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7 Signs Your Primary School Child Needs an English Tutor

06/11/2023 / English Tuition

It’s easy to think that a child’s academic performance in primary school English doesn’t really matter, as only their high school achievements will affect their career or higher education prospects.

However, that’s only partly correct. True, marks on tests and assignments won’t follow a child in future life. But the English skills a child develops in primary school, regardless of their marks, are absolutely crucial for later success.

This is because learning typically builds on previous learning. If a child lacks a foundational skill, acquiring subsequent skills that rely on it becomes highly challenging, if not impossible. A very basic example – when a child can’t recognise letters, they can’t read words. When a child can’t read words, they can’t read a sentence, and so on.

In other words, struggles with foundational or basic skills can cause a child to simply get “stuck” at a certain level of learning while the curriculum continues to progress further and further ahead, making it more and more difficult for the child to ever catch up.

It’s imperative for parents to be alert to their child’s learning progress in primary school so that they can prevent this process of getting stuck before it starts. Just a little tutoring in English early on can provide the boost a child needs to get back in sync with the skills in the curriculum – preventing the need for far more heavy-duty tutoring later on.

How can you know if you need to find a primary English tutor for your child? We’ve listed a number of things you might notice that suggest a need for primary English tuition.

1. Report card marks or feedback from the teacher

This is perhaps the most obvious sign that might come to mind when you think of indications that your child needs tutoring. And it’s absolutely true that seeking out an English tutor is a smart move when a teacher mentions that your child is struggling a bit with English skills.

However, parents should also keep in mind that struggles with academics aren’t the only sign to look for when you’re wondering whether your [LS1] child might need primary English tutoring. In primary years, students who are struggling a bit with skills can sometimes maintain good marks through hard work, so the marks on a report card aren’t the end of the story. The rest of our list comprises more subtle clues about a need for primary English tutoring that parents might overlook.

On the other hand, parents should know that low marks on schoolwork might indicate different kinds of tutoring that are needed – or might indicate a need for other help from a guardian.

As an example, some students may struggle with completing work not because of struggles with English per se, but because of difficulties with organisation. For example, a student who is talented in English but habitually forgets pencils or books, forgets that work is due or loses important papers may still end up achieving low marks in English. In this case, your student might need a tutor who focuses on organisation and executive functioning. Yes, organisation is a skill that tutors can help your child develop!

Lastly, don’t rule out factors unrelated to education. Students who can’t see the board because they didn’t wear their glasses, are hungry because they didn’t like the school lunch, or are experiencing bullying might all end up with lowered school performance regardless of academic aptitude.

2. Slow reading or difficulties with reading aloud

A slow pace of reading is a very important sign that you should get your child help such as primary English tuition. In later primary years, students need to be able to read age-appropriate material at a certain pace to be able to keep up with and absorb material in many subjects. About 90 words per minute of age-appropriate text is generally agreed to be the point at which most students can begin to understand and take in the meaning of what they’re reading.

For students at the start of primary school, reading at an appropriate level for their age is just as important, if not more so. The goal for most students just beginning Year 1 is that they can “read aloud simple sentences and books that are consistent with their phonic knowledge, including some common exception words.” In Year 2, students should be taught to “read aloud books closely matched to their improving phonic knowledge, sounding out unfamiliar words accurately, automatically and without undue hesitation,” according to the UK national curriculum.

In fact, the national curriculum’s guidance says of pupils entering Year 1:

If they are still struggling to decode and spell, they need to be taught to do this urgently through a rigorous and systematic phonics programme so that they catch up rapidly.

Phonics is a systematic approach to teaching children how to read and sound out words, and it’s something a qualified primary English tutor should be very well suited to provide.

If you’re not sure what an appropriate level of reading skill would be for your child, check in with their teacher.

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3. Short writing assignments and slow writing

Of course, the expected writing abilities of primary school students vary significantly by age, and the UK national curriculum specifically notes that students can usually read more skilfully than they can write. But for students in the later years of primary schooling, slow, laborious writing can be an indication that a child needs help with writing and English skills.

