The tutorial college

Over the last century, tutorial colleges have been established throughout the United Kingdom as an alternative to the traditional school.  The oldest is thought have been founded in 1931 to provide private tutoring for Oxford and Cambridge entrance and Colonial Service entrance examinations.  The growth of such colleges focused mainly on providing private tutors and offering intensive revision courses and so led to them being variously referred to as ‘agencies’ or ‘crammers’.  Many were perceived as last-minute examination preparation institutions for students who had not adequately prepared for their pre-university examinations.

Evolution of tutorial colleges

By the 1960s, however, tutorial colleges began to be seen as the solution to the increasingly troublesome transition faced by A level students who were entering the university system from schools at the time.  The Royal Society recognised the difficulty faced by school-leavers, stating that ‘the transition from being taught at a school to guided self-tuition at a university is too sudden to be accommodated by a high proportion of students’.  The Society issued a call for a ‘competing alternative to remaining at school’ to be established with the aim of ‘re-conditioning’ students to develop the ‘internally motivated enquiring attitude’ required for success at the university level.  Tutorial colleges thus began to transform themselves to full-time alternatives to school-based education.  With their system of individual tuition, former ‘crammers’ were poised to meet this need by providing directed, individual programmes of tuition for students unable or unwilling to meet the formal demands of traditional schools.

Tutorial colleges today

Many tutorial colleges have now evolved into accredited independent schools and private sixth form colleges that ironically parallel the traditional school.  Some colleges still offer tutorials but often it is mixed with traditional classroom teaching.  A few, like Greene’s, still consider the tutorial central to the philosophy of education for the individual.  The tutorial, based on the Oxford tradition of the tutorial system, still forms the foundation of all student learning at Greene’s and is central to the idea of an alternative education that is individual, flexible, and aimed at cultivating independence.

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