07 Nov 2019

One to One Tutoring: Does It Work And Is It Worth The Cost?

One to one tutoring is one of the oldest and most established methods of passing on wisdom and knowledge. If you’ve been considering getting your child some extra tuition this is probably what you have in mind. A tutor and a student, together in a room, tackling maths homework or GCSE physics preparation. If you’re considering investing in one to one tuition for your child, here’s what you should know before you part with any money! 

What is one to one tutoring?

One-to-one tutoring is the most well-known and established style of tuition. A tutor, usually a specialist in their subject, teaches the child in either the tutor or child’s home on a one-to-one basis to help them learn. The most common subject requested is Maths, and, with the right tutor, students can expect to see gains of a grade or more, or alternatively, double the progress the student would be expected to make.

The parent or child decides what they would like the tutor to help them with, then ideally the child sits a short assessment to identify more specific gaps in the subject. This kind of assessment is particularly helpful for one to one tuition for maths as the subject is so varied, even at primary level. At Matr, the maths level test consists of a number of short diagnostic questions, where a child’s answers show us not just whether they know the topic or not, but if they get it wrong, where their misconception lies.

one to one tutoring maths diagnostic

Matr’s online tutoring includes a ‘level’ assessment for a student’s skills

One-to-one tutoring is personalised 

In the best sort of one to one tutoring lessons are personalised just for that child to focus on their specific needs in the subject.

In a class of 30 at school it can be difficult for a child to get the focused support he or she needs; if the majority of the class understands division but your child still doesn’t, most of the time, the class needs to move on. But how is your child able to grasp long division if they’re still struggling with short division? One-to-one tuition enables them to catch up.

In the privacy of a lesson with their own one to one tutor your child is free to ask questions, make mistakes, and generally get the attention they need to understand a new concept and move on.

Duration and frequency of one to one tutoring

One to one tutoring is hard work! Both for the tutor and the child. So for primary school children it’s generally recommended that a lesson with a private tutor last from about 30 minutes to an hour and a half. Any more and both will start to tire as the law of diminishing returns takes over.

A secondary school aged student can cope with up to 2 hours at stretch but will still need breaks. Most people undertake tuition on a weekly basis; not always because that’s optimum for the child, but due to the exigencies of modern life. Travelling to a tutor is time consuming and doubling costs for two one to one tuition sessions a week doesn’t always double the outcomes.

Of course, if you’re looking for a more affordable and convenient approach to one to one tuition, online tutoring is the answer.

How does one to one tutoring work?

There are two kinds of one to one tutoring – in-person, and online.

In-person is exactly what it sounds like – your child meets their tutor in an established location e.g. the tutor’s house, and has their lessons there.

You will also have some level of relationship with the tutor – they may speak to you every so often about your child’s progress – but there are unlikely to be formal progress reports.

Online one to one tutoring uses some sort of voice call software  to connect your child with their tutor. Lessons take place either through free online resources or, like Matr’s model, using a custom ‘online classroom’ tool.

Online maths tutoring classroom

An example online classroom, as used by Matr’s one to one maths tutors

Online one to one tutoring tends to be cheaper than in-person tutoring, and after the initial set up of the voice software and/or online classroom there is not much more to do. However your child still receives quality, one-on-one tutoring.

Why should you consider one on one tuition for your child?

It’s a myth that parents only look for tutoring if their child is likely to fail a subject or year. Most parents find tutors for their children when they first start to struggle with a subject, or to help them improve even further in it.

One to one tutoring is especially popular for its focus on close personal attention for children; some students may not meet their full potential in class with 29 other pupils at a time. One to one tuition fills that gap and helps children make much greater progress than class teaching alone.

In a trial on Matr’s Year 6 maths programme, pupils made 7 months of progress in just 14 weeks – twice as fast as schooling only!

The confidence boosting benefits of one-to-one tutoring are also very valuable. More than just helping students find the right answers, one to one tutoring helps them become more determined, independent learners. This sort of resilience comes in very useful during primary school SATs in Year 6 and is then essential for tackling the harder challenges of GCSE. This is why many parents start with primary school tutoring in Key Stage 2 before moving on to tutoring in Year 9, 10 and 11 in preparation for GCSE.

What age group is one to one tutoring suitable for?

Many parents seek one to one tutors in the run-up to GCSEs, to help their children meet or exceed their predicted grades.

While tutoring can benefit students at any age, to get the best possible results – especially with one to one tutoring – it is better to start earlier.

In fact, it’s primary school children that benefit most from individual tuition; the confidence boost that working with a tutor one to one can give will stay with them throughout their time in school. Essentially, it makes them better learners for longer.

On a more practical level, finding one to one tutoring earlier is greater value for money. Because so many of its benefits (such as confidence boosting) have long-term impacts as well as short term ones it becomes more cost-efficient the longer it goes on for.

When is the best time to start?

Just like age group, it is better to start one to one tutoring earlier in the year.

One reason for this is that schools often teach topics in the Autumn term that will be built on in the Spring and Summer terms. If your child struggles with these foundation topics, they will only struggle more later in the year.

By starting tutoring earlier in the year, you can ensure your child is more confident with the basic knowledge they’ll need for the topics to follow.

Beginning tuition in the Autumn term also makes it easier for students to learn material in class and in their tutoring sessions; studies have shown that children (and primary school children in particular) learn best when they have context for their learning.

