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Our Blog

The Qualified Tutor blog shares evidence and thoughts on tutoring, how we tutor and what works well.

This blog is just a slice of the buzzing conversations about tutoring and within the tuition community. So if you like what you're reading here, then you really should join us!

If you’d like to contribute content or insights to this blog, please let us know. We’d love to learn from you.

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  • Thursday, October 15, 2020 11:16 PM | Julia Silver (Administrator)

    How can we still be teaching the same schemes of work we taught last year?

    Whilst we are grateful to twinkl, Oxford Reading Tree, Collins, Hamilton Trust and all the generous resource banks that have unlocked their treasure stores to show their support, surely it all looks a bit stale right now?

    Why haven’t we seized this opportunity to teach about mental health, e-safety, germ theory, gardening, baking, patience, communication and a million other brilliant topics which our children need to learn about right now?

    This isn’t a time to follow the long-term plans. This is a time to reinvent, reinvigorate and refresh our deepest assumptions.

    So please, wake up. Ask new questions. Listen to new ideas. Let the world change.

  • Thursday, October 15, 2020 11:14 PM | Julia Silver (Administrator)
    1. The correlation between the summer drop and socio-economic background is well-documented.

      Under-privileged children’s reading attainment will drop further than their privileged peers during a standard summer holiday. How much will this differential become accelerated over a six-month school closure?

      The National Tutoring Service is mobilising an army of volunteer tutors to harness the proven power of tutoring to boost the progress of mean-tested students.

    2. Professor Dylan Wiliams recently said "When the curriculum’s too full, you have to make a professional decision about what stuff you’re going to leave out, and the important point here is that not all content is equally important."

    We are trapped in a system of teaching what we assess rather than assessing what we teach. It’s a classic case of the tail that wags the dog. This year, let’s take the opportunity to do things differently: let’s just assess what we’ve taught.

    With the possible exception of medical students, this will probably make no difference to anyone’s lives. In fact, quite the opposite.

    3. And how about readiness? PISA results, which compare 55 countries’ academic performance, have long indicated that we teach reading and formal learning far too early. Well, since we’ve jettisoned Phonics screening this year, maybe it’s the perfect moment to move the goal posts. I have a feeling we would reduce a great deal of anxiety for both our teachers and our littlest learners. (Any one remember why mental health is such problem in our schools?)

  • Thursday, October 15, 2020 9:28 PM | Julia Silver (Administrator)

    I have two key points to good teaching and learning.

    The first is that everybody has to feel there is purpose to what they're doing, the educators and the students. The educators have to come with a sense of purpose but you’ve got to remember that the students aren't necessarily going to have that.

    It’s really important that the educator shows the students there is purpose in what they're doing. When I'm teaching my students, I'm not just asking them to jump through hoops because I am a tyrant and I love doing that to students, to then just read their work and cover it in red pen.

    What I'm teaching them is to choose one side of an argument and persuade me that that is the right argument and to convince me by backing up what they’re saying with evidence that I can't argue with.

    Looking at the counter argument, for example, because if they don't, I'll say, “Well, haven't you thought about this? If you thought about it and mentioned how it's not as convincing as the last point, then your argument's going to be stronger”.

    I love to show them how these are things are going to be really useful in their future lives and careers.

    And the second thing that is absolutely crucial to teaching, and which is part of what I really enjoy about education, is relationships.

    This is what makes really good tutors, getting to know your students as well as you possibly can. Partly that is knowing the kind of person they are and the kind of things they like doing so that you've got points of conversation.

    But it's also about understanding how they learn, what motivates them, what their pitfalls are so that you can provide for them before they even hit them, to give them confidence.

    The more you know them, even just using someone's name when you speak to them, the more powerful the connection is because it makes them feel like you’re invested in them and as soon as they feel that you're invested in them, they feel like you care.

    They care that you care.

    They want to perform for you because they know that you're interested in them and that you’re motivated by them making progress.

    — Fran Spalter

  • Wednesday, October 14, 2020 8:00 AM | Julia Silver (Administrator)

    In this next instalment of a series of QT participant-authored blogs, Richard Ashelford recounts how he gets students to focus on their own knowledge, and how this can sometimes have unexpected consequences …

    I often save a few minutes at the end of a session to play a game of ‘opposites’ with my younger students,  - ‘antonyms’ for Year 6 just to please Michael Gove!

