A new ethos for tutoring students with SEND

nasen Connect September 2019

Dr Stevenson considers how tutoring can evolve and the opportunity this presents -published in nasen Connect magazine Sep 19.               

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Director Dr Ryan Stevenson considers how tutoring can evolve and the opportunity that it presents in this contribution to nasen Connect magazine (Sept. 2019)

Bright Heart director, Dr Ryan Stevenson relates his story of working with SEND students and the valuable opportunity that tutoring presents. He argues a new approach is needed.  This article was published in the nasen Connect September 2019 edition.

nasen Connect September 2019
nasen Connect is distributed to schools, SENCos and parents across England

A new ethos for tutoring students with SEND

Being a billion-pound industry, there are a multitude of tutoring agencies and private tutors in the UK. In addition, there are multiple combinations of subjects and exam boards to specialise in and tutors are varied in their nationalities, ages and eccentricities. This was the sub-culture I awakened to in 2012 when becoming a maths and science tutor in London.

After approaching several agencies, I soon began working and familiarising myself with the lingo of the curriculums and student levels. It was clear to me from the beginning that tutors can play an important role for families and schools in delivering education.

In those early days, I was matched with students needing tutoring in science or maths, but I would often find that students also presented with additional learning challenges. This experience was initially quite difficult for me as I came to grips with different ways of learning, the learning environment, the different SEN labels and student behaviour which often left me feeling the need to walk on eggshells.

The objectives for tutoring were most often expressed as simply improving grades. Preparation and training were not high on the agenda and little regard was given to the tuition process, other than ensuring the tutor had the required subject knowledge.

This simplification was an eye-opener. It is premature to launch into rigorous academic work when the student is not yet at ease in the learning environment; studies highlight the lack of retention when the mind is in a stressed state. In fact, a negative relationship with learning can be exacerbated if a student is feeling pushed or cornered into working by a tutor who does not first establish some rapport with them or who does not consider their specific needs.

Observing and learning from student interaction

With increasing referrals of students with SEND, I carefully reflected on what made for effective tuition. I found building rapport and trust with the student and being aware of the learning ‘space’ to be very important. This space is beneficial when tutors are aware of the student’s specific needs and know how to work with them, but also by tutors being calm, receptive and expressing warmth. Psychologist Carl Rogers describes this as ‘positive unconditional regard’, which he noticed made a significant impact on patients’ improvement rates.

Once rapport and trust has been developed, the student is often willing to work more diligently. In positively affirming the unique presence of the student, there is also an increase in their self-esteem and self-worth. All of this leads to greater confidence and a ‘flowering’ of the whole individual. This development is particularly apt for students with SEND who may have lower self-esteem. These positive changes help to promote academic progress and a more stable individual.

Moving away from traditional ideas about tutoring and solely being a subject expert, it is important to give attention to the ‘softer’ factors which make the above process possible. It is suggested therefore, to parents and schools, to look for the following qualities in a tutor:

  • the demonstration of patience and understanding
  • the ability to maintain a calm and receptive learning environment
  • being able to build rapport and create engagement
  • flexibility in their approach to the student’s needs and character
  • particular experience and training for the specific educational need of the student.

This approach aligns well with the SEND Code of Practice (2015) where person- centred working is central. Sometimes, however, what is most crucial is the mindset of the tutor. It is important that they have the intention of creating a safe space for the student from the beginning and are mindful of the role played by his or her own emotions.

Meeting the challenge and implementation of ethos

Seven years later and now the co- founder of a tutoring agency of my own, we have looked to implement a more personal tutoring approach to ensure effective tuition for students with SEND. In addition to providing tutors with detailed guidance on our tutoring ethos, we’ve met this challenge by selecting high quality, experienced tutors who exhibit empathy and understanding, while also preparing them with respect to the SEND landscape. Specially commissioned training videos have been provided for tutors which cover the current context of SEND, the four broad areas of need, person-centred working and specific needs and strategies. Face to face training has also been planned. While not a substitute for direct experience, this knowledge base allows tutors to gain an immediate context and a selection of useful tools. We also ensure we gather as much information as possible regarding each student’s learning preferences. This is something schools and parents can be aware of to enhance the tuition experience.

Tutoring, as outlined here, is not merely the transfer of knowledge to meet a specific educational target. It is a golden opportunity to engage with the child in a way that can further their whole development and one to which I hope I have brought some attention. With this intention, much can be accomplished.

