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Primary Education News
News Tutoring boom: 'I would eat toast and beans to see Toby go to university'
The Harts are among the growing band of families on modest incomes making sacrifices to pay for their children to be tutored
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Sylvia Hart's family rarely eat out and their annual holiday is a trip in a caravan in the UK. The part-time special needs teacher and her husband, Steve, a painter and decorator, say their one extravagance is private tuition for their son, Toby, 18.
At Easter, the couple spent £1,000 on a week-long maths A-level revision course to ensure Toby gets the grades he needs to study psychology at university. They had shelled out £800 at Christmas for another intensive burst.
"I take it out of my savings," says Hart, from Enfield in north London. "I have to work hard to save the money because there isn't much left at the end of the month. But I would eat toast and beans to see Toby go to university."
The Harts are one of a growing number of families on modest incomes fuelling the private tuition boom. Seven tuition businesses quizzed by the Guardian, which have all enjoyed significant growth over the past year, say it is, in part, down to interest from such families, for whom private tuition is a considerable sacrifice. One business, Explore Learning, says some of the children on its books are from families on benefits and that it is the grandparents who are footing the bill.
For some parents, such as Matt from south London, the cost of tuition means going without the family holiday. Matt's 16-year-old son has two hours of tuition a week, setting the family back £400 a month. Matt says he learned the hard way: his older son didn't get the A-level grades he needed.
The local state school does a good job up to GCSE, he says, but after that private schools start to "outplay the state system and prepare students better for their A-levels. The teachers are doing a good job, but some of the children are challenging and they can't get everyone up to the two As and a B they need to get into a good university," he says.
Matt says parents like him are "suddenly realising it's not like it was in our day, when you could get to a university with a B and two Cs at A-level. Things are so much harder now. Tuition is an expensive business, but it's important to us that our son gets the grades he needs."
The tutoring agencies say immigrant families are also behind the boom. Aftab, from Kent, started paying for tutors for Mahdi and Nusrat, his son and daughter, when they started primary school. They are now 18 and 19. "When I came to the UK, as a nine-year-old from Bangladesh, the mentality was we would earn money and send some back and then go back ourselves," he says. "Things have changed.
"My children will never go back to Bangladesh. Their education in England is the best in the world and it will dictate how they get on in life. I want them to be professional people. I did things the hard way by working in a restaurant kitchen until I had my own restaurant. I want things to be easier for them."