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More Parents Are Getting Tutors For Their Kids, Is There Something Wrong With Our Schools?

New research has found that private tutoring is booming at a time when parents’ trust in school personnel and experts is "vulnerable".

The study analysed 160 parent testimonials and found that most spoke of using tutors to fix academic problems.

The authors said "well-known motivation and long-term motivations" include using tutors to get children into certain schools.

Problems with literacy are also seen as a well-known reason for enlisting private individualised help, however, some new trends emerged.

"Other families were using tutoring to address problems that might be more short-term but were of deep concern to the child and family," Associate Professor Karen Dooley from the Queensland University of Technology told 10 daily.

Tutoring Starting In Kindergarten

Mother-of-two Felicia Scundi told 10 daily the education provided at school is simply not enough to meet her primary school-aged children's needs.

Felicia Scundi and her two children. Image: supplied

"The research is not surprising - as some students in classrooms today are not getting individualised attention due to classes being crowded and a teacher cannot afford to spend one-on-one time with students who are perhaps struggling," she said.

Scundi's daughter started tutoring in kindergarten because she was one of the youngest in her class, and she didn't want her daughter falling behind in English and math.

"Also, some primary schools today have a no homework policy – all they ask is to read a little each night - which concerns me a little that kids are not getting prepared for the volume of work needed for their higher schooling years."

Felicia Scundi's daughter. Image: supplied
Are Schools Not Doing A Good Enough Job?

According to a  recent report released by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY), only 82 percent of year 10 students reached the international baseline level for reading in 2015. This was a drop of four percent when compared to figures in 2006.

"Our research isn’t looking at whether schools are doing a ‘good enough’ job. Indeed, the very definition of a ‘good enough job’ is open for discussion in this complex educational environment," Dooley said.

Tutoring business owner Cinzia Favotti, told 10 daily in her experience the biggest demand for tutors comes from private and Catholic schools.

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"I think there are a lot of gaps in learning. There have been so many changes to the syllabus, sometimes in class they only have time, in English for example, to read the text and analyse themes and quotes but then students sit with me and say 'I have no idea what a thesis is or how to write an essay,'" she said.

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Her business, Tutoring4All, in Sydney's inner-west employs 10 tutors and they see about 60 students each week."Teachers are often really thinly-spread. One of my students has an English teacher who is also the deputy principal, so essays sometimes don't get marked for weeks," she said.

Favotti also believes parents are increasingly stretched for time.

"Parents are encouraged to sit with their kids and do readers with them and review homework and some kids we see are because parents don't have time to do that and just want someone to sit with their child and supervise them," she said.

Image: Getty Images
The Cost Of Tutoring Is Not Accessible To all

Favotti said many parents of private school kids assume "to stay in the game their child needs a tutor".

Her team of tutors charge from $50-$70 per hour, although servicing the same Sydney region charge as much as $100 an hour and request a two-hour minimum engagement per week.

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"Tutoring does not come cheap so you do have to be in a financial position to be able to afford it ... but for most it’s a choice that we make when it comes to investing in their children's education and future," Scundi said.

Dooley said this is an issue for broader community discussion and that a child’s literacy levels shouldn’t be dependent on their parents’ income.

"The question about what happens to children whose parents would like to enlist a tutor but are unable to afford it is one we are concerned about. We want this issue to be front and centre."

Contact the author alattouf@networkten.com.au