Private Tuition: Is It Feasible?

Private Tuition: A Teacher Carrying a Book

The rise in private tuition has hit the headlines recently. The reported clamour for tutors begs the question, how do teachers find the time on top of their normal hours to meet this extra demand? Or are all these people refugees from the system? We know there are quite a lot of those. Or, are they – duh duh duh – unqualified charlatans?!

Private Tuition: The Maths

I’m not, unfortunately, one of those in-demand maths tutors, but let’s do some sums…

As a full-time teacher, I reckon I clocked up approximately 2,340 hours in a working year. (This entails a degree of guesswork because I didn’t have to clock in and out as I did in my first office job, although I now rather pine for the clear on-/off-duty distinction that formerly-loathed procedure used to give me.)

Now, my old maths teacher taught me to always show my working out so, here goes…

  • Start 8am (at latest)
  • Finish 8pm
  • = 12 hours
  • Lunch = 0 hours (eating + working = time saved)
  • Travel = 0.75 hours (enforced break due to school closure before all work complete)
  • 12 x 5 (normal Mon-Fri working week) = 60
  • 0.75 x 5 = 3.75
  • Rather than deduct the 3.75 hours it’s set against weekend and holiday work.
  • Holiday = 13 weeks per annum (I know there are maths teachers right now angrily correcting these figures but please remember I’m working roughly and not with great accuracy!)
  • 52 – 13 = 39 working weeks per annum
  • 39 x 60 = 2,340

(In response to any non-teachers who still say “But those holidays make up for it”, this equates to 45 hours per week with absolutely no holiday whatsoever, which is approximately one extra day on top of the average working week!)

In terms of remuneration, obviously the hourly rate would depend on where you sit on the pay scale. To take the lowest starting salary, it works out at a fairly paltry £10.42 (24,373 ÷ 2,340), with those on UPS3 in inner London in line for a much healthier £21.18 per hour (49,571 ÷ 2,340).

That still pales in comparison, however, to the £25 per hour minimum typically charged for private tuition. Some tutors in London even command three-figure hourly wages!

Private Tuition: Feasibility report

So, is it possible to jack in the daily grind and use that hard-earned knowledge of how to get students to pass exams to live a life of luxury? The report from the Sutton Trust claims that more than a quarter of secondary school pupils (and up to a staggering 41% in London) now receives outside help. Presumably more of these are seeking help with the core subjects of maths, English and science than they are drama, RE or geography so the odds of making a career from tuition are stacked heavily in favour of certain subject specialists. However, an NQT commanding a solid £30 per hour for their services would still need to find 812 hours of work to match their teaching salary. Obviously, the idea of working 1/3 of the time for the same pay is attractive but that ignores the additional prep and assessment not included in these calculations. More to the point, how easy is it to find the 16 hours of work per week (including holiday time) required to fund a quasi-change of career? Assuming one hour per week with each tutee, that’s still more than half a class. And frankly, as productive as 1-1 time can be, if half a class requires personal tuition then there’s something going seriously wrong in-class time.

In short, quitting the day job to take up tutoring is probably only viable for a small minority of high-flyers who’ve cracked the big city markets or as part of a portfolio career. For the rest of us, it continues to be an ancillary income on much better terms than our main wage. Although given the calculations, it’s still a mystery how anyone finds the time to take on additional workload? Maybe we’re missing a trick… if the rise in tuition is fuelled by a fusion of high aspirations and dissatisfaction with classroom attainment, maybe all teachers stand to benefit from putting less into their classes… less teacher effort = increase in pupil needs = more demand for tutors = new revenue stream for teachers who suddenly have more time available!

Or… we could ensure the system is well-funded so that teachers don’t need to take on a second job and pupil/parent needs are mostly met in the first place. I’ll let someone else do the calculations on that…

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