    Simple choices to begin which develop into more difficult ones. Challenging words to work on are: straight/bent, sharp/blunt and wide/narrow (this is one of the most difficult). And you can turn it around so that the student asks first, and be prepared for real challenges here when the student asks you for the opposite of ‘yellow’…

    A game of synonyms works well too.

    This is how a recent game went with a student new to Year 4 who had a difficult Year 2 and only half of Year 3.

    Me:  Let’s play opposites! I say ‘up’ you say ‘down’. (I point up and down)

    Me:  up

    Student: down

    Me:  in

    Student: out

    Me: wet

    Student: dry

    Me:  boy

    Student: girl

    Me: man

    Student: woman

    Me: dog

    Student: Oh, I can’t say that – it’s swearing.

    Me: OK. Let’s talk about that later. (Tutor makes note to discuss swearing next time)

    Me: Cow

    Student: Bull

    Me: Yes, well done. And some other animals are cows and bulls. Like elephants for example.  So we have cow elephants and bull elephants.

    Student: I didn’t know that. That must hurt.

    Me: open

    Student: closed.

    Me: Ok we’ll finish there then shall we?

    — Richard Ashelford

  • Monday, September 28, 2020 8:00 AM | Julia Silver (Administrator)

    In the first of a series of QT participant-authored blogs, Daniel Dipper gives his account of how the QT course has changed his approach to tutoring …

    When you think of tutoring, the first subject you think of is unlikely to be lighting.

    However, I had the privilege of being a lighting tutor for 2 years in a local young people’s theatre and festival production organisation.

    Completing the 4-part Tier 1 Qualification for Tutors made me much more aware of the range of skills gained through tutoring, the benefits offered by tutoring and the practical edge tutoring can have.

    From my personal experience, I could not recommend this training more highly, regardless of how much experience you have, as it encourages you to critically self-reflect on your practice, it adds new methods to your toolkit, and it supports you in learning from the experience of others. So to lighting tutoring…

    The universal skills of tutoring

    Tutoring is about getting to know each individual, seeing where their strengths and weaknesses are and developing their all-round skill, where engagement forms the building blocks of success and where the knowledge field is so vast. The Qualified Tutor course is great for giving you these core skills and a flexible framework to work from whilst respecting the experience you already have.

    The benefits of tutoring

    The joy of tutoring is that you have the time to commit all your energy to your student, something that teachers are unfortunately unable to do.

    Tutors can focus fully on the individual in front of them.

    Tutors develop many areas of a student’s learning, from their transferrable skills in communication, to leadership, to project planning in building up a student’s confidence, to the resilience of unlocking a student’s potential.

    This holistic approach can make all the difference in a student, even if it has nothing to do with the subject in question. Discussions in breakout rooms as part of the QT course encouraged me to think about how to develop this myself, and it was extremely valuable to hear what the other tutors had to bring to the table.

    The practical edge of tutoring

    Tutoring is a professional relationship built on trust, and involves pushing a student in maximum challenge, minimal risk scenarios. The 4-part course allowed me to dive deeper into the 7 Ps of tutoring, how to develop a professional relationship, and how to create a positive learning environment for students to thrive in.

    With the organisation I tutored for being involved (before Covid-19) with countless events throughout the year, placing the student in this real-world scenario where they had to think on their feet, apply the knowledge they already had, and learn from their experiences, was invaluable.

    It was also a huge investment in the student, showcasing your confidence in your student by placing them in a position where you remain the tutor but where your student becomes your colleague. The rewarding nature of tutoring was further strengthened by such experiences, and it was a pleasure to see the students develop in this way.

    While it may be unique, it was still tutoring at its best, and the QT training was what made me realise just how similar it truly was to tutoring for other disciplines. The subject may be different, as with the knowledge required, but the power of tutoring and the focus on the individual student remains unchanged.

    Understanding this has altered my approach as tutor. Now it’s time to spread the word …

    — Daniel Dipper

  • Wednesday, June 10, 2020 8:00 AM | Julia Silver (Administrator)


    On that note, are there any really key tips maybe that you've taken from the work you've done in teaching into your tutoring?


