Online Tutoring: A Complete Guide To Everything Schools Should Know Before They Start

Online tutoring in the UK has been big news in the education sector for many years but the onset of a global pandemic, the shutting of schools across the world, and the need to keep education going has catapulted it now to the forefront of educators’ and parents’ minds.

Students have also changed their opinion of online tutoring. A survey found online tutoring is now considered to be the most effective approach according to students. This is likely due to their first-hand experience of remote learning during school closures, their increased digital skills and industry-wide improvements to the online tutoring offering.

However, if you’re new to the idea it can be a bit daunting to know where to start. Since 2013, we’ve provided online tutoring to tens of thousands of children in primary and secondary schools across the UK. Drawing on our experience and insights as online tutoring providers, this is our guide for parents and schools covering all the aspects of online tutoring in the UK that you need to know about.

Hopefully it answers all your questions. If it doesn’t and you’ve got any more, please don’t hesitate to contact us at

At Third Space we’ve been providing online tutoring to primary and secondary school pupils for many years as part of our maths intervention programme. This article looks at online tutoring for parents, schools and pupils.

School leaders and teachers are recommend also to look at this guidance on how to ensure you choose the most effective maths interventions for your school.

What is online tutoring?

Online tutoring is a form of teaching, usually one to one, that takes place over the internet in real time. Online tutoring must involve a ‘real person’ despite what some technology platforms may claim. The online tutor can be somebody the student already knows in a real life capacity or somebody from the other side of the world that the student only ever meets online.

Online tutoring is best suited for KS2 tutoring and above, however it may also work for KS1 pupils – however, in our experience as online tutoring providers, we find KS2 pupils and older are able to best make the most out of online tutoring sessions.

The requirements for online tutoring are usually just that student and tutor both have internet connection with sufficient bandwidth and a device that’s able to receive or deliver the online lesson.

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What is online tuition?

Online tuition is the same as online tutoring. You can use either almost interchangeably and indeed in this article we will refer to both.

How does online tutoring work?

How online tutoring works can vary immensely from person to person and from one tutoring organisation to another.

Options for how it works include:

  • a standard Skype or Zoom video chat with both the online tutor and the student showing their work / instruction to the webcam.
  • a bespoke online virtual classroom environment where a tutor follows a carefully worked out programme of lessons often using functionality similar to an interactive whiteboard.
  • A ‘shared screen’ type approach where the tutor is screen sharing and potentially annotating it for the student to follow, possibly with a messaging function as well.
Third Space Learning's online classroom environment
Virtual classrooms, such as Third Space Learning’s online intervention,
are one style of online tutoring. We include easy
quick click buttons to tools and mathematical symbols.

Why do people use online tutoring?

The benefits of online tutoring are covered in detail below, but broadly parents and students choose online tutoring for one of four reasons:

  1. To improve exam technique and ultimately get better grades, whether that’s tutoring for SATs, GCSE or A Levels.
  2. To plug gaps in learning, such as catch up tuition, or support a child who’s struggling in a subject
  3. To enable a child to accelerate their progress further and faster than they would in a class of 15-30.
  4. To build confidence in a subject and develop the habits of learning so that they can respond better in all their lessons

As you’ll have noticed all these reasons apply just as much to face to face tuition as to online tutoring. That is deliberate. Online tutoring provides all the benefits of face to face tutoring but with much greater convenience.

One to one or small group online tuition?

Most of the time when we talk about online tutoring we’re referring to one to one tutoring lessons where one professional tutor will teach one student over the internet. However it is possible for online tutors to provide group tutoring.

Once the group size gets bigger than about 5 or 6 then we tend to refer to it as online teaching – of the sort that has taken place during the Covid-19 pandemic – as many of the focused personalisation benefits of online tutoring are lost.

It’s our opinion that if you’re looking to invest in online tutoring one to one tuition is the way to go. The benefits of a tutoring experience entirely personalised to a single individual’s needs, moving at their own pace can’t be overstated.

