Mid-Devon - West Somerset

Old School Tuition


Education related advice, hints, tips and blog

tutor recommendations

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Tutor methods

Organised, methodical, measured approach

Qualified, experienced teacher, DBS checked

Practise skills, review knowledge

Tried and tested methods; examples of best practise

Study skills

Healthy work-life balance through efficient time management


Mathematics to A'Level

Physics to A'Level

General Science to GCSE

Home schooling

Entrance and scholarship exams

Coding / programming, entry level

Other subjects, ask for details...



Personal tuition

Tuition is most commonly associated with ‘cramming’ exam revision for GCSE and A level exams. Exam cramming may work with a motivated student. Motivated students may be tutored in exam technique which may boost an exam result by one or even two grades.

However, in my experience, the greatest improvement that may be helped with tutoring is the improvement in confidence that follows firm foundations in the basics of a subject. A confident student is more motivated to work in lesson and complete homework due to their positive mood.

There are many reasons for needing help with education. Personal tuition, by its nature is different for each individual student. Students may have gaps in their understanding due to moving house, school or class. An illness may cause a learning gap, too. Some teachers claim that they can see a link between age and progress of younger Summer-born students and older Autumn-born students. Younger students are thought to struggle more, in each year group. Note that there are plenty of examples where this is not true.

Some students have particular learning needs such as dyslexia, they may need extra time to process information or they may have a physical disability. Some students may be anxious due to a variety of reasons. Anxiety and mental health are just as important as physical health; regular care is better than dealing with a crisis.

The transition from one school stage to another may require help and guidance. Students may require additional skills to complete entrance exams.

I have years of experience in teaching and tutoring students from the final year of primary through secondary school, GCSE exams and then A level and B Tech qualifications at sixth form and college. I know that a confident, skilled student is more able to cope with these stages in life. Many adult learners are using education to help their career prospects, often coping with time constraints that necessitate good time management and organisational skills.

If you know a student who needs some help, please make contact for some honest, clear advice.

Why are girls not taking A levels in mathematics, physics and chemistry?

Well, in some cases, they are. Some schools and colleges have a greater proportion of female students taking these 'STEM' subjects (Science, Technology and Mathematics) than others.

I meet and talk to teachers, parents and students from a wide range of schools and colleges. However, as a scientist, I should obtain some evidence and not simply give my hunches as though they were facts. In science, we are supposed to produce a theory called a hypothesis which is then tested with evidence that is collected.

My hypothesis is that local independent schools have a greater proportion of female students who study mathematics, physics and chemistry to Advanced level. Okay, this is a hunch!

I now have to collect some data from a range of local independent schools and state colleges. I have begun to email these institutions and hope that they will reply without having to resort to more formal 'freedom of information' requests. I want to know the total number of A level students in the school college along with the number of students who study mathematics, physics, chemistry and biology. To start, I will restrict my data request to the academic year 2017-18, and see if I can see a clear distinction that will either agree with or disagree with my hypothesis.

What are the possible explanations for the variations in the numbers of students taking certain A level subjects? One way for a college to achieve a high pass rate is for students not to fail! This sounds obvious. Suppose a college managed to dissuade those students most likely to fail from continuing with their studies. This would improve results. Hearsay amongst teachers suggests that some colleges use methods to improve results that are not ethical; this is difficult to prove directly. Perhaps independent colleges need to retain all their students for their fees; they have a business incentive.

Another possible explanation or factor is the pressure on colleges to achieve good results. The government education watchdog, OFSTED, puts pressure on the colleges, the college principles put pressure on the heads of departments who then pass this pressure on to the teachers who forward this on to the students.

Biology is a very difficult A level that requires a high level of effort. However, historically, biology has a larger proportion of female students than male students so that there is an existing supportive presence of female students.

One possible explanation is that there is not the support network for female students if they are isolated in a class of mainly male students. How could this be resolved? This would require additional support from female mentors, female only tutor groups and other 'positive' steps for a number of years until an equal gender balance is achieved.

Schools and colleges are being encouraged to make public statistics that show how much 'added value' students have made which means the improvement made during each stage of education compared to the national average. 'ALPS' is one of these measures. Although the added value measure is important, most parents and students find the grades more meaningful.

Of course, there is no proof that colleges are actively trying to 'shake out' the classes of those students who they perceive to be less likely to gain a grade C or above. There is the suspicion that, if a college changes the order of teaching so that the hardest subjects are taught first then this action could cause a number of less confident students to leave or to change course. Perhaps this pressure has a greater effect on female students.

In my opinion, any college that cannot persuade the same proportion of female students to take mathematics, physics or chemistry as male students should be forced to defend themselves and produce a measurable plan that shows how they will work towards a gender balance and an ambitious timescale.

Finally, why is this important? Well, this country needs skilled workers and we are preventing a large number of female students from following exciting, well-paid, interesting careers. And, personally, I keep seeing very able female students avoiding the STEM subjects and choosing psychology!

A Level Results and Clearing

If your A level results are as expected or better then well done!

If your A level results are above or below your expected grades then you may consider using the 'Clearing' system. This is where universities offer spare places to students with grades on or just below the usual requirements on a first come, first served basis. To make use of these offers you must phone the universities on the day of the results and discuss your results with them. The people who you will speak to are expecting students to be stressed or anxious so do not worry. Look at courses that you are interested in then ask relevant questions whilst on the phone. It is important to phone universities on the day of the results, as soon as possible, and not to leave it until the next day or the vacancies may be filled.

The phrase, "Don't ask, don't get", applies. It is also worth asking your original choice of university, again. They can only say, 'no'.

Finally, well done anyway as A level exams are very hard and you have succeeded in getting this far.


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