What makes a good tutor?

British Tutors' Director, Yolanda Miller, shares what she looks for when recruiting the finest tutors.

1. What are some of the criteria for tutors employed at British Tutors?

Our staff are at the core of our business and, at British Tutors, we work hard both to recruit the best possible staff and to keep them working with us long term. Our native English-speaking tutors are all dynamic and highly intelligent. They are experienced teachers who were themselves educated at top British schools and universities. They cover a range of subjects from histoy to science, Latin to critical thinking, through holistic teaching styles. We also offer a unique focus on English literature and language to promote high standards of English language competency. At a young age this encompasses learning to read with phonics, reading comprehension and creative writing. For older students and adults this includes practical criticism, the study of Shakespeare, grammar, structure and writing styles.

We are highly selective about the tutors we employ and each of our tutors goes through a rigorous application process.

2. What qualities do you look for that sets apart a tutor as exceptional?

The best tutors are able to turn a subject which a student might be reluctant to study into something fun and approachable. Exceptional tutors understand that one size doesn’t fit all. What really stands out for us is when tutors possess the following attributes:

- Communication: Tutors must be able to explain concepts and theories to a variety of ages and to students with a wide range of learning styles. They need to be able to engage their students in conversation, provoke them to participate in the discussion and encourage them to interact with the lesson material. They must also be able to communicate with parents, teachers and others to make sure that they are meeting the student's needs.

- Organisation: Tutors are in charge of planning their own lessons. They must also be able to efficiently manage a schedule that involves multiple clients. They will need to keep accurate records to provide the appropriate lessons for each student and to keep track of progress.

- Listening: Tutors must be able to listen carefully to each student to understand their needs. They must also be willing to listen to teachers and family members and to implement their suggestions so that they can formulate the best possible teaching plan for specific students.

- Creativity: Tutors need to be able to keep their students engaged for lengthy periods. They will need to use innovative and creative thinking to present lesson material in a way that is interesting and memorable. Some students seek out a tutor precisely because they find it difficult to learn in a classroom. Therefore, tutors may need to use unorthodox techniques to help students learn the material.

- Patience: Patience is a crucial skill for a tutor. A good tutor can take their time and put in whatever effort is necessary to help their students learn and understand. Tutors know that not every student can learn at the same pace and allowing a student to learn in their own time could be exactly what they need to succeed.

- Adaptability: Effective tutors adjust their materials and methods to suit the specific needs of each student. Tutors who are willing to compromise and work according to the student's needs have a greater chance of positively impacting their learning.

3. Do you employ specialists or generalists?

We pride ourselves in hiring specialist tutors who will focus either on a specific age range or subject. We often meet applicants who expect to be able to teach from 2 year olds all the way to adults but this is not usually the best approach. It is important for us that we are matching the right tutor to the student’s learning style, so ensuring our tutors are working to the best of what they can do allows this.

4. How do you and your tutors work together as a team?

Quite often a team of tutors will work with a family or a particular child. It is really important that our tutors are communicating effectively to the client but also between each other to ensure continuity in approaches and styles. This is particularly the case when we offer homeschooling or residential tutors as each tutor will manage the curriculum for their subject. Keeping in touch with the rest of the team allows tutors to track the students' progress.

5. What ongoing training do tutors receive?

We train each new tutor and guide them through the lesson planning process. Over the many years that we have been operational, we have carefully collated a library of resources, both online and book-based. These are broad-ranging, from poetry compilations to Shakespeare editions for children, alongside the best subject textbooks and curricula from around the world. British Tutors also has its own syllabuses, designed and refined over many years of teaching experience. We maintain and update our library and resources on a regular basis and all staff are welcome to use this library and borrow books as they need.

Our training programme is ongoing, we have regular sessions with tutors to ensure that they are happy with their students, knowledgeable about materials and syllabi, and updated with changes in the educational landscape, both domestically and internationally. Tutors come into the office regularly to borrow books, discuss their tutees, and seek guidance with any issues or lesson planning. We also hold regular meet-ups for tutors, which range from social coffee mornings to group training sessions for specific teaching areas e.g. phonics learning or UK school entrance. We work hard to build a community amongst our staff so that experiences, knowledge and expertise can be shared to the benefit of all and support networks can be built.

Longevity of employment is important to us and has huge value for our students in providing ongoing, stable academic support. To this end, we incentivise tutors to work with us for consistently high hours over a long period of time. After a year of working with British Tutors, our tutors are eligible to be promoted to Senior Tutor, commanding a higher hourly rate.

When each tutor leaves the employ of British Tutors, we hold thorough exit interviews. We aim to continually learn from our tutors how best to manage them and create a positive workplace environment. The office team discuss in detail each exit interview and regularly make changes to the way we work based on feedback from our staff.


Yolanda Miller

Yolanda Miller is a Director of British Tutors and heads uptutor recruitment. Working as a private tutor herself since 2007, she has many years of experience enabling her to choose and lead a top team.