How to...

...Become a private tutor

Our expert: Henry Fagg (BA 1999), Managing Director of The Tutor Pages.

You are a university student or recent graduate and looking for ways to top up your income, but have you ever considered becoming a private tutor?

Tutoring can be an immensely rewarding experience, since you’ll get to know students as individuals and be able to address their own particular learning needs. It is also a well-paid profession, with average hourly rates starting at around £20 per hour.

There has never been a better time to get into private tuition as a part-time work option. Around a quarter of state school pupils have received private tuition at some point during their schooling, and demand is rising despite the recession.

So how do you get started? Here are five top tips to help you:

1. Establish your credibility.

Tutoring is an unregulated market in the UK, so you’ll need to establish yourself as a competent and reliable professional.  Firstly, consider getting references from trusted individuals, such as your university tutor. An up-to-date CV will also help. In addition, make sure you understand fully the issues surrounding child protection. Private tutors don’t actually need a CRB (Criminal Records Bureau) certificate, but if you don’t have one you’ll need to explain why to parents.

2. Get clear on exams.

If you’re tutoring an examination subject, obtain up-to-date information from the exam board as early as possible. While textbooks can be motivating and helpful in many ways, they are often surprisingly weak at explaining the exam itself. Get in touch with the exam board and you’ll obtain all sorts of essential information, including specifications, syllabuses, notes for teachers, past question papers, mark schemes and reports on the examinations.

3. Consider using a learning agreement.

Tutors differ in their opinion on whether it’s necessary to have a written agreement between the tutor and parent/ student. However, a written agreement raises expectations all round, and demonstrates that you’re a professional. Even if you don’t use a written agreement, you should get very clear on your payment and cancellation terms – unless you want to be taken for a ride.

4. Promote yourself.

There are various aspects to the promotion of your tutoring services. First of all, are you going to join an agency or an online advertising platform? Agencies can be a great way to gain credibility as a tutor, but they’ll also charge a commission for each hour that you teach. Also, consider how you’re going to handle the initial contact with a student or parent. Given the choice between email or phone, always try to make a phone call. There are various reasons for this, not least that it shows you’re a real person to be trusted, not someone hiding behind technology.

5. Understand effective teaching.

What makes an effective teacher? You may be brilliant at your subject, but unless you can communicate in an engaging and motivating way, your students won’t learn a thing. Spend a bit of time investigating the art of teaching. To get you started, consider the following list of effective teacher characteristics (adapted from Munn et al (1990)), and think, ‘Can I see myself in this role?’:

humorous, relaxed, imaginative, warm, firm, listens, fair, friendly, enthusiastic, organized, supportive, cheerful, flexible, encourages, sympathetic, responsive, enjoys the subject, makes work relevant, helps pupils learn, uses various methods, has high expectations, explains clearly, gives praise, applies sanctions fairly

Henry Fagg is author of Tutoring: the Complete Guide, available for free from

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