The Best Start In Life?

Lady teacher sits in front of class taking notes
Private tutor Stephanie Williams provides after-hours tuition for schoolchildren Photo: ITV / Tonight

Most parents want what's best for their child. Happiness, health...and also for them to do well at school and to go on and succeed in life. But in our competitive world the Tonight programme asks if that pressure to succeed is becoming too great?

More and more parents are now using private tutors outside of school to boost their children's academic ability. A survey carried out by the education charity the Sutton Trust earlier this year, showed that almost a quarter of children between the ages of 11 and 16 have had a private tutor at some stage in their lives.

But increasingly parents are starting to have their children tutored even earlier than this. The private tuition industry is booming and is estimated to be worth more than one billion pounds a year. One leading tuition company says almost a third of children they tutor are in primary school. Some children are being tutored even before they start school.

In a survey conducted by Childline last year, more than half of the children and young people questioned said that pressure from their parents to do well in exams was causing them anxiety. Some are questioning whether the pressure on kids to perform well academically is too much, too young. Psychologist Rachel Andrew fears that focusing on a child's academic achievement can affect their social development.

MCU of Rachel Andrew, psychologist
Rachel Andrew Credit: ITV / Tonight

Many parents feel that in order to get their child into the best school they need to be tutored. Competition for grammar school places is fierce so parents want to give children the best chance possible. Stephanie Williams of S6 Tutoring Academy in Essex has 100 children on her books and a waiting list of 200 pupils.

But headteachers of grammar schools, such as Desmond Deehan at Townley Grammar Schools, are concerned about the amount of tutoring that is taking place ahead of grammar school exams. They are now creating coaching resistant tests.

Headmaster sitting in classroom
Headteacher Desmond Deehan Credit: ITV / Tonight

Our reporter Fiona Foster travels to Finland to witness an education system which is very different to ours. Children start school at the age of 7 and there is a more relaxed attitude to education here. Children do not wear uniforms, they address their teachers by their first names and they even walk around in their socks.

Reporter walks down the street with family in Finland
Tonight reporter Fiona Foster discovered a different approach to Primary education in Finland Credit: ITV / Tonight

In international league tables Finland consistently ranks higher than Britain and its education system has attracted the attention ofexperts worldwide.

Tonight: The Best Start in Life? is on ITV1 at 7.30pm