Kerri Kearvell says her 10-year-old son, Flynn, was struggling in class at the start of this year. He'd moved from a school in Hawke's Bay with a total roll of 50 pupils. At Tauranga Primary, she says he was below National Standards across the board. "It was a huge culture shock, and I didn't want his schooling to suffer, as well." As a trained teacher, Kerri could see gaps in her son's education. "He thought was he dumb. He's not dumb; he just needed those gaps plugged."
The Tauranga South mum saw a notice in the school newsletter for NumberWorks'nWords and decided to visit the centre. "I went in quite skeptical ... I thought, what can they do with him that I can't do myself?" But Kerri says she and her son have been pleased with the computer-based system.
It's Wednesday afternoon when 48 Hours visits NumberWorks'nWords on 11th Ave in Tauranga. Students wearing uniforms from schools throughout town sit in rows of four working on computers. One student clicks an on-screen starfish with the number '2' to answer a division problem. A tutor stands behind, checking her work.
"Good job. How you going here?"
*nzmaths.co.nz - free to students within New Zealand
*mathletics.com - offers free trial; three months for $35
*wickedED.org.nz - free curriculum-based learning activities in English and te reo Maori for ages 7-12.
Owner Leanne Rhodes-Robinson is a qualified teacher who transitioned to the world of private tuition 16 years ago. She says in a regular classroom, one teacher can't meet the needs of 30 students, no matter how good he or she is.
"You'd look at a sea of faces and know that one student needed the lesson pitched two years earlier, and another student already knew what you were going to teach."
Her business sees around 280 students each week ranging in age from 5 to 16.
NumberWorks'nWords charges $52 per one-hour lesson and trains Year 12 and 13 students to help up to four children at once, with help from trained teachers. Flynn gets one hour of English and one hour of maths each week, which costs his family about $1000 per term. Mum Kerri says, "It had to impress me to spend that kind of money.
We're a family of five with an 11-month-old baby. We are financially strained, but had to make sure it ticked all the right boxes."
Another national company with independently-owned franchises is Kip McGrath. The business has been operating in New Zealand for 40 years and has centres in Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Papamoa. Stephanie and Murray McMillan last year took over the Tauranga centre, where approximately 120 students attend each week.
helping a struggling student
*Don't delay asking for help
*The first point of contact is the classroom teacher
*Ask about a tutor's qualifications, experience and whether they belong to an industry association
*Ask whether tutoring programmes are applicable to the New Zealand curriculum
*Sources: school administrators, tutors, NZTA
Bay of Plenty tutors
*Not an exhaustive survey; list compiled by reporter for this story
Tutors must be qualified teachers to work in a Kip McGrath Education Centre. Sessions last 80 minutes and include computer and written instruction for preschoolers through to Year 13.
Stephanie says, "We use the New Zealand curriculum and National Standards and fill in the gaps in their knowledge so they can then go, 'Okay, I understand that now'."
Stephanie says it's not that schools are failing, but rather, students fall behind for many reasons. "Maybe someone in the family passed away, or they've moved to a new school."
She says 15 per cent of her students are working to extend themselves; the other 85 per cent do remedial work. "We fill in the gaps in children's knowledge so the foundation is solid to build the next level on."
Seventeen-year-old Nathan Ellison says he has gained more confidence in maths since his mum engaged a private tutor. The Year 13 Tauranga Boys' College student plans to study computer network engineering and needs advanced maths for university.
"I've always struggled with maths. I didn't think I needed to be tutored because I thought I just needed to put in more time, but tutoring was probably a necessary step," Nathan says.
Bay Tutoring founder Chris Dell helps him grasp calculus and physics. His mum, Fiona, says Nathan used to get one-on-one tuition with Chris via Skype, but now, he comes to their home on Sundays.
*Anyone can call himself or herself a tutor; no certification is required
*Tutors can become accredited through the New Zealand Tutoring Association; membership means adhering to the NZTA Code of conduct
*Government assistance may be available for private tuition through NZ Work and Income for those receiving the Orphan's Benefit or Unsupported Child's Benefit
*Some iwi such as Ngai Tahu will cover a portion of costs
*Many tutors offer free assessments.
*Sources: tutor interviews, www.nztutoring.com, www.workandincome.govt.nz
"Chris knows what he's talking about and he's very patient ... Nathan was stressing because the maths this year is really hard."
Chris tells 48 Hours he started his business two years ago to earn extra money while studying small business management at Massey University. Today, Bay Tutoring has 10 tutors in Tauranga and recently added four in Hamilton. "People are looking for more affordable options." He charges $25 per hour for individual lessons; $19 for a one-on-one online lesson; $18 for group lessons and $14 for group Skype lessons.
Chris says parents hire him because they lack time or knowledge to help their children. "Often, both parents are working. And if they have two or three or more children, it can get pretty hectic. And a lot don't perhaps know the harder stuff, the NCEA-level stuff."
Qualified teacher Christine Anderson runs Enhanced Learning from her Pyes Pa home. She teaches maths and English to children as young as six through to Year 12 students.
Christine says she always tutors one-on-one and tailors a programme to each learner, using computer programmes as well as visual and tactile activities. "It's about empowering and giving students tools and strategies to be confident with their learning in the classroom." She charges $50 per hour and has 39 students. Most have come through word-of-mouth. "I work with a lot of kids with dyslexia.
You've got to teach them differently and sometimes in a busy classroom it's hard to cater for individual student needs." Mum Kerri Kearvell says she initially decided to trial tutoring at NumberWorks'nWords for one term. Now, in term three, her 10-year-old son is still going strong.
"The school commented he was doing really well. He's making great progress. It's definitely been worth the money."