Contact us

If you feel the above article rings true for you then please get in touch and we can see how we can help.


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Dyslexia – another word for ‘a different way to learn’

girl writing on paper

We look at the definition of dyslexia, the myths surrounding it and how to work with dyslexic students.         

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

In this post we look at what is dyslexia, the myths surrounding it and how best to adapt tutoring to the student’s way of thinking

Dyslexia – another word for ‘a different way to learn’

If your child has been diagnosed with dyslexia or if you suspect that he or she may be dyslexic this is not cause for despair.  

While it does present a unique set of challenges when it comes to learning, it is important to remember that some of the world’s most creative and highly successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic and that it is not a learning difficulty which has held them back. 

A few of these (who also happen to be outspoken on the subject) include the likes of Sir Richard Branson, Orlando Bloom, Jim Carrey, Whoopi Goldberg and Keira Knightley. Even famous scholars such as Albert Einstein and Leonardo Da Vinci were thought to have been dyslexic.

So what exactly is dyslexia?

Dyslexia can be defined in the following way:

“Dyslexia is a learning difficulty (or difference) that primarily affects the skills involved in accurate and fluent word reading and spelling.

  • Dyslexia occurs across a range of intellectual ability
  • Additional difficulties may be seen in aspects of language, motor coordination, mental calculation, concentration and personal organisation
  • Dyslexia is on a continuum
  • A good indication of the severity and persistence of dyslexic difficulties can be gained by examining how the individual responds to well informed intervention” *

* (Sir Jim Rose Identifying and teaching children with dyslexia and literacy difficulties 2009).

In simple terms, your child may exhibit signs such as these:

  • Good and bad days at school, for no apparent reason
  • Confusion between directional words (e.g. up/down)
  • Confusion with sequences e.g. days of the week
  • Jumbled phrases

It is also good to check if there is a family history of dyslexia.

The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) Management Board adopted Sir Jim Rose’s definition with the addition of a further paragraph:

 “In addition to these characteristics, the BDA acknowledges the visual processing difficulties that some individuals with dyslexia can experience, and points out that dyslexic readers can show a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process.  Some also have strengths in other areas, such as design, problem solving, creative skills, interactive skills and oral skills.”

This month on our digital media channels at Bright Heart Education we’ve spent some time taking a closer look at what dyslexia means for students with special educational needs and offering tips on how to better support them and you, their parents. There are often a lot of myths associated with being dyslexic. We aimed to bust a few of them that you might find interesting in the infographic below:

infographic on dyslexia

What can I do to make learning easier for my child?

Besides your unconditional support and loads of love and extra encouragement, one of the best ways to bolster your child’s learning journey with this particular challenge is to offer them additional assistance and increased levels of comfort through the help of a tutor. 

How can Bright Heart Education make a difference?

At Bright Heart Education, we focus first and foremost on a heart-based approach. This means that our tutors seek to build rapport with students and connect with them in a way that makes them feel heard, understood and supported. This creates an optimal environment in which learning can take place.

From an educational perspective specific to students with dyslexia, our tutors can reduce the amount of reading required by summarising or using diagrams and video footage if appropriate. Necessary reading can be simplified using bullet points instead of long paragraphs.

Material can also be made more readable using different colour font or colour to highlight and using bold instead of italics. The amount of writing required can be reduced and oral discussion may be favoured instead. Written work will usually be reviewed for content rather than accuracy. For younger students our tutors will assist with phonics.

Students with dyslexia can tire in the lesson due to additional processing. Our tutors are aware of this and will take breaks or alter the pace when necessary.

Tutors can look at spell-checking, but not where it ruins the flow of the lesson. They may also provide written notes. The tutor will aim to provide instructions verbally and provide clear structure for the student’s tasks and offer support with these tasks.

Should you wish to give your child the gift of the Bright Heart experience, get in touch for an obligation-free exploratory session and together you will feel the difference we make in our students’ lives on a daily basis.


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Using a tutor when homeschooling your child

Home-schooled boy

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly prevalent. We outline reasons to consider hiring a tutor to help.               

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Homeschooling your child? Have you encountered some road-blocks to learning that require additional support?

Here are 4 reasons to consider hiring a tutor for your homeschooled child.

Using a tutor when homeschooling your child

Homeschooling is becoming increasingly popular. It is estimated* that ~58,000 students are currently being home schooled across England alone. This represents a 27% year-on-year increase.