For younger children aged 5 to 12, primary school tutoring online is almost exclusively focused on maths and English. As children progress through secondary school then maths remains very popular but many tutoring companies today also see large take up in Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Languages.

It’s worth bearing in mind that a more ‘physical’ subject, like dance, PE or even Art, may be more challenging to teach online but you can find tutors for almost any subject online.

What does the online tutor do?

An online tutor does exactly what a face to face tutor would do: plans the lesson, teaches the lesson, and then ideally reports back on the lesson to parents.

The difference is that with the benefit of technology a lot of the additional processes can be automated and improved to enable the maximum amount of time to be spent on the teaching part, rather than the preparation and reporting part.

For example all Third Space Learning’s online maths tutoring lessons are created well in advance by a team of curriculum and subject knowledge experts. So when a tutor knows what lesson they’re teaching, they don’t need to plan the lesson from scratch, they just revise the lesson that they’ve been trained on.

Thanks to our diagnostic assessment at the beginning of any maths programme, we know where a child’s gaps are when they start and what their educational needs are.

We can therefore recommend the programme of national curriculum lessons the tutor should teach them, and then report back through our online platform on how the child is progressing against their gaps after each lesson.

Third Space Learning's Session Report
Parents of pupils on Third Space Learning interventions get clear,
accurate reports of their child’s progress in every lesson.

An online tutor should also work to build a relationship with the child or student they are teaching. For online tuition to be most successful, the student needs to feel safe, relaxed, and keen to do the work for their tutor. Respect on both sides is key.

Is online tutoring safe?

Online tutoring is very safe. Provided of course you do the right checks in advance. Every tutor must have a DBS or DBS equivalent, just as you would check for a face to face tutor.

In schools, pupils will also be supervised by a member of staff who can oversee the sessions.

Parents can also more easily be present for their child’s lesson if the computer, tablet or PC is in a central location in your house. With in person tutoring, it’s quite likely you’ll be asked to wait in the car which gives much less transparency.

Moreover if you use a reputable online tutoring platform, they should be able to provide their recruitment and vetting processes to you to ensure the quality and background of the tutors.

How much does online tutoring cost?

Online tutoring tends to be a lot cheaper than in person tutoring. Costs with most tutoring services start at £15 per lesson up to about £35 for the most expensive tutors.

At Third Space Learning, one of our goals is to make the effectiveness of one to one tuition available at a price point that everyone can afford; we always encourage schools to book a call with us so we can work out pricing for their specific situation and number of pupils requiring tuition.

The introduction of the National Tutoring Programme has made tuition even more affordable. This is catch up funding for schools to support children who’ve fallen behind during school closures. The tutoring organisations, including Third Space Learning, are all registered providers so you can be sure you will receive quality-assured tutoring at an affordable price.

Now we’ve hopefully addressed your questions and concerns, let’s finish with a quick summary of the benefits of online tutoring.

10 benefits of online tutoring

1. Online tuition is much more convenient

Schools are a hub of activity, with lessons, interventions, after school clubs, interventions, sports days… It can be challenging to find a regular slot schools and pupils can commit to each week.

The same goes for parents who are navigating their child’s busy schedule and their own, especially for parents who are working.

Online tutoring helps alleviate some of the stress around scheduling by removing the travel, either for the pupil to a tuition centre or the tutor to the school or home. Online tutoring organisations can often be more flexible with time slots because of this.

At Third Space Learning, we know how busy schools and teachers are. When schools choose to receive tutoring with us, they will be assigned a dedicated account manager who will:

  • Guide schools through the onboarding process;
  • Troubleshoot any issues that may arise;
  • Be on hand to ensure the smooth running of your tuition.

We know that flexibility is key for schools, and we have designed our tuition to account for this. Schools choose a regular time slot that fits in with their school day and are free to swap to a new time slot if it no longer works.

2. You get a greater range of the best tutors online

Finding a tutor who really knows their stuff is one of the biggest challenges for parents and schools. Often, the top tutors in your area have been snapped up by schools and families in advance.
Recruiting tutors who are experienced, have the right qualifications and are located in a commutable distance is a real challenge, especially for subjects such as maths and science where there is a shortage.

