Tutor-client agreements

When you hire a tutor, you may find that the tutor asks you a number of questions you may not have expected.  The tutor may also present you with a tutor-client agreement form (contract) of some kind, which you will be asked to sign. 

What, you may wonder, is the purpose of this form?  What is included in a tutor-client agreement?  Why do I have to sign a form like this? Why does the tutor ask so many questions?  Do I have to answer them all? We will answer your questions about tutor questions and tutor-client agreements in this post.

What kind of information does a tutor collect, and why?

When you first meet with the tutor, he/she may ask you a number of questions, and record the information you give.  The tutor is not trying to be snoopy, or trying to invade your privacy.  Instead, the information will help the tutor provide high quality, individualized tutoring.

Of course, if you feel uncomfortable with some of the questions, you are not obligated to provide that information.  If the questions seem unreasonable, you may want to choose another tutor.  You should also feel free to question why any particular piece of information is important.

Here are some questions you may be asked by the tutor:

  • name of the student (and parent/guardian if applicable)
  • contact information (phone number, email, street/mailing address)
  • the student’s school grade, the school they attend, the name of their teacher, the subject(s) they need help with, other professionals who may be involved with the student’s learning needs
  • medical, family, or other issues that may impact the planning of the tutoring, and the success of the tutoring sessions
  • information that can help the tutor plan for the tutoring lessons: report card grades and comments, prerequisite courses already completed, test results, samples of the student’s work in the subject area, etc.
  • you may also notice the tutor taking notes during tutoring sessions.  These notes may include the tutor’s observations of the student’s learning during the session, plans for future sessions, ideas for useful learning activities, and concerns the tutor may need to discuss with the parent or teacher. 

What is a tutor-client agreement? Why is it necessary?

A tutor-client agreement can contain various kinds of information: a learning contract, information about communication between tutor and student/parent, the learning goals, payment plans, and so on.

A tutor-client agreement is useful for both the tutor and the client.  It makes clear the expectations of both parties; it prevents misunderstandings; and thus it provides protection for both parties, as well as helping to ensure the success of the tutoring.

If you feel the agreement is unfair, incomplete, or goes into unreasonable depth, you have the right to ask for changes before you sign it.  Always read any agreement carefully, and if you don’t understand any section, ask questions.  You should also be able to have someone you trust look it over for you.  When you feel comfortable with the agreement, make sure there are two copies, one for the tutor and one for the client, and ensure both parties sign both copies.  If you cannot come to a mutual agreement, you may want to find a different tutor.

Here are some specific examples of the terms and conditions you may find in a tutor-client agreement/ contract:

  • learning contract:  the tutor’s general plan for the tutoring course; the goals/ objectives of the tutoring; the planned length of the tutoring course; expectations regarding homework; participation of the classroom teacher and/or other professionals involved in the student’s learning.  The learning contract may also indicate such expectations as that school homework/ assignments will be done by the student, though the tutor may (or may not) provide guidance.
    The contract will also likely indicate that though the tutor will provide the best service possible, they cannot be held accountable for the academic success (or lack of it) by the student.  Obviously, the student (and parents, teachers, and other learning team members) also share responsibility.
    The learning contract may also indicate that the tutor is not liable for damages (direct or indirect) arising from the use of the tutoring service, or errors/omissions in the content of the materials the tutor uses.  The client, in signing the contract, agrees to waive claims arising from the use of the tutoring service. 
    Finally, the learning contract may indicate that all materials produced by the tutor (and/or tutoring service) are copyright, and not to be reproduced or distributed without written permission.
  • communication (outside of the actual tutoring sessions) between the tutor and client:  methods of communication (ie phone calls, emails, face to face meetings, etc); times/days when communication with the tutor is acceptable; frequency of communication; response times for emails or returned phone calls, etc. 
    Ongoing communication related to the student’s learning goals is important.  Some tutors chat with the parent/student after each sessions; others send an email or make a phone call; and still others may send a short note style report form home after each session or perhaps weekly or monthly.  Excessive demand for communication outside of the sessions, and beyond the limits of the agreement, can become onerous. On the other hand, useful and necessary communication is important for both tutor and client. Including communication information in an agreement provides for and protects both parties.
  • testimonials: the agreement may include references and testimonials from former students, for the information of the new client/student
  • fees for tuition ($/hour, payment schedule, terms of payment – cash, cheque, credit card, etc).  Some tutors may include a small surcharge on cheques, or may not accept cheques.  Some tutors require a deposit of one lesson’s fees to secure the booking, and to cover incidents where the student fails to show up, or fails to pay.  The contract may also include details on what will happen if non-payment occurs (the client will likely be billed for a stated amount), or if the student misses sessions without reasonable warning. (The definition of “reasonable warning” will also be explained – 48 hours warning is common).
  • the tutoring schedule: including place/venue, days/dates, and times.  It may also include a mutually agreed upon ending date.  It may indicate that students are expected to arrive on time, and that if they are late, the session time will not be extended, but will still be charged for.
  • rules and expectations: the tutor-client agreement may include information on expectations such as: students eating/ drinking/ using the washroom during sessions; attendance (or not) of parents, siblings, or others during sessions; requirements related to learning materials and resources brought by the student to each session; expectations of the learning environment (quiet room, suitable furnishing and lighting, materials ready, etc); and so on.  The tutor will also discuss these rules with the student; the student should feel free to ask any questions he/she has about the tutor’s expectations.

As mentioned, reasonable requests and expectations of the client toward the tutor may also be included in the agreement.  If the tutor refuses to consider the client’s requests, the client may well decide to seek a different tutor.  (And obviously, if the client refuses to agree to the tutor’s expectations, the tutor may choose not to work with that client).  The use of a reasonable tutor-client agreement is for the protection and success of both tutor and client.

Discussion:  What items do you think are important in a tutor-client agreement?  Would you like to see items added that we have not mentioned?  Do you think some of the items we have mentioned are unreasonable?  Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Penticton tutor: If you live in the Penticton area, and are looking for a tutor, be sure to check out my Penticton tutor information page!

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5 Responses to Tutor-client agreements

  1. Loura says:

    Thank you so much for this information! I have been tutoring for a little while informally, but will be more formal from now on. I want my parents and students to take their education seriously, and filling out a form may be a good way to communicate that.

  2. Natalie says:

    I am happy to have come across this as my first session with a client is tomorow.

  3. Norma J Hill says:

    Thanks–I hope it will be helpful!

  4. I have always added a snow policy – so parents know what to expect if I am late due to weather conditions – but also the requirements to terminate a contract on both sides (tutor and parent). I think it is key for parents to know how to change tutors if they are unsatisfied but the tutor has some certainty as well.

  5. Norma J Hill says:

    Great ideas! Thanks Mandi! I agree with both. I do most of my tutoring from my own home office, so my contracts include requirements related to students arriving late, or not turning up. And yes, I also include info on terminating the agreement (from both sides) — I have this in both my tutoring and editing contracts. It protects both parties.

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