A tutor helping a child

Private school or private tutor: which is best?

As a parent it’s natural to want your child to have the very best education available. But where will you find that? For some families, it’s easy to choose between the local comprehensive school and an independent school filled with excellent teachers and top-flight facilities.

But if you live near an outstanding state school, it can be harder to make the choice to send your child to private school. After all, you could simply boost your child’s free education with private tutors.

So what’s better? A private school, or private tutors?

It’s a tricky decision to make, with lots of factors to take into consideration. Let’s look at the detail, starting with private tutors.

Benefits of private tutors

Private tutors work outside the school day to give lessons to children on a one-to-one basis, or sometimes in small groups. Just like teachers, they tend to have specialist subjects, and often work with particular age groups.

Parents opt for a private tutor – or tutors – to give their children extra time with topics they need additional help in. If you’re considering a private tutor, it might be because your child would benefit from more support in a subject than their school can give them.

Those tricky maths or science problems that always stump them? A little outside tutoring could get your child up to speed with the rest of their peers. The French verbs that won’t conjugate themselves at school? An hour or two of additional support each week could give your child the one-to-one time that they don’t get in class.

A tutor can even give children lessons in something they love – if your child enjoys playing an instrument, private music teachers are relatively easy to come by. Or if they have a passion for a language that’ not covered by the curriculum, a private tutor can fill that gap.

And of course, tutoring can be switched on and off as your child’s needs change or as your family circumstances change – making private tutoring a much less intimidating financial commitment for parents to invest in.

Costs of private tutoring

The cost of private tutoring can be attractive to many families when compared with the cost of school fees. Depending on the subject studied and the age of your child, private tutoring can start at around £25 per hour. However, some tutors charge as much as £100 per hour. And at a rate of two lessons a week during term time, this could soon add up to a substantial amount – almost as much as fees for some private day schools.

But is this the best way to give your child the education they deserve? Will they really reach their potential with a mix of state schooling and private tutoring?

Just as children can jump in and out of private tutoring, tutors themselves also have the option to end their classes – they may retire, move away, or simply become unavailable at a time that suits your family.

Changes like this could prove unsettling for children, and may upset their wider education. And even if you find a suitable replacement, it’s unlikely that there would be a handover to your new tutor, so some sessions may go over old ground for your child while their new tutor gets to know their abilities. In other words, they may not make as much progress as you’d expect for a few weeks.

And of course, although some private tutors travel to your home, many host classes in their own home. If you’re considering a private tutor, remember to take travel expense into consideration when making your decisions. It sounds like a small thing, but the costs of ferrying children around in the ‘taxi of mum and dad’ can really mount up – especially when you take your busy lifestyle into consideration, too.

So how do the costs and benefits of private tutoring compare to those of a private school? Let’s find out.

Benefits of private school

Students in a science lesson

Private schools, also known as independent or public schools, are schools that exist outside the control and support of the state. They charge school fees for children to attend, and they have a high level of autonomy in what they teach. Private schools are renowned for their top-flight facilities and excellent teaching standards.

Investing in private school, rather than private tutors, will give your child guaranteed continuity in their education. There’s less disruption, and since private schools give excellent education across the board, all your child’s lessons will happen in one location.

When your child has a particular interest in one area of the curriculum, attending a private school can mean their skills can be nurtured by the same member of staff during clubs and societies as during timetabled lessons. For instance, if your child loves sports, a consistent team of coaches would help them improve their talents in games lessons and in after school training clubs. They’d also support them during league events with other schools, building a great all-round picture of your child’s sporting performance and where they can improve.

Or if your child’s into numbers, their school maths teacher will be well placed to give them extra access by selecting and training them for events like the UK Mathematics Trust Challenge – which private tutors may be less likely to get involved in.

And there are some activities that are only available at private schools, for example the Independent Schools Public Speaking and Debating Competition – for obvious reasons, this is an interest that would be much harder to follow with one-to-one tuition.

Many private schools specialise in certain areas, like music, performing arts or sport, so it’s worth looking for a school that will help your child to develop and excel in an area that interests them.

Costs of private schools

The costs involved in sending your child to private school can vary hugely across the UK, and for many parents school fees can be a significant – and intimidating – investment.

Many private schools have a selection process that tests out the academic abilities of children applying to join their school, so if your child is interested in their local private school, you may wish to give them the best chance of getting a place by investing in entrance exam tutoring.

And those schools that specialising in a certain area, like sports, music, or performing arts? If you’re not lucky enough to have one in your area, it could mean your child has no choice but to travel a long way to board at a school, which might not be your ideal situation.

Weighing up the educational options

A couple sitting at a table full of papers

Although many parents feel hesitation before they invest in a private school, most don’t look at the picture in the round. School fees may look high, but parents don’t often think to compare the school fees with the costs of extra private tutoring – once you do the numbers, you might be surprised at what you find.

And it’s worth remembering that private school and private tutorship don’t have to be mutually exclusive: many private schools provide clubs by external facilitators. And if your child is at a day school, there’s no reason they can’t still pursue their dreams or get that academic edge with a bit of extra tuition on the side once the school day has finished.

Before you decide on the best choice for your child, it’s worth investigating the implications of school fees on your family and on your plans for the future. Make a thorough financial plan for funding private school fees to find out whether a private education is a viable option for your child. Or talk to us and we’ll help you understand how you could fund independent schooling without giving up on your own financial goals.