What is the Difference Between a Teacher and a Tutor?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between teaching and tutoring? You may have not given it much thought but there are fundamental distinctions between a teacher and a tutor.

Teachers lead, Tutors ensure no one is left behind and breakdown barriers to education

It’s a teachers Job to deliver a whole syllabus within a set period of time. The teacher has two main aims.

  • to make the material as interesting as possible so the students will engage with it.
  • to try and enable as much of their class to grasp and understand as much of the material as possible.  

So, teachers must deliver the syllabus in a way that leads a group of students, trying their best to ensure as many students as possible will follow. Unfortunately, many students get lost and get left behind. Even with the most skilled teachers, the pressure of having to deliver a whole syllabus within a time-frame means that the delivery must be given in a way that captures the most students, which often means the average ability. But since not all students can learn in the same way, a barrier to education can be created. Even the extra bright students can be held back from realising their full potential if the class does not tackle more advanced material.

Tutors, on the other hand, focus more on ensuring an individual student understands what they are learning. The tutor can manipulate the learning to reach the student in a way that they can understand. It is the skill of the tutor to remove the barriers to learning and alter the pace of the learning to the student’s understanding.  Very skilled tutors can support a student to learn to manipulate the information themselves, supporting them to gain a different way of learning that enables them to both understand how they learn best, how to engage in mainstream teaching styles at the same time and how to translate some of the information themselves outside of the classroom.

Teachers deliver to groups, Tutors work 1:1

I think this is the main difference between teachers and tutors and one area that should really be firmly in the minds of all educators and parents alike.

Teachers are taught how to teach in small groups and to whole classrooms. They usually start with small groups and then teach larger classes. They are not generally taught how to work with students on a 1:1 basis.  Working with students on a 1:1 basis is completely different to working with a group.

In a lot of fields that specialise in working with people – specifically children, such as psychology, counselling and social work. Practitioners are taught to work with groups and or in a  1:1 way. As these professions know that working with groups involves inclusivity and the group working together, whereas working on a 1:1 basis becomes an emotional relationship.   The classroom has multiple personalities and characters. These combine, and the group has its own identity and group dynamics. Working 1:1 reduces this dynamic to a single individual student and individual tutor. So, attachment styles, capacity for openness and connection is now a part of the educational relationship, it’s very different to a classroom.

Some tutors and teachers are more suited and comfortable with the 1:1 relationship. Whereas others are more suited and comfortable working with groups.

Children can hide in a classroom and some may feel exposed during tuition

In a classroom, children have the ability to merge into the background if they are struggling. They can do this by not asking for help or not engaging and staying as quiet as they can. It is more difficult to support children who are hiding, as the difficulty only comes to light during tests and some homework. Some children who are struggling also can go the other way in the classroom. They can act the class clown or misbehave as a way of hiding their school-related difficulties. Some prefer getting into trouble to admitting they find their schoolwork hard, and the associated negative feelings that go along with that.

But, during tuition, students cannot hide and it becomes very difficult for them to act the class clown. They are forced to expose their school difficulties. Many will benefit greatly by working with these difficulties in their learning. However, some will struggle with this exposure, and the feelings of self-worth behind the hiding or acting out.

Teachers work with engagement, tutors work with connection

In a classroom, teachers need to engage the student and help them have an interest. But, the dynamics of a 1:1 relationship require the tutor to connect with the Student. Where the tutor fails to connect with students, with empathy and understanding of their educational ability, the relationship will feel uncomfortable or intense.  The students will not be able to learn as well as they could.

Teachers have to manage behaviour, tutors have to manage emotions

In the classroom, children can use their behaviour to dilute their learning to a way that is manageable to them. Either hiding or acting out in the classroom. But, during 1:1 children cannot hide or distract from their learning, so the tutor will soon meet the emotional world of the child, normally their negative self-esteem that lies under the behaviour they use in the classroom.  Tutors need to know what they are doing and be skilled to manage these emotions.

Teaching has a time delay, tutoring has immediacy and moment to moment feedback

When working with a group of students, we can understand this as teaching, there is a moment to moment feedback time delay. The student is part of a group and the teaching is delivered to the group. So an individual student rarely has direct one-to-one learning, and experiences a lot of the feedback with a time delay. The teacher also has a time delay on seeing the progress, achievements or difficulties a child may have. Normally having to wait for homework to be returned, or the results of tests.

