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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

UK private tuition numbers greatly exaggerated, new study reveals

The number of children receiving private tuition is a fraction of the figure reported in the media, according to new research from The Tutor Pages

It is commonly reported that around 1 in 4 children (25%) in the UK are receiving private tuition [1]. However, new research based on a YouGov poll, now puts that figure at around 1 in 8 (under 15%).

The reason for the error is a confusion between the number of pupils who have ever had tuition, and the number who are currently receiving tuition. Media stories have consistently misreported the former figure, rarely mentioning that it relates to the lifetime of the student [2].

However, the calculation by The Tutor Pages is based on a poll commissioned by EdPlace which quizzed parents about their use of private tutors over the past year [3]. It reveals that over the last year around 8% children had a traditional ‘at-home’ tutor, 6% attended a private tuition centre, and 1% were working with an online tutor.

‘The figures are a useful corrective, helping to cool the hysteria in some sections of the media over private tuition,’ remarked Henry Fagg, Director of The Tutor Pages, an online hub for private tuition in the UK. ‘They also reveal a growing interest in tuition centres and online tuition’.

‘Private tuition can be a very sensible option for parents to choose, and for a wide variety of reasons. Despite this, sections of the media often focus on inflated private tuition numbers, stories about ‘super-tutors’ charging the earth, panic over 11+ tutoring (despite only 5% pupils attending grammar schools), or headteachers decrying the use of private tuition when it is often their own pupils who are seeing the benefits’.

‘The popularity of private tuition in the UK needs to be seen as part of a worldwide trend,’ Mr Fagg continued. ‘The effectiveness of private tuition is corroborated by research, and it is used by families right across the social spectrum. Private tuition reflects values of personal choice and flexibility in education, and its take-up has certainly been accelerated by the digital age’.




[1] ‘Quarter of pupils have private tutors’ (;

‘One in four parents pay tutors to coach their children’ (;

‘Almost one in two children in London have a home tutor, figures reveal’ (;

‘Are private tutors for children just the latest educational ‘arms race’?’ (

[2] The figure of around 1 in 4 children having received private tuition over their educational careers is provided by The Sutton Trust (

[3] Summary: Approx 15% of 5-18 year olds in the UK received private tuition in 2014. This has been calculated from 1.6m students out of a maximum possible 10.4m.


Calculations rationale:

According to ONS 2014 data there are 7.9m families in the UK with dependent children [i], this includes married, civil partnership, cohabiting and lone parent families.

0-4 year olds are not in full time education and can be taken out, leaving 15/19ths of 7.9m = 6.25m families with dependent 5-18 year olds who are eligible for private tuition. This is assuming the distribution is even across the ages and 16-18 year olds are in full time education, as 16-18 year olds not in full time education are not considered dependent.

15% parents seeking private tuition can be interpreted as 15% families with dependent 5-18 year olds seeking private tuition, it can be mother or father who were surveyed by EdPlace, but irrespective of that, it is the family unit that employed a tutor. 15% x 6.25m = 0.937m. This means 0.937m families had private tuition in 2014. The ONS states that in 2012 there were 1.7 children per family [ii]. This means that 1.7 x 0.937m = 1.6m children received private tuition in 2014. This is assuming that a parent gets tuition for all their children in that same year.

There were 10.4m 4-17 year olds in the UK in mid 2013 [iii], a year later they turned into 5-18 year olds. It can be assumed that all these children were in full time education and therefore eligible for private tuition.

Finally, 1.6m children out of a total of 10.4m total children received private tuition. This is approximately 15%.

Distribution of type of tuition:

According to survey data released by EdPlace in October 2015 (from a study carried out by YouGov), the distribution of the different types of tuition taken over the last year is as follows [iv]:

51% parents used a traditional “at-home” private tutor

37% of parents used Tuition centres

9% used an online tutor

Distributing the 1.6m children who received any tutoring at all in the last year, the number and percentage of children receiving each particular type of tuition is:

7.8% (0.81m) used a traditional “at-home” private tutor

5.7% (0.59m) used Tuition centres

1.4% (0.14m) used an online tutor


[i] (Tab 1 cell BD32)




Calculations provided by Dr Atul Rana

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