Holiday tuition ‘in moderation’ urges HMC chair

Shaun Fenton says too much additional tuition may be harmful and time would be better spent ‘climbing trees’

The chair of The Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC) says that parents should be wary of introducing too much extra tuition into their child’s life.

Shaun Fenton, who is also head of Reigate Grammar School, said in an interview with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London: “Tutoring isn’t always bad, tutoring can be helpful. A little focus on catch-up work or keep up work on literacy or numeracy can help.

“As my gran used to say, everything in moderation.”

Fenton said parents would do better to “help their children to climb trees and make believe, there is so much more to a great education than what they learn at school”.

“Children don’t need, at a time when we are worried about mental health, their parents to get anxious and competitive and pass on that worry,” he continued.

Fenton, who has teenage children, described himself as “in the trenches when it comes to this”, but said parents do have an important role in helping their children to succeed at school.

“Parents can help. They can provide a place to work and set a routine so homework becomes a habit and does not become a chore, they can manage phones and access to social media,” he said.

“Fundamentally children need parents to be present, to give time, to care, to be loving,” he told Feltz.

Feltz was interviewing Fenton after a story from The Times reported that parents felt so out of their depth helping with their children’s homework that they were hiring tutors to help them learn the curriculum. Feltz said parents were confused by concepts like fronted adverbials, quadratic sequences and the role of the omniscient narrator.

Fenton said it was right that the curriculum is always evolving and advised parents to instead ask teachers for advice rather than seeking private tuition.

“Don’t try to do open heart surgery just because you’ve looked something up on Google and think you’re a doctor and don’t try to teach children complicated grammar or hard maths just because you remember something from the distant past,” Fenton said.