent were disabled.
- Sometimes parents try to persuade you to reduce your price after you have agreed it. Always say no, otherwise the word will go round and you’ll have them all trying it. If they say they will go elsewhere, still say no, they are probably bluffing.
The child protection issue
Some parents are afraid to leave their child in the home of a tutor who is unknown to them in case they harm the child and so they insist in staying in the room during the lesson. In recent years, teachers' unions and head teachers have advised teachers never to be alone with pupils in case they make an accusation of abuse. The same could apply to private tutors, so having a parent in the room is for the teacher’s protection as well as the pupil's.
If the parent interferes in the lesson, you can politely but firmly tell them that there are many ways to teach everything and you will only continue to tutor if they stop interfering.
Only a small number of the private tutors I have known have encountered difficulties. Most pupils and parents are so co-operative and appreciative that the job is usually a pleasure.
The above advice was provided for ATL by teaching specialist Hazel Bennett, author of The ultimate teachers' handbook. Hazel can be emailed at email@example.com.
Help and support
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