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Tutoring for a Child in Secondary School

30/08/2023 / Online Tutoring

An Outline of Tutoring

Key Stage 3

Key Stage 4 & GCSE

An Outline of Tutoring

If qualified teachers are providing all the tutoring at Principal Tutors, you might be wondering what the difference is between teaching and tutoring, especially as the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Whilst a teacher usually works in a classroom teaching up to 30 children at once, a tutor usually works one to one, focusing on one learner at a time. However, qualified teachers make the best tutors, and your child’s tutoring session will draw together the strengths that a teacher brings as a classroom practitioner and those a tutor brings in focusing the learning on your child’s specific needs.

The tutoring that will occur in your child’s lesson is much more than simply reviewing learning that has happened in school (although that will form a part of it). Sessions may include:

  • Baseline assessments to establish areas that need revision
  • Completing practice questions to consolidate new learning
  • Reading for comprehension and vocabulary
  • Applying existing skills to more challenging questions
  • Problem solving
  • Role play of educational scenarios
  • Conversation practice
  • Reviewing modelled examples
  • Completing exam type questions
  • Targeted revision
  • Targeted feedback
  • Extension work in topics beyond the curriculum
  • Timed practice of exam paper

It will be up to you as the parent and the tutor to agree what the focus of the lessons will be. Most secondary school children will also have valuable insights into topics they find challenging and would like support with. There is usually a strong correlation between the topics pupils find most challenging at GCSE and the topics teachers expect them to find difficult, so this is a good place to start. 

Parents are usually happy to let the tutor take responsibility for the lessons after they have indicated any areas of difficulty. Recent school reports or notes from conversations with your child’s schoolteacher can form a useful starting point. However, the tutor will also be able to conduct their own assessments within the first few lessons and will establish for themselves where the focus ought to be. Time constraints will play a role too. A pupil who is four weeks away from a GCSE will require very different lessons to a pupil starting Year 10 with two years of tuition ahead of them. 

Whilst a few lessons before an exam can undoubtedly make a difference, a tutor who works with your child over a longer period will undeniably have a more significant impact. You should have complete confidence that you can leave your child’s education in the hands of a professional and qualified tutor and look forward to the positive results that will come with time.

Secondary School

Secondary school consists of years 7-11 (ages 11-16) and may include sixth form (years 12-13). During secondary school, most pupils will sit at least 9 GCSE exams in several compulsory subjects (including English Language, maths and science) and some other optional subjects.

Many pupils then go on to do A-Levels or BTEC courses at secondary schools and sixth-form colleges. Tutoring is available throughout secondary school but becomes more focused in Key Stage 4 (year 10 and year 11) as pupils prepare for their GCSE exams. Passes (grade 4 or 5 in the new GCSE grading system) for English and maths are required as a minimum for entry into further education and many places of employment. Competitive courses will require considerably higher grades. GCSE grades will follow your child throughout their life. It is very much worth the investment to get the best possible grades.

Key Stage 3

Tutoring at Key Stage 3 (school years 7-9) builds further on what might be done with a pupil in KS3. Whilst a tutor who was a primary specialist would be happy to provide English and maths tutoring in KS2, KS3 tutors are more likely to tutor only their specialist subject, meaning that you may need more than one tutor if you require tutoring for more than one subject. Maths and English remain the most popular subjects for tuition at KS3, but tutoring in science and languages is also common.

The specific focus of the lesson will depend on the areas that your child would benefit from additional support in, as well as the subject being tutored, but a lesson would likely include many of the following:

  • Revision and consolidation of topics covered at school.
  • Practice questions and answer modelling.
  • Pre-teaching of material likely to be soon taught in school.
  • Feedback and advice for pupil answers.
  • Timed practice. Space for the pupil to ask any questions about the learning.
  • Preparation for any upcoming tests or end of year exams.

Many schools begin teaching the GCSE specification in Year 9 due to the constraints on timetabling and a desire to get through the content. This leaves plenty of time for revision in Year 11. The consequence is that Year 9, although technically in KS3, is often a crucial foundation year for GCSE preparation and should be considered part of the course.

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Key Stage 4 & GCSE  

Unsurprisingly, tuition for GCSE English Language, GCSE Literature and GCSE Maths are by far the most common requests made for tuition in Key Stage 4 (school years 10-11). Science tuition is also popular. As mentioned previously, passes in GCSE English and GCSE Maths will be essential for access to higher education and in applications for employment throughout your child’s life. Tuition for one or both of these subjects is a way to ensure that your child achieves their very best in these vital subjects.

If your child aspires to a competitive course (medicine, veterinary, law, dentistry, engineering, for example) or to a top university (such as Oxford or Cambridge), they will need top grades (8 or 9) in all their GCSE subjects, not just the subjects they will be carrying on to A-Level. Getting top grades in GCSE maths and science but only passes in English and other humanities subjects will raise concerns in a competitive application process.

As a result, tutoring should not just be considered if you think your child is unlikely to pass, but if you suspect there is any reason why they are not on track to get the best grade they can achieve. There are many reasons why pupils may fall behind in their expected progress in a subject, including:

  • A difficult or overcrowded classroom environment, particularly if poor behaviour from other pupils causes disruption.
  • Gaps in understanding or not enough revision and consolidation time given in class.
  • Poor timetabling, where key lessons are regularly lost or squeezed.
  • A teacher the pupil finds difficult. Pastoral issues with other pupils in the classroom that have an impact on learning.
  • Low aspirations in the classroom, minimal homework set.
  • A difficulty with aspects of the subject that is not picked up or supported by the teacher.
  • An existing or underlying special educational need.
  • A feeling of disengagement with the subject, often due to a lack of confidence.

It can be challenging for a pupil at GCSE to take responsibility for their learning and progress if they are not given a clear framework to do so. If a pupil is at any risk of underachieving, a tutor will be able to support them by:

  • Carrying out an assessment with the pupil to find out the level they are working at and to identify and prioritise areas that need the most support.
  • Teaching and reteaching any content that has been poorly understood.
  • Providing practice work at the right level of challenge for the pupil; supporting and modelling the correct approach to answering.
  • Providing detailed specific feedback and clear guidance about what the pupil needs to do to progress.
  • Giving the pupil time to ask questions.
  • Working on time techniques to increase the speed of answering.
  • Reviewing content that has not been revisited for a while.
  • Ensuring the pupil gets some enjoyment out of the subject by celebrating success and sharing their own enthusiasm. 

Any amount of tutoring will benefit a pupil preparing for their GCSEs. However, the best tutors are usually completely booked up in the lead up to exams as they often have A-Level students in addition to their GCSE students. Planning ahead for a child who is taking their GCSEs will ensure there is plenty of time for both topic revision and exam practice. It will also ensure the time to build up a good working relationship between tutor and student. The better the tutor knows your child, the more personalised they can make the revision and exam preparation, leading to a more successful outcome.

Our Tutors

At Principal Tutors, all of our tutors are qualified teachers with expertise in the UK, secondary National Curriculum. You’ll get feedback after every single session to help you feel in control of your child’s learning and progress, and you can even download resources and request a recording of your tutoring session to help you remember key points later.

To learn how secondary tutoring can help your child give us a call on 0800 772 0974 or you can request a tutor using our online form.


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