Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Dad - have I earned my macaroni cheese yet?

I often listen to BBC Radio 4 in the car at work. Mostly for the fact that I can’t abide listening to the same rubbish chart music repeated hour after hour on other musicy radio stations (what a snob eh). Well this morning one of the articles on Woman’s Hour was about the recent increase in the utilisation of home tutors by parents of school-aged children and the debate as to whether it’s educationally helpful or socially divisive.

Home tutors? Is that like when your parents help you with your homework?

Apparently not. It would seem that increasing numbers of parents are resorting to the services of hire-by-the-hour tutors to help children from primary school age right through to a-level and are paying anything up to £50 per hour for the privilege. Is it just me or does that sound crackers? When I was at school there was no way on God’s green earth my parents could have afforded extra tutoring, the nearest I got was bribery to get my homework done on time (by means of the promise of macaroni cheese for tea) and a kick up the backside in the general direction of the library when assignments loomed, and after discussing this with t’other half he confessed that he didn’t so much get encouragement to DO his homework, but got threatened with a punishment if he DIDN’T do it (“you can’t go out and play until you’ve finished your homework”). What the heck has changed? Why are parents so competitive now? It’s perfectly understandable for parents to want the best for their children and if they’re struggling in a particular area then extra tutoring could be an excellent way of helping that kid keep up in class, but to get extra tutoring to get AHEAD in class? Doesn’t that just make a mockery of the National Curriculum; the Government mandated education scheme put in place to standardise the content taught in class to enable ongoing, regular educational progression?  It runs the risk of kids being segregated within their schools or even bullied for being swots (do they still have swots at school, it's a long time since I was there...). The competition for school and university placements is intensifying so greatly it seems parents will do anything they can to try and give their children a leg up (coincidentally enough I’m writing this whilst watching a documentary about parents who either move house or claim they’ve moved house in order to get their children into their preferred choice of school).

One point which was raised during the radio programme struck a chord with me though. For parents on tighter budgets, if they can’t afford the (upwards of) £5000 a year to send their children to a private school then what’s the next best option - £500 a year worth of home tutoring to ‘top-up’ the ‘free’ state education? It’s a valid point, it’s a far more accessible way to give your children a slightly more tailored learning experience and in some ways is excellent for maybe indulging particular interests a kid might develop, but as a means to try and push your children beyond the set expectations of their current level of education then why not just throw a big cream pie in the face of the head teacher instead and say “stuff you, you’re not good enough” and save yourself the £500?!

It did get me thinking though... "£50 an hour?? I wonder if there’s anything I could tutor kids on...".  Suggestions welcome.


  1. Gotta say, that's a very strong piece Caz. And yes, you've earned the macaroni cheese. Plus, a crumpet with jam ;o)