Updated: Dec 18, 2019
Perhaps a controversial matter, still a relatively new one and with so many different opinions floating around it’s difficult to know what the right thing to do is. At the tender age of seven, I personally had never heard of the word ‘revision’ or ‘tutor’ or extra classes.. you get the gist. My evenings consisted of playing in and out of the house, and harassing my sister - four years my younger.
Having said that, times have since changed; as parents are keen to ensure their children have the best start to academics as they can, and that the students are not left behind in what’s becoming an increasingly competitive environment.
Tutoring, human interaction and empathy are all integral and go hand in hand.
It’s key to first understand why it is that you feel your child needs that extra tutoring and support. If you can see that your child is beginning to lack a level of confidence - despite their academic abilities, it may be beneficial to get that little extra support to aid them in feeling self assured and becoming more confident in the classroom. Often this lack of confidence can be as a result of decreasing parental supervision or teacher supervision at school and for this reason, a tutor can be a good idea.
Other than this, there are very few reasons to be getting a tutor on board at the young ages of 5 to 8 or 9. Consider many European schooling systems, Somalia and Mongolia where education does not begin before the age of 7.
Simultaneously, these schools currently have higher levels of academic achievement and child well-being. Research done by the University of Cambridge had several strands of evidence which all point towards the importance of play in young children’s development, and “the value of an extended period of playful learning before the start of formal schooling”.
It’s important to be aware that different types of play, from pretence to social to physical - all which allow the development of character traits which are otherwise difficult to attain in a constant working environment. Some symbolic representational skills are developed, including those of literacy - of both good and bad language - and nurturing social relationships, both imaginary and real.
It’s these skills picked up at a young age which can determine the way a young person goes on to work and develop through secondary school and beyond.
Tuition is because you feel your child is falling behind relative to their peers is another possibly valid reason for introducing extra classes. Whether your child is falling behind cannot truly be determined until they’ve reached the age of 7 or 8, so again to introduce a tutor before this age is strongly discouraged. Even at the ages of 7 to 9, it’s important to communicate with your child and child’s teacher to understand which areas they are struggling with - then to pinpoint and focus on learning outside of school.
Ultimately, it’s key to understand you child, and as a parent you should know them the best. Earlier empathy was mentioned; that is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference. Try to understand what your child needs as best as possible before throwing them into some tuition classes. Perhaps all they need is some more parental attention. It may be they have too much energy not being expelled and actually would like to be put into a sports team or youth club once a week.
If every other aspect of your child’s life seems to be going relatively well and the only issues remaining are perhaps of constant confusion over academics or the inability to manage their time and work when expected of them, then I’d recommend you perhaps begin digging around for a tuition service which is right for them. The right service may be one to one classes for an hour a week; it may Skype sessions for half an hour twice a week or it may be sessions between parent and child once every few days.
The only other aspect to tutoring during Primary school which a parent may consider is for the 11+. Tutoring is recommended but again should be tailored to the student. Personally I had a young tutor do one to one sessions with me for about 4 months before the exam - for an hour or two a week. The importance of not being burned out at such a young age cannot be emphasised enough and rumours of tuition starting from years 2 and 3 should be considered with a pinch of salt. Currently, beginning light tuition in January or February of Year 5 is recommended by the Eleven Plus Website.
Try to do things best for your child rather than the tutor’s bank balance, understand that not all children work at the same level or ability and that the style of tutoring which works for one student will not necessarily work for another.
All the best in decision making!