What's the difference between a "hothouse" and a school that pushes your child to meet their true natural ability?

(200 Posts)
HappyDads Thu 20-Dec-12 01:56:00

On Mumsnet, "hothouse" often seems to be used - by implication - as a slightly derogatory term for "damaging your child" by those not getting into said hothouse school (Westminister, St. Pauls, Eton, SPGS, Tiffins, Habs, Wycombe Abbey etc - whatever floats your boat actually).

Yet we all want our DCs to reach their maximum potential, and be stretched, yet without being damaged. Where is our dividing point?

Seriously I struggle to balance my own thinking with my DD at a school often described as both a "hothouse" and yet also called "balanced".

So what is a "hothouse" and is it more a term of jealousy vs your own DC's ability, or is it something more tangible you can describe?

seeker Thu 20-Dec-12 17:06:44

I don't imagine there's a child born that always practices or trains or learns without the occasional reminder. Or bribe. Or threat smile. if you have to remind or bribe or threaten more often then not, then the situation needs rethinking.

wordfactory Thu 20-Dec-12 17:15:08

Adults too seeker...we all fall into patterns and get cosy in our comfort zones from time to time. A kick up the arse can be just the thing!

mumzy Thu 20-Dec-12 17:33:13

Rabbit stew I knew a mum who made her 5 year old write out ds bs ps qs until midnight because he kept getting them the wrong way round in class. She wouldn't accept that once his brain had developed further he would naturally write them correctly. Her theory was if he hadn't practised enough.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 17:45:51

"them feeling very stressed"
For many years I worked in an exceedingly stressful environment where life and death decisions were being regularly made and staff experienced daily threats of violence often involving guns and and knifes. . I loved it as did my colleagues no one wanted to do the quieter more mundane parts of the job and we all used to put our selves forward for the really stressful bits!!. Some people love stressful situations and their head clears and they are at their best. Others of course hate it and run for the hills.

gelo Thu 20-Dec-12 18:12:14

Probably not seeker, but some dc are extraordinarily self motivated and need to be reminded to ease off and do other stuff, more often than be reminded to do their homework!

vess Thu 20-Dec-12 19:34:51

I love the A, B, C and D child classification! Reminds me of Brave New World.

Not sure why I'm looking at this thread...

JoanByers Thu 20-Dec-12 22:11:22

Regarding hothousing and my points above, if you look at GCSE results for, say Surrey, which has a very large number of privately educated children:


The top 22 schools were all private.
The 23rd school is a Catholic state school.
The 24th and 25th are again private.
The 26th is a state boarding school.
The 27th is a private school.
The 28th is another Catholic state school.
The 29th is a state comprehensive.
The 30th is another independent school.
The 31st is a (mostly) comprehensive girls school.
The 32nd is a Catholic state school.
The 33rd is another independent school.
The 34th is another independent school (note, it's listed further down, King Edward's, but they do IGCSE: www.kesw.org/en/studying/exam-results)

There is another independent school listed further down, Box Hill. They are rather cagey about their 5 'good GCSE' grades. www.boxhillschool.com/about-us/exam-results/, but again this is an IGCSE school.

(Hurtwood House is a sixth form)

The county's state school average was 63% of children getting 5 'good GCSEs'. (Nationally it is 58%)

This average was surpassed by all of the county's private schools.

Not just one or two, but all of them.

And, don't think that these private schools are all for the super-bright. Clearly that is not possible. Just because you can afford to pay school fees, doesn't mean you have a very able child.

For example, the head of one of the private schools there with 95%+ 5 good GCSEs told me they didn't have any very bright boys at all, and that GCSEs were a spoon-feeding exercise. The Good Schools Guide, for what it is worth, confirms that in one of its telling asides.

Some of the schools in their lower down the list such as Box Hill, Ewell Castle, and so on, have a reputation for taking SEN etc.

Because private schools don't have a catchment, especially in an area like Surrey with so many to choose from, they tend to be highly stratified by ability - the brightest children will go to the most highly selective schools, and so on down the line. Obviously there are exceptions to this, perhaps you live close to a particular school, or want to educate two siblings of unequal ability at the same school, but by and large this is how it works.