In contrast, tutoring on a one-to-one basis has an immediacy and constant moment to moment feedback throughout the session. If tutoring is performed properly and the tutor can manage the immediacy and mediate the feedback to guard any negative feelings, the student will benefit tremendously and learn at a rapid rate

To summarise:


  • Teachers provide tuition to a large number of students, they are required to follow a standardized curriculum focused on specific academic standards. Their classroom should reach targets and this is done within a time limit.
  • A teacher must try and devise a method of teaching that fits most students.
  • Teachers will have to provide learning material that helps children with many different learning styles.
  • Teachers will adjust the pace to the classroom as a whole, if the majority of students have understood the information the teacher can move ahead.


  • Tutors provide individual one to one tuition. They can tailor the lessons to the individual students’ learning style.
  • Tutors can present information in several different ways or methods to help the student grasp concepts.
  • Students often lead the way with tutors, they request help with specific tasks or assignments. Tutors help fill in the gaps.
  • Tutors reinforce what has been taught in the classroom.
  • Teachers teach a subject but tutors pay attention to the students individual needs.
  • Tutors can help students with study skills and techniques. If one method does not work they will find another.

The work of teachers and tutors can be complimentary.

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Leaving Cert Results to be published on September 3rd

Leaving Certificate exam results will be published on September 3rd, instead of the usual date in August in more normal times. Students need not be overly concerned by the delay as the CAO and universities have all agreed to accommodate the later timeline. First round of offers is expected to be made the following week.

The delay in this year’s Leaving Cert results will mean third level institutions will have to defer the arrival of first year students to the third week in September. Universities will have to reserve a proportion of on campus accommodation for first year students, as they had done last year.

Discussions have also been held with UCAS (the UK equivalent of the CAO) to change their deadline.

Students who sit the exams and opted to receive the accredited grades will be credited with the better of the two results.

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Last Date for any additional Assessments for Leaving Cert Grades

For the Leaving Certs of 2021, we are nearly there. Friday of this coming week will be the last chance to get any in school assessments that might influence the final outcome. So if the school is giving any tests in this week up to May 14th, pull out all the stops to do as well as you can.

After that it is down to the teacers, schools and deprtment of education to work out student grades.

Those who have registered to sit final written exams in June will have a second chance, being able to take the best grade for each subject from the school assessments and the final written exam.

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Further Adjustments to Leaving Cert 2021 Written Examinations

The Department of Education published Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021 in September 2020 and an updated version of that document in December. That document set out the adjusted arrangements for post-primary students taking certificate examinations in the 2020/21 school year designed to take account of the disrupted learning experienced by students during the 2019/20 school year with some contingency built in for future further disruptions to learning. In light of the extended period of school closure in 2021, resulting in further disruption to learning, it was agreed that further adjustments should be made to the written examination papers to recognise this additional impact on learning. The aim of these further adjustments is to lessen the load, as far as is reasonably possible, for candidates both in their preparation for the written examinations and also on the day of the examination. These further adjustments have been finalised following discussions between the Department of Education, National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and the State Examinations Commission. They are additional to the previous adjustments, but in some instances these further adjustments supersede the previous ones. Details of the previous adjustments are available in Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Examinations 2021.

The adjustments, in most cases, involve providing further choice to candidates by reducing the number of questions to be answered in the examination. While this will have the effect of also reducing the time needed to complete the examination, the duration of each examination will remain unchanged, thus substantively relieving time pressures.

­The changes changes for Ordinary and Higher Level Applied Mathematics, Mathematics and Physics are as follows:

The changes for all subjects can be found at EN-EX-16278631.pdf (examinations.ie.)

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Science Week 2020


Science Week

Science Week 2020 which runs from November 8th to 15th will stage hundreds of virtual events throughout the country focusing on deploying science to help make a better future. It provides people across the country with the opportunity to ask questions, explore the science behind everyday lives, and consider the future we want and the role science can play in helping us create and understand our shared future.

This year’s theme “Choosing Our Future”, focuses on how science can improve our lives today and for decades to come. Science, technology, engineering and maths all play a huge role in our everyday lives and in our economy. That has never been clearer than during the past few months as we respond to Covid-19. Science Week is an opportunity for us all to engage with the science all around us and have informed conversations about our shared ambitions for our future.

