What makes a good tutor great?


The benefits of tutoring are now widely recognised by parents; many regard it as both supportive and necessary, especially when it comes to ensuring their children gain entry into the UK’s most academically selective schools or universities.   However, finding the right tutor to help their children can sometimes feel like looking for a needle in a haystack unless they have the advantage of a much-coveted personal recommendation.  Here are our top ten essential considerations to help you select your tutor wisely.

A great tutor should… 

  1. Possess an enhanced Disclosure Barring Service Certificate

This is a prerequisite for those of us who work with young people.

  1. Boast a consistent and impressive academic background

Academic credentials, reflecting a strong and consistent academic background, mean that the tutor will have high personal academic expectations, and therefore, should have the same of their tutees. Having honed some useful examination strategies themselves, they can share these with your child too! 

  1. Be Passionate

Do you remember that one teacher whose every word you hung on?  The teacher who ignited a passion and love for a subject that still remains today? Boasting brilliant grades alone is not enough to inspire a pupil, but passion certainly is! And it’s infectious, so the once reluctant student may suddenly love the subject they loathed. 

  1. Create a safe learning space through establishing a good rapport

Often, tutoring is sought because a pupil is not performing in a particular subject, so it is part of the tutor’s job to uncover the reasons behind this. Immediately establishing a positive rapport by being affable and learning about their pupils’ interests, the tutor should subtly dig deep to uncover how their pupils feel about the subject they are there to teach.  Often, it’s due to a lack of confidence.  Hindered by the fear of making mistakes, they avoid contributing in classrooms.   By learning to make mistakes in the safety of a tutoring session, it may instil confidence to make mistakes in their own classrooms too.  

  1. Be pupil centred

What motivates one pupil won’t necessarily motivate another. A great tutor, however, will be able to adapt their teaching style, methods, resources and pace to suit any pupil’s learning style.

For those who lack confidence, the tutor will start slowly, step by step, creating confidence, which will yield success. Equally, if a pupil is capable yet under-performing, they will be challenged and praised so they will want to always do their best.

  1. Know what to do to support pupils with additional learning needs

Being pupil centric, enabling their pupil to flourish, sometimes means having difficult conversations with a parent.  Should any undetected learning need arise during tutoring, the tutor should inform the parent privately. By doing so, specialist help can be sought.  This may entitle the pupil to additional time in an examination, which for some, can make all the difference!

  1. Be organised

A great tutor will be organised with appropriate resources for the purpose of the learning, and to suit the learning style of each pupil. They will also ensure and encourage their pupils to organise their work so that each topic is filed in the correct section of the subject folder. This will serve pupils very well when preparing for examinations.

  1. Teaching Experience

Tutoring involves pedagogy and, whilst classroom experience is certainly advantageous, it does not always a great tutor make!  Usually, non-teacher tutors are diligent and seek to learn from the best, opting to work with agencies led by teachers, where a structured teaching programme, teaching strategies and resources are shared.

  1. Teaching Resources

No size fits all when it comes to education as each pupil learns in their own unique way.  Tailoring teaching resources to address a specific weakness for each child is vital. Systematically, the pupil’s weaknesses will be addressed, building confidence and a feeling of success within the pupil. Alternatively, if the pupil is particularly able, the tutor will plan challenging, engaging, dynamic and interesting lessons that will foster inquiry and autonomy.

  1. Be exam focussed (when required)

Examination focussed, a great tutor will continuously have their finger on the pulse, adapting to ever-changing examination requirements and modifying resources to cater for these.  Additionally, they will inform parents and their pupils so that they know exactly what to expect in examinations.  To enhance learning further, they will provide model answers- an invaluable resource to pupils and supportive parents alike.

There you have it!  Tutoring can dramatically accelerate the learning process of an individual, far faster than is possible within the classroom, but only if the tutor is passionate, organised and knowledgeable.  Finding a great tutor means pupils are empowered to academically excel, which ultimately makes learning a much more fun and rewarding process for them.

Article by Dara Hanley. Director of Exceptional Academics. Check their website for more information.