Demand for private tutors in Bristol to help school pupils with English, maths and science has jumped by more than 25% since September, according to a city-based firm.
The head of website beanbaglearning.com told Bristol24-7 the number of tutors signing up to his service nationally had risen from 700 to 1,200 in the last two months.
In Bristol, the number had risen from 66 to 91 in the same period – and that the law of supply and demand was at work, with parents desperate for their children to make the grade.
“We were ticking along with 700 tutors on our books this summer,” Jon Ellis told Bristol24-7. “But the website has literally gone mad since September. We have had over 500 new tutors sign up and seen our website traffic increase by over 175%.
“Parents are looking for tutors and new tutors are entering the market – the law of supply and demand at work.”
Mr Ellis – a Bristolian who was a chartered accountant, but decided to set up the website with a colleague to improve the accessibility of tutoring – said demand was not confined to wealthier, middle-class parents.
“We have had single mums, working part-time, contact us wanting help for their children. We believe it is down to the expectations placed on children from the government and schools, parents feeling that their kids cannot be left behind, and that they need to do everything they can to get their children into the ‘right’ schools – particularly at 11+.
“The sad thing is that parents don’t like to talk about their children getting extra help because it is seen as an admission of failure.”
Despite the perceived social stigma of employing private tutors, the practice is rife across the UK. A poll commissioned by the Sutton Trust in the summer found that 22% of children from state schools were receiving extra help from private tutors – up from 18% in a similar poll in 2005.
The Trust said the growth in private tutors widened the gap between what the poorest and richest children might achieve at school. Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the charity, described it as “staggering”.
In a report in The Guardian, Mylene Curtis, managing director of Fleet Tutors, a national tutoring company, said there had been 30% year-on-year growth in parents hiring tutors over the last five years.
And according to Roderick MacKinnon, headmaster of Bristol Grammar School, the rise in private tutoring is down to parents demanding academic success – a demand which much of the state sector is not meeting.
“The rise shows the value parents subscribe on traditional academic teaching,” he told Bristol24-7. “Parents are investing money and this underlines how much store parents put in academic excellence and success.
“I think it’s an emphasis that parents place on success that perhaps the education system nationally doesn’t. If parents are wanting to pay extra, isn’t that a bit of an indictment of some of the state sector?
“Maybe educationalists aren’t listening to what parents want, and are telling them what they should have instead.”