Why do you charge so much for private tuition?

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For the first time since I started providing private tuition, I had someone question my charge rates and as usually happens when I am questioned on any of my decisions, it got me thinking.

I charge £20 an hour for private one-to-one tuition. That might sound a lot, but it is at the cheaper end of the market when compared to what some of the big agencies charge.

Kumon, for example, charge upwards of £50 per month, on top of a registration fee of £30, but expect children to complete work independently, often at home rather than in a study centre, with a teacher to ‘observe’ them rather than guide them, and are not willing to vary their provision to match a child’s school needs.

Maths Doctor charge at least £20 an hour (although you have to commit to 10 hours minimum to get that rate) and up to £50 for one off lessons.

I had an interview with a local Tutor Doctor franchisee a few years ago who told me he expected tutors to charge £37.50 per hour minimum. This was to cover the tutor fee, the franchisee wage and the percentage expected by Tutor Doctor. One charge for three wages! No wonder it was so expensive for parents.

So when you consider those options, £20 per hour isn’t too bad.

Especially when you take the following into consideration; for every hour I spend with a private tuition student, I spend another hour outside of the lesson on their work and progress. This might include searching for/designing resources, finding exam papers online, reading work and marking it, planning lessons, writing up feedback, reading set texts and making notes, completing sample answers… the list goes on. So you’re actually paying me £20 for two hours work, £10 per hour. It’s just that for one of those hours I’m not with your child.

If I work full time for £10 per hour, that’s still a healthy wage. 35 hours a week times 52 weeks a year works out at £18,200. Although it’s worth noting that this is about £3000 less than a starting teacher’s wage in a UK school.

However – that’s if you work full time. Which not many private tutors do. I work 10 hours a week max on private tutoring. So my wages are actually about £5,200 per year, at most. And out of any wages, every private tutor who is at all respectable will have to pay the following costs:

  • Tax (because I work outside of tutoring, I lose 20% – which is £1,040 – to the tax man straight away)
  • National Insurance (I still have to pay my class 2 contributions, even though my class 4s are paid through my day job)
  • Stationary costs – printing, paper, pens, my laminator and slicer, etc
  • Resource costs – books, worksheets, DVDs, downloads from websites…
  • Union costs – Unions provide local training, legal support and help tutors keep up to date with qualification and curriculum changes
  • Membership of professional bodies – eg Institute for Learning. I have to pay these fees to keep my Qualified Teacher and Learning Status
  • Qualifications – my level 4 certificate in Advice and Guidance cost me over £200 in contributions
  • Travel costs – fuel and all associated car costs
  • Advertising costs – business cards, fliers, pages on agency websites. You wouldn’t find me without these.

All of these are important practical concerns that I need to take into account when I sign someone up and agree an hourly rate. There’s not actually that much profit left at the end of all that, although I am able to claim tax relief at the end of the year for some of it. Which involves being organised and conscientious about receipts and records and filing – administration time, yet another thing which needs factoring into this job.

However, those aren’t the things that are worth the cost of what you pay. Those are my problems, not yours. What you pay me for is something that’s not easily quantifiable.

I only tutor at weekends and evenings, because I work 9 to 5. Which means you are also paying me for my evening and weekend time, which should be my down time, my rest time to spend on my own interests and with my family/friends. I give that up to tutor you and your kids. Please don’t gripe about it.

You are paying me for my increased and prolonged energy levels, for my display of enthusiasm and my constant positive attitude even though I have had a long day and I am tired before I even get to you.

You are paying me for the wealth of tricks I have amassed to engage and encourage your disaffected teenagers in a subject which has become the bane of their lives, for a knowledge and explanation and confidence boost which you have probably already tried to provide and found yourselves unable to manage.

You are paying me for my ability to find new ways to explain something to you or your child when you possibly haven’t understood it since you were six years old.

You are paying me for something which a classroom environment cannot provide for your child. Or something that a classroom environment has not been able to provide for you. For undivided attention, focus, security, the ability to divert from a set plan and tackle those individual needs without disrupting 29 other educations.

You are paying me for the fact that I can give you or your child careers advice and suggestions/options for future study as well as teaching them the subject they are struggling with.

You are paying me for my expertise, my qualifications and my experience. For my years of training and professional development. For every government and Ofsted report I have read. For every exam syllabus that I know backwards. Teachers who work in a school might need to know one. Or two, maybe. I need to know them all – because all of my learners are at difference schools, different ages, doing different classes, preparing for different exams.

I don’t do this for the money. Well, OK, I do, it is nice to get that little boost to my salary I will admit. But when I add up the hours, the effort, the weekends, the evenings, the late nights, the tiredness, the extra work and the pressure of putting myself under this extra strain – I do wonder whether it is worth the money I get.

But the thing is – of course it is. Because the satisfactions I get from it are not all to do with money, and they far outweigh the money. Satisfaction for me has come from some hard to quantify and yet easy to understand places.

Like the two phone calls I got from women who had passed their maths equivalency tests and achieved their EYPS after their university threw mock exams at them with no tuition and expected them to do the work themselves.

Or the three learners who are now qualified teachers after finally mastering the timed mental maths tests.

Or the sixteen year old girl who achieved a D grade in her maths GCSE after being predicted a U grade, who was accepted onto the college course she wanted.

Or the fifteen year old girl who raised her English grade from a C to an A* in three months.

I get satisfaction from other places too. Which are even harder to quantify or put a price on.

Like the 10 year old who tells me she has been looking forward to working on this story all week.

Or the 14 year old who dreads double English who told me that my session ‘didn’t feel like two hours at all’ and who asked how soon she could come back.

Or the 14 year old body who had been out of school for 2 years who wrote me four pages of independent research on the Civil Rights movement and a three page essay on why Ben Affleck was going to make a great Batman.

Or the text I got at Christmas from an adult learner who had finally worked out how to calculate percentages and stuck to her budget for Christmas shopping for the first time in her life.

I get satisfaction every time someone says to me ‘I get it now’ and they actually do.

I don’t do this job for the money. I would be an horrifically bad teacher if I did. But that doesn’t mean the money’s not important. And I certainly don’t think I’m overcharging at £20 per hour’s tuition when you’re getting all of that into the bargain.

Next time you question what a professional is charging you – think about what you’re getting in return. And perhaps then you’ll understand why it is money well spent.


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One thought on “Why do you charge so much for private tuition?

  1. Consensus says:

    As a teacher and HoD back in 2008 I charged £50 for a two hour sesh and, I’ll be honest, I used existed resources, card sorts and research material and spent little time marking (it was one student). Sure we galloped through a one year course in twelve sessions and sure we spent longer on some bits than others based on the needs of the student but…

    My point? £20ph is a damn’ good rate for what you provide!

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