This year is the 25th anniversary of Science Week Science Week. It aims to support conversations among the public about what they want the future of Ireland to look like, and how science can and should support the hope we have for our collective future.
Throughout Science Week the public will be invited to get involved, to share their views.

Most Science Week 2020 events will take place online and are free to join, but registration may be required. A number of events are due to take place in person in full compliance with Covid-19 guidelines. Science Week events taking place and available to join online include:

Baking in Space: A virtual opportunity to join Andrew Smyth, aerospace engineer and Great British Bake-Off finalist, and Dr Niamh Shaw, scientist, performer and explorer, on a gastronomic journey into orbit. The event will be taking place live online on November 8th, 11th and 15th.

Tech Scéal: This will bring together families to explore science and engineering through a series of workshops involving robotics, electronics, coding and e-textiles culminating in an online virtual exhibition.

Workshops: A series of entertaining workshops are being staged for primary and secondary schools to bring into their classroom, including an exploration of our senses with Ginny Smith, scientific illusions with Dr Matt Pritchard and aerodynamic discoveries with Go Fly Your Kite.

Family Day: A special family day on Saturday, November 14th, will stream interactive events and workshops on ScienceWeek.ie including a live quiz with Phil Symth (RTÉ’s Home School Hub) and an interactive session with Mark the Science Guy (Explorium) to build your own Rube Goldberg machine at home.

The Mirror Trap: This is a short immersive scientific experience about psychology and quantum physics on Saturday, November 14th, at 19.30pm.

This year there will be 13 Science Week festivals taking place in Cork; Cavan/Monaghan, Sligo, Galway, Limerick, Tipperary, Mayo, Wexford, Kilkenny, Kerry, the southeast and the midlands. For a full list of shows, workshops and talks visit www.scienceweek.ie


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Leaving Cert Results Out Today – What Happens Next?

Exam ResultsAbout 60,000 Leaving Certificate students will receive results on line today, with the class of 2020 achieving record grades. Concerns that the calculated grades system would lead to grade inflation have in fact materialised, and this will no doubt feed into higher points requirements for entry to further education courses through the CAO system. The new calculated grading system, introduced due to Covid-19, shows an average increase of 4.4 per cent across all subjects. According to the the Department of Education the grades estimated by teachers were higher again before the calculated grades system brought them down.

Overall, 16.9 per cent of grades have been lowered from what had been given by teachers. H1 grades of 90 per cent and above are up 3.3 per cent at Higher Level and 1.7 per cent at Ordinary Level. In Maths there was a 2 per cent rise in H1 grades at higher level. In Maths and Irish, the numbers graded at Foundation level has roughly halved. In Art, Economics, Accounting, Business and Home Economics the share of H1s at Higher Level has at least doubled, while in Music, they rose from 4.3 per cent to 13.

From 9am today, students will have access to their grades via the Calculated Grades Student Portal.

The student portal will reopen on September 14th at 9am and will provide you with the subject percentage marks you were awarded by the calculated grades process. You may also access the estimated percentage marks which were provided by your schools.

Students who are unhappy with the Calculated Grades they receive in any subjects will have the opportunity to submit an appeal. The appeals process will open on September 14th at 9am and students will be able to access it via the Calculated Grades Student Portal. Students will have until 5pm on September 16th to submit an appeal.

CAO offers are due to be released on September 11, and points for many third-level courses are likely to rise due to higher grades being offered this year.

Leaving Cert 2020 candidates are receiving calculated grades today and, as a back-up, they may also sit written exams in November. They have an unprecedented opportunity to pick and choose and to give themselves the best chance possible in terms of outcomes as they get the better grade from either the Calculated Grade or the written exam grade.

The Department of Education has announced November 16 as the provisional date for the start of the exams postponed from June. It’s provisional because it depends on the public health advice at the time, and the plan is to hold the exams in the evenings and on weekends. There will be no fee.

Unfortunately the written exams come too late for entry to college this autumn. Considering the extent of the disruption to their education earlier this year, students will have to consider how motivated they are and how they would revise for the exams.

The exams will be written only and based on the normal question paper format. There will be no orals, which is an important consideration for language students who would have been relying on that element of the exam to boost their grade.

