The value of accreditation
by: Mohan Dhall

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The most common inquiry received by the ATA concerns the entry standards into the tutoring industry in Australia. A typical email will read as follows: “I want to start tutoring but I do not know what training I have to do to enter the industry.” Prior to the launch of the ATA approved tutor accreditation that is offered by Accredited Tutor we had to advise prospective tutors that there were only two standards that applied. The first was mandatory: the commercial laws had to be followed. This includes local, State and Federal laws. The second was option: join the peak body (the ATA) and follow the ATA Code of Conduct.

These suggestions were often met with disbelief articulated as follows: “Are you saying that anyone can become a tutor?”

The simple answer was: yes. However this was qualified by an emphasis that the relevant laws must be followed.

Having identified a need for accreditation over four years ago, the situation prior to the launch of the accreditation was embarrassing.

The launch of Accredited Tutor has changed the situation. Whilst accreditation is optional it has many benefits for tutors personally and for the industry more generally.

From a personal point-of-view, a specialised body of study helps to make the overall standard of tutoring consistent. This means that the experience of tutoring should be more predictable. Another benefit is that by undertaking accreditation tutors can be confident that they understand the important core aspects of tutoring. In this way the accreditation builds personal confidence. Also, as people study they learn to inquire. Inquiry is the basis of improvement. Accreditation encourages self-inquiry and improves overall practice.

From an industry point-of-view, accreditation benchmarks the standards valued within the industry. It vests confidence in the tutors and it begins a process of professionalisation. An industry that encourages training is an industry that is mature. It is also an industry that is open and accountable and treats parents and students as important partners. This is because accreditation gives a powerful message to clients: that the tutors are interested in raising their own personal standards as well as the industry standards. This raises expectations as well as quality.

Governments value accreditation generally because it provides a signal. The signal is that the industry is being responsible and that governments do not need to impose stringent regulations or licensing

Apart from the obvious and important benefits listed above, accreditation adds value to the service offered by the tutor. When the service offered is of higher quality then this can be reflected in the levying of a higher price. In this way accreditation is not only a personal investment it is also a financial investment.

The actual elements of the accreditation offered are unique globally. This is because of two particular aspects. The first is the wholly on-line nature of delivery, based on the modular approach utilised by on-line universities. The on-line nature of the accreditation means that it is widely accessible and also affordable. This can be contrasted with the only two other tutor-specific accreditation offers available anywhere else. One of the training programs requires face-to-face teaching and is a lot more expensive (the cheapest rate is twice the price AND requires supervision from a trainer who has done many levels of training). The other training program requires students to read a book and then answer some multiple choice questions.

The second aspect is that a national background police check is included within the accreditation. In Australia in some jurisdictions a person can get a Working With Children Check (WWCC) for $80 and the check lasts 5 years. The accreditation offers a national background police check within the cost of the accreditation. This effectively reduces the cost of the actual accreditation to virtually zero.

There is another question that arises with respect to accreditation. That is, if a person has accreditation should they become an ATA member? It is very important for tutors to realise that ATA membership and accreditation are complementary. This means that both add value but in different ways. The value of accreditation has been detailed earlier. The value of ATA membership arises from being a part of the peak professional, representative body. The ATA offers members the benefit of lobbying, access to discounted insurance, discounted web design and printing, use of the ATA logo, the quarterly newsletters and access to the scholarship scheme when it has completed its trial phase.

Accreditation is a necessary and welcome addition to the private tutoring industry in Australia. It raises standards nationally and sets a benchmark for private tutors internationally. The industry broadly has embraced the idea of accreditation suggesting the industry is mature and that private tutors nationally understand the importance of raising minimum standards within the sector.