ADCS Elective Home Education Survey 2018

Making the decision to home educate

There are many reasons why parents choose to home educate, particularly when tackling the challenges of special educational needs.

This can include their child’s comfort in the home environment if suffering from anxiety, practical reasons due to health and mobility challenges, behavioural issues in the school environment or recognising that their child is not getting the one-to-one attention they need for their unique style of learning.

If you are unable to provide the intense, early intervention and support that your child needs, you may wish to consider hiring a tutor.  

4 reasons to hire a tutor for your homeschooled child

  • Your child is getting older
    During the years from 10 to 14 children begin to become more self-aware. If your child has fallen behind with his or her learning, it is therefore important to tackle this before it starts to significantly impact their self-esteem. At this age they compare themselves to others and become acutely aware of their deficits – whether real or imaginary. It is very beneficial if your child develops good rapport with a qualified and experienced tutor as a supporting and positive influence.

    Homeschooling can also limit harmful bullying during this phase. Awareness is still needed for cyberbullying, however. A tutor can provide positive support if this is an issue as they represent another reference point besides parents. In these instances an holistic approach is advantageous relative to a purely academic focus.
  • Your child is not making sufficient progress at home
    With the variety of underlying causes of learning difficulties, some students have more of a deficit in working memory, processing speeds and executive function than others. This may result in slower learning and you might find your child is not making sufficient progress at home. In this instance, your child can really benefit from the experience of a patient and experienced tutor guiding and supporting their efforts on a regular basis.
  • If your family dynamic makes offering consistent support to your child a challenge
    There are limited hours in the day and sometimes the demands of modern life and parenting make it challenging for parents to be consistent enough with their children in order to effect the change that is needed. Regular and consistent tutoring is recommended to ensure much-needed input and progress. This is particularly important for children with special educational needs. 
  • If teaching your child is putting strain on your family relationships

    Children with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, autism and ADHD often have a low threshold for frustration and this can result in meltdowns and/or anxiety. This has a ripple effect of creating high levels of stress in the home. Children will often behave better and try harder for a tutor who they see two or three times a week than they do for their parents. This may or may not be true for every family, but if it’s true for yours, hiring a qualified tutor with a nurturing approach to learning may be highly beneficial to your child as well as removing unnecessary stress and tension at home.

Home-schooled boy
Could your homeschooled child with special educational needs benefit from a tutor?

I'm homeschooling my child, should I use a tutoring agency?

Hiring a tutor through a tutoring agency generally provides numerous benefits. Find out more on our blog Should I Use a Tutoring Agency? 

At Bright Heart, we are always happy to discuss what is best for parents. We offer a free, no obligation in-person consultation. Feel free to get in touch with us today to discuss how we can best nurture your child’s educational progress, together.  


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16 ways to help my child with dyspraxia

boy writing at desk

Your child has been diagnosed with dyspraxia or DCD (developmental coordination disorder). Here we look at how to help.

Bright Heart

Bright Heart

Are you anxious about your child’s recent dyspraxia diagnosis? Here we look to provide practical tips and strategies to help

16 ways to help my child with dyspraxia

Your child has been diagnosed with dyspraxia or DCD (developmental coordination disorder). You’re relieved to have some insight into the reasons behind some of their difficulties with daily activities. These may include: physical play, team sports, drawing or handwriting, using tools like scissors, a toothbrush or cutlery. Children with motor coordination difficulties may also find tasks such as organising themselves, learning new motor skills and even social and emotional aspects challenging.

boy writing at desk
Concerned about your child's motor coordination challenges? We explore ways to help

Assisting with learning at home

You’re finding support, but it feels somewhat overwhelming and you’d like more practical advice on ways to assist your child at home and with learning.

If this resonates with you, then you’ve come to the right place. 

At Bright Heart Education, our tutors work with students who present with a wide variety of special educational needs and motor co-ordination difficulties are common.  Taking a heart-based approach means that we strive to truly nurture and support the youngsters we are entrusted to aid with learning, but this also extends to you, their parents.

What can I do to help my child with dyspraxia?

1.      Make adjustments at home to encourage greater independence and participation (e.g. elasticated shoes, trousers, easier fastenings on clothes, strategies for organisation and time management).

2.     Provide opportunities for regular practice of activities and exercises by involving your child in everyday activities such as cooking (mixing, spreading), household chores (folding clothes, putting away cutlery, mopping the floor) and simple games (catching a ball, hop scotch).

