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A private tutor seeking advice!

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by dani5161, May 30, 2016.

  1. dani5161

    dani5161 New commenter

    Hello all, I hope someone can help me out.

    I have a few questions and am seeking advice regarding a recent situation with a tutee.

    I have been contacted via First Tutors for Primary English tutoring. My rate is £16 an hour. I am registered with the GTCS, a professional secondary school teacher (RME) with a PGDE, BA (HONS) and a TEFL qualification, plus years of experience (with children in general, not private tuition specifically).

    The woman who has contacted me has asked me to tutor her 6 year old son to increase his confidence in English and to support his learning. We met twice for a session; the first was an hour and the second an hour and a half. The third time we met, she told me that there would be 5 children there, all at different levels. I wasn't sure about this, but I went ahead and prepared materials for the variety of ages and levels. It was arranged that the session would last for 1.5 hours but I ended up working 2.5. She introduced 4 other children at different times, whom I wasn't prepared for.

    When discussing payment, I told her that I would charge £100 for the 1.5 hours instead of £120, a £4 reduction for each child for the time (£14 an hour instead of £16). She seems to be expecting to pay significantly less than that, but we decided to discuss this privately at a later time. I would like to reach an agreement that is fair for both of us.

    I'm not comfortable with the situation and I wanted to know what advice anyone would have. I have three main questions:

    1. What is the usual procedure for group tutoring in terms of hourly fee per child and discounts? I know this varies a lot, but a few different ideas would be super helpful!

    2. I suggested that I tutor no more than 3 children of a similar level at any one time. Is this a typically reasonable expectation of a private tutor, or should I accommodate more children with a wider variety of abilities? I am a classroom teacher so am used to managing 30 children with different needs, but they are at least in one year group and are working on similar topics. I understand I might be advised that this is a matter of personal preference, but as my experience with private tutoring is limited, and I've not encountered this situation before, I am seeking advice on this matter from other professionals.

    3. I feel that going below £10 an hour for each child is not only a disservice to me, having put a lot of time, effort and money to get to where I am academically and professionally, but also to the teaching profession. Is this unreasonable?

    I would like to write her an email outlining my position but I wanted to consult with someone else first to make sure that I am as well-informed as possible. We get along very well, and her son is a pleasure to teach - I would just like to be as fair and reasonable as possible, for both parties.

    I contacted First Tutors with my query, and they were somewhat helpful but not that specific and recommended I take my questions to the TES Community as there will be lots of different people with experience in tutoring that could shed some light on this.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks!!
  2. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    I wouldn't have agreed to this in the first place. An unreasonable expectation from someone who hired you as a one-to-one tutor for her son. They are using you like a tuition centre, which offer a different service to private one-to-one tutors. But if you agreed to it...
    You haven't said the ages of the other pupils, but personally I wouldn't even do an hour with a 6 year old, at least not for one subject. (I normally limit lessons for younger pupils to 45 mins.) Does 2.5 hours mean you only did 30 mins with each pupil, if there were 5 of them?

    Discounts are for the benefit of both the client and the tutor. It benefits a family, who can't always afford to pay a fortune to tutor multiple children. It benefits me if I only have one lot of travel expenses, or if I don't have to plan completely different sessions. I offer a % discount for families who require tuition for more than one child. I arrange sessions consecutively for different levels/subjects, or together if appropriate, or sometimes come to an arrangement with the family where we do, for instance, 20 mins each, with a 10 minute session in the middle with both students together. (This works well so that we can focus on individual areas of need, but they also get to do something 'fun'/competitive/roleplay with someone so it's not so intensive.) I also offer a % discount for small groups doing the same subject at the same level (e.g. classmates from separate families), but have never had anyone take up that option.

    If the students are all different ages and levels, and completely different work is required for each student, then you are not benefitting by offering a discount (as you still need to plan for each learner individually).

    You are not being unreasonable. In fact, £16 per hour is selling yourself short in the first place, but less than £10 per student for a qualified teacher is definitely too little to be asking.

