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Big differences in private tuition across UK

Vast differences in take-up of private tuition revealed

Published on: 15 September 2016

Primary school children in London are more than eight times as likely to have received private tuition as those in Scotland, Newcastle University research has revealed.

Out of school help

Some 43% of 11-year-olds in the capital receive the out-of-school help with their studies, compared with only five % in Scotland. Within England, a child in London is almost four times as likely to have received tuition as one in the North East, where only 11% of children experience it.

Other areas of England do see substantial take-up of tuition at 11, however, with it standing at three % in the Eastern region and 27% in the South-East outside the capital.

The findings, being presented to the British Educational Research Assocation (BERA) today, come with the issue of tuition under great scrutiny as a result of the Government’s plans, announced last Friday, to extend grammar school provision.

Researchers from Newcastle University and from NatCen Social Research, the social research institute, have been studying how a cohort of pupils, all born in 2000-1, spend their lives outside of school. Looking at private tuition, they analysed data relating to 11,759 of the pupils, collected when they were 11. The research was funded by the Nuffield Foundation.

Other areas of England saw the proportion of children receiving tuition varying substantially. In the West Midlands, it was 26%; in the North West, 22% in the East Midlands, two %; in the South West, 20%; and in Yorkshire and the Humber, 15%.

Scotland and Wales, where take-up was nine%, had lower proportions of pupils receiving tuition than any region of England. However, in Northern Ireland, which has grammar school selection at 11, the figure was much higher, at 25%.

The paper concluded: “Our data shows a statistically significant difference in the uptake of extra tuition by geographical region. Whilst the London effect has been reported before…the detail of such geographical difference has not previously been known to this extent.”

Youngsters in London are more likely to receive private tuition than other parts of the UK

Grammar school impact

At BERA last year, the research team presented evidence from the same study showing that some ethnic groups were far more likely to be using private tutors than others, with children categorised as from Chinese, black or Indian backgrounds more than twice as likely to be tutored as their white British peers.

Tuition is widely seen as mainly being taken up by middle-class parents. But this research suggests a more nuanced picture, with more affluent families indeed being more likely to take up tuition – 26%  doing so – but disadvantaged families not so far behind, on 20%.

Professor Liz Todd, Professor of Education Inclusion of Newcastle University, said that the figures showed that tuition was already reasonably prevalent in England, and that it was children whose parents could afford it who would benefit from the proposed expansion of grammar schools. The research raised many questions for the new policy of expanding selection, she added.

She said: “The impact of expanding grammar schools will be to expand the private tuition market into areas of England which our data show have relatively low levels at the moment. This will be a boost for private tuition companies, but is it good for pupils?

“As for parents, they are likely to feel under great pressure to pay for private tuition to help their children through selection tests.

“There will also be pressure on schools to spend their pupil premium funding [cash they receive from government to support disadvantaged children] on coaching for entrance exams. Do we really want schools to be doing this? It is a questionable use of public funding with no evidence that it will help close the attainment gap between rich and poor.

“Also, in our research, we find that childhood is made up of a varied range of activities for many children, in terms of the things they do out of school. If we increase the pressure on 11-year-olds, is the danger that they will not do other things?”

Varied and constructive lives

The findings are part of a study which has been investigating the lives of children outside of school hours. “The main picture is of children living varied and constructive lives,” it found. Among 11-year-olds, 46% said they read for pleasure every day, 23% reported playing outside unsupervised most days, 53% helping with chores several times a week, 32% attending after-school clubs and 73% attending sports clubs.

Yet the data also revealed differences in children’s lives, with 17% of 11-year-olds reading less than weekly and 32% never playing outside unsupervised. And while around one in six children aged five to 11 watches less than an hour of television a day, more than one in 10 watch more than three hours daily.

“Extra-curricular activities for all? Policy, parents and many childhoods” is being presented to BERA by Professor Liz Todd of Newcastle University, on Thursday, September 15th. Other papers produced as part of the same research project are being presented at BERA throughout the conference by Professor Todd, Karen Laing and Dr Laura Mazzoli Smith, all of Newcastle University, and Dr Emily Tanner of NatCen Social Research.


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