3.     As your child practices and improves, gradually increase the demands of the task e.g. catching a smaller ball, cutting around more complex shapes.

4.     Let your child choose activities that they particularly enjoy or wish to try.

5.     Praise your child for effort, as well as achievement.

6.     Celebrate successes and attribute them to your child’s hard work and effort.

7.      Try to make sure your child practices meaningful, ‘functional’ tasks that s/he will come across in everyday life e.g. decorating biscuits with icing rather than meaningless finger exercises.

8.     Use your child’s interests as a focus for motivation e.g. cutting out newspaper pictures of their favourite sport.

9.      Encourage practice at every opportunity. ‘Little and often’ is best for learning – ten minutes every day rather than one long session each week.

10.   Try to ensure that your child practices movement skills in a variety of different ways so that they can generalise to new situations e.g. different activities for ball skills: throwing and catching with different size balls of different weights, with the child in different positions.  

11.    Break down tasks into smaller units to be learned; make sure that your child knows what they are working towards and what the end goal looks like e.g. the different components in learning to tie a shoelace.

12.   Support your child when they are learning a task e.g. hold their coat as they do up the zip but gradually reduce this support as they become more confident and start to succeed on their own.

13.   Encourage the use of ‘thinking skills’ (cognitive strategies) such as goal setting, self-monitoring, problem-solving activities e.g. ask your child to say what aspect of the task they need to focus on to be successful (throw the ball higher/harder to get it in the net). What might health and educational professionals offer?

14.  Levels of intervention from health and educational professionals will be determined by the specific needs of your child and the impact this has on his/her everyday activities at home, school and in play.

15.   For intervention planning, individual goals should be agreed in consultation with you, your child and relevant professionals.

16.   The type of intervention will be informed by the individual needs of your child, agreed goals and the research evidence. Intervention may include school based activities and/or parent/teacher information sessions, Physiotherapy or Occupational Therapy in a group or individual setting.

What has worked for you and your child with dyspraxia?

We’d love to hear which of these if any, have worked for you and what other strategies have you implemented at home that have made a difference to your child and/or family with coping with dyspraxia or DCD?

           From Movement Matters www.movementmatters.org.uk the UK umbrella organisation representing the major national groups concerned with children and adults with coordination difficulties, a condition called Developmental Coordination Disorder (or DCD) and sometimes referred to as ‘dyspraxia’.

     Did you find this helpful? Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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Home education documentary sparks debate

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England recently produced a report and featured in a documentary on home education.                                                                                                                                 

Ryan Stevenson

We discuss the report from the Children’s Commissioner on home education and the related Dispatches documentary

Children's Commissioner report and documentary on home education sparks debate

Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England, recently produced a report on home education. The report – “Skipping School: Invisible Children – How children disappear from England’s schools” – has received a lot of press. Channel 4 then aired a documentary, with Longfield, which featured some families with children in home education. The documentary has angered many homeschooling parents.

Anne Longfield the Children's Commissioner
Anne Longfield, the Children's Commissioner for England

What are the report's key findings?

The report featured a sympathetic introduction from Longfield. She empathised with parents who find themselves having to remove their children from “an unforgiving school system”. She shared the anecdote of a parent likening her daughter’s school to the Hunger Games. She is clearly passionate about children receiving a good education.

The report discusses the growth of home education, citing research from the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ACDS). ACDS indicates that the number of children in home education has doubled over the last 4 years. The report also discusses reasons for this sharp growth, including: 

  • Unmet needs: includes dissatisfaction with school as well as health and emotional problems.
  • Budgetary strains: funding per pupil has fallen 8% since 2010, requiring cuts to resources to support students with additional needs.
  • Off-rolling: the practice of schools removing a pupil without a formal exclusion process through pressurising parents.

While the report did conclude that many parents are devoted to providing their children with high quality education, it also cautioned about parents struggling to cope. It also discusses the need to improve the well-being of children being home educated. 

What are the report's key recommendations?

  • A home education register: calls for parents to register home-schooled children with the local authority.
  • Strengthened measures to tackle off-rolling: including increased attention from Ofsted and school's acknowledging that poor behaviour may be linked to special educational needs (SEN). Children withdrawn from school should be easily able to re-register with the same school.
  • Advice and support for children and families: within three days of a decision for a child to be withdrawn from school, the local authority should visit the family to provide advice and support.
  • Greater oversight of children: council education officers should visit each child being home educated at least once per term to assess their education and welfare.
  • Decisive action against unregistered schools: government to strengthen the law to make it easier to prosecute illegal schools.

