21/04/2008 - 30/01/2009

in collaboration with:

Emily Tanner
Naomi Day
Rosalind Tennant
Ola Turczuk
of the National Centre for Social Research

Private tuition in England

Private tuition has a long-established role in learning for many pupils in England. Previous estimates suggest that between one in four and one in six pupils in England receive private tuition at some point in their school career. However, since private tuition has not been a key focus of policy, there has been little research into the extent of private tuition.

The Making Good Progress pilots, a new government initiative to improve the focus on pupils' rate of progress through education, has identified a role for private tutors in delivering additional tuition to pupils making slow progress in English and mathematics.

The purpose of this research was to investigate the market of private tuition providers in England. 
The primary aims of the study were to:
1. Profile the market of providers of private tuition in numeracy/mathematics and English/literacy for pupils in Key Stages 2, 3 and 4.
2. Provide more detailed information about the nature of private tuition transactions between providers and clients.

The research was designed to take into account the 'hidden' nature of much of the private tuition market. While most private tuition agencies have a 'web-presence', many private tutors do not advertise their services and find clients through word of mouth.

The mapping task of profiling private tuition providers involved the creation of two databases: (1) a national database of private tuition agencies and (2) a database of individual private tutors operating in three example areas. The national database was built from information available on the internet and the local areas database of tutors was constructed by researching directories, visiting sites where tutors commonly advertise and more detailed internet searches in each area.

The database was used as a basis for drawing a sample of private tuition agencies for a survey with the agency managers. 130 agencies took part in the study. Interviews were completed with 17 individual tutors from 2 local areas to obtain more detailed information about private tuition transactions.


  • Five types of agency were identified from websites, including traditional agencies, notice boards, informal professional networks and educational centres
  • Agencies varied in size, the largest claiming to have several thousand tutors on its books, while the majority had 10 or fewer active tutors
  • More agencies were found in the South of England than in the North
  • Tuition was offered at all levels, but there was a peak at Key Stage 2, reflecting the involvement of private tuition in preparation for school entrance exams
  • One-to-one tuition was more common than paired or group tuition. Fees varied between and within areas of the country, with costs tending to be highest in London and the South East
  • Tutors perceived several factors to underpin successful outcomes: sufficient time to work with the pupil, the tuition environment, individualised tuition, tutor qualities, pupil commitment and engagement and parental support.