Headlines: April 8th, 2005

Parents who opt to pay for additional tuition to help their children pass GCSE examinations may be wasting their money, according to new research from the Institute of Education. The study published today shows that where tuition does have an impact on results, boys benefit more than girls.The study by Judith Ireson and Katie Rushforth shows that students who have private tuition in mathematics during the two years before GCSEs achieve on average just under half a grade higher – gaining, for example, a C grade rather than a D – than students who do not have tutors. While some students improve by more than half a grade, others see no improvement at all.

The researchers surveyed more than 300 students who had taken GCSEs in 2003. Forty-eight of them had been given private tuition in maths during years 10 and 11, with boys and girls having similar amounts. Boys increased their maths scores by almost three-quarters of a grade but the tuition had little effect on girls’ performance. Only 20 students had private tuition in English and there was very little impact on their grades.

A further survey of more than 3,500 primary, secondary and further education college students found university-educated parents in managerial and professional occupations were more likely to employ tutors than those in less skilled jobs with vocational qualifications or only school education.

Families from the ethnic minority communities are also more likely to employ tutors than white families. Figures showed almost half the Indian students and one in three Chinese and African students had had tutors at some point, compared with a quarter of white European students and one in five from Bangladeshi families.

The study was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and took place in 30 primary schools and 34 secondary schools and colleges, questioning students in years 6, 11 and 13. The Institute of Education, a college of the University of London, specialises in teaching, research and consultancy in education and related areas.