Meet the Super Tutor; They're Hired to Teach Five-Year-Olds Ancient Greek, Chinese and Philosophy -- and Perks Include Vintage Bubbly, Priceless Antiques and Holidays on Private Jets

Article excerpt

Byline: by Sasha Slater

PERSONAL TRAINERS, motivational coaches, housekeepers, hairdressers, stylists and butlers used to be the fashion-conscious celebrity's status symbols of choice.

But these days, if a pop star or actor hasn't acquired a super-tutor, fluent in Ancient Greek and conversational Latin, they're risking severe loss of face.

Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's decision to advertise for a [pounds sterling]62,100-a-year genius to teach little Moses, five, and Apple, seven, art, painting, drama, tennis, chess, Mandarin Chinese, sailing, philosophy and French as well as Latin and Greek, has just d th t f l upped the ante for everyone else.

For it is not enough that parents should endow libraries and bribe admissions secretaries to ensure their offspring win a place at a top prep school; children of the rich and famous also have to submit to hours outside school-time having their skills honed by a tutor.

This is to guarantee that boys get into Eton, Westminster, Winchester or Harrow and girls beat the competition to Wycombe Abbey, Cheltenham Ladies' College or St Paul's School for Girls.

Frighteningly, according to Ellen Semler, an American writer married to an English banker living in West London with their three sons, it's an unwritten assumption that every child at a prep school will be tutored.

Schools let you down in a subject and then suggest your child needs some help,' she says. 'They pretend theymean you should do their homework with them, but really they mean a Gwyneth Paltrow is looking for a genius to guide her children th d i t d ti tutor. It ends up that the whole class is being tutored by the same guy.'

Banish the thought that Moses and Apple are a little young for hothousing. 'It starts when the child is two and goes on through Common Entrance, GCSEs and A-levels. I even know some students who are being tutored all the way through university,' says Semler.

Everyone boasts: "Mine's a surfer"; "Mine's a double first from Oxford"; "Mine cooks". It goes way beyond Gwyneth levels.'

Over the years, she estimates she's spent thousands on tutors as well as hundreds of housands on private education.

'It's all part of the rat race,' she says. 'You pay like hell to get your children into school and then double it with tutors'.

Indeed, there's a boy at Eton whose tutor lives full-time in a B&B down the road and helps him with his homework every day.

However, tutors exist in a world in which clients have so much money, their fees are almost irrelevant. Indeed, the more these parents are charged, the happier they are.

'Parents get carried away,' says Will Petty, a tutor who went to Harrow, got an MA in philosophy at Edinburgh University and now works for London educational consultancy Bonas MacFarlane. 'They think: "She's only four, but why not get a Classicist?"

They start out looking for just a normal tutor and end up with a skiing instructor or sailing expert because it's an honour badge. Tutors are often being hired unnecessarily just to keep up with the Joneses.'

Unsurprisingly, competitive parents are not always the nicest, which can be stressful for the hired help: 'I had one job teaching a poor little six-year-old to prepare him for prep school entrance,' says Petty. 'I was booked for an hour before school every day and saw my job really as trying to protect the kid from his mother.

She was cruel to the little boy, abusive and harsh. As a result, he was just unable to behave. She was paying double the going rate, but I ld 't tTh it ti couldn't stay. The situation was too unhappy.'

Bonas MacFarlane tutors are usually employed to help children over the major hurdles of school and university entrance. A supertutor charges up to [pounds sterling]300 an hour. But they really hit the jackpot with the perks.

Petty began tutoring six years ago and, as he says, 'fell in love with it'. …