    Are they one family, or are they extended family and friends? Sounds like they are just expecting to get cheap tuition! I would point them in the direction of a local tuition centre that offers group tuition and better suits their expectations! (They will probably find that they will be charged more than you are asking!)
    dani5161 likes this.
  3. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    This sounds like a ridiculous situation - turning up and more children being added without prior arrangement? No. No no no no. No.

    As a private tutor, I call the shots. I set my fees and negotiate these with the parent ahead of the first lesson. Payment is upfront.

    I've occasionally done group sessions. I advertise at £25-30 per hour for 1:1, or a group session of up to 5 students in the same year group who are studying the same exam for £50 per hour. This is a huge saving, but providing I'm only travelling to one venue, and am teaching all of the students the same thing, I'm not actually doing any additional preparation or work. I also only do group session over 2hrs as groups will clearly need more time.

    I think £100 for a 2hr session with up to 5 children is reasonable. That's just £20 per child for a 2hr lesson, but I think that's a great hourly rate for me.

    If I'm tutoring kids of different ages within the same family I do separate sessions. I am currently tutoring two brothers, one y11 and one y9. I see them back to back. The parents get a small discount for the 2nd boy as I don't have any additional mileage to travel.
  4. dani5161

    dani5161 New commenter

    Thank you so much for such a detailed response, this has been really helpful. I am much clearer in my position. You're right, I shouldn't have accepted, and I did feel uncertain about this from the beginning.

    I did 1.5 hours with 5 different children at once, and then another hour with 4 separate children. It's difficult to calculate the exact times however, as the last 4 arrived at separate times later in the session.

    You seem to have a sensible system and I agree with you. The situation I was put in was quite ridiculous, but more ridiculous was that I didn't put my foot down much, much sooner. I was taken aback by it all and had the children in the front of my mind the whole time. It probably doesn't help that I'm not experienced with private tutoring so wasn't fully aware of all the expectations and standards. That old 'I second-guessed my gut feeling and it all went wrong' situation!

    They are all different families and friends with each other. There were a couple of pairs of siblings but it wasn't easy to keep track. I've already found some local tuition centres that seem more fitting for what her and her friends are looking for. I've written her 'the email' and included the suggestions so now I'll have to see what she says.
  5. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    As a private tutor, you have to remember that you are working in the private sector, effectively. You are not a public sector skivvy anymore. You get paid for all of the work you do. It's that simply.

    It's taken me nearly two years sine leaving full time teaching to get used to saying 'No'.

    Eva x x x
  6. dani5161

    dani5161 New commenter

    You're right. Thank you for your reply, which was also very helpful. I have now sent her a message detailing my position and have learnt some very important lessons from my mistakes.
  7. dani5161

    dani5161 New commenter

    Thank you Eva for sharing what you must have learned the hard way! It is hard to get yourself out of that mentality, I hadn't even considered that my whole approach might have had something to do with the mindset we get into as 'civil servants'.
  8. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    Gosh, this sounds horrendous! Even worse than I'd first understood. I do hope you got paid for that session, and I think they got a great deal at £100 for the awkward position they put you in!

    But on the other hand, although I said £10 per hour is too little, like I said, I've never actually had any requests for group tuition. If you took Eva_Smith's approach you could turn this situation to your advantage.

    You said you had 9 students over 2.5 hours. If you have the time to take on all of those students and the planning, you could work out which of those students you could teach together (perhaps 3 groups of 3 students, or a group of 4 and a group of 5) and come to an agreement about fees. If you wanted to do that, before arranging another session, I would speak to the woman who arranged the first session and get full details of all of the students (names, ages/year group, working level, areas of focus, which children are siblings), choose what seems like the most appropriate groupings for the sessions, then arrange an 'initial assessment' session, where you can test them to ensure that the groupings are appropriate and you can plan accordingly for the future sessions.

    At the end of the day, Eva_Smith hit the nail on the head: you call the shots!

