The plain fact that more parents are turning to private tutors to top up their children’s education is not in itself a cause for alarm. In part, it is down to the increasingly high stakes attached to qualifications today and the response of pushy (and even not so pushy) parents to this.
There is one worrying factor, though. Education experts believe that one of the reasons for this is the Government’s accountability regime – specifically the exam league tables. Schools focus too much on ensuring borderline C/D grade candidates at GCSE make that stride towards getting a C grade.
As a result, parents who believe their children are capable of getting something higher – an A* or an A – believe their children are being overlooked and not stretched enough as resources are concentrated lower down the chain. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove, is aware of the damage that the current accountability regime is causing and an urgent review of the measures upon which schools are ranked is under way.
Today’s news from the Sutton Trust means the results of that review cannot be implemented too soon and that one measure currently being considered by ministers – that there should still be an emphasis on the percentage obtaining A* to C grades in maths and English – should be jettisoned because it, too, will focus minds on the borderline C/D grades.
Far better to implement the plan outlined by a think-tank last month whereby the Government’s suggestion that schools be ranked on a points score system based on pupils’ eight best subjects – but with a higher weighting for English and maths – is adopted.
But a word of warning to parents: be careful with extra tuition. Too much cramming can have the opposite to the desired effect and put children off learning.