The UK national curriculum also emphasises the importance of stamina in writing for older primary students. If a child’s writing assignments are typically significantly shorter than expected, you might want to seek out primary English tuition.

4. Difficulties with spelling or punctuation

Spelling difficulties are one sign of difficulties in English that might be easier for a parent to notice. But parents and guardians may not fully realise why difficulties with spelling are important. Struggles with spelling don’t just matter in terms of writing individual words correctly. Consistent misspellings of ordinary words can mean that a child hasn’t yet learned and internalised the rules of English spelling—a matter of skill, not memorisation.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, significant struggles with spelling can be an indication that a young child needs help via a phonics programme and individual tuition from a primary English tutor. They can also be a symptom of dyslexia, so don’t hesitate to seek an evaluation for special educational needs if you think it might be needed.

For older primary students, proofreading is also an important skill that’s worth developing – and it is a part of the UK national curriculum. Primary English tutors can help with this too, teaching a student to review and revise their own work.

5. Disorganised ideas

Many parents have had the experience of listening to a child’s rambling and unclear story or recap of events. While this can be rather sweet to listen to, parents and guardians should consider whether their child routinely struggles with organising their thoughts and arguments in a manner that makes their ideas clear.

If a child often has difficulty telling a story clearly from beginning to end or in expressing their opinion in a way that makes their point clear, consider primary English tuition. English tutors can provide students with graphic organisers and guides to help students express their ideas in a more organised manner.

Although this is not the most crucial of skills for a younger student, structuring ideas becomes very important later on in schooling, so it’s worth paying attention to.

6. Not finding joy in reading

“I hate reading!”

“Reading is so boring!”

These statements can be indicators of two things. They can mean that a child dislikes reading because it is hard, or they can mean that the child simply doesn’t enjoy the reading material they’ve encountered.

Either way, if you hear statements like these, it might be time to seek out a primary English tutor. It’s important for students to learn to like reading, or at least not to hate it. A skilful English tutor can help direct your child to material they’ll enjoy and diagnose whether their dislike of reading is due to proficiency struggles. You might find that your reluctant reader turns into an avid bookworm once the right book is in their hands.

7. Finding English lesson material too easy

Is it a problem if your child comes home and says that English is so easy – perhaps even so easy that it’s boring?

This isn’t a bad thing, of course, but it is an indication that you might want to look for primary English tuition that will stretch your child’s abilities and help them achieve even more. Gifted and talented children can benefit greatly from private tuition too. It can reignite their enjoyment of learning and keep them from feeling disengaged and irritated with lessons that they find dull and too simple.

Getting the information you need to start tutoring

In all of these cases, it’s usually wise to speak to your child’s teacher once you are thinking about pursuing primary English tuition. A teacher will likely be happy to provide guidance about what a tutor could focus on to help your student – and they may be able to share valuable insights that will give you a fuller picture of your child’s learning.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that some of the challenges on this list could potentially be an indication that a child needs an evaluation for special educational needs or disabilities, such as ADHD or dyslexia. A diagnosis can be hugely helpful for students with these needs, as parents can then seek out tutors who specialise in tutoring for students with SEND and will know the right supports to provide. So, don’t hesitate to request an evaluation if you think your child could benefit.

Start your child’s school career on the right foot

When it comes to English skills for younger children, it’s important to know what benchmarks are expected, as we’ve seen. But it can be difficult for adults to know exactly where a child’s skills should be at each point in their development. That’s why every tutor with Principal Tutors is a fully qualified teacher who’s deeply familiar with the UK national curriculum.

At Principal Tutors, we also specialise in making just the right match between tutor and student. So, if you have a Key Stage 1 school child who needs help in the form of phonics, you can be sure we’ll find you a tutor who knows exactly what a phonics programme entails.

If your primary school student needs a little individual help with any of the skills we’ve mentioned in this piece, just give us a call on 0800 772 0974 or fill in our online form. We’ll get started right away with finding the perfect tutor for you.


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