‘Context’ means a setting which makes it easier for them to understand a topic, and timing is an important part of this. If the same topics are covered in school and at home during tutoring, children are much more likely to learn it quicker.

Cost of one to one tutoring

How much one to one tutoring will cost you depends on several factors, including tutor experience, agency fees and session length. You can expect to pay £20 – £60 per tutoring session for in-person one to one tutoring.

Generally speaking, more experienced tutors will cost more (especially for higher qualifications), and agencies will charge an additional fee on top of the tutor’s rate. Longer sessions, of course, will cost more.

Online one to one tutoring is considerably cheaper than in person tuition however. Since neither tutor nor student have to travel to the lesson, and since the only material costs are in terms of setting up the online classroom (which is often free), this form of tuition has lower costs and greater cost-efficiency without sacrificing the quality that comes from one to one tutoring.

What alternatives to one to one tutoring are there?

As well as one to one tutoring, two other kinds of tutoring are popular choices: online tutoring and tuition centres.

Online tutoring

As we’ve mentioned before, online tutoring works similarly to one to one tuition, except that students and tutors speak to each other through voice chat software (such as Skype) and work over the internet. Online tutoring is generally cheaper than one to one, without sacrificing quality.

Some online tutoring companies also offer group-based online tutoring, though this is very rare.

For more information, read our blog post on How Online Tutoring Works.

Tuition centres

Tuition centres are places where groups of children are taught by one tutor. The size of these groups can vary, from four or five as high as fifteen.

Companies like Kumon specialise in centre-based learning, and have many tuition centres throughout the country.

Centres are also generally cheaper than one to one tutoring, but less attention is paid to each child, making it likely that they will make less progress than through a one on one solution.

What are the benefits of one to one tutoring?

Benefits of 1-to-1 tutoring

Let’s pull some of these out:

  • Individual attention – as its name implies, one to one tutoring pairs your child up with their own tutor, who works with them only for their whole tutoring session. This can help students make much faster progress than in a classroom with 30 others!
  • Improving understanding – because they aren’t as pushed for time as class teachers, tutors can help students actually understand the subject. This changes their learning from “here is how to figure out the answer” to “here is how to work out the answer, and here is why that answer is correct.”
  • Cost-efficiency – Even though one to one tutoring may have more immediate costs (tutors tend to charge by the hour and ask for between £20 and £60), if you plan on taking up tutoring for a long time, this option is actually more value for money. The progress your child will make more than makes up for the money spent, especially compared to other tutoring methods.

Read more here on the benefits of one to one tutoring

What to check for before starting one-to-one tuition

  • What the tutor’s qualifications are – you want to be sure your potential tutor can teach the subject you want your child to improve in, to the level that you expect.
  • What others think of them – whether a company or a private tutor, reviews and testimonials on sites like Trustpilot are one of the best ways of getting other parents’ opinions of a tutoring option, and whether they’re worth it.
  • What they’ll be teaching – with several different teaching styles and curriculum plans out there, you need to be certain the tutor will be teaching your child in a similar way to how they’ve been taught at school.

One to one tutoring tips for parents

This is some of the advice we give parents using Matr’s one to one maths programmes.

Get things ready ahead of time

Your child might have ‘homework’ they needed to complete; check they haven’t forgotten! If they’re going to the tutor’s home for their lesson, pack them a drink and a snack. If the lesson happens in your home, make sure a quiet place is set up for the session. You might not be able to be part of the lesson itself, but you can do your best to make it as comfortable as possible for your child.

Monitor progress

This one’s simple: you’ll get to hear about your child progress in their tutoring, either from the tutor themselves or through a formal progress report like the one shown below. Pay attention to these! You’ll want to be aware of how your child is performing, and whether the money you’ve spent has been worth it.

Talk to your child

Whatever their progress is, it’s always a good idea to get your child’s opinion on how tutoring is going for them. Whether it reveals a problem they’re having or just shows you how happy they are, communication with them can give you almost as valuable information as those progress reports.

More Tutoring Tips For Parents here.

Is one to one tutoring worth it?

In-person one to one tutoring is very high cost – there’s no two ways around that. As well as tutor rates and agency fees, there are numerous other ‘indirect costs’ to this style of tuition.

For example, if you are driving your child to their lesson then you must consider fuel costs (or else public transport costs). You may be asked to purchase certain books or materials (to say nothing of the pens and paper your child will go through!) as part of the tutoring.

This is not to say it is not worth the money – compared to tuition centres or schoolwork alone, your child’s progress will almost always justify the cost. But even with the best progress possible, the cost can be daunting; spending £100 a month on tutoring is rather difficult to keep up.

This is why online one to one tutoring programmes like Matr are so valuable; they provide the same progress as their in-person counterparts for a significantly lower cost.

Matr sessions, for example cost £9.99 per week for hour long sessions that take place at your convenience and without any of the ‘indirect costs’ in-person tutoring entails.

The value-for-money is undeniable; even over the course of a year your costs are much lower than in-person tuition, and the progress made is much, much higher than using a tuition centre or other tutoring option.

If you’re going to choose one to one tutoring, choose an online solution.

We also have blogs that cover primary school tutoring in general, and online tutoring (the other highly popular tutoring style), if you’d like more information before you make your mind up about getting your child a tutor.