Understanding Tutoring in Australia

Parents’ Guide to Understanding Tutoring in Australia

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Every child can make it - some kids just need a little extra help

Michael Clarke

A parent will always strive to do what is best for their child. In all aspects of a child’s life the parent seeks to give their child the best chance at succeeding in life and often makes sacrifices in order to provide their child with every opportunity to succeed.

One of the foundational pillars a parent can provide for their child is a good education. A good education can open the doors to numerous opportunities in a child’s life and stand them in good stead for their future.

What a parent can’t prepare for is how their child will respond to the opportunities provided for them.

Children are innately unique and all learn and discover the world differently and at different paces. This can often lead to children becoming discouraged at school as they may struggle to attain the standards put before them by the school system.

This leads to a drop in confidence and a disinterest in learning which can ultimately compound a problem that could be fixed with a little support.

As a parent, you may have tried everything with your child, spoken with teachers and schools, family members and even other parents and you may be exploring the possibility of outside help for your child.

Before you rush into the nearest tutoring system, we have put together a comprehensive guide of everything you need to know as a parent about why, when, where and how you can get the support your child needs through an outside tutor.

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1. Why would my child need a tutor and does that mean they are always going to struggle?

1.1 Every Child is Different, and That's Okay.

Children learn in different ways and don’t always easily grasp concepts straight off the bat.

This can at times lead to your child falling behind in class, or struggling with a test or missing out on a key foundational concept in a particular subject.

These are all very normal issues associated with learning and shouldn’t be cause for immediate concern.

Most parents in this situation can easily identify these issues and begin to assist their child to get back on track.

This assistance can come in many forms and can often resolve the problem and help their child catch up with the work missed, or concept misunderstood.

1.2 Can I Help and Should I Help?

A parent should first look at their own ability to assist the child.

Depending on the year of the child, most problems can be solved by the parent taking the time to sit with their child and work through the problem together, identifying the issues and correcting the knowledge gaps as needed.

This strategy is very effective, especially when used in conjunction with the teacher so as to keep consistency in teaching method and understanding of the concept.

This is, however, not always practical as parents may find it difficult to find the time between their work commitments and their child’s school commitments.

Parents and children are also emotionally connected, and despite the best intentions, these learning sessions can lead to disagreements or arguments in the home as it can be difficult to balance the role of teacher and parent.

1.3 Their Older Siblings Can Help Them.

Another common form of assistance for struggling children would be the help of an older sibling or other family member.

This is often effective as the older sibling has a more recent understanding of the work and can relate with your child at their level of understanding.

This, method is also best used in conjunction with the current teacher to achieve the best results.

There are some issues with this method too, often times the older sibling is not interested in helping and only does it out of a sense of duty or instruction from a parent and it is very difficult to create an encouraging learning environment with a teacher who is not motivated.

Sibling rivalry is also a reality and can often lead to discontentment in the home.

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1.4 Shouldn’t The School Be Helping My Child?

The last avenue available to you as a parent to seek assistance for your child before looking to external tutoring is the school itself.

Many schools offer after school programs to assist learners with their work and teachers are made available to assist struggling learners to grasp concepts and enhance their abilities in the classroom.

These programs can be great for extending a child’s ability but often don’t help a struggling learner, as it is usually more of the same methods they are being taught in class, without a fresh, enthusiastic approach or a personal touch.

These avenues are what most parents would look into before looking at tutoring and they can be effective in providing the assistance your child needs with their schooling.

There are also many cases where you as a parent have done all you can and are still not making any progress:

  • You’ve tried all the avenues mentioned above and are still not gaining ground.

  • You are a losing your relationship with your child,

  • You’ve had another call from the school and your child’s approach to their school work hasn't changed and their work is not improving

This is when seeking an tutor is recommended.

A tutor brings a fresh approach to learning for your child, with an objective point of view.

The job of the tutor is to maximise learning for your child where they are and build them up to collide with their potential and to create a environment that is conducive to learning, and the best part of it is that they are passionate about helping your child, it’s their calling.

2. How do I know when to get help for my child?

2.1 The Earlier the Better, Don’t Build a Weak Foundation.

The age old saying “Time waits for no man” can be aptly applied to the sphere of education.

The current school system is not geared to allow a child to fall behind in their understanding of concepts as the curriculum is vast and the teaching time short.

The unfortunate thing for your child is that many concepts, particularly in foundation subjects like Mathematics and English build on previously learned concepts.

Thus, if your child struggles to grasp a concept and doesn’t take the time to fill in the knowledge gaps they are effectively building the “house” on a weak foundation.

2.2 Act Before the Negativity Takes Over.

The moment your child feels as if they don’t understand something their confidence begins to diminish.

As  a teacher for many years it was my experience that once a child had lost their confidence in a subject it is very difficult to break the cycle of negativity and very difficult for the child to grasp new concepts.

Confidence in learning is key to success.

2.3. The Warning Signs are Clear.

A lack of confidence is noticeable through a lack of interest in a particular subject, or a sudden change in attitude towards a teacher or class.

These are indicators of a disinterest in the subject and the cause is most often a lack of confidence due to misunderstanding of concepts, poor results or a sense of being overwhelmed by the workload.

Ultimately, as a parent you will notice your child experiencing some sort of pain and its all comes down to confidence.

If these warning signs are not picked up or are ignored it can lead to serious foundational gaps forming in the child’s knowledge and may lead to problems further down the line.

Due to the way testing occurs and how results are compiled for a report card it may not be clearly evident at first from your child’ results that there is an issue with understanding.

It is only when the concepts are revisited and expanded upon that the weakness presents itself.