With online tutoring, the hard work is done for you.

Choosing an online tutoring organisation with a rigorous selection process will ensure that only the best tutors get through. This means that your pupils will be getting the best-quality tuition that they possibly can and avoiding trawling through the vast pool of under qualified ‘tutors’ who set themselves up with few qualifications or credentials.

Are you a school looking for online tutoring? See our article on the best online tutoring websites for UK schools.

At Third Space Learning, we take care of the recruitment, initial and on-going training and background checks to ensure only the best tutors are delivering our programme.

All of our tutors are high-quality graduates and undergraduates with strong academic backgrounds in STEM subjects. All our tutors have a genuine passion for maths and education and undergo rigorous background checks – only 2% of applicants are accepted onto the programme!

Tutors then undergo extensive initial tutor training, designed by pedagogy experts with experience working in UK schools. And once they join us as a fully-fledged tutor, they receive ongoing training, feedback and CPD.

3. Students can be matched to the best online tutors for their needs

Finding the right online tutor for your school’s context and your pupils needs can be difficult and time consuming.

If you’re a parent and less familiar with tutoring, it can be even more difficult to know which tutor is right for your child.

  • Do you go with the one that you got on with the most?
  • Do you choose the tutor that your friends recommended?
  • Or do you pick the tutor with the best CV?

One of the benefits of online tutoring is that the hassle of picking the right tutor can be taken out of the equation. Algorithms make finding the right tutor easy, and by answering a few questions on a child’s likes, dislikes, confidence and other attributes, a computer could be able to perfectly match your child with the right tutor.

This certainly saves the dozens of phone calls and meetings that can come with finding an in-person tutor!

Online Tutoring Benefits

4. Online tutoring can be fun and engaging for children

Engaging lessons? Even in subjects like maths? Yes, it can be done!

Some topics, including maths, can be tricky for a lot of young minds so having engaging lessons is crucial to help keep their focus firmly on what is being taught.

As parents and teachers, you’ll already know how hard it can be to persuade a child to do their homework or even be able to concentrate until the end of the school day, let alone another whole lesson after the school day. Fortunately, this is where online learning comes into its own.

Thanks to the versatile nature of online classrooms, each and every lesson can be highly personalised to each individual child and the events of the day or week.

There is no need to read from textbooks that were written 10 years ago when learning online, and this responsiveness is something that children love when they are being taught.

We’ve found over years of teaching maths online that the high level of engagement that comes from using our interactive classroom is great for encouraging children to verbalise their responses too, and this is crucial for learning!

Quote from teacher about pupil's engagement with their tutor

5. Learning takes place in a comfortable environment for your child

Depending on the age and confidence of your pupils or children, introducing them to a new tutor can prove to be a very intimidating experience.

Face-to-face in person tutoring can be an anxiety-inducing experience for a young person, especially if it’s in a subject they are not confident in. However, present them with the chance to head over to a computer to chat with a tutor over a headset, and they will likely find the learning experience much more appealing.

One advantage of online tutoring is that it takes place in a familiar environment. This is something that should not be underestimated. If they are more comfortable in their surroundings, taking part in an activity they probably enjoy (working online), then they will get a lot more from the tutoring sessions.

6. Online tutoring sites tend to have more training options for their tutors

If you choose to work with a larger, established online tutoring organisation, many have their own tutor training programmes. However, be wary as this may only be a few hours on initial training online.

Before they are qualified to teach with Third Space Learning, our online tutors are required to complete initial training on pedagogy, the UK maths curriculum, how to use the online classroom, and, importantly, how to develop a rapport and work with different pupils. This full-time, 3 week training is developed by our curriculum team and centres around UK teaching standards and practice.

We believe this is essential to ensure that what pupils are taught in their tutoring sessions links with the national curriculum and what and how they are taught in their main maths lessons.

7. Online tutoring is cheaper than in-person tutoring

While highly effective, tutoring can be costly so it’s important that you get great value.

