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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Our nasen tutor training course

student doing online training course

In this article, we provide some insight from our nasen training course, produced exclusively for Bright Heart’s tutors.                  

Simon McQueen

We explain why we asked nasen to help train our tutors, discuss the course and provide insight from our tutors’ test answers.

Why did we ask nasen to help train our tutors?

The lack of tutor training was a key shortcoming observed by Ryan in working with various tutoring agencies. This was especially concerning for tutors working with students with learning challenges. 

One of Bright Heart’s main goals is to improve the quality of tuition for students who would benefit most from a more nurturing approach. We approached nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) to help achieve this, due to its stellar reputation over >25 years supporting SEN practitioners with training and resources.

In meeting nasen’s education team, we were surprised to find that no other tutoring agency had met with them before. We therefore commissioned nasen to produce an online training course exclusively for Bright Heart before even hiring our first tutor

The training course comprises 4 webcasts (as shown below) and a detailed written test. The aim of the course is to ensure that our tutors are adequately prepared to meet the individual learning needs of our students.

Webcast 1: The Current Context of SEND

This provides a brief overview of the legislative context of SEND (special educational needs and disability) in England. It considers the key principles of the Code of Practice (2015), followed by the models of disability. The current definition of SEND is also discussed.

The current context of SEND

Webcast 2: The 4 broad areas of need

This covers the four main divisions of SEND according to student need, being:

  • Communication and Interaction
  • Cognition and Learning
  • Sensory and / or Physical
  • Social, Emotional and Mental Health

The webcast also considers how support and provision works, discussing the graduated approach and general strategies to consider for students.

4 broad areas of SEND

Webcast 3: Person-centred working

This defines person-centred working and how it should inform all interaction with students. It also explains how it should be used in conjunction with the Bright Heart Approach. Our heart-based approach focuses on the whole student and building rapport with warmth, before addressing academic needs.

Person-centred working

Webcast 4: Specific needs and strategies

This webcast provides a good examination of some specific SEN, including dyslexia, autism and social, emotional and mental health needs. It explains how understanding a student’s needs and considering related strengths and appropriate strategies helps to improve tutoring. Lastly, it discusses general strategies of engagement to add to a tutor’s tools for effective tuition.

SEND tutoring strategies

The nasen training course test

Bright Heart’s tutors are required to pass a detailed written test covering the nasen training course. The test comprises 20 questions requiring careful consideration from tutors. The focus is on applying the course material to practical learning situations. A selection of the questions posed are:

  • How might adopting the social model of disability benefit your work?
  • How could person-centred tools be used as part of the graduated approach?
  • Imagine that you are working with a young person that is being uncooperative. How might you go about trying to engage them?
  • Why is care needed when using labels to describe needs e.g. dyslexia?

Interesting insights provided by our tutors

Our tutors demonstrated their full understanding of the course material through their test answers. Reviewing these answers provided some interesting insights into their approach to tuition. Answers took into account the Bright Heart Approach, specific tools and guidance provided by the nasen training, as well as tutors’ own practical experience and other relevant training and qualifications.

A selection of helpful and insightful extracts from tutors’ answers to the questions above included:

  • "Adopting the social model is paramount to any educator's practice... Adherence to the model means looking at each one of my tutees as a unique human being, whose feelings, needs and learning style differ from those of any other human being. The Bright Heart model is quintessentially social, and relies on creating an empathetic rapport with the tutee in order to nurture not only the learner but the sentient being who has feelings, hopes, wishes and opinions of his or her own. ..."
  • "Many of the tools promote information gathering, and encourage an exploration of the young person’s world: how they experience their learning. This leads to both assessment of needs and also a recognition of what is useful to include in planning. Other tools promote review and reflection and can be used to indicate what needs changing or adapting as you go along."
  • "... Listening to the person, showing concern for their feelings, can often deal with the root of the problem, and not only the outward manifestation, which can only worsen if left untouched. Without attempting to solve the problems in people's lives, or to intervene in them in any way, simple listening and caring can help to build a healthy relationship with our tutees. Even if we manage to get a person to collaborate under a punitive approach, the fact that they are doing it under duress will only make it a short-term remedial measure. The Bright Heart approach is based on caring and understanding of tutees, not coercive measures which may assure compliance, but damage rapport, and, most importantly, fail to foster lifelong learners."
  • "Because every individual is different and they may not "fit" the dyslexic label as simply as one might expect - e.g. showing maybe one of the characteristic signs rather than all. Dyslexia is a spectrum condition, and also can occur comorbidly with other learning difficulties. Lastly, using the label may down play their strengths, such as creativity and their natural ability to see the bigger picture of concepts and problems."

Find a well-trained tutor to help your child

Bright Heart is pleased that its tutors have embraced their training and demonstrated their thorough understanding of it through their test answers. We plan to complement online training with in-person nasen training. Bright Heart’s directors have already received in-person training from nasen. We will write more about this in a future blog. 

Please get in touch to talk to us about how one of our well-trained, caring tutors could be perfect for your child!


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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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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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Fascinating Insights from the TES SEN Show

TES SEN Show

The Bright Heart directors attended the TES SEN Show, which is the UK’s largest special needs show, on 5th and 6th October in London.

Simon McQueen

Ryan Stevenson

In this post, the directors share what they experienced and learnt at the annual TES Special Educational Needs Show.

