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London parents are all about tutoring - some are open about their child's extra after-school tuition, others keep their tutor's name and number a closely guarded secret. There are many reasons to start tutoring a child, whether it's to prepare them for entry to a new school, train them for a specific exam or to accelerate a gifted child's learning. Here's what you need to know about tutoring in London - and how to do it in the most mindful and supportive way.


Tutoring: expert tips

As any parent who has tried to do homework with an eight-year-old can attest, there are many useful reasons for hiring an outside person to help a child prepare for exams or brush up on a subject – salvaging the parent-child relationship comes to mind as a front-runner.

'Some families seek tutoring because their child is struggling to keep up with their peers at school which can really dent their confidence and interest in learning. We also have a lot of families who get tutoring because of exams,' says Charlotte Hyde of Hyde Tutoring.

There is no right or wrong age to have a tutor – you'll know it's the right time to start tutoring a child when they have the ability to focus, although tutoring younger kids is a gentler process than many may realise.

'A lot of our tutors who work with the youngest children may be working on initial skills such as phonics and basic numeracy skills. Much of this tutoring can be taught through play, so tutoring doesn't have to be a rigid process where a child is sitting at a desk. All our lessons are tailored to the individual child's needs, level and learning style,' Hyde explains.

'Schools, universities and the world of work is becoming ever more competitive, so families want to ensure their child is able to achieve their full potential, to offer them the best chances and opportunities in life,' she says.


Tuition centres: Kumon, Mathnasium, Explore Learning and the like

Parents who want their kids to have a little extra tuition, without committing to 1:1 tutoring (and its costs, which will typically set you back from £40 an hour with materials) have a bevy of tuition centres across London to choose from.

Kumon, the Japanese method of teaching maths (and English) to youngsters), involves endless repetition of sums with daily worksheets and lots of tears (in our experience), yet it yields results: 'Kumon kids' regularly end up in the top maths sets. Interestingly, UK schools are now adopting an Asian-based 'maths mastery' approach to maths teaching, to narrow the gap in maths between English and Asian kids.

Newer, more creative methods to teach maths to kids are cropping up all over London, like Mathnasium, which creates customised learning plans for kids, online learning centre Thinkster and Explore Learning, which helps to prep kids for exams and even offers specialist courses in subjects like Creative Writing.


Read, read, read

Educators say, over and over again, that reading is the most important thing you can do with your children, day in, day out – and there are countless studies showing the benefits of reading, touching on everything from how books can help to unleash a child's creativity to improving their mental health.

'Reading is essential for all ages, it really helps with imagination, comprehension skills, phonics skills (at a young age), vocabulary, this list goes on! Most libraries participate in a summer reading challenge for children too.' says Hyde. Get involved in World Book Day.


Get kids writing

Reading will also help with that other rather important life skill: writing. Creative writing isn't just a great way for kids to let their imaginations soar, but frequent writing will help kids improve all of the less-enjoyable aspects of writing work (punctuation, grammar, penmanship, etc.).

Hoxton residents and kids attending state schools in Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets have access to Nick Hornby's Ministry of Stories' writing and mentoring schemes; anyone can access the brilliant free resources on their website to download and work from.

There are some creative writing clubs available in London: check out All Write Now in Balham (Michael Morpugo is the ambassador), Chelsea Young Writers and Little Star Writing.

And invest in a Descriptosaurus, which will help children gain a range of new vocabulary across various themes.


Mindfulness for kids

Teaching your kids mindfulness techniques – especially as they get older and are faced with increasing academic pressures, is critical. Everything from yoga to mindful breathing to journaling can help. Also, check out Place2Be, which supports children in schools by bringing mental health to the forefront and providing safe spaces for primary and secondary-age children to discuss any issues or anxieties they may have.

'Tutoring should never be stressful. The children we teach enjoy the process as it makes school easier and it ensures they feel prepared for their exams. It is important to ensure the tutor and the child have a good rapport and that you, as a parent, and the tutor are on the same page about the purpose of the tutoring, so you really make the most out of the lessons,' Hyde says.


Useful learning aids for younger children

Keen to improve your little one's vocabulary? Mrs. Wordsmith has a charmingly illustrated range of tools, like Word a Day flip-page books for pre-school and school-age children and a bestselling illustrated dictionary that curates words by theme (it doesn't hurt that the animator behind Madagascar and Hotel Transylvania provides the illustrations).

Looking for a toy that can inspire learning? Hyde recommends Rory's Story Cubes, which can be played by the whole family and will encourage kids to think creatively.


Digital learning aids to know about

Online learning aids can also be useful when it comes to reinforcing academic concepts or prepping for exams.

Hyde recommends Doodle Maths and Doodle Tables, which will help children master their times tables.

For older kids doing GCSE prep, she recommends BBC Bitesize, which has resources for kids of all ages (including careers advice for older kids).


Written by Jen Barton Packer, originally posted on Culture Whisper