Super-rich parents are splashing out £6,000 a month on private tutors while millions of Brits juggle work and home-schooling.
With exclusive private and prep schools forced to close due to the pandemic, wealthy mums and dads are keen to ensure their kids are still receiving the best education money can buy.
Demand for tutors has soared since the start of the pandemic, with one company saying requests have increased tenfold since January 2020, with some parents paying up to £1,500 per week.
Another reports a 50% increase in demand for live-in tutors and governesses, offered by agencies like jobsinchildcare.com.
Interviews with tutors working with some of Britain’s wealthiest families reveal how some kids are getting one-on-one teaching, and even judo sessions.
One tutor was paid hundreds of pounds a day to live with a Russian family during the pandemic, even joining them on their private plane as they jetted between luxurious locations.
Another spotted a child’s mum walking across the living room in a ballgown during a Zoom lesson.
The exclusive insight raises concerns that the gap between state and private school pupils will get even bigger during the pandemic.
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of National Education Union said: “Teachers are reporting that poor and disadvantaged pupils are falling further behind in their schooling.
“They are far less likely to be able to access online learning and, as the NEU and Mirror’s ‘Help A Child To Learn’ campaign has revealed, these children do not have even the basic equipment to learn at home – including pens and paper.
“Their parents are simply unable to afford private tuition for their children.
“The government’s catch-up programme is dogged by difficulty and delay. Schools should be given the funding to provide extra support, for example small group tuition, so that children can progress properly in their learning.”
While some families struggle to supply pens and paper for their kids, others have lavish working space for their kids to learn in.
One online tutor, who did not want to be named said: “The kids haven’t lacked for anything since lockdown started”, and described seeing kids over webcam in dedicated study rooms.
“One even had a grand piano in the background.”
They work as a Latin, English and non-verbal reasoning tutor, and say that parents are increasingly “looking to outsource” their kids’ education.
They have had increased demand for their services since schools closed, seeing a 250% rise in requests since last year, and they have had to turn down work to juggle their part time masters degree.
Their clientele are overwhelmingly upper and middle class.
“One of the families owns and runs a boutique PR company, another parent is the VP of a medical research company,” they said.
They have also found that parents are pushy and demanding.
“There’s this one mum who is super involved, her kid is tutored to within an inch of her life. She’ll send me three emails a week,” the tutor said.
“I’ve had parents request three-hour long zoom conversations about how their 10-year-old is doing.”
But they’ve also noticed parents relaxing in the background while they teach their kids.
“This mum walked past the camera in a dressing gown and ballgown at 3 o’clock in the afternoon,” they added.
Another tutor, who also wished to remain anonymous, earns £35 per hour teaching English, maths and economics online. Recently he earned £1,200 in just one week, as increasing numbers of parents sought his services to help their kids keep up.
He says his clientele are varied: “I get a mixture of people from good private schools and some people who are middle class, and some people who are attending state comprehensives.”
“I have parents who are asset managers and parents who are office administrators.”
But most demand “constant updates” on how their kids are getting on, and have high expectations.
“There are pushy private school parents who want to get their children the best grades possible,” they said.
“Sometimes you get people having expectations which are too high. I have to tell them the honest truth, which is that no position is guaranteed, and sometimes they’re not so pleased with that. A lot of them internalise the blame. They’ll say ‘I really wish I’d started this earlier’.”
Most ordinary families have endured months in the house juggling chores, work and home-schooling, some families have been whizzing across Europe.
One such tutor, who wished to remain anonymous, was hired by a family of property tycoons in March, to accompany them to their holiday home in Moscow.
She said: “The grounds were so big you could pretty much do what you want.”
“When they had lunch it was nice to use the spa.”
But the job was demanding: “I home-schooled the kids and oversaw their Zoom lessons.”
“The mum was quite strict. I was always being used. There was a rota, where the kids would always be doing swimming, or tennis or hiking.
“I took all the responsibility with the timetable and homework.”
“If you’re paying a lot of money for someone, you expect them to do that” she added.
She added: “Some families don’t really care, you’re just a status symbol, but with this family I was actually working all day.”
When lockdown restrictions eased, the family brought her with them while they travelled around Europe.
“We got a private jet from St. Moritz airport to Cannes. The kids were just on their iPads, they didn’t bat an eyelid. I really regret not taking a photo or selfie of me in the private jet,” she added.
“It surprised me that they jet-setted so much, like there was no pandemic.”
She says the hardest part of the job was: “Not really knowing what you’re doing or where you’re going. You just have to not ask too many questions.
“If you’re going away tomorrow, you’re going away and you just have to pack up and leave. They demand flexibility and you just have to bite the bullet and go with the flow.”
While the family were travelling, their parents would buy school supplies in each location.
“They’d buy printers and TVs wherever they were. They’d just buy stuff for a couple of weeks then move on,” she said.
She was paid £400 per day, which she is using to fund her MBA at the University of Warwick.
She says her experiences with the family have equipped her to work with wealthy individuals, adding: “I know the protocol, to not to ask too many questions.”
Although the kids’ lifestyles are very different from her own upbringing.
She added: “I fell into the tutoring because I needed the money.
“I was entitled to free school dinners and went to a comprehensive state school.
“If they ever have a problem, there’s always a tutor, there’s always someone that can help. In Moscow there was always someone coming over, like the judo and karate teacher. Even though it was lockdown in Moscow, there was always an influx of teachers.
Another live-in tutor was hired in March to look after a seven-year-old Russian boy, whose family lives in Kensington.
He said: “I decided to interview for the position with a view to keeping busy for the duration of the pandemic. I have been live-in with the family ever since, which has been intense, to say the least, but I am paid a premium on my usual fee so that softens the blow!”
His employers have extensive space for him to teach in.
“The family live in a beautiful townhouse,” he continued.
“My student and I have access to a top-floor playroom, a library and a study that we can rotate between so we don’t feel stuck in one place. We also make use of the lounge and the dining room sporadically for movies and reading. He has a baby sister but she is generally with her nanny so a lot of the time it’s the two of us.”
And he says his employers aren’t too involved in their child’s education, adding: “The parents both work and are extremely busy, so my student and I are pretty much left to our own devices.”
“He has a nanny who gets him out of bed in the mornings, helps him to get dressed and organises his clothing and meals.
“We tend to do lessons in the morning from around 9:00 until lunchtime and then in the afternoon from 2pm until about 5pm.
“I write daily and weekly reports to keep my student’s parents in the loop on how everything is going (although I’m not always convinced they get read!).”
But he feels he is treated well: “I currently earn around £5000 per month, plus bonuses for Christmas, my birthday or sometimes just because my boss is in a good mood!
“The family treats me very well, and with 5 years’ experience in these types of positions I’m more than aware that that isn’t something to be taken for granted! I got an iPhone 12 for Christmas! I am well-fed and I have an en-suite room and privacy when not working. It’s not perfect, but it could be worse.”
Boris Johnson announced this week that he “hopes” schools would re-open by March 8, despite previously claiming they would reopen February 15.