Fascinating insights from the TES SEN Show

The Bright Heart directors attended the TES SEN Show, which is the UK’s largest special needs show, on 5th and 6th October in London. The show was packed with exhibitors and delegates and included many interesting presentations and seminars, including a heart-warming opening keynote panel discussion focused on social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) difficulties in education, with the highlight being a brave young student sharing his positive personal experiences at a special school.

TES SEN Show
The start of the TES SEN Show at the business design centre [photo: TES SEN Show]

A common theme highlighted at the show was the struggle for parents and teachers in the current education climate.

In addition to the keynote address, the directors attended a number of excellent seminars focused on specific topics, which included:

  • SLCN and SEMH - understanding the links – Wendy Lee
  • Identifying SEN: how can we be sure that a pupil has special educational needs? – Jane Friswell
  • Making the most of SEN funding and resources – Dr Rona Tutt OBE
  • Emerging effective SEN practice and challenges – Pat Bullen

SLCN and SEMH - understanding the links

Wendy Lee demonstrated the high correlation between speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) and social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) issues. Some interesting statistics presented included:

  • 60 % of young offenders have poor language skills
  • 50 % of pupils in socially disadvantaged areas have poor language skills
  • 85 % of students/people with SLCN fail to reach the expected standard in reading and writing
  • 81 % of students with SEMH have language difficulties

A major finding was that language is key to emotional literacy, as behaving appropriately is related to the ability to think through situations and anticipate the emotions generated. Those with SLCN generally have difficulties with interaction, self-awareness, problem solving and self-control. Ms Lee highlighted that there is massive under identification of children with SLCN which affects their emotional health and well-being. To improve language skills is to provide a protection factor against mental health challenges and anxiety, and it is therefore better to focus on preventive health with appropriate language intervention

Identifying SEN: how can we be sure that a pupil has special educational needs?

Jane Friswell spoke passionately about this topic as she drew upon her personal family experiences. Some key points from the SEND Code of Practice highlighted were:

  • Slow progress and low attainment do not necessarily mean that a child has SEN
  • Attainment in line with age should not necessarily be taken to mean that there is no SEN
  • Persistent disruptive or withdrawn behaviour does not necessarily mean that a child or young person has SEN
  • While identifying SEN at an early age is very helpful, some children’s difficulties only become apparent as they get older
  • The first response to slow progress should be high quality teaching targeted at the areas of weakness, with the impact carefully monitored
  • Where progress continues to be less than expected, the teacher, working with the SENCO, should assess whether the child has SEN

Once it has been determined that a pupil has SEN, SEN support should arise from a four-stage cycle set out in the SEND Code of Practice called the graduated approach – the stages of the cycle being: assess; plan; do; and review.

Making the most of SEN funding and resources

Dr Rona Tutt OBE addressed this important topic, providing a comprehensive overview while putting this all into the context of the stretched budgets available, due partly to the increased age range of the new SEND Code of Practice, which covers young adults up to the age of 25.  Some of Dr Tutt’s key points summarising the funding resources included:

  • Schools receive ~£6,000 per pupil for delivering a special educational provision (SEP), which can be drawn upon for both SEN support and those with EHC (Education, Health and Care) Plans
  • Top-up funding can be requested for needs requiring more than £6,000 from the Local Authority’s high needs block
  • The high needs block also pays for base funding of £10,000 for each specialist and alternative provision placement
  • Personal budgets have now been introduced for students with EHC Plans to provide additional support, and can be managed by the Local Authority, a third party, via a direct payment to the young person or their family, or a combination thereof.
  • There is also a pupil premium to raise attainment for disadvantaged pupils of all abilities, which could include those with SEN and includes all looked after children (ranging from £935 to £2,300 for looked after children).
  • DfE support for SEND reforms via 3 new contracts were announced in May 2018 totalling ~£27m – £20m with Council for Disabled Children (CDC) / Contact; £3.8m with Contact / KIDS / CDC; and £3.4m for Whole School SEND consortium – nasen / UCL)

Dr Tutt then stressed the importance of making the most of the limited funding available and highlighted a number of resources to help in this regard, including the EEF Toolkit, which provides an analysis of cost, evidence and benefit of various categories of support – those ranking highly for impact (in additional months’ average progress) include:

  • Feedback (8)
  • Metacognition & self-regulation (7)
  • Reading comprehension strategies (6)
  • One to one tuition, collaborative learning, oral language interventions (5)

Emerging effective SEN practice and challenges

Pat Bullen provided a great overview of what is working and where issues still remain. Clearly most Local Authorities have room for improvement, with 27 out of 61 SEND Local area reviews having a Written Statement of Action (WSOA) as at September 2018. These reviews are carried out by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Although high needs spending has increased from £5bn in 2015 to £6bn in 2018, there has been a strain on Local Authorities with cuts to preventative services such as Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). Schools that do strive to be more inclusive are also not acknowledged accordingly, with the Ofsted definition of ‘Outstanding’ not being wide enough to consider these aspects and being too narrowly focused on the level of academic achievement.

When SEN provision was working effectively, some general traits were present:

  • Mapping of provision and tracking of progress
  • Ensuring multi-agency links
  • Whole School SEND reviews
  • Having a SEN Governor role
  • Training of staff

Effective SEN provision was usually found when schools, Local Authorities, alternative provision and parents were all working together. 


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