Face-to-face tutoring can vary hugely in cost depending on where you live, and tutors and tutoring companies set their own rates, ranging from £30 an hour to £80 an hour for a tutor who has a great track record in getting results.

Weekly sessions will be needed to keep up the learning momentum and ensure steady progress, and payment is usually taken in advance per half term or term, with all of this adding up to a substantial lump sum in one go.

No one wants to cut corners when it comes to a child’s education, but with the cost of living increasing it’s important to get great value for money too.

Value for money is just as important for schools, with budgets growing ever tighter and intervention programmes usually costing about the same as private tutoring.

Thanks to the overheads being lower and elements like travel costs being taken out of the equation, online tutoring has the benefit of being competitively priced and can be a great option for schools and parents who want a quality service that won’t break the bank.

8. Online tuition is safe and secure

As discussed above, sessions will take place in the pupil’s home or school, which means that not only will pupils feel safe in a familiar environment, but parents or staff members can oversee sessions.

Online tuition requires companies to firmly vet tutors to ensure that each and every one of them meets the high safety standards that are in place. Once on board, online tuition allows companies to monitor and record lessons to ensure that safeguarding procedures are followed carefully.

This transparency is not always possible with face to face tutoring and is an excellent way to uphold safety standards.

9. Online tutoring helps improve pupil’s technology skills

Pupils today have grown up in a world filled to the brim with technology, and another advantage of online tutoring is that it can give them another great place to practise their all-important digital skills.

While pupils are firmly focused on the lesson that is taking place within the tutoring platform, they will also be inadvertently improving the digital and communication skills that will be so useful in further study and transitioning into the world of work.

10. Online resources and homework between lessons 

With online tuition come the other benefits that the online world can bring, namely a host of free resources and advice. The best online tutoring sites provide customer support to help you in managing and troubleshooting your online tutoring, should you need it, as well as teaching resources, worksheets and activities to support pupils more widely.

In addition to Third Space Learning’s one-to-one tutoring, we provide support to our community of over 100,000 teachers and school leaders through free, high-quality classroom resources in our Maths Hub.

The Premium Maths Hub provides full access to our library of over 4,000 KS1 and KS2 resources and is included at no additional cost with all tuition programmes. Most importantly, this helps teachers to raise maths attainment for all pupils in your school, not just those receiving the tuition. Everybody wins!

FAQs about online tutoring

Which is the best online tutoring site?

The best online tutoring site will depend on the requirements of the student needing the tuition, especially subject areas and age. The best online tutoring site for maths is Third Space Learning because we are specialists in tutoring many thousands of students online one to one. Thanks to our professional tutor training, diagnostic assessment of children’s gaps and then their progress, as well as our exhaustive curriculum coverage and quality of our lessons, we believe we now are the best online tutoring site altogether. At least that’s what our customers in school and at home tell us.

Does online tutoring really work?

Yes, online tutoring really works, but generally it works best if it’s one to one and focused specifically on an individual learner’s needs. Provided the technology is sound and you find a well trained, qualified tutor, it will be as effective as face to face tutoring – and often, if the child is more engaged online – then more effective.

How effective is online tutoring – what’s the evidence?

Online tutoring with Third Space Learning can double a child’s progress over a period of 14 weeks. We ran a trial using a standardised assessment test and children who received our one to one online maths tuition achieved double their expected progress. They made 28 weeks progress in 14 weeks. Find out more in our case studies from schools who’ve seen excellent success with our online tutoring.

Third Space Learning Upsell Section


Every week Third Space Learning’s maths specialist tutors support thousands of students across hundreds of schools with weekly online maths tuition designed to plug gaps and boost progress.


Since 2013 these personalised one to one lessons have helped over 150,000 primary and secondary students become more confident, able mathematicians.


Learn how we can teach multiple pupils at once or request a personalised quote for your school to speak to us about your school’s needs and how we can help.


The Ultimate Guide to Effective Maths Interventions [FREE]

Find out how to plan, manage, and teach one to one (and small group) maths interventions in Key Stage 2.

Includes a 20 point checklist of techniques to improve your one to one teaching.

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