Tuition: AQA Psychology
Updated: 14 April 2020
I have been providing – and thoroughly enjoying! – private tuition for students who benefit from a little extra help since early 2007.
I am an ex-Head of Psychology at Woodhouse Grove School in Bradford (2011-2014) and a former teacher of Psychology, Sociology and Health & Social Care A-Levels at Rossett School in Harrogate (2007-2013). Both jobs were part-time, thus allowing overlap and time to pursue my work as a private tutor, trainer and counsellor/therapist. I have also taught Psychology at Vermuyden School (Goole) and Sherburn High School and twice had extended periods of supporting the Psychology department at Guiseley School. For a term in 2014 I took a temporary post teaching Psychology and Sociology on a university access course at Leeds City College.
I gave up classroom teaching in 2014 to fulfil the increasing demand for my tutoring services following our move to Bradford in 2012.
I thoroughly enjoy working with bright young people interested in the behavioural sciences and find that my work as an adult trainer, as well as my previous experience in counselling/therapy and consultancy, enables me to bring ‘real life’ applications into the classroom which help bring academic Psychology so much more alive for the students. (Conversely, I also find that the academic research I do for the tuition extends my own understanding and makes my work as a trainer and counsellor/therapist that much more effective.) As a former head of department, I understand how exam boards such as AQA work and I maintain occasional contact with key influencers at AQA such as Cara Flanagan.
With regard to exam boards, having taught earlier versions and ‘dabbled’ in the ‘new’ (2015) OCR and Edexcel specifications for the previous 2 years, in 2017 I took the decision to focus exclusively on the AQA specifications in Psychology and Sociology. Partly this was market-driven – AQA have close to 80% of the market – and partly so I could undertake further training with AQA and develop my expertise further. If I have the time, I am willing to support students doing other specifications and university access courses purely in terms of psychological content. I do not claim any specification-specific knowledge other than with AQA. On this basis I have previously supported Psychology students beyond A-Level and in one case all the way to obtaining her degree. I will continue to provide this higher level support, if requested – though I am careful not to work beyond my competences.
In the unexpected downtime of Spring 2020 brought about by the coronavirus crisis, I took the decision to drop tuition in Sociology. In all my years of tutoring, there had never been anything like as much demand for Sociology tuition as there had been for Psychology tuition. In the academic year beginning in September 2019, I had had one tutee studying both Psychology and Sociology and none taking Sociology without Psychology. Accordingly, it made sense to focus my efforts as a tutor just on Psychology and increase my expertise in that discipline.
Private tuition sessions usually take place in the dedicated office/tuition room in my house and normally last one hour. Though I prefer to work from home (for easy access to my resources), I will travel short(ish) distances to tutees – though I charge extra to cover my time and travel costs*.
I prefer at least one parent to be with the tutee for the first session and actively involved in planning out the work to be undertaken. It helps for future contact to know the face I’m communicating with and it’s good for the parents to have more idea what they’re paying for. In the case of female tutees, it can also be reassuring for parents to meet the man their daughter may be spending some fair amount of time alone with. (Though my wife, Caroline, is often around the house when tutoring sessions take place. I should also point out that, as with all qualified teachers, I am registered with the Department of Education and have to be checked regularly by the Disclosure & Barring Service (formerly the Criminal Records Bureau) to ensure I am a ‘fit person’ to work with children and young people.)
I normally charge £25 for an hour’s tutorial at my house. This includes marking assignments and supplemental materials provided by myself when appropriate. It also covers liaison with the contracting parent re progress and any concerns. (In the occasional instances where tutees pay for themselves, the fee also covers discussion on progress additional to the hour’s tutorial.)
Where 2 tutees – perhaps friends – wish to be tutored together, I charge each a reduced rate of £20 each per joint session.
For teaching tutees in groups, please get in touch via the Contact page to discuss your requirements and to negotiate fees.
