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What Do Private Tutors Do?

07/10/2022 / Private Tutoring

With private and online tutoring becoming such a common occurrence over the past few years, we have aimed to answer a number of commonly asked questions outlining what a private tutor does, and what a child can expect during their tutoring sessions.

What this article covers:

A private tutor is a gifted teacher with a specialist set of skills, or area of knowledge, who applies their expertise to deliver a tailored programme of study to individual students. A private tutor can support learners who may have additional learning needs, including those who are categorised as Gifted and Talented and who may be frustrated by the pace or scope of learning offered by their school. Tutors will create a bespoke study experience for each child, taking into account the learner’s individual abilities and personality, in order to provide sessions that are engaging and promote successful learning.

A private tutor will support the development of important key skills, such as problem-solving, independent study, and preparation for exams. You may choose to engage a private tutor to support your child ahead of important curriculum exams, such as SATS, GCSEs, or A Levels, for admissions testing for public or independent schools or the 11+ test for Grammar school admissions. Others choose to engage a private tutor for ongoing support with a particular subject or to help their child to build foundational skills in literacy or numeracy. A private tutor can also be a wonderful way for children to keep up with their learning whilst being home-schooled.

How Is Tutoring Different From Teaching?

The first difference between a private tutor and a teacher is perhaps the most obvious. Whilst a teacher will typically work with a whole classroom full of children (sometimes numbering up to 30 or more students), a private tutor will just be working with one young person in any given session. This, of course, means that a private tutoring session can offer the student some valuable benefits. The pace of learning can be uniquely adjusted to match the student’s pace, any questions or queries about the subject matter may be addressed straight away without disrupting the flow of the session, and any work carried out can be checked immediately by the tutor, thereby speeding up the learning process.

A private tutor offers a degree of flexibility that the classroom environment simply cannot match. From the ability to work with the child at different times and for different durations to the option to tailor the content of each session to every individual learner, a private tutor can focus entirely on the needs of their student. A private tutor can adapt their learning materials and teaching strategies to best suit the child in question and deliver assistance with a specific project, skill, or a subject as a whole.

A classroom teacher, meanwhile, must use a teaching style that is suited to the majority of students and may, as a result, have to tackle behavioural issues from those who are not able to engage with the strategies and approaches used. They will not be able to provide immediate feedback to each student, so the pace of learning will not be adaptable to each child’s unique capabilities. Whilst a teacher must consider the progress of the class as a whole, a private tutor is able to focus on the outcomes for a single child, as well as helping them to develop confidence in a safe, supportive learning environment.

There are also some similarities between a teacher and a tutor. Like a teacher, a tutor will focus on meeting the standards and requirements laid out in the national curriculum. This ensures that all learning is relevant and beneficial to the student’s education, but a tutor can also explore and build on this material in a way that is carefully tailored to engage the individual student. A private tutor can help to fill in any gaps in the student’s knowledge or help them to develop their own independent study skills, which will stand them in good stead for the future.

What Can You Expect From Your Tutor?

A private tutor will have specialist knowledge of their subject area, as well as the national curriculum and will have the ability to make use of different approaches to ensure that each learner is engaged and motivated to study. They will prepare a study plan for each student, which will include an outline of their learning objectives and an acknowledgement of any potential barriers to learning. They should keep records of the student’s work, in addition to providing progress reports, whilst ensuring that all such data is held securely. They will use study materials to support learning which will be carefully chosen and adapted for each student’s study level and abilities. Such materials may include online content, particularly as so much tuition is now delivered remotely.

Your private tutor should always be professional and approachable in order to encourage a positive learning environment. Feedback should be constructive and given regularly in order to ensure that the student’s learning is kept on track to meet their individual goals. Professional tutors will meet all safeguarding requirements, regardless of the fact that tuition is delivered online.

How Long Is A Typical Tutoring Session?

When it comes to a typical tutoring session, there is no “one size fits all” solution. After all, each learner is an individual and will have differing needs. Younger children may benefit from a shorter learning session, whilst older students may be more accustomed to concentrating on their work for longer periods. However, if a student has additional educational needs, a private tutor will be able to judge the right duration for their study sessions. Students with ADHD, for example, may benefit from shorter, more intense study sessions, whilst children who have been granted instructional modifications (such as additional time in examinations) may respond to a longer session which is delivered at a more leisurely pace.

As a general rule of thumb, a typical tutoring session is likely to last from 30 minutes to two hours. Some sessions can last longer if appropriate for the learner or their objectives, for example, in advance of important examinations or to focus on extended coursework submissions. Any session will ideally be a minimum of 30 minutes in length in order to ensure that there is sufficient time available for the tutor to structure the learning appropriately. This structure will include factoring time spent on handling any learning materials and establishing focus for the session.

Of course, the time of day will also have an impact on the duration of a session. For those children who are beginning their tutoring session straight after a full day spent at school, a shorter period of learning may be more appropriate, as they will almost invariably be mentally and physically tired before the tutoring session even begins. A weekend study session or a session held several hours after the school day ends, meanwhile, can be longer as the student should have had the chance to relax and refresh their energy levels before coming to work with their tutor.

What Should A First Tutoring Session Look Like?

It’s natural for a child to feel a little nervous or apprehensive ahead of their first tutoring session. It helps to have a quiet area set up in the home that is suitable for studying, at a table, and with good internet access, for example. This ensures that the tutor and student can get to grips with their work without being interrupted by other members of the household. Your child should be encouraged to ask questions of their tutor: after all, this is to be a collaborative learning experience.

The first priority for the tutor will be to build a positive rapport with their new student. That’s why the first session will typically begin with the tutor asking a few friendly questions and telling the student a little about themselves, too. The tutor will be likely to ask about school, including how the student feels about their learning and how they approach their studying at home. There may be a test or assessment to be carried out, and it’s a good idea to have the materials and classwork used at school ready to show to the tutor. All of this will give the tutor an insight into the level at which your child is currently working, and thereby enable them to develop the appropriate plan for their future sessions.

Why Engage A Private Tutor?

When you decide to engage a private tutor for your child, you are giving them a wonderful opportunity to develop in ways that can be challenging to achieve in the busy school environment. Online tutoring can help your child to improve their confidence and acquire valuable study skills, and even foster genuine pleasure in learning. The one-to-one relationship between a private tutor and the student can open up their potential, thanks to the uniquely flexible approach that private tutoring affords. Whether you decide to engage a private tutor to guide your child through a specific academic challenge or admissions examination process or plan to commence ongoing support or extension learning for your child, private tutoring represents a wonderful way to invest in your child’s long-term future.


We are so happy with our 11+ tutor, she is always very professional and approachable, and she is helping my son to gain in confidence for his grammar school entrance exams next term.


Very happy with the Tutor who is working with my daughter for the 11+. He always replies to emails promptly, engages my daughter during the online lesson, and she's enjoying the work. Thank you.


We were recommended a tutor for our needs very quickly and were able to start immediately. My daughter is getting tutoring for her 11+ exam and according to her, the tutor is amazing. There is a long way until the exam but she managed to bust my daughter's confidence in Maths. Thank you!


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