Private Employment in the Tutoring Industry, Advice to Staff

Throughout their careers teachers may, from time to time, provide individual or small
group instruction or learning assistance to students outside normal class lessons.
This assistance is variously called tutoring, coaching or mentoring and usually
involves a regular commitment of time by staff members.
Teachers may act as tutors to students on a voluntary basis, before or after school or
at lunchtime. They may also be engaged to tutor students under a range of State
and Commonwealth funded programs such as the HSC Tutorial Support Program or
the Tutorial Voucher Initiative. These programs generally have their own guidelines,
duty statements, reporting and accountability requirements. They are also conducted
consistent with the Department’s Mentoring Students Policy and the associated
Mentoring and Supporting Students Guidelines.
This advice is not directed at Department of Education and Training staff engaging in
tutoring as part of their normal duties or under a Department sanctioned tutoring
program. Rather, it is directed at those staff who may be considering engaging in
private employment as tutors.
The private tutoring industry is a growing sector of the education and training
industry and school teachers are regularly approached to work in private tutoring or
coaching “colleges”. Other teachers establish themselves as tutors in private practice
working through an agency or as “sole traders”.
In 2007 the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) published a Report
of an investigation and systems review of corruption risks associated with HSC takehome assessment tests. The ICAC investigation was instigated following a report to
the Commission of allegations relating to improper tutoring services being provided
to NSW Higher School Certificate students by individuals working as tutors for a
private tutoring company.
Among its recommendations the Independent Commission Against Corruption
recommended That the NSW Department of Education and Training provide
additional guidance to teachers who seek to undertake private employment in the
tutoring industry, including managing properly identified conflict of interest issues and
corruption risks.
This advice is part of the Department’s commitment to implement the Commission’s
Staff members considering working as private tutors should be aware that there is
legislation and policy relevant to that decision. In the first instance they should
recognise that working as a private tutor, even for a few hours per week, constitutes
private employment.
If the staff member is a teacher, the Teaching Service Act 1980 applies. At Section
92 B that Act says
92B Officers and temporary employees (are) not to undertake other paid work
without permission
(1) An officer or temporary employee is not to undertake any other paid work without the
permission of the Director-General.
(2) The Director-General may prepare guidelines with respect to the type of work that
constitutes paid work for the purposes of this section.
(3) Any such guidelines must be made available to officers and temporary employees in
such manner as the Director-General thinks appropriate.
(4) This section does not apply to a temporary employee employed on a casual basis.
Staff members who are employed under other legislation (e.g. Education (School
Administrative and Support Staff) Act 1987 and the Public Sector Employment and
Management Act 2002) have similar provisions.
The guidelines referred to above are the Private and Secondary Employment Policy,
Private and Secondary Employment Guidelines which are available on the
Department’s policy website.
The Policy says, among other things,
Private or secondary employment must be lawful and not damage the reputation of the
In considering applications for private or secondary employment, the protection of children is
to be the paramount consideration.
In general, employees may not work in competition with any section of the Department. In
certain cases, permission to do so may be obtained. Approval may be granted if it is in the
interest of, or of benefit to the Department. Issues of conflict of interest must be fully
addressed by the applicant.
A key implication of the policy and guidelines in this context is that department
employees who wish to undertake paid work as a tutor (other than those in
department sponsored and operated programs and activities) are required to seek
prior approval using the application form attached to the guidelines.
Staff members are also given relevant direction on this issue in the Department’s
Code of Conduct Policy and the associated Code of Conduct Procedures. In
particular staff considering working as private tutors should read the sections on
Conflict of Interest and Private and Secondary Employment.
Teachers and tutors of Higher School Certificate students should also be aware of
the policies, rules and procedures issued by the NSW Board of Studies with regard
to HSC Assessment. A good starting place is the Board of Studies statement on
Honesty in HSC Assessment - the Standard published on the Board’s website. This
statement is part of the Board’s HSC: ALL MY OWN WORK initiative on the
principles and practice of good scholarship.
Work undertaken by the Office of Schools in collaboration with Audit and Risk
Management Directorate and with the assistance of a group of Secondary Principals
and Head Teachers, has identified the following examples of potential “conflict of
interest situations” for Department staff:
Teachers preparing candidates for the HSC making themselves available to
coach or tutor the same students for money outside of school hours
Teachers preparing candidates for the HSC referring those students to a
colleague teacher with whom they are associated for paid tutoring
Teachers advising students or their parents that the student would benefit
from individual tutoring and recommending a particular individual or company
with which they have an association
Teachers working in selective high schools offering to prepare students for
selective high school placement tests for money either privately or through
“coaching colleges”
Teachers in schools with Opportunity Classes preparing students for the
Opportunity Class Placement Test as private tutors
Teachers using their approved secondary employment as HSC markers to
promote their private business interests as paid tutors
The working group also identified the following corruption risks for the Department or
for Department staff working as private tutors:
Teacher tutors being unaware of requirements of private employment policy
fail to seek approval for employment as tutors leading to inability to manage
potential malpractice and inability to target advice on ethical practice.
Schools failing to establish and maintain records of staff working privately as
tutors leading to an inability to identify staff at risk of malpractice or at risk of
being offered inducements to behave unethically.
Schools being unaware of the number of students receiving tutoring with no
consistent approach to the identification and recording of students receiving
tutoring leading to malpractice not being detected.
