What ingredients are needed to make a good tutor?

1) Qualifications

A person should be qualified to do the job they are being paid to do. We want a plumber who is qualified, a car mechanic who is qualified, a solicitor who is qualified…..

I wouldn’t send one of my children to see someone who states “they’ve always had an interest in medicine” or someone who declares “my sister always asks me to look after my nephew when he’s poorly” Interest in a subject matter can never replicate or replace qualifications. A qualification says that the person has the knowledge and skills to do the job, and has reached a level of work that has been certified by those people who understand those standards.

A tutor who is teaching your child should be a qualified teacher. They will have the certificates, the DFE number or a GTC number. If they don’t have these, they aren’t qualified teachers.

2) Experience

Qualifications only get you so far, experience means that other people are convinced of your work and employ you! Experience has allowed us to make our initial mistakes, to learn our craft over years, to realise what works and what doesn’t.

I’d rather use an electrician that has 10 years of experience than one who has 10 days. Call me old fashioned but to me experienced means reliable and expert. A correctly qualified teacher who has a heap of experience in the classroom, add the experience of years of tutoring pupils (and they are different, we have come across excellent class teachers who do not become good tutors) and you have the perfect blend.

3) Resources

What resources does a tutor use? Individual home-based tutors tend to use resources that are already out there in the market place; revision guides and workbooks that can be bought at a local bookshop, or worksheets that are downloaded off the Internet. They might use school textbooks that purely replicate the same questions and explanations that your child gets at school. Software is always off the shelf asking you to pay a premium for something you could get directly cheaper.

Independently owned one off tuition centres tend to have to rely on all of the above, they don’t have the money to invest in either paying someone to create content or time to write content themselves. Writing questions and creating content is a skill in itself, I’m a great teacher but would never claim that I could create questions that were valid were truly incremental in their progression. Years of trying to write end of unit, end of term, end of year exams (and years now of seeing a vast range from other teachers in many different schools) showed me that we often weren’t testing what we thought we were. Not convinced? The exam boards have proven this year with all their knowledge, expertise and money that they don’t always get the setting of questions correct!

Corporate or franchised centres have got it spot on. Huge investment in content, both pen and paper and software, that can’t be purchased elsewhere, written by experts at writing content, backed up with years of being tested day in and day out by children.

Don’t be misled by tutors telling you that their resources were especially written for the UK National Curriculum or that someone else’s weren’t. The National Curriculum is primarily a skills based curriculum, has a children acquired the skill to add numbers, to read, to understand what they read, the skill to construct a story, the skill to analyse a poem and so on. It’s a very dry document! Here’s an excerpt below from Mathematics at Key Stage 2

Written methods

i. use written methods to add and subtract positive integers less than 1000, then up to 10000, then add and subtract numbers involving decimals; use approximations and other strategies to check that their answers are reasonable
j. use written methods for short multiplication and division by a single-digit integer of two-digit then three-digit then four-digit integers, then of numbers with decimals; then use long multiplication, at first for two-digit by two-digit integer calculations, then for three-digit by two-digit calculations; extend division to informal methods of dividing by a two-digit divisor [for example, 64 ÷ 16]; use approximations and other strategies to check that their answers are reasonable

Very skills led, even English, another excerpt,

They learn the main rules and conventions of written English…

Knowledge, skills and understanding


1. Pupils should be taught to:
a. choose form and content to suit a particular purpose [for example, notes to read or organise thinking, plans for action, poetry for pleasure]
b. broaden their vocabulary and use it in inventive ways
c. use language and style that are appropriate to the reader
d. use and adapt the features of a form of writing, drawing on their reading
e. use features of layout, presentation and organisation effectively.

All skills that can be taught by a teacher, not a textbook.


Put this specialist content in the hands of qualified and experienced teachers and what do you have? A Kip McGrath Centre!

4) Environment

The environment makes a huge difference in learning. One of the main reasons that Academies have improved results is massive spending on the school environment. If a school looks great the pupils have real pride in their workplace, transferring to pride in their work.

A home tutor has to battle with everything else going on around the house. A tuition centre in a village hall isn’t set up for the purpose of educating your child. A tuition centre needs to be modern, inviting and welcoming. Like the new built Academies this environment suggests to the child a work like atmosphere, of success and of calmness.

A specified time is critical, children love routine, to know when they go, and who else is to be there. A drop in environment can mean that your child may be there on their own or with 30 others, neither are truly conducive to continuity and calmness.

A touch of privacy helps. Children of all ages don’t want to be on display, for passers by or shoppers to stare through windows at their endeavours.

At Kip McGrath Ashford, we believe that we tick all these four requirements. If you’re thinking of seeking a tutor for your child give us a call on 01233 626333. If your current tutor doesn’t meet these essential requirements, give me a ring, come and see what we do and how we do it.

In the words of one of our parents

“Nathan last night asked if he could go to Kip Mcgrath Monday and Wednesdays in future. He is obviously enjoying his learning with you and compared it to his rugby and cubs hobbies he also does.

I am really pleased to have found you actually and you came recommended. I believe Nathan relates very well to your quiet and gentle approach.

A big thank you to you for being who you are and helping so many children.”


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