Why a tutor isn’t necessarily the answer to your child’s study and revision problems

For many parents, when their children are struggling at school the immediate solution that springs to mind is to hire a private tutor.

But, what if a tutor isn't the solution to your child's study and revision problems?

In this article we'll discuss:

  • The typical problems GCSE and A-Level students experience (and why)
  • How to tell whether a tutor is the right solution for your child
  • What your child might benefit more from instead

Let's go!

The typical problems GCSE and A-Level students experience (and why)

These are the most common problems that I see amongst GCSE and A-Level students:

Feeling overwhelmed by the amount of work they need to do and the quantity of content they need to cover

From 2015, new-style GCSE specifications were introduced (first examined in 2017). These new specifications were a lot more content heavy than the previous GCSEs, and there is also a greater emphasis on students taking more academic, rather than practical and creative subjects, because of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

This, along with not knowing how to revise effectively and difficulty with managing time and attention has led to many, many students struggling with overwhelm. Students are so stressed by the amount of content they have to cover, and so ill-equipped to do it because of their lack of skills that they are easily overwhelmed which has knock-on effects for their mental health.

Not knowing how to revise effectively

Most schools don't teach students how to revise effectively.

This is a problem that has existed since I was at school in the 1990s, and probably before (if you're a parent, think back to your own education. Did anyone teach you to revise?)

Some schools do make some attempts to teach their students revision and study skills, but it's not very systematic and its certainly not in depth. Schools are often far too busy teaching the content of the curriculum to teach revision skills. I've also had teachers in senior positions admit to me that they themselves don't really know how to revise. How shocking is that?

Struggling to understand specific topics and subjects

It's normal to have strengths and weaknesses. When I was at school the subjects I struggled with were maths, physics and French. Within physics, I found electricity and magnetism particularly difficult or anything that involved algebra. It just wasn't my thing, no matter how hard I tried to understand it (and I spent hours on it…).

For other students, subjects that involve a lot of writing are really difficult.

Very few people are naturally good at every subject and topic. We all have to dig deep and work harder on some things than on others. It's normal.

Lacking in motivation

Some students really struggle to connect with their ‘why' for engaging with their studies. This might be because their experience of learning in school hasn't been happy, it might be because they find it difficult to envision their future or because they can't see the relevance of what they're studying. Some students also find other aspects of teenage life far more engaging than their studies.

The reasons for lacking in motivation are many and varied.

Difficulty managing their attention and time

Planning and time management is one of the things that teenagers struggle with most. It's partly a developmental thing; executive functioning isn't a natural skill for a teenage brain. However, it's also down to a lack of experience.

Until the GCSE and A-Level years many students have had an abundance of time and they've been able to get whatever homework and revision they've been set done is a more laid-back way. However, if you want to succeed at GCSE and A-Level there is a huge amount more work to do. Students struggle with this, as well as planning out how to fit it in and get it done.

On top of this, are the distractions of modern life. It's always been possible to get distracted, and yes, I often found my attention wandering when I was revising. However, electronic notifications, social media and gaming have all made the lure of other things more invasive to teenager's lives. These things are designed to suck them in and grab their attention and it's no wonder that their malleable, curious, socially engaged brains are easily drawn away from the things they ‘should' be doing.

How to tell whether a tutor is the right solution for your child

One, possibly two, of the typical problems I've listed above can be solved my a tutor. These are:

  • Struggling to understand specific topics and subjects
  • Lacking in motivation

Struggling to understand specific topics and subjects

This is where tutors come into their own. Tutors are all about one-on-one attention from someone with expert subject knowledge to help a student develop their knowledge, understanding and possibly exam technique in that particular subject.

If there are one or two topics or subjects where you child is struggling, and you can afford it, a subject tutor is a good solution.

Lacking in motivation

If your child is struggling to engage with particular subjects and they need an enthusiastic and knowledgeable person to help them engage with that subject, then a tutor may also be a good solution.

However, this might not be the answer if a young person is de-motivated for other reasons such as not being able to envision their future and what they're working towards.

What tutors don't do

Most tutors won't teach your child how to study on their own when they're not with the tutor. When I was a geography tutor, I found it really frustrating how little responsibility tutees were willing to take for themselves. Many tutees end up leaning on their tutors as an academic crutch and I really don't believe this is helpful for the student's long-term success and resilience, or necessarily fair on other exam candidates.

What your child might benefit more from instead

So, if a subject tutor is only a solution to one and a bit of the typical problems GCSE and A-Level students face, what is the alternative?

If you're looking to help you child cope with:

  • Revision overwhelm
  • Not knowing how to revise effectively
  • Upping their motivation
  • Managing their time and attention

And, they're struggling across the board, not just with one or two subjects or topics and you'd like them to develop real skills that will serve them in their exams, and in life beyond their education…

… then academic coaching provides a better solution.

Academic coaching teaches students the study skills, habits and mindset to reach their full potential. It teaches them:

  • Effective revision skills that work, across all subjects, not just one or two
  • Time planning techniques so they're equipped to manage their time more wisely and achieve balance in their lives
  • How to structure their environment, and manage their minds, so that distractions are less of a problem
  • Motivation strategies that drive them from within and reward them from without
  • How to manage exams themselves in a calm and healthy way
  • And, so much more!

We can help your child with all of the above inside The Extraordinaries Club, or with 1:1 coaching.

As one mum, whose daughter was in The Extraordinaries Club in year 11 said:

“The club is great value for money – far less than a tutor who would only cover one subject and not provide the revision hints and tips, individual subject best practice and the motivation needed to push through the final year. I feel that despite everything thrown at us in year 11 (pandemic, home schooling, missed topics for many subjects) that we survived the year relatively unscathed and with the work put in using the resources in The Extraordinaries Club we managed to get my daughter through with a good set of grades enabling her to take her chosen A-level subjects.”

What's the solution to your child's study and revision problems?

After reading this, do you think your child would be better off with a subject tutor to help with one or two subjects or topics, or to learn how to study and revise properly through academic coaching in The Extraordinaries Club?

Let me know your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

P.S. If you'd like more help supporting your child to reach their true academic potential you get my free download, 7 Top Tips to Reach Your Full Academic Potential here.


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