Teachers, particularly new teachers, not understanding the relevance or
impact of policy and guidelines leading to malpractice not being identified and
increased potential for corrupt behaviour.
Tutors failing to observe ethical standards of professional behaviour by
“crossing the line” between providing appropriate support and assistance to
students preparing assessment tasks and producing material which the
student subsequently asserts is “all their own work”.
Lack of knowledge of some tutors/tutoring organizations of the mandatory
BoS/DET requirements leading to increased potential of rules/guidelines not
being followed.
Tutoring not happening in established businesses such as “tutoring colleges”
but through informal “off record” practices leading to greater difficulty in
detecting potential malpractice.
Tutors failing to make clear to individuals contracting their services the ethical
code of practice which applies in the tutor/student relationship leading to
unreasonable expectations on behalf of students and their parents of the
extent to which tutors will assist students in the preparation of assessment
Emerging technologies which facilitate plagiarism not being identified leading
to malpractice not being detected.
Potential conflicts of interest are part of the working environment for many public
sector officials, including school teachers. The issue is not that potential conflicts of
interest arise but rather what individuals do subsequently to manage the conflict.
The Code of Conduct indicates that staff members are required to avoid conflicts of
interest if possible, and avoid creating conflicts for others. They are also required to
disclose in writing to their supervisor any perceived or actual conflict of interest as
soon as they become aware that there is, or may be, a potential conflict.
The Code of Conduct Procedures at Section 25.1 indicates that conflicts of interest
can be resolved or managed through a range of actions such as:
 the supervisor recording the details of the conflict and taking no further action
in relation to the conflict because the potential for conflict is minimal or can be
eliminated by disclosure or effective supervision;
 the supervisor of the staff member with the conflict checking and endorsing, if
appropriate, the actions taken with respect to the matter creating the conflict;
 the supervisor referring the decision to a senior staff member who is expert in
the issue and independent of the situation; and,
 in some circumstances, the staff member relinquishing the personal interest
by not taking up the position
Fundamental to managing a potential conflict of interest is honesty and
transparency. Staff members considering working as privately employed tutors
should recognise the potential for a conflict of interest, particularly when the
student(s) involved have a relationship with them in their public employment. Staff
already working as private tutors should examine the potential for a conflict of
interest in their current work arrangements and, if appropriate, discuss them with
their Department supervisor.
The risks of corrupt conduct, malpractice and unethical behaviour are real in
circumstances where teachers and other DET staff, highly regarded as education
practitioners and subject specialists in their professional lives and “day jobs” are
engaged by parents and others to provide individual coaching, tuition or instruction to
particular students, usually their children.
While many parents engage tutors for remedial assistance, others believe that in the
highly competitive environment of public examinations and testing, either for tertiary
entrance or selection for specialist educational settings, a private tutor is part of a
strategy for “getting an edge” over competition. In such circumstances they are
willing to pay, but they expect “results”. They may also take the view that, having
agreed to provide tuition for money, the tutor should “do whatever it takes” to achieve
the goal.
Society generally, and the Department of Education and Training in particular as
their employer, expects that DET staff will act professionally and ethically, both in
their primary employment and while engaged in any secondary or private
employment. Section 21 of the Department’s Code of Conduct Procedures says that
staff need to recognise the professional and ethical dimensions of their work and
give proper attention to the values which should guide their decisions and actions. In
this context the statement on Values in NSW Public Schools is relevant as are the
questions posed in Section 21.2 of the Code.
When applied to staff of a public sector organisation, ethical decision making
includes the following characteristics which the community has a right to expect of its
public servants:
Impartiality - Making decisions or acting in a way that does not improperly favour
one person or interest.
Integrity - Acting in such a way that others have no doubt about our motives when
we are making decisions or providing services. This might involve:
avoiding or declaring situations where our personal interests might be seen to
have the potential to affect our judgement.
not seeking or accepting any financial or other benefit from persons as a
reward for performing our duties, particularly where it is in return for providing
or arranging a benefit which the person is not entitled to receive.
not seeking to gain personal advantage from information gained in the course
of our work.
Openness - Providing full and accurate information in an understandable and easily
accessible form to those who are entitled to receive it.
The Department of Education and Training does not ban its staff from working as
private tutors. It recognises that such work can provide legitimate benefits for both
staff members and their students. The benefits of coaching and tutoring are such
that the Department itself arranges for particular students to be tutored.
Nevertheless, the conflict of interest risks and risks of malpractice and unethical
behaviour for staff working as private tutors are such that the Department is
providing this additional advice for its employees considering undertaking private
employment in the tutoring industry.
The Private and Secondary Employment Policy and the associated Private and
Secondary Employment Guidelines are available on the Department’s policy
website. The contact officer is the Senior Manager, Human Resource Policy on (02)
9561 8274
The Honesty in HSC Assessment – the Standard and associated material can be
found on the Board of Studies website at
For information and advice on managing conflict of interest and fraud and corruption
prevention see the Audit and Risk Management Directorate website (Intranet only)
The Code of Conduct Policy and the associated Code of Conduct Procedures are
available on the Department’s policy website. The contact officer is the Senior
Manager, Serious Misconduct Investigation Team, Employee Performance and
Conduct Directorate, (02) 9244 5203
School based staff may also wish to discuss this advice with their Principal, who
may, in turn, consult their School Education Director. The Director, School and
Regional Policy (02) 9561 8514 is also available to assist.
Trevor Fletcher
14 May 2009