    Good luck with your new career as a private tutor, regardless of whether you continue with this client or stick to one-to-one!
  9. JustCricket

    JustCricket New commenter

    1. If your normal rate is £x per hour for 1 pupil, then I don't think that your rate for 1 hour with 3 pupils should be 3x. It is normal that group rates are somewhat reduced exponentially with the number of pupils. I charge £40 per hour but if I had 9 pupils I would not be seeking to charge £360 for an hour, I'd probably aim for something in the £100-£150/hr region. Of course, I spend my days teaching whole classes and I prefer my private tutoring to be more sedate, so I have thus far rejected approaches from tuition centres and groups. Others have also mentioned the important consideration of where each pupil is up to. 2 pupils doing A level together is very doable, a mixed age primary level class less so.

    2. Its absolutely reasonable. Personally, I would be very against tutoring any more than 1 person per lesson, but would do 2 if they were at the same level. Any more than that though and its a no from me. I think the key thing here to mention is that it is up to you who you tutor and you don't need to justify that to anyone (discrimination excluding).

    3. I disagree that you should be measuring your fee by a "per child per hour" metric. Similar to above, but I'd also add to what you wrote here: I was once reading an article that calculated the amount a normal classroom teacher is paid per hour per child in their salary; the result came out to something like 60p per child per hour. You can do the calculation yourself if you wanted with some reasonable assumptions and see for yourself.

    I'm unsure whether you spoke about price before the session or not? If you didn't, you might want to just take a lower amount and consider it a lesson learnt. Whilst what the parent did was completely unreasonable, I can see their side of things if you quoted £16/hr (in their mind) and you're now attempting to charge them several multiples of that.

    That said, for a professional teacher; £16/hr is certainly at the lower end of the scale.
  10. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    You need your prices (including those for any joint / group lessons) clearly displayed on your website / profile page, then there's no argument.

    Also, £16 is a pittance for an experienced qualified teacher.
  11. dani5161

    dani5161 New commenter

    Ian1983, one of the main problems is that she found me via First Tutors and came to me initially for a 1:1 service. My hourly rate was clearly displayed and I never even offered group tuition. So really there shouldn't be an argument at all, and I shouldn't have agreed to tutor the group in the first place.

    1. I suppose the issue I had was with not knowing how to charge for groups or what people usually do in this situation. I thought about how people pay for classes - it's usually a fixed fee for everyone, regardless of how many people are in the class. The tuition centres I looked up in my area were charging £119 a month per child for up to 2 sessions a week so that was my thinking (though I wasn't charging that much). It's also a mixed primary class with even one secondary pupil thrown in for fun - the range of ages I had in front of me was from 6 - 12. I was also prepared to charge her no more than £100 for the session for 9 pupils, mainly because the mistake was partly mine for not being clear enough and for agreeing to this whole mess to begin with. What kind of percentage discount would you recommend in a situation like this? Given the mixed group etc.
    3. I read that somewhere too, but in this case, my services were for private tutoring which meant that each child is supposed to get a tailored experienced - in theory, all the children we teach in schools should, but if you're paying extra for private tuition you expect something different from what your child gets in school.

    I am really grateful for all these replies, this has left me a bit flustered and I appreciate the opportunity to discuss this with people who know what they're talking about!!
  12. Ian1983

    Ian1983 Occasional commenter

    There's no need to get flustered or upset about it....................it's not the end of the world! Just one of those things to learn from.

    You just need some way of making it clear from the outset what you do and don't offer and at what price - either on your First Tutors profile page, on your website (if you have one) or on an information sheet for parents (I stick this in the back of the pupil's book and make the parents aware of it at the end of the first lesson).
    never_expect_anything likes this.
  13. JustCricket

    JustCricket New commenter

    Its always an individual decision. What I would say is it really depends on what was agreed beforehand. You mention you told her you would charge £100 for the 1.5hrs - was this prior to the session or after the session? Whilst we know that expecting tuition for 9 pupils is a different beast, I don't think it is a wholly unreasonable position that a parent, new to tutoring maybe, would expect that if your hourly rate is £16/hr it would be £16/hr regardless of how many people you teach. If I hired a cleaner to clean my kitchen and then asked them to clean the living room afterwards I would expect the rate to stay the same even though the living room is bigger and has multiple surfaces compared to the kitchen. Again, I know that teaching isnt like that, but what Im saying is that I can see how it could appear that way to a parent.

