Purpose - This chapter reflects the findings of a qualitative study of supplementary education in Western Australia, showing a commitment to understanding the broader social context of the individuals receiving educational assistance beyond their normal classroom activities. Design/methodology/approach - The chapter is based on 10 semistructured interviews conducted with university students who had utilised supplementary education services of a tutor made available through their schools and a variety of secondary sources. Findings - The study also reveals that student access to university is not necessarily enhanced by private tutoring. It uncovers an under-researched component of the overall educational process in pointing to some of the emotional dimensions of the supplementary education industry. While tutoring did not appear to harm the chances of students making it to university, the beneficial effects of tutoring are not as clear-cut as some suggest they are. Overall the research suggests that, emotional support effects notwithstanding, perhaps we should not worry overly much about the inequalities brought by private tutoring as, yet again, the market shows itself to less efficient than some hope it to be and that others might fear it is. Originality/value - Market-based supplementary education remains massively under-researched in Australia. While qualitative research is unable to address the effects of educational interventions definitively, the study adds important layers of complexity to questions about educational effectiveness and inequality. It helps validate concerns about social and economic inequalities; it also mollifies these concerns, partially because some of the programmes described here aim at addressing some basic inequalities, particularly those related to rural and remote education. © 2013 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
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