Do you want to improve your children’s English? If so you have plenty of options to explore – from free English exercises to paid English lessons online. Find out what’s best for you and your child.
Having good English skills isn’t just essential for many jobs – it’s vital to our everyday lives. But many children struggle with reading, writing, spelling and grammar.
Perhaps your child needs to get up to speed on the basics. Or maybe they excel at English and want to stretch themselves further.
Whatever your child’s situation, there are several options for improving your child’s English.
- Free English Online Exercises
- English Online Exercises (Paid Sites)
- English Learning Centres
- English Home Tutors
Contact your school for English homework help
Many schools have specific resources for children who are struggling in core subjects. In particular, it’s worth enquiring to see if they run any English breakfast clubs, after-school classes or summer schools.
Your first move should be to see what help your school offers
See our article on extended schools for more information about extra English exercises for kids.
Free English online exercises
There are a number of excellent free websites that help break down English for kids, offering English worksheets, games, and activities that you can work through with your child.
- BBC Bitesize offers some great educational games, activities and revision resources from Key Stage 1 to GCSE level English. Kids can work through the English exercises by themselves or you can sit in to give them a hand.
- Learn English With Sue also has some effective English worksheets and exercises that are good at developing children’s reading, writing, speaking and grammar. (The site is aimed at students learning English as a foreign language, but it’s great for kids too).
- Worksheet Genius lets you create your own English worksheets quickly and easily.
- Topmarks has a well-ordered English exercises, games and resources section with activities suitable for those aged from 3-16-years-old.
- Kiz Club has printable games, English worksheets and activities for young pre-school and primary children.
For more suggestions on free online English homework help, see our article on free homework help for kids.
Paid for English online exercises
EdPlace offers interactive English worksheets for kids. You can complete them online but they also have many that can be printed out and completed with pen and paper.
After your child completes the worksheets, it tells you exactly which questions they got right and which they got wrong – and what the correct answer should be. However, for the most part the site doesn’t explain why the answer is wrong. So if you find your child consistently gets confused about verbs, for example, it will be down to you (or their teacher) to explain it!
As a parent you also choose which worksheet topics to assign to your child. You have a separate parent log-in which lets you do this. You can also see which worksheets your child has completed and their test scores on each one.
EdPlace allows you to set rewards for your kids to help keep them motivated (e.g. complete five worksheets and get an hour to watch TV). Your child gets points for completing each exercise, and EdPlace lets them know how close they are to achieving their reward.
- Easy to use for both parents and kids
- Interactive English online worksheets are clear and well-structured
- The online ‘points and reward’ system acts as a good incentive and helps keep kids motivated
- Relatively cheap
- Good at identifying where your child’s weaknesses lie and what topics they need practice with
- While EdPlace is very good at identifying your child’s weaknesses in English, it doesn’t explain why their answers are wrong in massive depth. In other words, some kids may need hands-on help (from you or a teacher) to learn from their mistakes.
- You need to assign worksheets to your child manually (though the program makes recommendations based on your child’s previous scores).
How much does it cost?
£8 a month or £64 a year per child.
You can also try some sample worksheets for free on the site, or get full access to the site for 14 days for just £1 – a good way to tell if it’s right for you.
English Learning Centres
Explore Learning are a company that run over 70 learning centres across the UK dealing in extra English tuition for 5-14 year-olds. Many of their centres are based in Sainsbury’s supermarkets, so you can drop off your kids for tutoring while you do the weekly shop.
Many parents can’t praise Explore Learning enough, while others have found the centres to be lacking. As with most educational tools, different methods can suit different children.
It’s important to know exactly what you’re getting with Explore Learning. The extra tuition they offer is largely computer-based English exercises. While tutors do work through with pupils on a one-to-one basis (there are six children for every tutor) most of these staff members are not qualified teachers – they’re often young people studying A-levels or at university. (It’s worth bearing in mind that many home tutors are not qualified teachers, either).
Try and chat to parents who have used the learning centre you are considering
In other words, a bit of a halfway house: it’s not the same as having a dedicated tutor, but equally it offers more than just sitting a child in front of a computer.
Explore Learning prices vary between £98-£109 a month, depending on location. Many families can receive discounts if they are eligible for Childcare Vouchers, Working Tax Credit or Income Support – or have more than one child attending.
Each Explore Learning session lasts one hour 15 minutes, and kids can do up to two sessions a week. That works out at roughly £12.25 a session. That’s cheaper than most home tutors – but don’t expect the same intensive tutoring as a one-to-one tutoring session.
If you’re not sure, you can take your child along for a free trial and see whether it suits you and your child.
- Provides supervised extra tuition that’s cheaper than most home tutors
- The centres monitor and mark your child’s progress so you don’t have to
- You can drop off the kids for a session without booking ahead, making it convenient choice for busy parents
- Although it costs less than most home tutors, there are cheaper ways to help boost your child’s English skills.
- The exercises are heavily computer-based, which doesn’t suit all children
How much does it cost?
Between £98-£109 a month.
Kumon have hundreds of learning centres across the UK. Kumon students normally visit their local centre once or twice a week, and are given homework to take back for the other days.
The ‘Kumon method’ mainly revolves around worksheets, and most instructors aren’t teachers. (The quality of instructors at different centres can vary considerably – some are very good, others are not so great).
Although your child will receive support from instructors, it’s up to you as the parent to actually mark the worksheets and ensure that your child does all the homework that’s assigned to them.
- Your child is supported by learning centre staff
- Worksheets are clear and kids can work at their own pace
- Kids can usually complete the homework worksheets without being supervised
- Though repetitive, some parents have found the Kumon exercises have benefited dyslexic children – though every child is different. (We recommend getting the opinion of a dedicated special needs teacher if your child has dyslexia).
