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Grammar school tests to be made 'tutor-proof'

(419 Posts)
breadandbutterfly Mon 05-Nov-12 17:16:02

www.telegraph.co.uk/education/secondaryeducation/9653189/Grammar-school-tests-to-be-made-tutor-proof.html

ReallyTired Fri 09-Nov-12 09:32:30

mummybiscuit,

I think you miss the point. Your child was lucky in being able to attend a private school for primary for WHATEVER reason. It gave her a flying start over a child in a rough primary who is a class of 30 and has to put up with distruptive children. A private school has the time and resources to give a broad education and make sure that the child knows mental arthimetic, has a good vocabulary and can spell. This a huge advantage of the test. I definately think that your child should compete with other children from a similar primary. The fact that you can't afford private secondary is irrelevent.

There is no way that a child from a rough primary without tutoring can compete with her.

I think with Oxbridge the situation is slightly different. A student can take a year out and reapply. There is loads on the internet to support the learning of a sixth former. A bright sixth former is less dependent on their school than primary school child.

Blu Fri 09-Nov-12 10:11:44

I think the big advantage that private primaries bestow is that they do prepare children for selective exams, whereas state primaries stick to SATS needs.

My DS's primary and secondary are in an area which I have seen described by MN-ers as 'crime-ridden' 'rough' 'notorious' etc. His peers in both schools span a very wide range of abilities and in no class that I know of in the 7 years that i was involved with the primary was there a class which did not have a representative number of very bright children. With a high number of premiums for children on FSM there was a high number of TAs, learning mentors, extra teachers etc, and so all children were in ability groups for maths and literacy and the 'hard to settle' children in a separate room with extra support. For the avoidance of doubt: the children on FSM were very well represented in the enrichment groups.

In DS's banded comp there are also children in the top stream who are exremely clever and with aspirational parents - from all classes and ethnic groups.

It isn't that state ed is a bear pit of feral nitwits, IMO, it is that extensive tutoring and private education give those children a head start in the particular selection process, coupled with the fact that many families in state primaries will be far less experienced and confident in putting children forward for selective exams. And in the case of super-selectives, which by definition are competed fo from a wide geographical area, the bus and train fares will be beyond the reach of many families.

tiggytape Fri 09-Nov-12 11:18:28

I think people over state the private school advantage when it comes to the 11+
Private schools don't generally prepare for the 11+ any more than state schools do. It would be silly if they did - they want to keep children until 13.

They intensively prepare pupils for the Common Entrance Exam but that is taken in Year 8 so the preparation is done Year 6 and Year 7 (far too late for state school 11+ exams). The preparation is also not reasoning skills or 11+ based - it is French and Geography and Maths and other subjects they have to do in the Comon Entrance test.

Maybe other areas of the country have prep schools that only go up to Year 6 but I know in our area, private schools aren't interested in pushing children for the state school 11+ exams.

ReallyTired Fri 09-Nov-12 11:32:59

"I think people over state the private school advantage when it comes to the 11+
Private schools don't generally prepare for the 11+ any more than state schools do. It would be silly if they did - they want to keep children until 13."

Lots of private primaries end at 11 and generally girls don't do common entrance.

State school grammars have a disportionate number of private school entrants. I doult that that private schools have such a high proportion of Britain's brightest children.

The reality is the the broader and richer education produced children who can work at a higher cognitive level.

tiggytape Fri 09-Nov-12 12:14:39

I guess it must vary. The prep schools near us go up to 13 so intensive tutoring starts not finishes in Year 6.
That may be because the private secondary schools near us start with Year 9 so there is no natural overlap between private and state. Also many of the private secondaries are co-ed so the girls also stay until 13 and also do Common Entrance.

Sometimes children who don't get a state secondary school place they like go from Year 6 to prep school for a year or two until they can get in to a local state secondary but I haven't heard of many going the other way i.e. coming out of prep school early to go to state grammar school.
The parents I know with children at private school seem to know very little about the state grammars as it isn't something their school prepare for and they like prep school because it keeps children in a primary setting for 2 years longer (secondary schools being viewed as a bit scary even if they are grammars).

If the prep schools finished at 11 though and they therefore had to find a secondary school to go to, I can imagine loads of prep school children would sit for the 11+. Perhaps more also sit for it when original plans to go to private secondary schools prove too expensive afterall.

seeker Fri 09-Nov-12 12:59:30

There is a private school near us that markets itself on its near 100% record at 11+. Prep schools go to 13- hence the name. Lots of other private schools finish at 10/11 like state schools.

Blu Fri 09-Nov-12 13:00:31

Round here the only prep schools going to 13 are the ones already attached to public schools. All the others are independent primaries which go to yr 6. And I know of at least one private school in Kent that prepares children for the 11+.

difficultpickle Fri 09-Nov-12 13:29:39

Ds's old prep finishes at 11 but doesn't prep for 11+ because they want everyone to go on to the senior school that starts at 11. Something like 80% do. There is also an incentive to move into the prep by year 5 as they offer a discount on fees at the senior school for those who were in the prep at year 5.

