When it comes to private tutoring, both in person and online, there are lots of factors that parents will be considering before they hire someone.

You’ll be considering a tutor’s experience and qualifications, their teaching background, references from current and past clients, and their general character and attitude.

The absolute priority when employing a personal tutor is to create a safe, comfortable and positive environment for your child to learn. To find a tutor can be quite tough sometimes with so many things to consider, but it’s best to take the time to find what’s best for you and ensure tutoring is worth the time you put in.

Eliminate risks and hazards at home!
Creating a secure and tidy study space is key to safe lessons at home! Photo via Visualhunt

Parents and carers must be vigilant and cautious when employing someone to work closely with a child, so here is our advice on how best to go about the process.

What Should I Look for in Personal Tutors?

This is the first question that parents and students ask, and it’s the most important one!

Aside from the academic requirements that you will want in a tutor, such as qualifications and professional experience, there are other elements involved when looking at a tutor’s profile.

You might wish to check that the tutor is properly qualified and accredited to the standard they claim or that you would like. You can ask to see certificates for any qualifications that the tutor mentions in their adverts, which can be worthwhile if you are hiring with specific academic or professional criteria in mind.

Some parents want a tutor who has actual teaching experience and qualifications. This is not always the case, but parents can sometimes find that a professional teacher is someone that can be trusted to fulfil certain criteria, such as experience of working with children, and they will already have a DBS certificate as well.

DBS certificates are usually desired by parents when hiring private tutors, but these can only be obtained via employers or licensing bodies, such as an agency or a school for example. So if a tutor works freelance, they will not actually be able to obtain a DBS check themselves.

There are other background checks a self-employed tutor can get, such as a criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland or a local police station, but it is up to them to apply for them should they want to.

There is no legal requirement for a tutor in the UK to have a background check, so this is purely a question on personal preference. If you feel that it is important to hire someone with a check, then you can factor that in to your hiring process, but many self-employed tutors will not have one.

Most parents will want a tutor who already has some experience of working with young and vulnerable people, and the ability to prove this too. If you’ve found a tutor through word of mouth, a local advert, or via social media, you might be able to speak to a former student to get an idea of what they are like as a tutor.

You could ask the tutor for the contact details of a current or former parent or student if you would like to find out more about their teaching or to answer any specific questions you might have about the tutor.

You can also ask the tutor for a couple of referees if you would like a personal or professional reference. After all, you are the employer in this situation, and it is your right to get a reference for someone you employ. You can follow these contacts up with a phone call.

You can find digital tutors in all UK cities on Superprof;

  • Bristol tutors
  • London tutors
  • Edinburgh tutors
  • Liverpool tutors
  • A level tutors

Should I Interview a Tutor Before Hiring Them?

The question of interviewing a tutor before you hire them is entirely up to you, but it’s not a bad idea. It can be as informal as you like, and doesn’t need to take long, but could give you an idea of whether you would be comfortable with them working closely with your child.

Get to know your tutor before starting lessons!
Don't hesitate to plan an interview or preliminary meeting with a prospective tutor! Photo via Visual hunt

You can interview a tutor over the phone, but in person is always best if possible. If you are hiring an online tutor, a quick video call would do the trick to meet and get to know them a bit more. Although cost as a consideration should fall well below your child's safety it would be a good idea to speak about the cost of home tuition at this point as well.

In an interview you will be able to ask any questions you have about the tutor’s professional background and experience, their qualifications, their education and to get to know them a bit more as a person.

Try to ask positive and proactive questions that require a thoughtful response. When the tutor answers your questions, be aware of their tone of voice and observe their body language – this can say a lot about a person. You want someone who comes across as friendly, open and approachable.

An interview is a great time to make it clear where and when the tutoring sessions will take place. Decide on somewhere appropriate, tidy and easily accessible for both parties. As a parent, you can remain present during the lessons if you prefer, or simply leave the door open and check in sometimes.

A suitable place to conduct tutoring lessons would be a study or dining table – anywhere open and with a table and chairs. A child’s bedroom is not a suitable place to hold private lessons.

During the interview or first meeting, trust your instincts as a parent and as a person. If something doesn’t feel right or the tutor doesn’t seem to match up to what you had in mind, or to how they had initially advertised, don’t be afraid to end the interview or call off a lesson.

Questions to Ask Your Tutor

Suggested questions to ask a tutor include:

  • How much experience do you have?
  • Can you provide a reading list?
  • Which study books do you recommend?
  • How do you measure progress?
  • Do you provide periodic progress reports?
  • Where do you teach?
  • Do you provide online tuition?
  • How many hours per week are usually necessary?
  • Do you set homework?
  • How many hours a week should I study/practice at home?
  • Do you offer discounts for block bookings or concessions?
  • Do you charge for travel?
  • Do you help with other areas such as interview technique and CV-writing?

How Can I Ensure My Child’s Safety During Private Tuition?

There are naturally many risks involved when you hire a private tutor to conduct lessons in your own home or in theirs. There are many factors you might want to consider, such as the health and safety risks involved, whether your tutor has any personal insurance, and if they have a DBS certificate or basic background check.

Child safety is always the top priority when it comes to home tutoring. As a parent, you will want to do a few checks to ensure that you and your child feels safe with the arrangement.

If you will host the tutor in your home, you might start by setting up a tidy space for the lessons to take place – this can be somewhere that you can easily keep an eye on things. If your child will go to the tutor’s home, you can have a look at the proposed work area to check for hazards etc.

It might be important to you that a tutor has personal insurance, such as public or professional liability insurance, which is something you can discuss with potential tutors UK before hiring them.

Equally, you might want the tutor to have a DBS certificate or some form of background check for that added peace of mind. If your tutor works through an agency, they will most likely have a DBS certificate.

If your child is visiting the tutor’s house for lessons, there are a few ways to feel more comfortable and safe. If your child has a mobile phone, you can ensure a bit more personal safety by making sure they keep their phone on with the sound on.

Never let someone pick your child up in their car. Always aim to drop your child off yourself or let someone you trust do this if you are unable to do so. If your child is old enough to travel alone, then make sure they have their phone on them.

If your child has any allergies or medical issues, make sure you let the tutor know beforehand. It could be anything from pet hair to nuts, or more serious illnesses, but alerting the tutor will eliminate a certain amount of risk when you aren’t around to supervise.

Your child might receive their personal lessons with an online tutor via a video call. Naturally with online tutoring you don't need to think about hazards at home, but you will still need to keep an eye on the lessons to make sure that everything runs smoothly and safely.

Internet safety is crucial with online tutoring
Keep kids safe during their online lessons. Photo via Visualhunt.com

You can monitor your child's online lessons by setting up the computer in an open space in the house where you can supervise, or by leaving a door open if you aren't in the same room. You can also keep an eye on any files being shared between the tutor and your child for added security.

Remember that with online tutoring, you can meet the tutor via a video call before starting any actual lessons so that you know how it all works and you can get an idea of what the tutor and their lessons will be like.

If you have any concerns about your tutor or your child’s safety, you can find more information and help at the NSPCC website.

Slight change of subject, now: it might sound like we're cutting our own throat but: what do you think are the bad points of tutoring? How about the good parts: what do you most like about tutoring?

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.