It is so important to pick up on your child's emotional cues to better assist the learning potential of your child.

2.4. Confidence First, Learning Second.

The good news is that fixing confidence is usually a quick fix, confidence can be restored through positive teaching techniques in a matter of weeks.

That does not mean that the skills will be learned in that time, but once the confidence is back on track the learning can follow.

The advice to parents in this situation is simple, the earlier you can get your child the help they need the better chance your child has to rectify the problem and limit the impact on their future learning.

If you are asking the questions about finding outside help, then the answer to your questions about when is now.

Often times, the problem is simple enough to fix and your child can be back on track in no time at all, but if left until the problem has been compounded and is now negatively affecting their results and general attitude towards school it may be a much lengthier process to rectify.

Guide to Tutoring in Australia

Where do I find the right tutor and how do I set things up to work best?

At this stage you have identified that your child needs help and have tried the usual methods to help them to no avail.

You have made a decision to look for a tutor but the question now is who do we use?

3.1. Ask Your Child’s Teacher and School.

Your first port of call would be your school and your child’s teacher.

The school knows your child’s learning style and knows where they are struggling with the curriculum.

The best place to start is with asking them if they know any good tutors or tutoring companies that would suit your child requirements.

3.2 Ask Other Parents Who Have Found Success

Your Next stop would be other parents in the class or school that have used or currently use tutoring for their children and are happy with the results.

This can be an invaluable source of information as they have first hand experience of what you can expect, what the learning environment is about and how the tutoring has positively affected their child’s learning.

3.3 Get Online, Check Google.

Failing this, there are loads of tutoring companies that operate throughout the country.

Most can be found through  a search on google.

This leads to another question of how do you know that a company is reputable, this is hopefully where the advice of the teacher, school or other parents would come in handy.

It is very important to do your due diligence as a parent to ensure that the tutor you find for your child can do what they promise on their website and ensure your child’s safety throughout the process.

You should contact the tutoring company and set aside some time to go and meet with the tutors, hear their philosophy on teaching and how they plan to impact your child’s learning.

Important things to focus on when you meet the tutors will be who is going to be doing the teaching, how do they devise what work your child will be doing and how do they measure the progress of your child.

You’re going to be making an investment into your child’s education by hiring a tutor, it’s important for you to evaluate what options will best suit your child and empower them to succeed in the classroom and at school.

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3.4 Ensure The Best Learning Environment for Your Child.

The next thing to consider is where the lessons should be held. Many tutors will offer the convenience of coming to the home and teaching your child in an environment in which they are comfortable.

This is usually more of a convenience to the parent than to the child’s learning.

It may be nice to not have to drop off and fetch your child, but other considerations must be taken when inviting someone into your home to teach your child.

You as a parent will need to be there to supervise what is happening in the lesson, purely for the protection of your child.

You also need to consider the many distractions present at home, such as TV, game consoles, siblings, pets, preparation of food and other familiar external distractions.

You want the learning environment to be at an optimum.

Remember you are dealing with a child that is most likely demotivated and looking for a distraction at any turn.

A parent should look for a learning environment that is designed to get the the best out of your child, with little or no distractions so that focused and planned learning can occur.

An environment that is designed to make your child look forward to going, to help motivate them to learn.

An environment that makes it clear that when we are in this space we are here to learn.

What are my best options as a parent when choosing tutoring?

The two main options for parents when choosing tutors are as follows:

  • Send your child for a group tutoring session.
  • Send your child for a private one-on-one 1 tutoring session.

There are pros and cons to both methods which you can explore in more detail here(Link to other blog)

4.1. Diagnostic Tests Can Make Things Worse

Both methods typically start off with a test of some sort which immediately puts your child on the back foot.

Your child is already struggling and when they arrive at the place that's supposed to help them and they immediately get thrown a curveball in the form of a test which is designed to point out your child's flaws.

This test also creates an immediate dependency on the company or the individual tutor by pointing out all the flaws in your child’s learning and showing how much tutoring your child is going to need before they have caught up.

The adverse effect of this is it can cause your already disheartened child’s confidence to begin to spiral down.

4.2. Group Sessions are Good for Extending Learners.

For the group sessions your child is usually assigned some work to do through a computer program that teaches a skill through example and repetition, this method is similar to what your child experiences at school and although they are helped through the program by the tutor, usually in a 1 tutor to 5 or more learners ratio, the program cannot adapt to your child’s individual needs.

The result is that your child is showing progress on the computers curriculum and is testing well on the automated system but the child still struggles to apply that knowledge to their school work and ultimately ends up in a similar position.

These programs work well when a child is already performing well and needs additional work to extend their knowledge, they do not work well for repairing issues with knowledge gaps and lack of confidence.

4.3. Private Sessions are Great, but Lack Variety and Create Dependency.

A One-on-one session is more practical for tutoring purposes in that the tutor has more contact time with the learner and can adapt the curriculum to the child's needs as they see fit.

These sessions work well to restore confidence and to repair gaps in knowledge and can be very effective.

They can also almost over compensate and create a dependency of the learner on the tutor as a sole helper when stuck with an issue, creating an environment where the learner always seeks help instead of applying the knowledge learned.

The other issue with these kinds of lessons is that they lack variety. One tutor only knows so many methods of teaching, or ways to deliver content.

This can limit the tutor’s ability to reach your child effectively.

At Big Improvements Tutoring we take a caring, child-focused tutoring approach and combine the flexibility and adaptability of individual lessons with the accountability and positivity of working in a pair to create a fun and caring environment for your child to learn and to regain their confidence to master their school curriculum and reach their full potential.

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