Almost a quarter (24 per cent) of secondary school teachers have taken on private tuition outside school in the past two years, according to research from social mobility charity The Sutton Trust.

The Trust’s research draws on two recent surveys, the first of which was a survey of 1,678 teachers, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER).  In addition to the statistic above, this survey also found that that two-thirds of the teachers who had tutored had done so after direct contact from parents. In the same survey heads in primary schools were more likely to say that their school had sent parents information about private tutoring than those in secondary schools (18 per cent vs 11 per cent).

A separate survey by Ipsos Mori of 2,809 children aged 11-16 in secondary schools in England and Wales found that 27 per cent say they have had tuition, up from 18 per cent when the survey first began in 2005. This figure rises to 41 per cent in London (up from 34 per cent in 2005), the highest proportion of any region in England. Those from ‘high affluence’ households are more likely than those from ‘low affluence’ households to have received tuition at some point (34 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively).

Among the recommendations which the Sutton Trust makes in light of this data is that schools should use Pupil Premium funding to provide more one-to-one and small group tuition. They also call for the government to provide ‘sustainable funding for access to tuition’, potentially through a means-tested voucher scheme. The Trust would also like to see more private tuition agencies provide a certain proportion of their tuition to disadvantaged pupils for free, as well as an expansion of non-profit and state tuition programmes that connect tutors with disadvantaged schools. 

Sir Peter Lamp, chairman of the Sutton Trust, said that although private tuition is widespread ‘With costs of at least £25 per session, many parents can’t afford it. The government should look at introducing a means-tested voucher scheme to enable lower income families to provide tuition for their children. Schools should also consider the implications of teachers offering paid tuition outside of lessons and how this is promoted in school.’

Commenting on the Trust’s findings, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the NEU union said ‘Increasing use of private tuition reflects the worries that the Government has unnecessarily created in so many parents’ minds about school standards and students’ prospects.  Although offering support to students whose parents can’t afford private tuition may seem appealing, any extra funding available for disadvantaged students should be directed at addressing the shortfalls in pupil premium funding and the Government’s decision to favour schools in less disadvantaged areas in its own recent funding announcement.’

A Department for Education spokesperson said: ‘We have invested an extra £2.4bn this year alone through the pupil premium and schools have flexibility over how they use this funding, which can include providing one-to-one or small-group tuition to ensure disadvantaged pupils get the extra support they need.’ They added ‘While we believe families should not have to pay for private tuition – and with standards rising in schools we believe in most cases private tuition to be unnecessary – it has always been part of the system and parents have freedom to do this.’

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