For that reason the lower schools on the list will tend to have an intake skewed towards the less able children, and the fact that they still perform better than state comprehensives considered highly successful suggests that GCSEs can indeed be 'hot housed', if that is the correct phrase.

rabbitstew Thu 20-Dec-12 22:44:20

But mumzy - that doesn't sound like a child with a learning disability, just a child whose mother didn't understand normal child development or how to encourage it. And I doubt her technique worked, in which case that isn't hothousing as most people understand it - where intense pressure is put on a child to practice and perform and this does bring impressive results, but possibly at a significant cost. What you describe sounds like uneducated bullying for no real gain. Say the child had been 10 and still reversed letters. I'm sure you wouldn't be so condemnatory then of interventions being made to assess the cause of the problem and work out how to ameliorate the symptoms, even if doing this required a lot of work on the child's part.

I, for example, have put a huge amount of effort into helping my ds1 with his motor planning, co-ordination and muscle strength, ever since he was 17 months old and still couldn't even get himself into a sitting position, let alone move, and, frankly, have only noticed colossal benefits to his self-esteem that he can now join in with his friends running in the playground, can throw and catch reasonably well, has hands strong enough to write and play the piano, and can dress himself without difficulty. I would find it most offensive to be told I had hothoused him and he would have been better off being left to develop or not develop the capacity to do these things without the physiotherapy and someone painstakingly breaking tasks down for him to learn by rote. He even had to be taught how to unwrap presents. It would have been cruel, in my opinion, to sit him in front of them and tell him he couldn't have them unless he worked out how to unwrap them for himself, and would have removed from him a pleasure others experience if he always had presents unwrapped for him by someone else.... so where do you assess the "appropriate developmental stage" in all that??????? Or are you expecting everyone to fit in with your view of the norms????

olguis Thu 20-Dec-12 23:30:11

I am sure this won't get any traction here; but will post anyway. I am relatively new to this country, and was puzzled from the beginning about this constant rant about 'ability' in very young children. This is actually very unusual, and in my country you don't really start talking about ability before kids are 14 or so...

So, I was thinking and thinking on why in this country people don't believe in rigorous teaching, but it is acceptable, for teachers and educators, to go on and on about 'higher ability' and 'lower ability'...(in relation to 5 year olds, 6 year olds)... Some kind of hidden eugenics! To the extent that it is a impossible to think outside of these constructions, at least for a moment.

And today I had an idea. It is actually connnected to the class culture of this country. Because it is so deeply unequal, and historically so; this inequality is so deeply engrained and normalised, that people accept vocabularies of further inequalities. Inequality by birth, genes, or whatever (ability), can't be changed by teaching or studying hard, shouldn't be changed (! = hothousing), but need to be tolerated and just lived with and by. It is so much like everything else the population tolerates in terms of inequality, and so much in line with the ethics of 'putting your head down and getting through', that it actually looks like one more element of a puzzle.

JoanByers Fri 21-Dec-12 00:27:42

Of course it's a class issue. The worst schools in the country are essentially free of middle class parents. The children at these schools (e.g., St Aldehelm's Academy, 3% GCSE www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/9494568.St_Aldhelm___s_Academy_named_worst_school_in_GCSE_league_tables/?ref=mr) are not genetically inferior, they are just the product of an environment that does not value education.

By the time they reach 16 of course, they have pretty much had it.

Hence perhaps the drive to identify them at 5 and 6....

olguis Fri 21-Dec-12 00:49:23

ah, so it's one another of those things which are clear to the insiders and completely obscure to the outsiders!

I thought ability is not related to class, because ability means (kinds of ) 'talent' and that can belong to anyone! But in what you say JoanByers, ability has a completely different meaning, actually a set of different, hidden meanings!

It has parental income, education, profession, expectations, all folded into it! As always, I take terms at face value, always my problem here. It now all makes sense, if one treats it as a euphemism!

JoanByers Fri 21-Dec-12 01:13:43

Ability is of course partly innate. But it's also environment.

I am not able to play lacrosse. However, I have never tried. If I were in an environment where I had played lacrosse from a young age, I would undoubtedly have a greater ability.

Likewise children at even the age of 5 from homes where education is valued will more likely be able to read (even if that is just a result of a story at bedtime each night), than those households that don't own a single book.

Class is quite complex though, in London there are many immigrants whose indicators (language, educational background, earnings) suggest that they are not middle class, but in fact are 'deprived', but they have brought with them a work ethic and a belief in the powers of education to better oneself. Their children do very well at school.

In terms of educational outcomes, for example, children of illegal immigrant Chinese takeaway chefs who speak no English at all, going to school in London where 40 languages are spoken, are likely, statistically, to substantially outperform children of an English family from Bootle, where only 1 language is spoken at school, but there is little interest in education (or anything else).

Both families are by the relevant measures 'deprived', but one will transcend this, make the most of the West's abundant opportunity, and the other will not.

