22 May 2013

Tutoring - who knows best?

Though it is mainly confined to the pages of the Telegraph, with occasional outbursts in the Times (£) and Guardian, there is a big tutoring backlash on the rise. Private schools are against it (and even trying to make the 11-plus "tutor-proof"). Poor people complain that they can't afford it, rich people complain that it costs too much, and some people just don't know what to think.

Into the fray weighs the grandly-titled The Centre For Market Reform Of Education (CMRE) who have decided to take it upon themselves to regulate this most unregulated of industries. They made their case with an exclusive little piece in the Telegraph, written as usual by the man who gets things wrong, Graeme Paton:
"New plan to crack down on poorly-qualified private tutors"

As usual with the Telegraph, it's a good idea to go to the source. So here is the CMRE's actual blogpost:

"Securing standards – the launch of The Tutors Association Consultation"

They make some fair points:
A great many agencies appear not to require degree level subject knowledge or teaching qualifications of their tutors (57% and 78% respectively, according to a 2009 Institute of Education (IoE)/ National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) study); while much less is known about the 90% of tutors identified and hired by parents through word of mouth or other means.
But one has to ask, what's in it for them? Who are they to take it upon themselves? Well, I'm not an investigative or education journalist, and I have piles of marking to do, so I'm not going to look up James Croft and his cohorts. But they will make money from blackmailing tutoring agencies and individual tutors to join their magic register, using the argument that parents will no longer use unregistered tutors.

I'm reminded of the whole CIEA fiasco, where a body was set up for Assessors (i.e. exam markers) which you would have thought would be bending over backwards to encourage people like me (15 years a Key Stage 3 National Tests marker, 10 of those a team leader, with thousands of students in school being assessed by me). Instead they charge £70 a year for membership, for which I would get a magazine, and a chance to pay £200 a day for training, and be part of an exclusive "markers' club". It would make no difference to my job, expertise or professional future.

Back to the tutoring. The 57% figure above could refer, in my experience, to the proportion of Maths tutors who have a Maths degree. As you know, Maths graduates are in short supply, and that's why I am proud in my department to have qualified teachers with Engineering, Finance, Economics and Science degrees. A Maths degree is not a "necessary or sufficient condition" (joke for nerds there) to be a good Maths teacher. So I am less worried about this aspect of the new Tutors Association being necessary.

Let's look at their site:
"The Tutors Association" (interesting lack of apostrophe there, though it is grammatically correct)
The Tutors Association (TTA) is an initiative of The Centre for Market Reform of Education (CMRE), in partnership with a number of industry-leading providers, to address public concerns about the evident variability of quality in the private tuition market. The TTA is seeking to address this challenge through investment in the development of industry standards, and improved guidance for those procuring tutoring services. It proposes that the most effective means of achieving those objects is via the establishment of a professional association for the industry.
Which providers? It doesn't say, but it sounds like the big guys are grouping together to protect "their" industry. A little hint at the bottom of the page though:
The Consultation is being facilitated by Tutor Cruncher.
Hmmm. The "No. 1 global tutor management software". Sounds good. But look at their page. They think it's spelled "shceduling" They know it sounds like "shed" but there must be a "c" in there somewhere.

Anyway, not many LOLs, it all seems terribly worthy, and I'd love to know your thoughts in the comments.

I'll just put this up from the consultation, it's a code of ethics for individual tutors. Well, I'm an individual tutor and they can stick this code up their tutor cruncher. (Again a lack of apostrophes, this time incorrectly).
I understand that my role as a tutor is to encourage and enable pupils to achieve their unique potential as independent learners through acknowledgement, encouragement, understanding, and individualised attention.

I will demonstrate faith in my pupils learning ability and provide honest, positive and constructive feedback in a manner that will be beneficial to their overall learning.

I understand the need to be flexible in my approach to tutoring and commit to assist my pupils in discovering effective learning strategies that will help them develop the skills they need to achieve the right educational outcomes.

I undertake to keep up-to-date with advances in subject knowledge and pedagogy.

I am committed to identifying any particular challenges or difficulties my pupils might have with their learning and to assisting them in overcoming those barriers.

I will share with my client any concerns I have about any social, emotional and behavioural difficulties which my pupils are experiencing that are beyond my competency to address.

I will refer to my client any pupil I consider to have special educational needs that are beyond my professional experience or ability to resolve, in order that he/she may take steps to securing for them the right kind of specialist help.

I understand that my relationship to my pupils is professional and not personal and that I have a duty of care towards them.

I will keep information about the pupil whom I am assigned confidential, unless doing so would be to result in injury or harm being done to them.

I will respect my pupils’ personal dignity at all times. I will show respect for my pupils’ cultural background and values.

I will be on time for tutoring appointments, not only out of courtesy, but also to be a good example to my pupils.

I will maintain accurate records of tutoring sessions as expected and required.

In situations where I am working for a tutoring company, I will respect the terms and conditions of my contract, and in particular, will not seek to work or provide any services for any of the company’s clients independently of the company.
Words fail me.

UPDATE (25/5/2013): A great blogpost from someone who unlike me has the time to go to meetings about this - interesting to see that big agencies all represented as I expected, but in the comments individual tutors (like me) express the same sort of concerns - cost, accountability, teeth...
Thanks to Henry Fagg for writing this: http://www.thetutorblog.com/2012/07/cmre-association-of-private-tutors/