International surveys indicate that the prevalence of private tutoring in England is relatively low but as few national surveys have been undertaken, there is little detailed evidence available. The aim of this research is to provide a systematic description of the nature and extent of private tutoring at three points of transition in the English education system and to explore students’ views of the reasons for its use. Over 3000 students completed a questionnaire survey providing information on the extent of private tutoring in school curriculum subjects,reasons for the employment of tutors and demographic information. Over 1100 parents supplied information on their motivation for employing tutors. At the time of the survey, 7.6% of year 6 pupils were in receipt of tutoring in mathematics, 8.1% English and 3.2% science. Comparable figures for year 11 pupils were 7.9% mathematics, 2.6% English and 2.8% science. Overall, 27% of students reported that they had received tutoring at some stage during their school career and there were clear associations with family socio-economic status and cultural background. Parents employed tutors to increase their child’s confidence, improve their understanding of the subject and to help them do well in tests and examinations. Most primary age children indicated that tutors were not needed as their teachers and families provided sufficient educational support. Some families appear to be making strategic use of tutors to help their children make successful transitions in the education system
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