One to one tuition - is it worth it?

Posted by Bambi Gardiner on

Henry Fagg, founder of, a specialist directory and resource website for private tuition, takes a look at the benefits of one to one tuition.

One-to-one learning has traditionally been called private tuition, although its uptake in state schools as a remedial measure has meant that it is sometimes called just one-to-one, or personal, tuition. This short article takes a look at why parents and institutions are keener than ever to employ one-to-one tutors. What is so special about this form of learning?

The Root of Education

Every individual has innate abilities which can be tapped into, summed up in the origin of the word ‘education’ which means ‘to draw forth’. This is why a skilled educator in the one-to-one context is in a unique position. He or she can find out what a student knows already, and then teach accordingly. It is, in a way, a kind of practical empathy. This is simply not possible in a classroom situation where learners will always be at slightly different stages in their learning.

Recent research from online one-to-one learning would seem to back this up. Successful tutors will leave sufficient time for the student to respond and pose their own questions. This to-and-fro exchange builds up a fine-grained understanding on the part of the student. Compared to the classroom, the danger of missing crucial steps is therefore drastically reduced.

To give a specific example, a personal tutor has the time to give detailed feedback on a student’s written work. This could be an essay, or a long answer in a science test. A student’s individual choice of words, arguments or methods can be pored over and discussed at length, with suggestions made for improvement. This level of detail is simply impossible in class teaching, and is one of the benefits of the one-to-one method.

Increased confidence

When a one-to-one tutor gets it right, the results can be transformational because students suddenly become more engaged. Learning needs to be challenging enough not to be boring, but not too challenging to be disheartening. If a tutor can hit this sweet spot, the student’s self-confidence can skyrocket because the potential to improve will seem limitless.

Although possible in a classroom setting too, this virtuous circle can be harder to maintain in a larger group. At school, students can be self-conscious in their learning and susceptible to negative peer pressure. Yet in the safe space of a one-to-one lesson, a student can admit they don't understand without embarrassment, and express a genuine interest in learning without fear of ridicule from their peer group.

One-to-one tuition can hence create the perfect emotional and motivational context for learning. When a student’s self-confidence in learning flourishes, they can go on to achieve extraordinary things, with or without a mentor to guide them.

Flexible, convenient and bespoke

The pedagogical benefits of one-to-one learning are supported by research conducted by the Educational Endowment Foundation.

Yet much of the attraction of one-to-one learning for parents are its practical benefits. It is invaluable for those children who are, for whatever reason, not in mainstream education. And if a child has any special educational needs - ranging from dyslexia to high learning potential - a specialist tutor can be brought in. One-to-one learning also works well when the child’s school is not able to offer a particular subject.

The tutor is not bound by the same targets, curricula or methods imposed on classroom teachers. One-to-one tuition is therefore a nimble medium. If an approach is not working, the tutor can change it in an instant.

On another level, parents and students are significantly empowered in a private tuition context. They can choose exactly who they think would be the best tutor for them. They can terminate lessons if they are not going well, and they can decide exactly when and where the tuition will take place - a choice further expanded for them if they opt for online rather than face-face-to tuition.


One-to-one tuition can be an effective, efficient and enjoyable way to learn almost anything. It is therefore no surprise that it is increasingly popular on a global level.

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