Where tutees ask for it – usually in the run-up to the exams – I will provide double (2-hour) tuition sessions charged at £50 for a single student or £80 for two students.
The evening before an exam I usually make myself available for tutees to phone me with any last minute queries or concerns. This is a free service.
My Client Quotes page includes comments by students and their parents on my tuition services.
Please use the Contact page to enquire about my availability and whether I can support you.
Expectations/Terms of Business
For the tuition process to be successful, the tutee needs to engage with it. Whilst I try to make tutorials entertaining and interesting, tutees should come ready to work (with pad, pen, text book and pertinent notes from class, etc). You should endeavour to complete all assignments set within the agreed timeframe.
Unless otherwise explicitly agreed and documented in at least email format, payment (including travel costs*, if pertinent) is in full at the end of each session – either in cash, by cheque or, where specifically agreed, bank transfer. You will be provided with a receipted invoice where appropriate.
Should you need to cancel or reschedule a session, failure to inform me at least 12 hours in advance will render you liable to a cancellation fee of £12. Subject to your mitigating circumstances, I reserve the right to waive the cancellation fee at my discretion and without prejudice to my rights.
*If I travel to your premises in the immediate Shipley/Bradford/east Leeds area, I charge an additional £6 to cover each half hour of travelling time, plus 45p per mile there and back for mileage costs. If you wish me to come to your premises beyond this immediate area, please get in touch via the Contact page to discuss this.
Please read the applicable sections of my Terms of Business for full details of my expectations and contractual conditions.
To help people who don’t know about me/this web site, please be assured that, as stated above, I comply with DBS and other safeguarding requirements. I am also registered as a tutor with the following tutor agencies…
Having found me independently, there is no need for you to go through either of these to use my services. However, if you feel you would like help with another subject I don’t have expertise in, then I would recommend you get in contact with one of these highly-rated agencies. (Click the graphics for links to the agencies.)
Please use the Contact page to get in touch to discuss if online tuition might be suitable for you.
Skype sessions are charged at £25 per session. As with face-to-face tuition, payment is due immediately at the end of an online session. This can be via PayPal or by bank transfer.
Again, please read the applicable sections of my Terms of Business for full details of my expectations and contractual conditions.
Obviously, online tuition does not have quite the same immediacy of face-to-face tuition and Skype is subject to periodic ‘line drops’ and interference on the line. Expectations need to be realistic and it can be hard work. However, as several of my past online tutees have said, it is way better than no support.
Hard work is essential. Many students choose the behavioural sciences – especially Psychology – thinking they will be easier than other A-Levels. They aren’t!
There’s a lot of technical jargon to learn, Psychology students will need to know a fair amount of Biology. It requires extended essay writing skills and the willingness to engage with basic statistics.
Attendance at classes is a must. There is no substitute for hearing it from the proverbial ‘horse’s mouth’ – a nice way to refer to teachers! – and having the opportunity to ask questions or argue a point. Plus, interacting with other students in the class can help stimulate ideas and embed concepts. I’ve found most students in the behavioural sciences are pretty smart folks – once you get them committed! – and, in the kind of ambience a good teacher can create in the classroom, they will spark each other off. (Sigmund Freud per se, animal research experiments and Evolutionary Psychology explanations of sexual promiscuity are all great subjects for stirring up heated debates! And I’ve found that most students know at least one person who suffers from Anorexia Nervosa.)
Being fascinated by people and what makes them ‘tick’ most certainly helps – but much of the content of the A-Level specifications is a little removed from the kind of body language analyses used in ‘reality TV’ like Big Brother or the ‘Pop Psychology’ of books like Allan & Barbara Pease’s multi-million-selling ‘Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps’ (2001). (Both examples do contain valid Psychology – it’s just not the kind of Psychology covered by the A-Level specifications!)
Mapping in the ‘real world’
I’ve found that the most successful students are those who don’t leave it behind in the classroom but take the behavioural sciences home with them.