A FREE helpline will be available from today, provided by the National Parents Council Post-Primary for students, parents and guardians. It will be professionally staffed by members of the Institute of Guidance Counsellors, who will help callers with information on issues like the calculated grades appeals process, sitting exams in 2020, reviews and rechecks, CAO applications, non-CAO options and SUSI applications.

Call the IGC on 1800 265 165 for more information.

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Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Certificate Exams 2021

The Department of Education and Skills has issued several circulars on how to deal with things as we live with covid-19, including a hundred page PDF document; Assessment Arrangements for Junior Cycle and Leaving Cert Examinations 2021.

So don’t rush to print the whole thing off. Just look at the pages for the subjects you will be doing exams in.  Just click on the box with your course title and it will bring you to the relevant details for that subject.

The purpose of the document is to highlight some changes to the exams planned for 2021 to take account of the disruption to learning caused by the pandemic. For written exams the change is mainly offering more choice in the questions to be answered. For practical subjects it may involve reducing the amount of preparation required in advance and more advance notice of the briefs for a subject so students will have more time to put their portfolios together. For others like junior cert science external Assessments will not be done.

Not all subjects have adjustments made. For example, there are none for Applied Maths as the subject already has a large amount of choice in the questions to be answered.


For Leaving Cert Higher Level Maths

LCH Maths Assessment


For Leaving Cert Ordinary Level Maths

LCO Maths Assessment


For Leaving Cert Ordinary & Higher Level Physics


For Junior Cert Ordinary & Higher Level Maths

JC Maths Assessment 2021


For Junior Cert Common Level Science

JC Science Assessment 2021

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Arrangements for starting new school year still a bit uncertain

Schools across the country are due to reopen over the next fortnight. At this point I am unsure about how Galway Maths Grinds will run classes; whether they will be the traditional face to face classes or online only. It will depend to a large extent on the situation with the covid-19 virus.

In any event, we will not start back until after September 7th, to give people a chance to settle into their back to school routines.

Even if we start off with face-to-face classes there is no guarantee that we will not have to revert to online classes or other forms of online support only if there is a resurgence of the virus. We will just have to wait and see.

In the mean time I have put up online courses and resource packs for junior cert and leaving cert students that can be purchased at https://gmg.teachable.com/ .

There are also courses with more general applicability:

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How do we deal with long-term effect of pandemic school shutdown?

I have written before about summer regression or learning loss that students experience over the normal summer holidays. But this year we have to deal with a much more severe problem due to early shutdown of schools due to the covid-19 virus pandemic. With schools having closed to normal business from march 12th and lack of clarity as to exactly when and how hey will reopen for the coming school year we are looking at an unprecedented length of interruption to students’ education. Even where schools have managed to provide some level of instruction and learning remotely it is inferior to the normal face-to-face classroom situation. And in many cases the schools or individual teachers have been totally unprepared to deal with this type of situation. Before this, there was no expectation that they would need to be.

We hope the schools will able to reopen in September, but there is no guarantee that they will. The medical experts are telling us that it is not a question of if but of when we will have spikes in the prevalence of the virus here. We live in hope that these will be minor but can not know in advance their extent. Discussions to date suggest pupils will be split into separate groups or bubbles, going to the classrooms in school for part of the week and working from home for part, alternating with other groups in the same year. Some universities here are saying students will only be on campus one week in every four of a semester. Elsewhere some universities are saying that there will no students on campus at all for the coming year; that all learning will be on line.

So in place of the usual two months summer holidays for primary school pupils and three months for second level we are looking at a minimum extra two and a half months disruption already and an unknown amount after the schools are due to reopen in September. The evidence from past studies is that this is likely to negatively affect students’ concentration levels as well as their reading and even more so their maths. It remains to be seen how detrimental this six months plus turns out to be in terms of learning loss in the long run. How much more of the new school year will be spent in trying to catch up with what should have been covered in the one just gone by?

We know we have a crisis. We know it may last for some time or revisit us periodically going forward. So what steps can we take to minimise the negative effects and how do we help our students come through it in the most advantageous position? I suggest it needs to be addressed at three different levels; national, school and home.

