Students in the UK are being overcharged for private tuition, according to research carried out by thetutorpages.com, a tutor comparison website based in London.
‘Although the private tuition industry is in fact unregulated by government, tuition agencies act as quasi-regulators, and convince parents and students to pay over the odds for their lessons,’ the website states.
The research concurs with a report by the World Bank, which confirms that the UK government could take steps to monitor the private tutoring industry and make it more competitive.
‘The UK tuition market is valued at well over £1 billion a year, yet it is still dominated by agencies which standardize prices and keep them artificially high,’ states the founder of The Tutor Pages, Henry Fagg, himself a private tutor. ‘They were set up in a pre-internet age, but in an unregulated industry there is no reason why parents and students shouldn’t employ a tutor themselves on the basis of quality online information.’
Research carried out by The Tutor Pages reveals that parents and students have to fork out at least £5 extra for every hour of tuition when using an agency. In contrast, The Tutor Pages allows browsers to compare the quality and price of tutors online, and then contact them for free. ‘We ask tutors to decide a price and then submit an article on their area of expertise, so that parents and students can make a considered choice over who to hire,’ notes Mr. Fagg.
Subjects on The Tutor Pages range from academic subjects and languages, to musical instruments, business skills and the Alexander Technique. A quick Tutor Pages search in Birmingham, for example, brings up GCSE Maths tutors charging between £10 and £25 an hour, and piano lessons in South East London cost between £18 and £35 an hour. Compared to the standardized prices quoted by agencies, the cumulated savings over a series of lessons are considerable.
‘We present parents and students with everything they need to make a safe and reasoned decision, including the opportunity to see references, recommendation letters and other important information about a tutor before they contact them.’ says Mr Fagg.
The World Bank report published this autumn reveals that, compared to other countries, the UK government has always taken a hands-off approach to private tuition. Next year, however, measures will be introduced in the UK to tighten up on child safety, with the introduction of a compulsory register for all individuals who work with children.
For more information, see www.thetutorpages.com.
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---NOTES FOR EDITORS---
1. The Tutor Pages Ltd is a tutor comparison website based in London. Since January 2008, it has been putting thousands of UK students in touch with tutors in a quality low-cost environment.
2. The World Bank report referenced is “The Growing Phenomenon of Private Tutoring: Does It Deepen Human Capital, Widen Inequalities, or Waste Resources?” in The World Bank Research Observer, vol. 23, no. 2 (Fall 2008). Access to the journal is subscription only (http://wbro.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/short/23/2/161?rs...). The World Bank provides free access to an earlier version of the report as a ‘policy research working paper’ (http://go.worldbank.org/ODVSTWEUX0).
3. The relevant section of the World Bank report is as follows: “[S]ince private tutoring is widespread and growing, it is time for governments to devote more attention to it. The benign neglect policy of type II governments [which includes the UK government] … may be missing opportunities to use tutoring to address imbalances between education supply and demand. Possible government actions range from monitoring (for example, collecting data on private tutoring attendance and private tutoring businesses) to trying to ensure that private tutoring can operate free of corruption and unnecessary barriers to competition … [P]rivate tutoring markets in economies with low levels of corruption are likely to be more competitive than those in economies in which corruption is more entrenched. If this is the case, private tutoring is likely to be welfare enhancing. Governments may even want to encourage the private tutoring industry, as Singapore, South Africa, and Tanzania have done. Policymakers should monitor the development of the industry and address concerns.” The World Bank Research Observer, vol. 23, no. 2 (Fall 2008) pp.188-9.
4. The new compulsory register for adults who work with children and vulnerable adults, is called The Independent Safeguarding Authority. For more information see http://www.isa-gov.org.uk/.
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