What has caused unhappiness amongst homeschooling parents?

The Children’s Commissioner report would have been better received, presumably, if not for the Dispatches documentary. Dispatches is Channel 4’s investigative current affairs program.  

Dispatches showed a series of case studies, which featured Anne Longfield spending time with different families with children in home education. It also featured the distressing case of Dylan Seabridge, a neglected eight year old boy who died of scurvy in 2011.

We understand why homeschooling parents might feel angry after watching the documentary:

  • Did Dispatches present any of the numerous home education success stories? 
  • Were the selected case studies a representative sample? 
  • Did it select cases designed to stir up emotions about "invisible children" being harmed by their parents? 
  • Was a balanced view of home education shown?
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary about home schooling by Anne Longfield
Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on home education, presented by Anne Longfield

Some thoughts on home education

Most parents do not make the decision to home educate their children lightly. Under-resourced schools, additional learning needs and mental health and anxiety can all play their part (see our previous blog on the subject). Homeschooling often requires a parent to stay at home, impacting on their career and personal time. Parents may also need to spend money on hiring tutors to help fill gaps in their own knowledge. It is therefore a journey that requires commitment and dedication.

Responding to the report on home education:

  • Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association's Children and Young People Board, commented:

    “Councils fully support the rights of parents to educate their children in the best way that they see fit, and the vast majority of parents who home educate their children do a fantastic job ..." 

  •  A Department for Education spokesperson said:

    Where children are being home educated, we know that in the vast majority of cases parents are doing an excellent job. We also know, however, that in a very small minority of cases children are not receiving the standard of education they should be ...” 

What do you think?

At Bright Heart, we speak to many parents who feel let down by schools and are desperately trying to help their children realise their potential. We would love to hear your views on the documentary and report.

Please share your thoughts on our Facebook post or get in touch if you prefer!


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What is a DBS check? Does my tutor need a DBS?

what is a DBS check?

A DBS check is really a criminal records check. It is obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).                                                                                                                                  

Simon McQueen

In this article, we explain what a DBS check is and consider the question of tutors and DBS certificates.

This is the third article in our series aimed at helping parents seeking tuition. It follows our blogs providing tips on finding a great tutor and tips for considering tutoring agencies.

What is a DBS check?

A DBS check is really a criminal records check. It is obtained from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). This was previously the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB). The DBS issues a DBS certificate to an individual following a criminal records check. It shows certain convictions or cautions. It can also show if the person is unsuitable to work with children or adults, depending on the activity involved

Types of DBS checks

There are three main levels of checks:

  • Basic DBS - shows unspent convictions and cautions.
  • Standard DBS - shows unspent and spent convictions, cautions, reprimands and warnings held on the Police National Computer and not subject to filtering. Filtering is the process of removing certain less serious offences (as prescribed by legislation).
  • Enhanced DBS - suitable for people working with children or adults in certain circumstances, including education. In addition to a standard check, it may disclose relevant non-conviction information supplied by a Chief Officer. Depending on the activity, an enhanced check may include a check of one or both of the DBS barred lists. These comprise the children’s list and the adult’s list. They contain the names of people barred from working with children or adults in a certain capacity.

Can an individual request a DBS check?

An individual can only request a basic DBS check and can do so for any purpose. An individual cannot request a standard or an enhanced DBS check. Instead, a potential employer will have to request one on an individual’s behalf. 

Can any employer carry out a DBS check or check the barred list?

A potential employer may only request a check allowed by legislation. In order to check one of the barred lists, the person must be carrying on a regulated activity. Regulated activity is work that a barred person must not do as defined by the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006. Regulated activity includes regular one-to-one tuition. This means a tutor’s enhanced DBS check can include a check of the children’s barred list.

How long should a DBS check take? Can I speed up the process?

Our service provider, uCheck, claims an average of 2 days to complete a DBS check. Our experience to date has been mixed, however. While certain checks have been quick, we have experienced some frustrating delays. This included a recent DBS check that took well over a month. This was clearly frustrating for both ourselves and the tutor prevented from tutoring.

uCheck advises an applicant experiencing hardship due to delays to contact the DBS directly on 03000 200 190. Tutors trying this have been told to wait for 60 days, unfortunately.