At national level we need a much better infrastructure for remote teaching. Instead of schools having to find their own solutions there should be a common platform that can be used by all schools. It should be preferably open source without dependency on any one particular private company whose primary objective would be making financial profits. There should be central sourcing or buying agreements so that schools get the correctly specified hardware and software at the best prices. The current situation where often a teacher who may not necessarily have that much technical knowledge goes to town and buys a few laptops at whatever is the price on the day instead of being able to access Department of Education specified equipment at keenly negotiated prices is ludicrous. When students move from class to class or even from school to school they should not need to learn to use a new platform to continue their studies. This is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

The schools should ensure that a single platform or at at least compatible platforms are used by all teachers in the school. The large number of different platforms people had to suddenly try to come to grips with in some cases has being a source of great frustration for parents and students trying to homeschool for the last few months. They should be ensuring that the teachers within their school have a basic level of competence in using the chosen platform.

The home environment also needs to be considered. If students are to achieve their potential, then families need to accept that education is important and take steps to make the most of their existing conditions and where necessary, modify them. Some will have excellent broadband, highly specified computers, their own study room, access to private tutors and all the benefits that affluence facilitates. But in a crowded house, how do they organise where and when students study and do homework. What house rules do they have abut quite periods? If they have to share a laptop, how do they do this. How do they get internet access? Are they trying to work off a laptop with a poor wifi connection or a phone?

At the end of the day, everyone has a certain responsibility to make the most of the situation in which they find themselves. The longer they leave it before taking some positive action the greater the learning regression will be and the longer it will take to make up the lost ground. Those best able to learn themselves without been closely monitored and pushed to get things done will suffer the least setback in their learning. The gap between the achievers and those who let things slide is likely to be much more noticeable in the coming few years. The most important skills are life skills like time management, how to study effectively, and problem solving. A certain amount of trial an error will be needed to find out what works best for a particular student. I suggest that the sooner this starts the better. While students should enjoy their summer, they would be well advised to keep up with a little learning as well.

At Galway Maths Grinds I have cancelled all real face to face classes for the moment. I am using the down time to upgrade and expand my online resources. Obviously I have concentrated on the subjects I normally tutor in, maths and Physics. And on those important life skills just mentioned. To see what what online courses and resource packs are available visit https://gmg.teachable.com/.

For virtual face-to-face support ring 085-1393768 and if need be we can arrange to videoconference using apps like Whatsapp.

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Leaving Cert students must register for calculated grades by Thursday evening

The Leaving Certificate 2020 – Calculated Grades Student Portal is at https://lc2020.education.gov.ie/

where you will see a page like the following. It will contain a button to log on with if not already registered and a separate button to use if you want to check things after you have registered. Enter it via the official page at the link above, just in case of any changes. The following is just for information.


Before you Start guidePlease read this guide in full before you commence the Registration Process

The Minister for Education and Skills announced on 08 May 2020 that the Leaving Certificate 2020 examinations were to be postponed and to offer students a system of Calculated Grades to allow Leaving Certificate students to receive State certification. Students will also have an opportunity to sit all or some of the leaving Certificate Examinations at a date in the future when it is considered safe to hold the examinations. Further information about this decision can be found here.

The Leaving Certificate 2020 –Calculated Grades Student Portal has been developed to support the delivery of calculated grades.

In this initial stage, the portal will open at 10 AM on Tuesday 26 May and close at 10 PM on Thursday 28 May. In this time period students MUST do the following:-

  • Leaving Certificate Applied Students: Need to register ONLY
  • All other Leaving Certificate Students: Need to register AND confirm their subject levels

You must complete the Registration Process, and if applicable, Confirm your Subject Levels before 10 p.m. on Thursday 28 May.

Before continuing make sure you have read the Before you Start Guide AND you have everything you need to complete the Registration process.

If you have any difficulties consult the Before you Start Guide. If you don’t find the answers you need after reading this guide you can contact the helpdesk at 1800-111135 or 1800-111136. Please note that due to COVID19 restrictions the helpdesk phonelines will ONLY be available between 12 pm and 5 pm on Tuesday 26 May and between 9 am and 5 pm on Wednesday/Thursday 27/28 May. Outside of these hours you can email lcsupport2020@education.gov.ie

Helpdesk support is available if you run into problems please Email lcsupport2020@education.gov.ie

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