Using the models and theories we discuss to analyse behaviour of friends, family and strangers – individually or in groups – helps to make Psychology real. Describing behaviour in, say, TV ‘soaps’ in technical terms can be a great way of reinforcing the topics and themes we study.
Of course, to use another proverb, a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. One student ended up in a furious spat with her mother when she contradicted her views on disaffected pre-teens by quoting from the Attachment theories of John Bowlby, Mary Ainsworth, etc. It took a day or 2 for mother and daughter to resume their normally close relations; but the student found that, by arguing from the theories, she both knew them more and understood them better.
When another student told me she couldn’t stop mapping people to the models and theories, I felt sure she would do well. She scored an ‘A’ in her next exam!
Sometimes mapping to the ‘real world’ can give students powerful insights into their own issues and, correspondingly, a much greater understanding of the theory. When covering ‘Stress’, one students was so delighted that she now understood why she had panic attacks when parking her car in a busy street that she insisted on telling her class all about it!
However, making the behavioural sciences ‘real’ inevitably does sometimes touch on deep issues. One student asked me what sort of therapy would be best to wean his brother off gambling; since his brother was perfectly happy being a gambling addict, nothing short of Aversion Therapy was likely to be much help – but I recommended Gamblers’ Annonymous anyway. Another student, while revising ‘Stress as a Physiological Reaction’, realised just how stressed she was becoming and so took herself off to her GP . Unsurprisingly, she did rather well on that particular exam! Reading ahead in the text book and reading around subjects – perhaps by searching on the Internet – will also help develop knowledge and understanding.
Specification and Exam Requirements
For all that we can make PsychologyA-Level interesting, thought-provoking, entertaining and practicable, there are still exams to sit and grades to be obtained.
During the course(s) teachers should set practice exam questions as homework and mark them according to the exam board mark scheme. Once students have become familiar with how to construct answers, it is highly beneficial to do at least some of these in a set time as per exam conditions.
Students really wanting to do well are advised to do additional practice questions. They can go to the pertinent exam board web site where they can download both past papers and their mark schemes.
In my own tuition, I put a lot of emphasis on exam technique, understanding the AQA mark scheme, creating answers that attract marks and writing in a way that helps the examiners find the marks.
Students should be given a copy of the specification contents. Although they are rather dry and technical documents, I strongly encourage students to get to grips with them. “Love your specification” was the refrain at one AQA conference I attended. “At the end of the day, it’s what it’s all about.” Students do need to read the specification. Especially at revision time, they need to ensure they are covering at least the minimum core topics.
Getting to grips with the specification helps put the student in charge of their own learning.
Using a Tutor?
Theoretically, if the teaching is good and the student attends classes, works diligently and commits themselves to succeed by using the strategies outlined above, then they should do well.
For all sorts of reasons, things don’t always work out that way. For one thing, in Gravesian terms, the RED vMEME often dominates a teenager’s selfplex, leading to what Erik Erikson termed ‘Diffusion of Time’ and ‘Diffusion of Industry’. Thus, some students stay in bed rather than go to morning classes and don’t seriously contemplate copying up missing notes until the exam is virtually upon them!
Sometimes, of course, there are personality or values clashes between students and teachers which can have all kinds of unhelpful effects on the student’s learning. Very occasionally, the teaching will not be what it should be – and this is usually identified through entire classes – sometimes entire yeargroups! – struggling. While schools and 6th Form colleges will take steps to rectify the situation, this can leave students near to exams without adequate teaching.
In any of these situations, using a reputable private tutor may the best option. It is, of course, quite an expensive option; so a tutor needs to be chosen with care – personal referrals are best (I get 2/3 of my work this way) – and parents should be involved in planning and monitoring the work undertaken.
Once a student starts to fall behind, for what ever reason, if the class teacher and the student are not able to agree/execute a recovery strategy fairly quickly, a private tutor should be employed sooner rather than later, to give the student structured guidance over more time to enable them to recover lost ground.