Mentor vs tutor: What’s the difference?

November 30, 2021

Mentoring and tutoring can both offer children the support needed to reach their goals or improve their confidence. But which is right for your child? 

We look at some mentor and tutor differences to help you decide on the best route for your family.


Mentor and tutor differences

Let’s get started by exploring the roles and responsibilities of tutors and mentors…

Tutor helping a group of students sitting at a table

What’s the role of a mentor?

Mentorships are designed to help and guide people to overcome challenges or achieve a goal. For adults, this could be a professional mentor to help advance their career. 

For children, a mentor’s role is usually to act as a role model or support-giver to improve their self-esteem or talk through problems.


A mentor might…

  • Act as a positive role model
  • Improve confidence and self-esteem
  • Provide emotional support
  • Help with personal development
  • Provide help and guidance to achieve personal goals
  • Be a friendly face to chat to or play with


Mentor sessions often take place in a relaxed, informal environment to encourage open discussion. 


Sometimes, mentors are assigned by a school or children’s charity when it is believed that a child could benefit from extra structure or support. Alternatively, a mentor could be a family friend or someone the child already has a trusting relationship with. 


What to look for in a mentor

A mentor should be someone who is…

  • A fantastic motivator and champion
  • A great communicator
  • Empathetic and passionate
  • Trustworthy and reliable
  • Confidential


As well as these key skills, it helps to match mentors and children according to interests. For example, if a child is interested in music, a great mentor could be a retired music teacher or musician.


All mentors should be DHS checked in order to work with under 18s.


A mentor playing with a child in a playground


What’s the role of a tutor?

In comparison, the role of a tutor is more similar to that of a teacher and usually has an academic focus.


So, what do they do? Expert tutors

  • Tutor children one-to-one or in smaller groups
  • Help with specific subjects, projects, or skills
  • Build on what’s taught in the classroom in line with the national curriculum
  • Help students overcome learning challenges
  • Help students work towards an academic goal such as an exam
  • Support children to master what’s taught in the classroom
  • Fill in knowledge-gaps 
  • Help children develop learning techniques
  • Encourage independent thinking and a love of learning


While tutors can also help children to improve confidence and self-esteem, it’s usually within an academic framework. You may also be interested in finding out the difference between a tutor and a teacher!


What to look for in a tutor

There are lots of crossovers when it comes to what makes a good tutor and mentor.


A great tutor is…

  • An excellent communicator
  • Organised and professional
  • Knowledgeable about the national curriculum
  • Encouraging and inspiring
  • Approachable and good at building rapport
  • Adaptable to student’s needs
  • Engaging and passionate


Find more guidance on choosing the right tutor for your child.


An Explore Learning tutor with a young girl in the classroom


What’s the difference between a mentor and a tutor?

Tutoring and mentoring have similar aims – to support people to achieve their goals. Let’s take a closer look at some of the similarities and differences. 



  • Tutoring and mentoring both aim to boost confidence and wellbeing
  • Both tutors and mentors can work one-to-one with children
  • Both forms of support are individual-focused. Tutoring sessions are tailored around children’s learning needs and mentoring is all about supporting the mentee
  • Tutors and mentors can either be selected or assigned



  • Tutoring has a more academic focus, while mentoring offers more general support
  • Tutoring sessions are more structured in terms of time scale, process and outcome
  • Tutoring tends to be more solution-focused
  • Tutors have specified knowledge about a subject or the curriculum
  • A mentor-student relationship can be more long-term as it takes time to build up a sufficient level of trust
  • A mentor-student relationship can be more informal than tutoring, as sessions may involve play or a walk in the park
  • In mentoring, results are less quantifiable and more about the child’s own sense of wellbeing
  • Sometimes tutoring sessions happen in small group settings and can take place in a learning centre


Mentor vs tutor: which is best?

We don’t believe that one form of support is better than the other. What matters is working out what your child needs to flourish.


When do you need a mentor?


Your child might need a mentor if they…

  • Are trying to overcome anxiety or low self-esteem
  • Need more structure or help with organisation
  • Are looking for help to achieve their personal goals
  • Need someone to talk to 
  • Are struggling with personal, family or any other issues
  • Need motivation or inspiration


In fact, tutoring can provide many of the points above, all within the framework of the school curriculum. 


When do you need a tutor?


Tutoring could help your child if they…

  • Are trying to pass an exam like the 11 Plus
  • Want to improve ability in a specific subject
  • Need to develop better learning techniques 
  • Need to work on concentration and focus
  • Are working on improving confidence in the classroom
  • Are a gifted learner that needs more of a challenge
  • Want to learn more about a subject they are passionate about
  • Need to catch up on schoolwork after absences


If you feel that your child could benefit from having the support of a tutor, we can help you find the best solution for their learning needs and goals.

Our English and maths tutors are experienced in helping children from 4 to 14 excel academically, thrive in exams and improve their confidence.

We believe in a culture of praise and reward, inspirational maths and English tutors and an interactive curriculum to encourage a love of learning. Read our tutor testimonials to find out what real parents think!

Or, get in touch and book a free trial to see if our maths and English tutoring is right for your family.

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