New Sutton Trust report values private tuition market at up to £2bn


More than four in ten (43%) state school teachers have been paid to tutor outside of their main teaching role at some point during their careers, according to new research from the Sutton Trust. The polling of a nationally representative sample of 1,607 teachers, conducted by the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) through the Teacher Voice Omnibus survey, is published today in Shadow Schooling, a new report that provides the most comprehensive analysis to date of the private tuition market in the UK. It finds that teachers in the North East are the most likely to have undertaken paid tutoring, while those in the North West / Merseyside are the least (49% vs 34%).

The report by Sutton Trust research fellow Dr Philip Kirby values the British private tuition market at up to £2bn a year. Annual polling of young people by Ipsos MORI for the Sutton Trust has found that it has grown over time. The proportion of pupils receiving private tuition has risen by over a third in the past decade, from 18% in 2005 to 25% in 2016. In the last year alone, one tenth of all state-educated 11 – 16 year olds in England and Wales, about 280,000 students, were tutored. One quarter said they had received private tuition at some point in their schooling, a proportion that is as high as 42% in London.

However, students who receive private tuition disproportionately come from advantaged backgrounds. Independent school students are twice as likely to have received private tuition as state school students. Of those aged 11-16, 17% of pupils who are eligible for free school meals (FSM) have received private tuition at some point in their schooling, compared with 26% of students who do not receive FSM.

The most common reason young people gave for receiving private tuition was extra support with school work (47%). Over a third (38%) had a tutor to help them do well in a specific GCSE exam while nearly a fifth (18%) received tutoring for a grammar school entrance exam.

New analysis for the report of data from the private tuition agency Tutorfair shows that the most popular subjects tutored are, in order: maths, English, chemistry, physics, biology, Spanish and French. These are followed by specialist tuition in passing 11+ admissions tests, advanced maths and piano lessons.

With the typical cost of private tutoring about £24 per hour excluding commission, £27 per hour in London, the Sutton Trust is concerned that the growing private tuition market is further exacerbating educational inequalities.

To level the playing field, the Trust is recommending that the government introduce a means-tested voucher scheme to enable lower income families to access additional educational support. The system should be simple, providing quick remuneration to tutors and/ or tuition agencies who participate. These tutors should be experienced and well-qualified (not all tutors have specific teaching qualifications) – evidence from the Education Endowment Foundation suggests that good teaching skills are crucial in improving the attainment of disadvantaged students, who often lag behind their advantaged peers.

The Trust is also recommending that more private tuition agencies provide a certain proportion of their tuition to disadvantaged pupils for free, as well as an expansion of non-profit and state tuition programmes that connect tutors with disadvantaged schools. Some agencies, such as Tutorfair. MyTutor and Tutor Trust, support less advantaged students with the fees they charge better off families.

Sir Peter Lampl, Chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:

“Private tuition is widespread and increasingly so. Nearly half of teachers have tutored and a quarter of teenagers have been tutored. But with costs of at least £25 per session many cannot afford to benefit from this extra support, which exacerbate education inequalities.

No one wants to limit parents doing their best for their children, but we need to ensure that extra tuition is as widely available as possible. Otherwise, it will continue to widen the attainment gap.”


1.       The Sutton Trust is a foundation set up in 1997, dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 170 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes that have helped hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to access to the professions.

2.       Data on most popular subjects and average cost of tuition has been sourced from the tutor agencies, Tutorfair and Tutor Hunt, respectively, with their kind permission.

3.       Tutorfair is a website that helps parents and students find the right tutor. Their platform allows you to search using your postcode, and find local tutors for over 1,000 different subjects at any level. To date, Tutorfair has built a community of over 38,000 tutors – and attract dedicated educators who are passionate about their charity mission: for every student who pays, Tutorfair gives free tutoring to a child who can’t. The Tutorfair Foundation partners with schools that have a high proportion of students eligible for free school meals, and provides extra in-class, small group and one-to-one tuition.

4.      Data for students refers to Ipsos MORI polling of 11-16 year olds in England and Wales (n=2,555); data for teachers to the NFER Teacher Omnibus Survey of state school teachers in England (n=1,607). The likelihood of private school students receiving tuition compared to state is drawn from the Sutton Trust’s previous report, Parent Power?

5.      The tuition market estimate uses data on the proportion of students receiving tuition, the amount of tuition they are receiving per year and its average cost. This was then extrapolated using national population statistics. Modelling using higher and lower-end estimates for each variable was undertaken, the results of which all satisfy the figure provided here.

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