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…

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.

Mentor helping a child play in the 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.

A tutor helping a child learn

Taking on the role - becoming a tutor

Becoming a tutor can be an incredibly rewarding experience. With some patience, a willingness to listen to students and adapt your tutoring to their learning style, you can watch as children grow into fearless learners.

As a tutor with Explore Learning you'll benefit from:

  • Comprehensive training and professional development, all covered as paid working hours

  • A supportive environment where you'll be encouraged to reach out for assistance where you need it so you can keep on being the best tutor you can be

  • Consistent working hours without having to market yourself to students - we'll find the students for you!

If you're ready to become a tutor, we're ready to support you on your journey. If you're already a tutor and looking to advance your career, maybe it's time to look into becoming a tuition centre manager?

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. 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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Mentor vs tutor FAQs

What is the difference between a mentor and a tutor?

How do their roles and objectives vary? A mentor vs tutor comparison reveals distinct differences in their roles and objectives. A mentor is an experienced individual who provides guidance, support, and advice to a mentee, often in a broader context beyond academic subjects. Mentors aim to develop the mentee's personal, professional, and overall growth, emphasizing long-term relationship building. On the other hand, a tutor primarily focuses on academic instruction, offering subject-specific guidance and support to help students excel in a particular subject or topic. Tutors typically have a narrower scope and primarily assist with academic challenges.

Can a tutor also serve as a mentor to a student? What are the potential benefits of combining the roles of a tutor and mentor?

While the roles of a tutor and a mentor differ, there can be instances where a tutor also serves as a mentor to a student. In such cases, the tutor provides academic guidance as well as broader support, mentoring the student in personal and professional aspects. Combining the roles of a tutor and mentor can offer additional benefits, such as building a stronger rapport and trust between the student and the tutor. This combined approach enables the tutor to understand the student's individual needs and aspirations better, resulting in holistic support that fosters both academic success and personal development.

When should one seek a mentor's guidance instead of hiring a tutor? What are the unique advantages a mentor can offer?

There are situations where seeking a mentor's guidance may be more appropriate than hiring a tutor. A mentor can provide guidance beyond academic subjects, offering insights, wisdom, and advice based on their own experiences. Mentors often focus on personal growth, career development, and overall life skills. They can help individuals navigate challenges, make informed decisions, and develop important life skills such as leadership, resilience, and critical thinking. Unlike tutors, mentors prioritize the mentee's holistic development and long-term success, offering guidance that extends beyond the confines of specific subjects or topics.

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