The COVID-19 epidemic has left many in the world living in uncertain times. Everyone has had to make huge shifts and changes to routines, attitudes, and day-to-day lives. Perhaps one of the most affected groups is school children.
In the UK only an estimated 10% of children are now attending schools, and GCSE and A-Level exams will be based on predicted grades. Countries with severe lockdown policies are even more affected. In India, no one is allowed to step out of their homes for 21 days, meaning no children can attend school.
Over the past few weeks I have become incredibly aware how many lives and business are tremendously affected by this pandemic. The tutoring industry has gained unprecedented attention recently, with many schools closing, education as we know it has had to transform. Fueled by my desire to shed light on information which may be helpful to others I set out on a journey to try to understand how these changes have affected the tutoring community.
At first glance
To begin to understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on the tutoring industry, it is important to examine the bigger picture. The best way to get an initial feel for this is by looking at global user data.
Initial data revealed some clear patterns about increase in users towards the second half of March. There was a sharp increase of 116% in parents and a 46% in tutors added to the system. While this result does show a clear pattern of increase in the number of sign-ups on our site, it is difficult to tell exactly why these changes were happening.
What must be noted before looking into this pattern any further is that the tutoring industry does tend to get busier around March/April time. This is due to standardized exams happening across the world. Around this time of the year it is normal to see a surge of sign-ups. This means it cannot be ruled out that this increase is just natural fluctuation.
Another issue which must be raised with regards to this increase is that in mid-march in many countries coronavirus lockdowns were still uncertain. While in countries like the UK social distancing was encouraged, there was no official legislation about COVID-19. It is difficult to predict people’s mindsets about the situation, and truly estimate what percentage of these new sign-ups were due to the coronavirus pandemic.
What is the consensus?
In order to try to gain a better understanding of people’s attitudes towards the current situation, I wanted to take a closer look at their actual opinions surrounding the issue. With the aim of getting a better understanding of how people’s attitudes differ towards the lockdown I chose to examine Mumsnet, a UK parenting website.
For UK parents, it seems that there is a pretty solid consensus on education and tutoring for their children. With GCSEs and A-Levels cancelled many parents no longer see the point of continuing to encourage their children to study. One user wrote: ‘I think it is dreadful [that] exams are cancelled in England.’
Another user also comments on the situation saying: ‘My oldest was meant to be doing his A levels, and it's just hit him that this is the end of his school career, and what now?’. Parents fear for their childrens’ exam success but it seems more than anything they worry about how these changes will affect their mental health.
‘Parents have found homeschooling very challenging’ writes Roslyn Ashe, Head Teacher at Dorridge Primary School . ‘It requires a routine where children know their timetable each day.’ Roslyn points out an important issue: the closing of schools extends a lot further than exams. Many parents whose children are not in the crucial exam years still worry how this situation could affect their education and future. Above all for many the uncertainty seems to be the most difficult part of these changes.
How has exam cancellation affected the tutoring industry?
From the consensus online, it seems many parents and students feel helpless and frustrated about the closure of schools, as well as the cancellation of GCSE and A-Level exams. This shift in attitude towards education can also be seen within the TutorCruncher user data.
On the 20th of March the UK government announced that GCSE and A-Level Exams will be cancelled. The data surrounding these days shows a clear and somewhat alarming pattern. In the ten days following exam cancellation the number of parents added to the system decreased by 20%. The ten days following that (March 30th-April 8th) also showed a much lower client sign-up rate than expected. This pattern is also reflected in the number of students added to the system. In the ten days following the exam cancellations, there was a steep 30% decrease in new students added to the system.
Since exams have been cancelled, it is easy to understand why many parents may feel that their children no longer require a tutor. In many schools, no extra work done at home will affect these grades, so there is a lack of motivation to continue your child’s education from home.
How can tutoring help?
It is important to acknowledge that getting good GCSE and A-Level grades can help solidify a child’s successful future. However, what is often not talked about enough is how schools and educators can help transform and mould children.Going to school can impact a child or teen’s identity both intentionally and unintentionally.
Adolescents are also at a very particular point in their brain development. In their teen years people possess higher neuroplasticity, meaning a greater ability to retain and process memory. During these crucial years it is important for individuals to keep learning as this will have a long term positive impact on their ability to retain information, and maintain their neuroplasticity. However what cannot be ignored is this neuroplasticity can also increase vulnerabilities. Studies have found that social isolation during these critical years can lead to the development of mental illness. Keeping up a level of education throughout these years is paramount as it can have a massive impact on young people’s developing identity and mental health.
Online tutoring offers children and adolescence a unique, alternative way to continue to develop both their identities and their mental capabilities throughout these trying times. Regardless of what type of tutoring your child takes part in, this gives them a great opportunity to socialise with others and learn new skills.
I want to leave you with the following statement from Roslyn, who kindly offered to give me her input on the current situation: “I feel that home education has raised the profile of the crucial role that the teaching profession plays in developing and nurturing the whole child. I hope that out of this horrible situation comes a new found respect and awareness of the invaluable job that all those in the education sector do; and indeed all those in the caring profession.”
The education of young people is about a lot more than exam results, which is why, even with exams cancelled, hiring a tutoring is a great option. Keeping children stimulated and learning during this crucial time can help make them happier and give them a greater sense of purpose.
The NHS states that one of the key strategies for mental well-being involves good relationships which give you an opportunity to share positive experiences. Allowing your children to continue to take part in online tutoring will let them to continue to have that feeling of success and positive experiences which they may otherwise miss.
If you would like to find your child a tutor today go to our company directory, where you can browse through 1000s of agencies around the world.
You can also read more about education by reading some of our other blogs here.