How responsible should parents be for their child’s education?

As teachers across the country prepare for SATs, GCSEs and A-levels, the age we expect children to take full responsibility for their own education seems to be lowering as the years pass. We worry as a nation that our children are growing up too fast, but is the examination system partially to blame?

When our children are young, they are surrounded by toys, many of which are educational. But as they grow up, those toys are replaced by a range of technology that creates a barrier between child and parent when playing. It’s all very well using educational apps, but most don’t offer real feedback to parents about how the child is doing- so how can we really trust them to do a job that we have outsourced for years?

In some countries, particularly Scandinavian ones, they don’t send their children to school until they are 7-years-old. Play is a respected part of the curriculum, and formal testing doesn’t occur till young people are near adulthood. Formal examinations pressurise young people, and not everyone can handle it. Being in the “middle” group throughout Key Stage 2 is not a problem for parents- it is only when they realise that being in the middle group means it is unlikely that their child will get the coveted “exceeds expectations” that parents panic.

But paying for a tutor just so that your child moves groups or does well in class tests is never going to set them up for success. No-one can consistently achieve high results if their education is objective led rather than knowledge led. Skills can be learned in one lesson and then forgotten weeks and months later when they need to be applied in a different context. If you are able to pay for a private tutor, it should be to develop the broader understanding of a subject, and the application of skills secondary to this.

Unfortunately, since the use of the Literacy Hour, there has been a feeling amongst primary teachers in particular that learning through skills is an approach that works long-term. But they aren’t able to follow the education of the children they last see in Year 6. As both a secondary class teacher and Head of English, I have had to explain to parents why their child was able to use commas correctly in primary school, but that I’ve seen no evidence of it.

The problem is that the ways we teach English in primary and secondary often bear no resemblance to one another. In the secondary sector, I had a reasonable budget that allowed me to buy whole class sets of new texts, or at least one novel between two. Young people were able to read the novel and access the lessons more effectively because they had the text in front of them. But I have yet to go into a primary school where that is commonplace. All too often, teachers have the only copy of the book; textual analysis is just not possible if you don’t have the text, the whole text, during those lessons.

Also, the time spent only in English lessons can be as little as three hours a week for a Year 7 child. Losing at least two hours of teaching a week can have massive implications for those children who need daily instruction. In secondary lessons, we don’t have the time to continually remind the children about capital letters and full stops; we assume that if they have “passed” their SATs then it is a given. But it is not.

And that’s where parents can bridge the gap. Paying a private tutor is certainly one option, but it is a costly long-term decision if your child is behind in several subjects, or has missed so much that they haven’t yet achieved some of the objectives from previous years.

I am a private tutor, and the number of hours I spend with each child varies enormously. I work with one child six hours a week because she has not yet mastered some of the basic skills she needs to access the whole curriculum. I have another who I tutor in maths for one hour a week- although she is in Year 5, she managed to exceed standards in a mock Year 6 paper. Private tutoring allows me the luxury of being able to identify individual weaknesses and target them appropriately. I can stretch a child so that they achieve beyond what is expected.

So where do you sign up? The problem with private tutoring is that it is expensive. I charge £25 an hour or £40 for two consecutive hours, and I know that many families just do not have the funds to pay for that. My family certainly didn’t growing up. I have pondered this for months. Richer families being able to pay for private education certainly gives them an advantage- the question I asked myself was- how can those results be replicated at home for a fraction of the price?

Clearly with access to the internet, anybody can look up worksheets or apps that are suitable for the age of their child/ children. But this is time consuming, and often the quality of what is being downloaded is just not there.

I devised a year-long programme targeted at parents who want those results without outsourcing. Instead of creating yet another tutoring business for children, I decided that the best way to get fast results is to target the parents. If the parents have up-to-date knowledge of the curriculum, and are confident in their own skills, then a tutor is just not necessary.

The Education Effect hosts monthly instructional webinars and podcasts whilst providing games and resources that will allow children to reach their potential by having that extra 1-2-1 support at home. And the best bit? Once parents have completed the course they don’t have to take another. There is lifetime access to the resources, and an exclusive Facebook group for ongoing support means that parents can have the success they want for less than half the price it would normally cost.

If you want to find out more about The Education Effect, then click here. Sign up to our free taster webinar to see just what parents can get at home.

About the author: Now an English consultant, Jill formerly worked as both a secondary Head of English and a primary teacher.

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