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Music

The Guitarist's Guide to Being a Tutor: Part 4

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In the previous tutorial I looked at the ins-and-outs of being a private tutor. In this tutorial, I  cover obtaining work in schools.

Peripatetic School Tutor

Peripatetic means ‘travelling from place to place, working for short periods of time’. In this example, a peripatetic tutor visits schools typically once or twice per week, rather than being a permanent member of staff.

What to Expect

Viewed positively, a peripatetic tutor has many of the benefits a fully-employed teacher enjoys with few of the drawbacks. For example:

  • Working hours are similar, but rarely as long
  • There’s a fraction of the associated paperwork
  • You can be less qualified
  • You’ll have a higher rate of students who actually enjoy attending

As with anything, it’s not all upside. Some of the difficulties include:

  • Your classroom’s wherever the school puts you—I once had to work out of a supply cupboard
  • Some schools view peripatetic tutors as an annoyance. Consequently, you’ll be the last to know anything, even if it relates to you
  • Some teachers resent your lessons removing students from theirs
  • As a non-permanent teacher, some students, and indeed teachers, won’t respect you 

Bearing all this in mind, here are some opportunities for becoming a peripatetic tutor.

Local Authorities

If a local authority has a department for Music in schools, then it follows they may periodically wish to employ peripatetic tutors.

Authorities advertise when they need tutors, or have a single hiring period (typically in August, ahead of the forthcoming new school year in September). Check their website for such details, which’ll at least give you a point of contact for enquiries. Some authorities also advertise in the job section of local papers or websites.

Whilst each authority has its own hiring procedures, some may include the following:

  • They’ll ask for your curriculum vitae, and even a demonstration of your abilities, be it via a supplied recording, or web-links to online content, such as YouTube videos
  • You may be required to attend an interview. As well as being asked a number of questions—your background, your experience and so on. You may have to demonstrate your ability to play and/or teach
  • You may be subjected to some form of background check. In the UK this is known as a DBS check, and is covered in a previous tutorial
  • If successful, you may have to attend a training course. As well as advice on teaching in schools, it’ll cover current legislation on child safety, responsibilities as a tutor and so on
  • There may be a probation period, assessing your performance. This can be the authority supplying your schools with a questionnaire or perhaps a more senior tutor sitting in on some of your lessons and submitting a report accordingly

Formalities

Whilst there’s less paperwork than a permanent teacher deals with, there’ll still be forms the local authority expects in terms of where you’re teaching, the hours you’re teaching, and so on. As well as determining what you’re earning, this is accountability in the event of a school querying anything. 

None of this is fun, but it’s part of the job.

On the plus side, as a formal employee you get paid on a monthly basis, directly to your bank account and tax is deducted at source, so that’s another aspect already dealt with. Some authorities even offer a fuel subsidy. Furthermore, if you’re ill, the authority will arrange cover for you.

Private Schools

This refers to any academic bodies not covered by a local government authority. Examples of this in the UK include Preparatory Schools and Academies.

In seeking work, keep your eyes open for advertising in local papers and their websites.

Some private schools place ads on teaching websites, so use the search phrase ‘private school work’ to yield results. Don’t forget to include your area in the search phrase. 

Failing that, look at the websites of private schools. Firstly, check they have a music department - amazingly, some don’t - and nothing stops you from forwarding your details to them.

Easily Difficult

Dealing with private schools can be a little curious when compared to local authority schools, in that arrangements tend to be less formal, but simultaneously more involved. Where you’ll have fewer direct dealings with a local authority school, and indeed, parents of students, you’ll have far more when working within private schools.

For example, local authority schools often arrange your timetable, whereas some private schools expect you to do it. In terms of payment, instead of guaranteed monthly income, some schools leave such matters to be arranged between you and the parents of your students, whom you’ll be invoicing individually. You may have to invoice the school, and it’s for you to negotiate as to when you get paid, whether it’s weekly, monthly, or even per half-term.

Talking of money, arrangements with private schools can be more lucrative than those of local authorities. However, they’re far less guaranteed. You’ll always encounter a parent who’s slow to settle an invoice, and this is even true of schools on occasion. 

As a peripatetic tutor, if you’re dealing with a school that manages its own budget, you’re way down their list of priorities, so if they wish to hold off payment until they can afford it, they will.

As a side note, include on your invoice a penalty amount if the invoice isn’t settled within a given period of, for example, seven days. You should state that receipt of the invoice constitutes acceptance of your terms. I’ve never had to resort to applying a penalty, but sometimes the threat of it has been enough.

Finally, privately-earned income has not been taxed at source, so be aware of your tax liabilities, as it’s likely you’ll need to declare said income at some point.

Conclusion

Obtaining work in schools is like applying for any job, so:

  • Search for school jobs online
  • Apply to local authorities for peripatetic positions
  • Expect to deal with a lot of paperwork and legislation
  • Apply to private schools
  • Decide whether you want lower regular income in local authority schools, or higher but irregular income in private schools

In the next tutorial I’ll look at how lessons in schools can differ from private tuition, as well as further tutoring opportunities.

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