If you run a tutoring business, you should have a contract in place between you and your students. A well-drafted tutoring contract will make it very clear: 

  • exactly what services you will provide to your students;
  • what the payment arrangement is; and
  • that you intend to limit your legal responsibility to the greatest extent possible.

Before you sign up a new student to your agency or tutoring business, you will need to ask them to sign your tutoring contract. Importantly, if your student is a child, their parent or legal guardian will need to sign the contract on the child’s behalf. In this article, we discuss five clauses that you should address in your tutoring contract. 

1. Scope of the Services

Your tutoring contract must carefully set out all of the tutoring services that you provide. This will: 

  • provide certainty for you and your students; and
  • avoid misunderstandings and disputes.

For example, if your tutoring agency prepares students for the International English Language Testing System examinations, explain how it does so. Note the ways that your agency works to improve students’: 

  • listening; 
  • comprehension; and 
  • vocabulary. 

You should also detail whether you will conduct practice examinations for your students.

It is important to establish the scope of your services to set client expectations. This will limit the likelihood of a dispute arising. Otherwise, students and their parents may feel aggrieved if they believe they did not receive the service promised to them. 

While it is important to set out the services that you do provide, it is equally important to explain the exclusions to your offering. 

For example, you might require students to: 

  • buy certain textbooks or materials; or
  • pay additional fees to attend examinations. 

Make sure that this is clear from the outset so that students are not surprised down the track.

2. Pricing and Payment Terms 

Your tutoring contract needs to be very clear about how you charge for your services. This will ensure that you receive payment on time and for the correct amount.

You might charge:

  • an upfront deposit to secure the student’s place in a class; 
  • weekly payments for each class; 
  • additional fees for expenses incurred, such as the cost of materials and textbooks; or
  • a lump sum payment at the start or beginning of the course. 

Students will need to know when payment is due, so this needs to be clear in your payment terms. 

You should also outline what happens if a student: 

  • misses a class; or 
  • needs to pull out of the lessons altogether. 

Do you refund the amount paid for classes that they have not taken? Do you charge a cancellation fee? Not giving a refund or charging an unreasonably high cancellation fee could be considered unfair, so it is best to seek legal advice on how best to draft the payment and refund clauses in your contract. 

3. Liability

As a service provider, you will take on a degree of responsibility for the services you provide. However, you can include a limitation of liability clause in your tutoring contract to limit your responsibility as much as possible.

Although you will likely want to limit your liability, you need to acknowledge that your students will expect you to take responsibility for the quality of your services. A lawyer can help you achieve an appropriate balance between these competing considerations in your tutoring contract. 

This means that your contract will need to clearly set out how you intend to limit your liability. 

For example, you might explain to students that your agency will prepare them academically to the best of its ability but that it does not accept responsibility for their performance in an examination. Then, if a student does not achieve the results they were aiming for, they cannot hold your agency accountable.

You should also limit your liability for things outside of your control. This includes:

  • the actions of your students or any third parties; or 
  • any services or materials not provided by you. 

4. Legal Compliance

Like many businesses, tutoring agencies need to comply with additional laws and regulations due to the nature of your industry. In particular, you will need to consider your obligations: 

Working with Minors 

If your agency works with minors, it is best practice to set out in your tutoring contract how you will protect them while they are under your care. 

The Australian Tutoring Association recommends that if you teach a child in their home, that:

  • you must work in a public part of the house;
  • the tutoring can never take place in a child’s bedroom;
  • an adult must always be in the house; and
  • the adult must sign confirmation after the lesson attesting to these practices. 

Similarly, if you tutor students in a classroom, you must:

  • keep curtains, blinds and doors open; and
  • never discipline a child with the door shut.

You will also need suitable employment procedures for your agency. In particular, all employees must have a Working With Children Check.

Code of Conduct 

Your tutoring contract should also explain how you will carry out your ethical responsibilities as a tutoring agency. Agencies and individual tutors who are members of the Australian Tutoring Association abide by a Code of Conduct that obliges them to use their:

  • resources for the best educational outcomes for students;
  • teaching and learning practices to enhance student’s self-esteem and confidence to learn; and
  • skills to help students improve in the subjects in which they receive tuition.

Again, you must strike a balance between the warranties and promises you make to students about the services and outcomes you provide, while also limiting your liability to the greatest extent possible. 

5. Termination

Your tutoring contract should set out what happens if either you or your student wants to terminate the contract

For example, you must consider if: 

  • a student needs to give notice that they want to end the arrangement early; and 
  • how much notice is necessary to avoid any further payments.

Further, if the student has paid for lessons in advance, it should be clear both in this clause and your payments clause whether they would be entitled to a refund.

Key Takeaways

Whenever you are providing services to clients, you must have an agreement in place. A tutoring contract should contain clauses to: 

  • ensure that you get paid;
  • limit your liability; and 
  • reduce the risks of disputes happening. 

Your tutoring contract should be clear and easy to understand so that your students know exactly what they are agreeing to. If you would like assistance preparing a tutoring contract for your business, contact LegalVision’s contract lawyers on 1300 544 755 or fill out the form on this page.

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