Bringing trust back to tutoring

The UK’s private tutoring industry is booming. With the rise in university tuition fees, the competition for good schools is fiercer than ever and the demand for private tuition is seeing unprecedented growth. According to recent figures published by the Telegraph, a staggering 72% of all children preparing for the Common Entrance exam have had private tutoring. To satisfy this ever-increasing demand, there are now over 500 private tutoring agencies operating in the UK, some of with over 10,000 private tutors registered with them.

This rapid growth is also accompanied by rapid change.  From finance to travel, the Internet has democratised a whole host of industries and tutoring is no exception. The tutoring sector broadly consists of two groups: on one side, freelance tutors working for themselves and on the other, tutoring businesses who have a network of contracted tutors. Developments in technology have enabled both these groups to become more efficient, more profitable and make private tuition the fastest growing sector within the education marketplace. Technology has boosted growth in two significant ways:

In the past, geography was the greatest limiting factor for freelance tutors. Today however, the ubiquity of products such as Skype and Paypal is making it easy for tutors to conduct classes and take payments online. We are also witnessing a rise in more sophisticated virtual classroom software which allows independent tutors to provide a frictionless experience to their pupils, even from opposite ends of the globe. The benefits of online tuition are mutual: for the tutor, the potential client base is instantaneously multiplied a thousand-fold; for the pupil, it opens up the pool of potential tutors far beyond the usual 5-mile radius, allowing them to access high-quality tutors regardless of where they live. As well as fuel the freelance sector, these technologies have also driven growth in larger tutoring businesses, and have given rise to dedicated online tutoring companies such as Tutortap who connect students with tutors from great universities over the web.

With £6 billion a year being spent on private tutoring, it is no secret that the industry is profitable. Nevertheless, the barriers to entry remain high: a tutoring business is not simply about connecting student with tutor; it also involves a high level of administration from background checking to invoicing. Previously, tutoring companies were tied to several third-party providers to access these services but today, new businesses are creating integrated solutions. Tutorcruncher is one of these. By providing the entire suite of back-end services, from timesheet to invoicing software, it allows tutoring businesses to reduce the administrative running costs of their business, and focus on what really matters – that is, providing the best service to their students.

Lowering the barrier to entry has opened up the market to everyone, from world-weary retired academics to fresh-faced university graduates in need of extra cash. Whilst in many ways a positive development, one must not confuse ‘more’ with ‘better’. Choice is only good if you can separate the wheat from the chaff and as such, the issue of quality assurance becomes of paramount importance.

So what makes a ‘good’ tutor?

The first area to look at is qualifications, a problematic word in itself as there is no legislation in the UK to stipulate the qualifications required to qualify as a tutor. For some it might mean a university a degree, for others a life-time of teaching experience and it is up to the student to decide what is right for them. It is absolutely crucial however, that these claims are true. Statistics show that 63% of all the confirmed employment frauds reported to Cifas, the UK’s fraud prevention service, involved people lying about their education, former employment or qualifications. After all, a little embellishment here or there will surely make no difference? Luckily, it’s as easy to check as it is to fake. Through a simple Employment History and Education check you can quickly and easily verify your tutor’s credentials for that extra peace of mind.

The second area is criminal history. In the UK, it is a legal requirement that any individual working with children undergoes a criminal record check (DBS) but a regulatory loophole means that this law does not apply to private tutors. In a world where almost 15% of the British population have a criminal record against their name, it is more important than ever to know who we can trust. Whilst not legally enforced, mounting pressure from parents and associations has started to take effect. For many tutoring companies such as Tutor Doctor, criminal record checks are fast becoming part of the core offering, making it easy for parents and students to make quick, informed decisions.

The democratisation of the tutoring industry means that anyone, anywhere can set up their own business. At Onfido, we provide a wide range of background checks, including criminal and education checks, so that you don’t have to deal with strangers, but with strangers you can trust.


On 12th May, the National Tutoring Conference are holding an event to help new tutors and tutoring companies set up a safe and successful business. There will be a range of talks covering topics such as accounting, insurance, administration and vetting (featuring Onfido). Find out more and sign up at http://www.nationaltutoringconference.org.uk/.

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Chiara is Marketing Director at Onfido. When not at her desk, she is a reluctant runner and loves everything that goes fast (unlike her running!)
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