- Learning centre staff offer only limited contact time
- You have to mark your kids homework and ensure that it gets done
- The worksheets can be repetitive – many kids get bored with this style of learning
How much does it cost?
Prices vary according to area, but expect to pay at least £50 a month per child (plus a one-off registration fee, which is usually around £15).
Kip McGrath has over a hundred learning centres across the UK. They offer English tutoring for primary and secondary school students up to GCSE level.
Unlike Kumon and Explore Learning, Kip McGrath only employ fully qualified teachers. They also boast small class sizes, with one teacher for every five students. Although there is some one-on-one tutoring, your child will spend the majority of their time being supervised in a (small) group. Lessons take place once a week and last 80 minutes.
Another advantage Kip McGrath centres have over Kumon is that they provide a varied mix of tutoring, written work and computer-assisted learning. This helps keep things fresh and the kids engaged (where many kids get bored with the more worksheet based approach of Kumon).
The mix of teaching methods also means that these centres are more likely to adapt to the individual learning style of your child.
However, although Kip McGrath only employ qualified teachers, bear in mind the teachers can vary in quality enormously. In other words, a Kip McGrath centre is only as good as the teachers it employs. This means that while some centres are fantastic, some may be average or worse. It’s worth checking out your local centre (your child can get a free tutoring assessment) and seeking out the opinion of other parents who use (or have used) the centre.
- Fully qualified teachers
- Small group sizes
- Wide range of resources to suit your child’s needs, which can make tuition genuinely enjoyable for them
- Centres are only as good as the teachers they employ
- Not cheap – can cost as much (or even a bit more) than some private tutors
How much does it cost?
Lessons cost £27 each (as lessons last 80 minutes that is equivalent to an hourly rate of £20.25). Kip McGrath centres also offer a free, no-obligation tutoring assessment for each child.
Tutlings – online tutor database
Tutlings is an online database of home tutors. It allows you to browse tutors by location, the subjects they teach, and the prices they charge. It also lists other useful information, such as their qualifications and experience, whether they’ve been CRB checked or not, and if they’re willing to travel.
(Remember that all qualifications – including the CRB check – are ‘self-declared’ by tutors, and are NOT checked by the site. Therefore always ask to see proof of a tutor’s qualifications before the first lesson as a matter of course).
Always ask for proof of a tutor’s qualifications before the first lesson
Tutors set their own fees – so there’s no standard agency rate. (Most tutors on the site seem to charge between £10-£20 an hour).
Tutlings.com is an excellent idea. The site is well laid out and easy to use. But it’s far from perfect. Most of the tutors registered on the site are concentrated in London and the big cities at the moment. If you don’t live in a big city, you may struggle to find more than a couple of tutors (if that) near you.
Also, as the site hasn’t been running long, there are barely any reviews of tutors on the site. However many tutors offer their first lesson for free or half-price, so to some extent you can ‘try before you buy’.
- Site allows both tutors and parents to sidestep expensive agency fees, making home tuition more affordable.
- Many tutors offer free or half-price ‘taster’ lessons.
- Most tutors are concentrated in the big cities.
- Few tutors have reviews at the moment.
How much does it cost?
The site is free to use. Most tutors on it charge between £10-£20 an hour.
First Tutors – online tutor database
First Tutors is similar to Tutlings – an online database of home tutors. In fact it does everything that Tutlings does, but as it has been going longer it has a bigger database of tutors.
However, the site does charge a small fee for its service. It is free to browse and even to email tutors to discuss your child’s requirements and what they can offer – but if you then book a tutor for a lesson, the site does charge a one-off introduction fee of between £4.99-£19.99 (the size of the charge is linked to the tutor’s hourly fee).
In return for your fee, First Tutors will send references and perform an identity check on the tutor.
Tutors on the site charge anything from £8-£35+ an hour, depending on their experience and qualifications.
(As with Tutlings, remember to ask for proof of any qualifications before the first lesson).
- Allows you to sidestep expensive agency fees.
- Larger selection of tutors than Tutlings, which is easy to search.
- You do have to pay a one-off fee if you hire a tutor through the site.
- Most tutors do not offer free or half-price ‘taster’ lessons, unlike Tutlings.
How much does it cost?
It’s free to contact tutors through the site, but if you book a lesson you get charged a one-off introduction fee of between £4.99-£19.99. Tutors on the site charge anything from £8-£35+ an hour.
HometutorsDirectory.co.uk is another online database of tutors that is similar to Tutlings and First Tutor.
The site is free to use and worth looking at – but it’s not as well designed as the others, and it’s not as easy to search for what you’re looking for. It also doesn’t include some important information (such as whether a tutor has a CRB check or not).
- Allows you to sidestep expensive agency fees
- Free to use
- Site is not well designed
- Doesn’t include some important information (such as CRB check status)
What option should I go for?
The answer to this depends on several factors:
- How much help your child needs
- The way in which your child learns
- How much you are able to spend
- What resources are available locally (e.g. what your child’s school offers, whether you live near a learning centre or a decent private tutor, and so on).
If you want to improve your child’s English, the first step is to talk to their school. They may well offer free learning clubs and resources, and can also discuss your child’s learning style with you and what methods of teaching would work best. This is especially the case if your child has dyslexia or other special learning needs. Schools can also be a good source of information if you’re looking for a decent home tutor.
While extra home tuition can certainly improve a child’s English, they are an expensive option. Also, there are many English exercises that parents can do to help your children’s reading and writing.
There are some excellent free English lessons and English exercises you can turn to for help and inspiration – and don’t forget to investigate the extended schools opportunities, either. All these things can make a huge difference to English for kids – and your own child’s English skills.