Should my tutor have a DBS certificate?

As tutors are working with your children, it is important that any tutor is in possession of a clean enhanced DBS certificate. This should include a check of the children’s barred list. Unfortunately, due to private individuals not being able to carry out these checks directly, many private tutors do not have a DBS certificate. This is the case regardless of whether or not they are listed on a private tutor directory website. 

A parent should carefully assess how well they know a tutor without a DBS certificate. Parents should ensure that a parent or responsible adult is always present in the home during tuition.

What does a DBS certificate look like?

Ryan has provided one of his enhanced DBS certificates as an example of the information it contains. Ryan obtained this for a charity providing services classed as a regulated activity to both adults and children. It therefore includes a check of both barred lists, although your tutor’s DBS certificate need not check the adult’s list.

Enhanced DBS check certificate for tutors
An example of an enhanced DBS certificate (confidential info redacted)

Bright Heart's approach to DBS checks and safeguarding

Bright Heart ensures its tutors have a clean and current enhanced DBS certificate, which includes a check of the children’s barred list. When required, we request these checks for our tutors. Tutors need to register for the DBS update service when they renew their certificates. This permits inspection at any time to ensure there have been no adverse changes. 

A DBS check is not foolproof, unfortunately. It only indicates if someone has been flagged at the time of the check. We don’t therefore simply rely on DBS checks. Further steps we take include:

  • Not allowing tutors to provide tuition unless a parent or legal guardian is present in the home.
  • Personally interviewing tutors, taking at least two third party references and checking qualifications.
  • Providing guidance and training on safeguarding and requiring all tutors to sign up to our Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy.
  • Carefully monitoring tuition to ensure our contractually agreed high standards are met.

Please get in touch to talk to one of our dedicated team to help find the perfect tutor for your child!


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SEN Magazine features Bright Heart Education

Bright Heart Education’s tuition offering has been featured in the Jan / Feb 2019 edition of the SEN Magazine. 

Bright Heart Education

Bright Heart’s tuition offering was featured in the Jan / Feb edition of the SEN Magazine

SEN Magazine features Bright Heart Education

Bright Heart is pleased to have been featured in the “What’s New” section of the Jan/ Feb 2019 issue of the SEN Magazine

This feature highlighted the nurturing approach that Bright Heart brings to the tutoring market. It also explained how Bright Heart provides its tutors with exclusive training through nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs). 

Extract from the "What's New" section of the Jan/Feb 2019 edition of the SEN Magazine (SEN98)

SEN Magazine is the UK’s leading special educational needs magazine. It is published every 2 months. Its readership includes SENCOs, parents, therapists, teachers and other special educational needs practitioners. It covers many topics with respect to special educational needs in the UK, including:

  • All major conditions (such as autism, ADHD, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and Down's syndrome)
  • Mental health
  • Literacy and numeracy
  • Behaviour
  • Teaching children with special educational needs
  • General issues of education, care and government legislation
  • Special schools and mainstream schools

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Should I use a tutoring agency to find a great tutor?

Should I use a tutoring agency?

We consider the benefits of using a tutoring agency to find a great English, Maths, Science or SEN tutor.

Ryan Stevenson

Wondering if you should hire a tutor through an agency? 

We consider what tutoring agencies offer and let you decide.

Should I use a tutoring agency?

This is a follow up to our blog on tips for finding a great tutor. I wanted to address a common question from parents. Is it better to hire a private tutor directly? Or should I use a tutoring agency?

Private tutor or tutoring agency?

Hiring a private tutor yourself can be cheaper. So why should parents consider using a tutoring agency? Before answering this, it is worth providing some background. 

Tutoring is an unregulated industry.  Anyone can therefore become a tutor. This is regardless of qualifications, experience or competence. While a parent may find a great tutor, individual tutors cannot process background checks (DBS checks). While they can do so through a membership body (e.g. the Tutors’ Association), this is expensive. Many private tutors don’t therefore have DBS checks.

Private tutor directory websites

Many private tutors are listed on “private tutor directory websites. Some of these sites have thousands of tutors. Parents can therefore browse many profiles. Sites vary though with the checks (if any) they perform. A quick search of the terms of one popular site indicates: 

  • “You are not required to have a background check to become a Tutor …
  • [We] cannot verify any claim made by Tutors within their profile
  • Unfortunately, we cannot help tutors secure a background check.” 

https://www.brightheart.co.uk/what-is-a-dbs-check/There are some great tutors on these sites. Yet, there are no guarantees that profiles are accurate or any reviews are genuine. These sites also cannot process DBS checks and do not require them. This means you could select a wholly unsuitable tutor.