Ds's current prep goes to 13 and doesn't currently prep for 11+ but I think that is under review. Another local prep changed from 13 to 11 because they lost so many pupils at 11 to local grammar and other senior independent schools.

breadandbutterfly Fri 09-Nov-12 14:04:06

I don't really think that it is intensive tutoring that makes the difference, as long as papers aren't set on areas eg of the KS2 maths curricucum, that those at the start of year 6 may not have covered yet.

I think the real doifference is made years earlier - kids who learn to read early, read quality reading matter and have a strong grasp of basic maths eg mental arithmetic and times tables, are the ones who will do well with v little tutoring.

There is no reason why children from state schools should be at any disadvantage - but trying to 'cram' in year 5 or 4 or whatever is not only too late, it is just unnecessary, if the child has had the basics well taught years earlier. It is then a virtuous circle - the child who can read well reads more, so improves their vocab, general knowledge, speed of reading and thought etc etc ad infinitum. They will always be ahead. Children who have been ignored educationally and try to catch up jut before vthe 11+ are always going to be up against it.

losingtrust Fri 09-Nov-12 15:27:00

The private primaries near us and actively market their results at 11+. They continually practice the papers. We are over the border and in a good comp area but a friend have mine had bright son who she refused to coach. However she found out the tests cover things that state primaries do not cover. He did the test and failed. Only the ones who had been coached from year 4 got in and her son was fine about it. Another boy who was bright and had been coached and did not get in came into school crying. His parents had put a lot of pressure and investment in. How awful to think he had failed at 11! He has now got into a grammar 25 miles away with nobody he knows. So sad. The other boy is now in the top stream in comp and has kept his self-esteem as there was no pressure for him.

tersha Sat 02-Feb-13 14:55:40

This is back in the news, I see. Of course I want my kids to do their best but not by cramming them for exams. I want them to fulfill their potential by really understanding and enjoying what they do. I don't have a problem with them doing out of school activities that help with this - in fact I am all for it - I send them for extra swimming so why not extra maths or French? I do have a problem if it puts them under pressure and a big no no is a one to one tutor who exists to shoehorn them into schools that they might hate or where they might flounder. I also don't want them drilling to perform as automatoms against the clock. I read somewhere the expression real learning not rote learning. I wish I could remember where as it is spot on!

annach Sat 02-Feb-13 15:25:39

I'm a tutor, so I would say this grin, but:

Why try to make exams tutor proof? There's no such thing as tutor proof. Exams test knowledge and skill, which are learned.

Tutor-proofing's counter intuitive. No state school child will benefit from it. For the reasons reallytired lists so clearly, a state school child is likely to be at a big disadvantage against prep school children. Pace of work is far slower in state school, classes are larger, disruptive children are included in mainstream education, to the detriment of the quiet ones trying to learn. Tutoring evens the playing field somewhat.

Everything we do in life is learned. Everything. From learning to talk, walk, sit on a potty and eat with spoons, to gross and fine motor skills, we learn by imitation and practise. Instinct or innate ability is a tiny part of it all. And why prize innate ability over hard work? Hard working average pupils may do better than brainy laid back ones, long term.

No one says to sports or music prodigies: now, to make this fair, we want you to do no physical exercise or violin practise for the next two years, then we'll see who's the fastest/best able to pick up a tune by ear. It's accepted that talents are nurtured and developed via practise. Why not intellect?

Preps do get children ready for 11 and 13+ - that's what parents are paying for. Tutors fill in the gap in education for state school children. Parents who can't afford a tutor can buy or borrow books and do the practise at home. No one is excluded as a result of tutoring, except the few children who are bright and overlooked both at school and at home. G&T provision should be made for them by a school's SENCO. If I were to campaign for anything to level the field, it would be this. Give a leg up to the bright children whose parents don't give a toss.

'Cramming' in Yr 4 or 5 is not too late. It could be called 'upping the pace and preparing' or 'aiming hard for something you want'. Children don't wilt under a small amount of well-managed pressure. They thrive. They love to be stretched and see their work improve. They are not delicate little creatures who must be allowed to develop without intervention. Positive intervention at appropriate times in a child's life is what makes the difference.

mercibucket Sat 02-Feb-13 15:32:38

easier all round to take the top 5 girls and boys from each school imo

annach Sun 03-Feb-13 11:28:29

I'm not sure, Merci. I think that would result in really undue pressure on primary school children. the parents would have them tutored from Yr 1 to ensure they were in the top 5. What I like about the current system (not perfect by any means) is that it throws up some surprises. A couple of years ago two boys from our local state primary got into Tiffin. They were not top of the class. The school hadn't ever given them any special attention. They decided to give it a go and they succeeded.

I do't really understand EvilTwin's shock at a child being tutored for 2 years. It's only 1 hour a week, plus 1-2 hour's homework for most tutees. Hardly onerous. If a child can't cope with 2-3 extra hours spread over a whole week, then they are horizontally laid back. Tutoring isn't instead of hanging out with friends, sports, sleepovers etc. It doesn't deny any child their fun in life. It's probably just two hours out of the gaming or tv schedule. And in return they grow in confidence and ability.

