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The Independent Online
Q. I want to do an A-level and could take it either at a further education college or the sixth form of a local comprehensive. Which would he better? I am in my thirties.

Laura

A. Almost certainly the further education college. It will be geared to the needs of adults in the way a school sixth form cannot hope to be. Teaching obviously varies from institution to institution but you can have very high quality A-level teaching in further education colleges, just as good as you would get in the most academic of sixth forms.

The problem, from an adult's point of view, with doing A-levels in a school is that you would almost certainly end up having to go in most days to do relatively short lessons.

In a further education college you would probably go in twice a week for substantial sessions on a course aimed at mature students. You should be able to take your exam within a year. In a school, your course would probably last two years.

In a school you may be the only adult student - perhaps an object of curiosity. You may feel awkward - and so might the other students on your course, and the teacher.

Even though further education colleges generally swarm with young people, there are usually substantial groups of mature young people, students who can support one another. Some colleges even have separate social facilities for mature students. A school will not.

Q. Our 11-year-old daughter lacks confidence in maths although she is average in it for her age. Do you recommend personal tuition and, if so, where would we find a good tutor?

Dave and Jenny, Lowestoft

A. Personal tuition can help some individuals enormously, particularly in a subject like maths, when there is time to take someone back to basics, identify the gaps in knowledge and understanding, and plug them.

But you do have to be very careful how you introduce the idea of a tutor. Some children's confidence may be dealt a further blow at the mere suggestion because they feel it confirms their lack of competence.

You need to help them to understand that your actions are a vote of confidence in their ability to come to better grips with the subject once they are given a bit of extra attention.

Before you do anything, I do strongly urge you to discuss this with the child's subject teacher. It may be be that he or she can offer extra support in the classroom or extra work to do at home, which may solve the problem.

In any event, if you decide to employ a tutor, he or she will benefit from a report on your child's maths progress from her usual teacher.

To locate a qualified tutor in your area, contact the Incorporated Association of Tutors on 01604 24171. A helpline operates between 2pm and 4pm on that number on week days.

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