Types of tutoring agencies

Tutoring agencies, which introduce clients to tutors,  vary notably. They can be grouped by the level of service offered: 

  • Basic agencies
    Match tutors using information from client enquiries. Tutors are screened and interviewed (usually not in person). Degree certificates and references are checked. All tutors should have in place a clean Enhanced DBS check.
  • Premium agencies
    A key difference is that they interview tutors in person. They therefore have a better feel for the best tutor for your child. Further services may include money-back guarantees if you are not happy with the tutor. These agencies may also offer limited training to tutors. They typically ensure clients receive lesson feedback. The bigger agencies cater to many different clients / students. They are thus unable to provide a bespoke service.
  • Bespoke agencies
    Offer a better level of service than premium agencies. This is because they provide a tailored and more personal service. Bright Heart is a bespoke tutoring agency. It offers a free in-person consultation and the first lesson free. It also provides its tutors with focused training (through nasen). This training is based on its specific, tailored student focus. These students include those lacking in motivation / confidence and those with special educational needs (SEN). They also include those not quite 'clicking' in traditional classrooms.
Should I use a tutoring agency?
Premium and bespoke tutoring agencies get to know their trained tutors personally to help provide the best match for students.

Benefits of using a tutoring agency

Hiring a tutor through a tutoring agency generally provides the following benefits:

  • Ensures your child's tutor has been properly vetted.
  • No need for awkward conversations with private tutors about DBS checks.
  • Better chance of finding a well-matched tutor.
  • Should your tutor get sick or go on holiday, the agency can find an alternative at short notice.
  • Tutors are required to meet a minimum agreed standard with the agency.
  • Agencies have contracts to govern the relationship between you and the tutor and insurance cover.

Benefits of using a premium or bespoke tutoring agency

Premium or bespoke tutoring agencies generally provide further benefits, including:

  • Higher quality tutors from personally interviewing tutors.
  • Better tuition from getting to know tutors and clients / students. This is especially so for agencies that provide in-person consultations.
  • Bespoke agencies help meet student's unique learning needs by specifically tailoring training.
  • Prevents wasting money on a poor tutor when free lessons or guarantees are provided.
  • Improved monitoring of your child's progress from regular lesson reports. Agencies can also provide tutors with parent feedback. This helps to further improve the tuition.
  • Bespoke agencies provide a tailored service to help with specific needs. Bright Heart, for example, aims to improve tuition for students with SEN. It is therefore able to recruit experienced SEN tutors with a desire to work with SEN students. Tutors are also provided with specific SEN training.
  • Quality agencies have detailed policies and procedures in place. They also belong to member organisations. They can help resolve any disputes with tutors.

So, should I use a tutoring agency?

A drawback of using an agency is that it typically costs more. Many parents feel this is justified by the  peace of mind a good agency brings. A parent will need to make their own judgement, however. They should consider the specific needs of their child and their personal circumstances in making this important decision. They should also consider the specific benefits a particular agency provides.

At Bright Heart, we are always happy to discuss what is best for parents. We offer a free, no obligation in-person consultation. Please feel free to get in touch with us. We plan to write more on the topic of DBS checks in a future blog.


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Tips for Finding the Best Tutor Near You

Finding the best Maths and English tutor

We provide a few tips for finding the best Maths, English, Science or special educational needs tutors near you.

Ryan Stevenson

Searching for the best tutor for your child? 

In this post we help you make that decision

Tips for Finding the Best Tutor Near You

I am an experienced maths and science tutor with significant special educational needs (SEN) tutoring experience. I am therefore familiar with the questions parents ask and also what makes a good tutor. In this post I share some tips to help you find a great tutor. Three common questions from parents are:

  • Do you know a good Maths tutor / English tutor / Science tutor near me who can help my child?
  • My child is falling behind in class and I struggle to help them. Do you think they need a tutor?
  • My child is dyslexic / dyspraxic / has a SEN. Do you know a good SEN tutor near me who can help?

Let’s look at some themes which come up in these questions, and in doing so, help to answer them.