HelpOneAnother Fri 21-Dec-12 01:26:54

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HelpOneAnother Fri 21-Dec-12 01:27:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Hamishbear Fri 21-Dec-12 04:12:59

Olgius I agree re: school system. A child that's a level 3 at KS1 will be above average at KS2 or the school will have failed - they will be pushing for certain progress from this high ability child. I think this system can lead to pushiness & anxiety amongst parents but think on the whole it serves most children well.

Schools generally seen as 'hot houses' only allow those deemed high ability in in the first place. Generally I think it's assumed very academic children will thrive in a 'hot house' environment. None of them want the crammed or overly coached child they say. As I see it if your child gets in to Wycombe or St Paul's etc it's reasonably safe to assume it's the right environment for them - the schools know what they are doing interviewing & giving cognitive ability tests.

In the UK we don't really believe intellect can develop I think

Hamishbear Fri 21-Dec-12 04:23:03

Just meant to add in Asia diligence is valued & it is believed hard work can increase intellect. I've always found the more effort I put into something & the harder I work the smarter I get - not sure why different in children? Could I have got top grade at A'level - undoubtedly I think. The internet now rewards the resourceful & hardworking. If you don't understand a topic you can keep reading up until it clicks. You could even source your own online tutor if you had the funds (not as expensive as I'd imagined).

Also I agree with the comment that an average child can be coached to a A in GCSE. Even if you think intellect in fixed not sure why you'd think this was a mistake? These are entry level qualifications, offer a child more choice & at the very least show diligence, industriousness & perseverance.

Bonsoir Fri 21-Dec-12 07:07:19

JoanByers - "For that reason the lower schools on the list will tend to have an intake skewed towards the less able children, and the fact that they still perform better than state comprehensives considered highly successful suggests that GCSEs can indeed be 'hot housed', if that is the correct phrase."

No, I don't think that very solid, systematic teaching of middle-ability children in private schools to ensure they get a string of A and A* GCSEs is what is meant by hot-housing.

seeker Fri 21-Dec-12 07:45:08

The one thing we do know is that poor children do less well at school than better off ones. Obviously, there can't be an inherent difference, so it must be down to environment and expectations. Children who come from crowded houses with worried overworked parents and with no spare money for anything are going to be in a worse position to focus on school then a child with their own bedroom, parents not worrying where they are going to find the 3 quid for swimming and the time and emotional and physical energy to support them. And if your parents are well educated, the chances are you will be too- because your parents know how the system works, and are not afraid to engage with it and challenge it.

rabbitstew Fri 21-Dec-12 07:46:48

Hamishbear - maybe you fail to realise that being resourceful is an aspect of intelligence. Some people are not resourceful - if you ask them how they might find something out, they will get stuck (or ask the teacher to tell them). They do not have any great ability to think things through and research things for themselves and do not have the resilience to keep trying. They can, however, be taught how to pass exams if they are carefully given all the information they need and practise the techniques. It's just harder to teach them how to get off their backsides and find things out without that support. That's the difference between learning by rote and understanding and applying knowledge.

Bonsoir Fri 21-Dec-12 07:49:19

"The one thing we do know is that poor children do less well at school than better off ones. Obviously, there can't be an inherent difference, so it must be down to environment and expectations."

Seeker - why do you believe this?

wordfactory Fri 21-Dec-12 08:03:11

I suspect that statistically more able people will be higher earners than low ability people (onvioulsy there will be glaring anomalies before posters jump in with various anecdotes of their neighbour's cousin's ex BIL)...

Do those more able people then go on to have more able DC?

How genetic is intelligence/drive/ambition etc?

If there is a genetic component then staitistically rich DC will be more able than poor DC.

Or is the case that ability is a slippery monkey? That money and high expectation and certain styles of parenting enhance basic ability? And poverty, low expectation and certain styles of parenting hold back ability?

Bonsoir Fri 21-Dec-12 08:04:46

Have you read Coming Apart by Charles Murray? I know he's very scandalous and controversial, but his arguments are hard to resist...

wordfactory Fri 21-Dec-12 08:05:29

I haven't Bonsoir. Worth a look?

Bonsoir Fri 21-Dec-12 08:06:23

I think it's an interesting read, yes.

lljkk Fri 21-Dec-12 08:17:29

...poor children do less well at school than better off ones. Obviously, there can't be an inherent difference

Why not? confused

Obviously there are strong inherent differences in some cases.
Undiagnosed SN is top of the list, including conditions that can be inherited.

Lots of factors that contribute to odds of poverty and social deprivation can be inherited (genetic). That's not the fault of the poor, but silly to pretend not ever happening.

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