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Private tuition in England

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Researchers: Emily Tanner
Published: February 2009


In 2009 the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) commissioned  NatCen and the Institute of Education (IoE) to investigate private tuition provision for students at Key Stages 1-4 in England. The resulting research provided a national profile of private tuition providers for students aged 5-16 in England, with evidence about the quality of the market, and the availability and costs of providing tutors.


The average cost of private tuition for students aged 5-16 in England was £24 per hour. Prices were highest in London and the South East, and higher hourly rates tended to reflect the qualification level of tutors employed by agencies.

The majority of private tuition agencies operated regionally (86 per cent), and most of these were based in London (32 per cent) and the South East (25 per cent), and in cities such as Manchester and Birmingham.

There was considerable variation in the size of the agencies surveyed, however most were small, with 41 per cent having 10 of fewer tutors during the previous academic year (2008). 

Around 4 in 10 agencies reported that their tutors were qualified teachers. Security checks were a high priority, with 79 per cent of agencies saying that their tutors had Criminal Records Bureau checks. And most agencies appointed staff based on references (75 per cent) and interviews (73 per cent).

There was a preference for one-to-one tuition with most sessions taking place the home of the student (68 per cent). Hour long sessions were most common with students at Key Stages 2 and 4 indicating preparation for school entrance or GCSEs.

The tutors themselves felt that they achieved the best results when working in a one-to-one capacity with a student. Other factors contributing to a successful outcome were sufficient time; the tuition environment; the qualities of the tutor; student commitment and engagement; and parent support.


We used desk research to conduct a ‘mapping exercise’ to provide an overview of provision of private tuition in England. This involved building two databases to profile the market of national private tuition agencies, and a sample of individual tutors working in three local areas (Great Yarmouth, Edgbaston and Marlow). A telephone survey was then conducted with 300 of the 504 national database entries to add depth to the database analysis.

Structured interviews were carried out with 130 agencies to ascertain how the agencies and tutorials worked in more detail. Seventeen in-depth interviews were also conducted with individual tutors to explore how tutors worked and taught to get a sense of the diversity of experience. 

Read the report