Finding the best Maths and English tutor
Choosing the right tutor can make a big difference to your child's enjoyment of the subject and their long-term success

Why do you need a tutor?

In answering the first question regarding a good tutor, it is important to understand your objectives. Why do you feel a tutor is needed? By parents exploring this with their child they can get an idea of what is meant by ‘good’ and which approach is best. Some reasons for seeking a tutor may include:

  • My child is falling behind in class and struggling with their homework.
  • My child feels alienated in class and is not engaging with the subject or lesson.
  • I want my child's grade to improve to qualify for A-Levels or university, or complete GCSEs.
  • My child is easily distracted or has learning challenges and is not receiving the necessary one-to-one attention.

What makes a good tutor?

In our experience, an important starting point is that the student needs to feel acknowledged and in an emotionally comfortable learning environment. A ‘good’ tutor is therefore one who can build rapport with the student.  This increases confidence, leading to self-sufficiency. It is best to communicate all known learning issues to the tutor to help with lesson planning. A good tutor (or tutoring agency) will ask relevant questions before tuition begins.

All parents wish for their child’s grades to improve.  However, certain aspects of learning need to be identified along with the particular objectives before steady progress is made. This preliminary questioning can help determine what the specific role of the tutor is. For example, it could be to re-engage the student with learning, increase confidence, fill in missing gaps or prepare for a specific exam e.g. 11+ or GCSEs.

When to hire a tutor

Parents frequently seek to hire tutors with the approach of important exams and the natural desire for their child to do well. For some students ‘playing catch-up’ suddenly becomes an extra source of stress. It is therefore better to act sooner rather than later if there are any concerns. Some tips related to tuition timing include:

  • Be proactive, rather than reactive. This reduces pressure.
  • When looking to hire a tutor, look at their availability right up to the exam.
  • Plan ahead as popular tutors can get booked out from mid-September for the school year.

If you are unable to help with your child’s homework, it may be worth trying outside help before subject complexity increases. Subject performance in Maths and Science is difficult to bring back on track in a few weeks.  This is especially true if there are fundamental concepts missing or learning challenges present. A tutor is therefore a good investment in these cases. If tuition is provided holistically, it can also address self-esteem and self-limiting beliefs.

Tutors who can address special educational needs (SEN)

Many tutors do not have experience with special educational needs. Many tutoring agencies therefore throw their tutors into situations they are not properly prepared for by matching the student purely on their knowledge of the subject. This then causes problems where specific approaches are needed to tailor the lesson to the unique needs of the student. If you do have a child with additional needs then be sure to ask the tutor (or tutoring agency) what experience the tutor has, and what approaches they have used previously.

Non-neurotypical students are often more sensitive to their environment, as well as body language and behaviour of people in close proximity. Therefore, it is best to find a SEN tutor with relevant experience to avoid a negative learning experience for the student, which can push subject interest in the wrong direction.

Some tips when looking for a SEN tutor:

  • Check to see if they have experience in the particular SEN.
  • Ask them their about their tutoring approach with non-neurotypical students or students with the specific SEN.
  • Patience is an important general trait for all SEN tutors. Try to assess the tutor's behaviour and manner in this regard.
  • A tense or highly strung tutor is usually a poor match for a student with additional needs.
  • If using a tutoring agency to find a SEN tutor, check their SEN credentials and whether this is a focus area.
  • Make sure the tutor has an enhanced DBS. Vulnerable students require extra safeguarding.
  • Once identified, make sure the tutor is willing to work with all parties involved e.g. the school, Local Authority, family. A team effort is usually more successful.

Next steps

As seen from the above, careful consideration is needed in finding the best tutor near you. We offer a free no obligation in-person consultation. Please get in touch to find out how we can help you to find a great tutor. We plan to write more on this topic in a future blog to explore whether it is worth using a tutoring agency.


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Future-proofing your Child’s Education

FT future proofing your child's education

Interesting thoughts provided by Vivienne Ming in a 3-min video from the Financial Times “Value of Knowledge” series on future-proofing your child’s education

Simon McQueen

The importance of maintaining passion, independent of short-term success or failure

Future-proofing your Child's Education

Interesting thoughts provided by Vivienne Ming in a 3-min video from the Financial Times “Value of Knowledge” series on future-proofing your child’s education.  This is especially relevant in a world in which, according to a recent report from the Institute for the Future and Dell Technologies, around 85% of the jobs that today’s school children will be doing in 2030 haven’t been invented yet!


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