All the middle class kids in dds class are being tutored. Just depressing. Hoping to get their kids into Kent grammars or private schools. My dd is bright but the only one who is not tutored. She even asked me for one the other day.

The brightest boy in her class won't be tutored and probably couldn't get a place in a private or grammar as a result. But then he's riff raff. I feel tutoring and exams that can be tutored are just yet another way of keeping the oiks out. Makes me v sad.

mercibucket Sun 03-Feb-13 12:15:51

what i like about my idea grin is that it allows all schools a chance - so in our system, it gives all children a chance. our schools are so segregated along class/money lines that it would give more children from poor backgrounds a chance
still a lot of very obvious drawbacks and still unfair on those at number 6, but fairer overall
i would still do an outside 11 plus type exam

April1st Sun 03-Feb-13 15:30:23

I wish I can be as relaxed as many people here but I just can’t. We are probably one of the small minorities who live in a gs dominated area. For us the choices are gs or failing schools. Only last week a mum told me she’s given up gs test for her very bright child as they can’t afford the bus fees anyway! TBH in our area I’ve known some mums they started preparing their babies for 11+ even before their babis start to stand up.

bowerbird Sun 03-Feb-13 15:48:55

Annach I couldn't agree more!

JuliaScurr Sun 03-Feb-13 16:27:39

April dd was a school refuser at 2 primaries before going to a failing school which she loved and left with Level 6 = all the kids good at exams have been creamed off to grammars so the 'comps' look worse. But those kids may well all be reaching their highest potential in things that don't show on tests

Copthallresident Sun 03-Feb-13 16:41:48

annach I can only conclude that you would say that because your views on ability and learned knowledge are seriously out of step with the theory and views I have heard elsewhere.

The 11+ was designed to ensure that the brightest benefited from schools that would especially nurture their academic talents. At my direct grant Grammar School in the days when tutoring for the 11+ was unknown I had many bright friends from working class backgrounds who were enabled to go on to university and on to rewarding careers, something then denied to most of my gender, let alone those from working class backgrounds.

VR and NVR are used precisely because they are tests of ability rather than learned knowledge. If schools invested in making the tests unpredictable as happens in blue chip companies who also want to recruit and promote those who are able as opposed to just having learned knowledge, then they would effectively select the most able without tutoring skewing the results. It is statistically proven that the tests can be made proof against all but the most minimal of preparation, as in a maximum of 10 practise papers, and businesses wouldn't buy them if they weren't.

11 is far too young to decide that learned knowledge is more important than potential and also far too young to write off those who are not good at exams. I presume you would write off all those with Specific Learning Difficulties too. Thankfully my DDs got into one of the most selective schools in the country because they could see from their NVR /VR scores that they were very able, their performance in exams reflected their SpLDs and that they had considerable potential. They have gone on to be A* students and one is now at an elite university studying Science.

I addition research shows that motivation and achievement follow ability, you can cram all you like but there will come a point, most definitely by university, when you cannot succeed without the ability.

Schmedz Sun 03-Feb-13 16:53:19

VR and NVR test certain types of intellectual ability and the sort that Grammar schools are looking for. My daughter is not particularly great at either of these sorts of tests, but has received an academic scholarship to an excellent Indie. As a teacher in a selective indie junior school I can also vouch for the high, future-A* calibre of many of the children who 'fail' the super selective 11+ tests.
Tutoring can be extremely successful in preparing children for the VR and NVR tests. So much of the process is to do with speed of answering and this can be practised. Given that the majority of children who 'succeed' in these exams have been tutored is surely evidence enough that it is less 'natural ability' and more other factors that are being assessed.
This doesn't take away from the fact that the children who are accepted into grammar schools will be above average intellectually and also have matured enough intellectually at the time they sit the tests. Thank goodness year 7 is only the beginning of the secondary school journey and intellect is not a fixed quantity (please read Carole Dweck if you're in any doubt!).
Grammars don't have the monopoly on able children, nor good GCSE and A grades and hopefully those many, many children who don't get in realise that!

April1st Sun 03-Feb-13 17:01:38

Julia the school that closest to us it is so bad to the point that it had to change its name and school uniforms. The pupils are just walk in and out of the classrooms according to how they feel on the day. The parents in our area just wish there is a reasonable school that our kids can go to after y6 as their natural progression. It is not too much to ask for the government is it?

exoticfruits Sun 03-Feb-13 17:13:52

I am sceptical that it can be done but the article I read said that it was all being changed, there would be no past papers or practise papers and the DCs would just get one session of a few practise questions and then do it. The even better thing was that it would be different the next year.
A great step forward IMO.

exoticfruits Sun 03-Feb-13 17:15:16

And luckily there are only 164 grammar schools left in the country and so it simply isn't relevant to at least 90% of children.

exoticfruits Sun 03-Feb-13 17:15:42

Scotland and Wales are even luckier with none.

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