Booming private tuition stretches attainment gap

The burgeoning private tuition market, now worth up to £2 billion a year, is stretching the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils, says the Sutton Trust.

In its Shadow Schooling report, out on Thursday, the trust polled more than 1,500 teachers to show that more than four of ten in the state sector have been paid to tutor outside their main role at some point in their career.

Dr Philip Kirby, a research fellow at the trust, also analysed annual surveys of young people and found the private tuition market has grown by more than a third in the past decade – reaching the £2 billion mark this year.

But the report found that students from independent schools were twice as likely to have received private tuition as their state school peers. Just 17 per cent of secondary pupils eligible for free school meals have received private tuition at some point in their schooling, compared with 26 per cent of students who do not receive free meals.

Nearly 18 per cent of pupils who received tutoring did so for the 11-plus needed to enter grammar schools.

Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust and the Education Endowment Foundation, said the cost and growth of the private tuition market were “further exacerbating educational inequalities”.

Private tutoring costs about £24 an hour nationally and £27 an hour in London.

The trust has now called on the government to introduce a “means-tested voucher scheme” to enable lower income families to access additional educational support.

The Tutor Trust, a charity that provides extra tuition via schools, uses pupil premium money to cover the costs.

Abigail Shapiro, co-founder and director, said: “The private tuition market is obviously one reason why the educational attainment gap is there, but I do not think for one moment that tuition shouldn’t be available to all.”

Shapiro believes that organisations such as hers, which works with schools to support pupils from low-income families, can help to ensure “no pupils [are] being left behind as a result of private tuition”.

Shadow Schooling also found that teachers in the north east (49 per cent) were the most likely to do paid tutoring, those in the north west and Merseyside the least (34 per cent).

Analysis by private tuition agency Tutorfair suggests that pupils are most likely to be privately tutored in maths, English, sciences and modern languages.

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  1. No special preparation for 11+ tests is needed, advises Lincolnshire County Council.
    This is disingenuous: candidates who had never seen the format of the 11+ test would be disadvantaged.
    That said, there’s money to be made out of parental anxiety. But a serious question hangs over extensive tutoring – if such hot-housing is needed to push a child through the 11+, will that child cope once it acquires the coveted grammar school place?