As reported recently in the ITV and BBC news, there is a growing concern in the education industry about how unregulated tutoring/teaching is in the United Kingdom, both with tutoring agencies and online schools: “Concern over lack of regulation for private tutors” – ITV
In recent weeks, with the rise of private tuition accelerating during a third lockdown and school closure in the U.K., this hugely important issue regarding a lack of regulation in the sector has been raised again: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9173983/Private-tutors-charged-sex-offences-continuing-work-bail.html
Anybody can claim to be a tutor/teacher, without any checks at all. Clients need to do their research and use only reputable online schools or reputable tutoring agencies; they also need to make sure these online schools and tutoring agencies have clear policies and procedures around safer recruitment. Clients need to know that these online schools and tutoring agencies have undertaken professional background checks before they open their doors to tutors/teachers; shockingly statistics show that the majority of clients fail to do so.
This can no longer be allowed to continue. Sophia supports The Tutors’ Association in lobbying the government to making sure all self-employed tutors in this country have a police check (known as a DBS) before they can offer private lessons to children in the UK. It is also something that children’s charity the NSPCC has been campaigning for, as they call for a tightening of the law to ensure every individual giving private tuition undergoes a check, saying the same rules should apply for self-employed tutors as for classroom teachers.
Sophia also believes that all online schools (which are increasing in number around the country) also need some sort of regulations. This is why Sophia is fully behind the Government Online Accreditation Scheme. The development of this scheme is a defining moment for online education provision in England. It marks the first time that the sector will have the opportunity to receive accreditation from the Department of Education, and provide assurance to parents, pupils and local authorities about the minimum standards offered through online education services. Unfortunately, this scheme does not cover tutoring agencies. It is also not a legal requirement that online schools have to opt in for this scheme; which is disappointing! It is also unclear when this scheme will take place. The Government’s consultation response to the online accreditation scheme was published in June 2020; not surprising, that has taken rather a back seat, due to the wide-reaching effects that the Covid 19 pandemic is having on this country. Let us hope that when things get back to normal, they will push forward and ratify the Government Online Accreditation Scheme.
What we do at Sophia
At Sophia, we believe that the world of both online schools and tutoring agencies needs shaking up. It needs to become more professionalised, so that it is aligned with the teaching profession. All teachers at Sophia High School, and tutors who work for Sophia, undergo a face-to-face hour-long interview. These interviews are conducted by Melissa McBride (co-founder of Sophia) and David McCarty who have been in education for over forty-eight years, and have a wealth of educational experience behind them as school leader – both in the UK and within international settings.
In addition, as part of the vetting process all teacher and tutors take part in a brief telephone interview before having to supply Sophia with two current professional references, three documents that include proof of ID and proof of address (which needs to have been within the last three months) plus evidence of the Right to Work in the UK and, more importantly, a current Enhanced DBS certificate.
We are also advising our tutors to register to the DBS update service every year, so that their DBS certificates remain updated in real time throughout the year. Any teacher/tutor who has been abroad for more than six months in the last five years also needs to supply Sophia with international police checks. Every teacher and tutor on the Sophia platform also have to sign the TTA’s Code of Ethics, ensuring they are prepared to operate under the professional standards of the Association.
“Sophia is striving for the high standards of safeguarding and professionalism within the industry and we believe every tutor who does so receives a gold standard of safeguarding.”
Whilst this is not a legal requirement, Sophia is striving for the high standards of safeguarding and professionalism within the industry, and we believe every teacher and tutor who does so receives a gold standard of safeguarding. This is why all our teachers/tutors need to complete a certified safeguarding course before they start with us. We are also in liaison with the NSPCC and the Tutors’ Association, so that our teachers and tutors have access to their resources and training. We will actively encourage teachers/tutors to go on these courses, and use their resources in order to safeguard both our teachers/tutors and clients on the platform.
Thankfully, in the future, the Sophia’s Education Team are confident that the government will pass a law about safeguarding children and parents, forcing all tutors to have vigorous checks in place and forcing tutoring agencies to act upon this. We are also hopeful, that the government goes forward with its accreditation scheme and makes it a legal requirement that all online schools have to sign on. Sophia is proud to be working alongside the government, the TTA and the NSPCC, and leading from the front in this regard.
This is Education Reimagined.