    If you didn't discuss payment beforehand, my opinion is that you should take your normal rate x 2.5 (£40) or whatever enhancement she is prepared to give (£50-£60) and accept it as a lesson learnt, making it clear that it will not happen again. Trying to argue about what is 'fair' after the fact makes little sense to anyone because the parent may quite rightly say that they would not have engaged your services at the 'fair' rate since they could not afford it. I have a thread regarding cancellation policies at the moment; I haven't punished any of my clients for cancelling late this year because I am of the opinion that is partly my fault for not implementing a cancellation policy to start with.

    But they did not get a tailored experience. It is impossible to deliver a tailored experience for 9 pupils with the same effectiveness as if they were just 1 on 1. Note that I am not saying it is impossible to deliver an effective session for 9 children at once, I am saying that the pace people progress under 1-1 tuition is far quicker than the pace they progress at in group tuition. You are charging them on the basis of making this accelerated progress but with that many people in the group you can not deliver it. That isn't a slight against you as a teacher, I just know for a fact that there would have been times were you were helping child A and child B and C needed guidance also and so were held back.

    If I had 4 children and a tutor asked me for 4x their hourly rate to tutor all 4 of them at once my response would be "I'll have 4 one hour 1-1 lessons instead then please."
  14. Vince_Ulam

    Vince_Ulam Star commenter

    Starvation by innumeracy.
  15. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    You really should be charging more than £16 an hour.
  16. never_expect_anything

    never_expect_anything Occasional commenter

    There are lots of threads on here about rates. It depends on your location in the country, the subjects you offer and the availability of other tutors. You need to build a client base if you are new to private tuition.
    I'm a qualified and experienced teacher. I started out charging £15 per hour for KS2-3 private tuition. I increased my rates once I had some local testimonials, but I still don't charge anywhere near as much as many tutors I see online with equivalent qualifications and experience, and if I did I wouldn't get much business. I'm a languages teacher based in a university town with plenty of students offering lower rates, including native speakers, so I have to be realistic about what parents are willing to pay. Look at the rates others are charging in your locality for your subjects, look at the tutor profiles to see their qualifications and experience, and price yourself accordingly.
  17. langteacher

    langteacher Occasional commenter

    I teach a fair few adult learners and most of them are learning a language for their own enjoyment rather than an exam so I charge £20 for an hour. If there are two learning together, I charge £30. I could probably charge more but I don't because I can teach these people in the daytime rather than be limited to the after school / work times and many of them come to me so I don't have to go anywhere.
    For primary I charge £15 for 45 mins, I teach a group of 3 for £25. No more work for me, one lot of travel down the road and the parents get a decent deal.
    Group fees are always agreed in advance
  18. fantastischfish

    fantastischfish Established commenter

    I used to charge less or KS3 than KS4, but now I charge a flat fee of £25 per hour regardless of age/stage. I charge a little extra depending on distance, but no more than £30.

    By the time I'm taxed at 20% on a £25 fee, then subtract expenses such as petrol and printing, I'm coming out with less than £20 per hour.

    I started tutoring a KS3 student 2 years ago for £15 per hour. She's the daughter of a friend and lives just around the corner. Now I need to increase my fee. She occupies a peak time at 5pm on a Wednesday which I could have filled several times over with a KS4 student paying £28-30 per hour. I can't justify the mate's rate any longer. I either need to let her go, or up the fee.

    It doesn't come easily, but it's business. It's time teachers realised their own value and demanded payment accordingly. You don't see solicitors or builders under-valuing their time or expertise do you??

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