    The most important thing that I've learned is that tutoring is all about a relationship. And if you haven't got a relationship with the pupils, your tutees, you just can't progress..

    Take time.

    The biggest mistake would be to try and force the relationship, to try and impose yourself at the beginning. So to build confidence, you have to build trust with your student. This means respecting them at all times, whatever their age and creating that environment where they're comfortable to make mistakes in front of you.

    The second point I'd like to make is that some people like to have the attitude of clear roles, in the definition of roles. So I am the teacher, you are the pupil, and that's fine because it does help to create a professional boundary, which is important.

    But I think it's really important to also be able to model yourself as a learner too, as well as a tutor, as well as a teacher. The idea that you're both going on a journey to learn something together is much better than, "Right, I am teaching you this. You are going to learn this".

    It is so much more empowering for the student and it helps to build and develop their self-esteem.

    If I can pitch in with a third point, it would also be to make sure that the work is really pitched at the right level.

    So, too easy, there's no challenge. Too difficult and it's demoralising, so it's really always been attention.

    Make sure that the focus is not always on you. You have to learn when to consolidate the work and learn. When is it time to move on? How much practice is really necessary? Or should you be moving on and trying to develop other skills?

    All these things I found, whether I'm tutoring or whether I'm in the classroom, these are very much transferrable skills.

  • Monday, June 08, 2020 8:00 AM | Julia Silver (Administrator)


    So what kind of student do you think having a tutor made you at school? Did it change the way you approached study at school?


    To be honest, I don't know. I think that when you're in school, you learn to get on with it. It's quite sink or swim – even the most supportive of schools is stretched. I'm a deputy teacher in a primary school and we do our absolute best and it's extremely hard work to cater to all the children all the time. It changed me as a student. I wonder if I found an extra confidence. I wonder if I found an extra little enthusiasm and maybe that quiet space helps you to feel your own learning more than you can do in a classroom.


    So do you think this, maybe today, is the role of the tutor then is to just flick a switch in the child's mind that isn't able to be flicked during school hours?


    I think that's really interesting, that flicking a switch. I've been thinking about it a lot recently. Tutors build confidence, don't they? That's what they really do.

    And it's so hard to understand how, in a session once a week, it's possible to make such a difference. But it definitely is. And when you say, "flick a switch", that's perfect because, once you light up a child, they're alight. They're switched on. So, you could say it's more like a dimmer, not sure, but definitely people are adjusted for learning.

    People are designed to learn and as the world keeps changing, the best thing that we can do is learn to learn, continue to learn, teach our kids to always be willing to learn.

  • Wednesday, June 03, 2020 4:28 PM | Julia Silver (Administrator)

    The single most important attribute would be to be an approachable person.

    You can't underestimate this, particularly if it’s face-to-face tutoring.

    When there is someone inviting you into their home and you’re sitting one-to-one with their child. 

    I think the most important skill as a tutor is to be able to put the student at ease. 

    That's the day that they can just focus on learning and not worry about making mistakes with you, not worry about feeling under-confident.

    And once that trust’s been built between the tutor and the student, then I find that everything else seems to form much more naturally, providing that the tutor knows what they’re on about (which should be a given).

    So, being able to put your students at ease is the single most important attribute.

    — Josh Dean

  • Wednesday, May 27, 2020 4:39 PM | Julia Silver (Administrator)


    Have you found good ways to deal with increasing the confidence of a student?


    I really feel it's to try and let the pupil take as much responsibility for their own learning as possible. 

    Often, as teachers, and I've fallen into this trap plenty of times myself, you think that it's all about you and that you need to be in the centre of things, throwing out pearls of wisdom that the student will catch on.

    Actually, it's not.

    It's really about putting the student right in the very centre of things.

    You'll find yourself talking too much, for example, little things like when you realise "I'm dominating, I'm taking over. I should really just relax a little bit more or have those awkward silences".

    They're great and they give the chance to create the environment where the student can ask their own questions.

    They can start thinking out loud because it can be quite intimidating.

    — Daniel Sunshine

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