Tutoring - in Year 4??

(82 Posts)
hatsybatsy Fri 30-Aug-13 10:31:43

A friend told me that she intends to get her son tutored from the beginning of year 4 for the 11+ exams. She's aiming for one of the major independent schools close to where we live. I just find this OTT- our kids go to a good school and seem to be doing well.

But I seem to be alone- rumour has it that most parents are getting their kids tutored by the end of year 4. I know I'm going to find it really hard not to follow the herd. Please reassure me - no need to tutor brright kids for TWO years before the exams???

Ladymuck Fri 30-Aug-13 11:16:36

It really depends on what you mean by "to tutor". An hour a week per term for a year is 39 hours a year. Even if they start by the end of year 4 (given the exams are often at the very start of year 6), you could be looking at 52 hours of prep. It isn't unreasonable, especially if you are in a state school which doesn't do specific prep for 11+. If it is an hour a week plus 10 hours homework, then that might be overkill grin. I suspect many parents go for a tutor out of guilt or to save the arguments when the child isn't motivated.

hatsybatsy Fri 30-Aug-13 11:23:12

We are in an independent school which does do 11+ preparation.

I now suspect that the school's boasts about excellent 11+ results are not down to their fabulous teaching but the fact that everyone is paying out for 2 years of private tuition.....

I'm not against tutoring per se - I can see that ds would accept guidance far better from a 3rd party than from me - I'm just querying whether there's any need to start now - I had assumed start of year 5 would be plenty?

Ladymuck Fri 30-Aug-13 11:40:45

I think that sometimes it is harder to keep a normal viewpoint when everyone else around seems to be panicking!

Certainly my experience from 3 different prep schools is that unless you have automative transfer to a senior school, then everyone also has a tutor. I know one tutor who has almost half of the local prep's year 5 class. The prep changed what they were doing, and now prepare very thoroughly specifically for the 11+, and she is struggling to find things for her tutees to do (that the school haven't already done). Still fully booked for 4 years ahead though!

I guess no one wants to be the parent whose bright child failed from lack of preparation. We very deliberately held off tutoring until Jan of Year 5 as we wanted to prepare for tests in Jan of Year 6 whereas a lot of classmates were preparing for test in Sep of Year 6. Our child really started to notice the difference in the first term of Year 5 when his already tutored classmates were making faster progress than him, and he was a bit peeved that we hadn't started him earlier!

You know your child best. 2 years seems an awful lot of preparation, but it does depend on what it is.

BlackMogul Fri 30-Aug-13 11:52:23

I though major independent schools took boys at 13,not 11. It really depends on the exam requirements of the schools you want. If all their students are high flyers, with ultra competitive parents, then you have to look very carefully to see if these are the types of schools you want. The chances are they vary in intake and exam results. I did not have either of my two DDs tutored and not everyone will have had their children tutored in your location either. Mine had far more interesting lives doing dancing , singing, sport, piano, violin, orchestra, Brownies, exciting holidays etc. You could always ask your school what future school they think your DS is most suited to instead of going with the herd. Both my children went from state primary schools, without tutoring, into selective Independent Secondary schools, so no-one should assume state schools are rubbish.

hatsybatsy Fri 30-Aug-13 13:32:58

All major independent schools local to us either start at 11 or have a junior school that the boys can enter at 11. I'm not talking about Eton.

I'm not going with the herd in terms of school choice - I already have clear ideas on where I think ds could go. My concern is that if all his peers are being tutored, then ds won't necessarily get into those schools. I think he's pretty bright (don't we all!) but if the 2 years tutoring teaches new skills/techniques/topics, then he's stuffed.

Or is he?

(and no one is assuming state schools are rubbish in any way. well done to your daughters - I did the same thing at age 11)

Round here, most children start their 11+ prep anytime between the Easter of Y4 (giving them four terms until the test) and the Christmas of Y5 (two terms).

Shootingatpigeons Fri 30-Aug-13 14:12:47

Yes parents get anxious and competitive when the entrance exams loom, yes there is a herd mentality when it comes to tutoring. Is it justified, unless the school is poor (though obviously according to the wound up parents, every school is poor), no. The best schools are interested in potential not the products of cramming, and take extensive measures to identify that potential. They will ask if the child is tutored and take it into account and they will also take care to set questions that are difficult to prepare for.

If your child has a weakness that the school is not addressing then it makes sense to work on that area with the child yourself or use a tutor. Likewise a tutor can help a child with exam technique if the school does not provide preparation in that area, but only in the immediate run up to the exams.

I speak from experience, I have two DDs who successfully sat the exams for the selective schools around here and know many anxious parents who caved in to the peer pressure but now regret it. The herd mentality around here is such that tutors operate on an industrial scale cramming children around their kitchen tables, it is generally a miserable negative experience. I thought it was one of the worst pressure cookers in the country but clearly not as even around here they generally don't start getting wound up until Year 5!

WhoreOfTheWorlds Fri 30-Aug-13 17:20:03

Around here many children are tutored through out Yr 5, to sit the 11+ at the start of Yr 6. Generally it's for one hour per week, term time, with roughly an hour's homework on top.

Our DD had always been one of the cleverer girls in her class and a very good reader. But several of her friends who were of a similar high ability were going to be tutored, so we felt we had no option but to have DD tutored too.

And that's how it is here. Already clever children, with middle class educated parents are being tutored so they're scoring really high on the exam, and the pass mark goes up and up.

I don't think it's all that fair, but it's the name of the game.

But despite all that, overall it has been a very positive experience. DD likes her tutor and she now has much more confidence and isn't nervous or anxious about the 11+ at all, she's quite looking forward to it. And we've noticed an all round improvement in her school work.

Personally I would think that having 'two' years worth of tutoring was really unnecessary, and if your child needed that level of input and prep then grammar school might not be the best place for them

hatsybatsy Fri 30-Aug-13 17:31:47

whore of the worlds - I identify so much with what you say. I don't want ds to be disadvantaged but on the other hand I don't want to put him off learning and have a miserable 2 years.

think I might put him on the waiting list for next September - then I can try and forget about it.

BlackMogul Fri 30-Aug-13 17:42:55

Sorry OP but it is a bit herd like to go for the same school(s) as everyone else knowing that the herd tutors like mad to get their DCs into said schools.it is like a revolving door where there is no escape. DC's can achieve without tutoring like crazy and look better on paper and at interview if they have something to talk about, hence doing activities such as music, sport etc makes DCs more attractive to schools. Do you not think that that the schools cannot spot over tutored and stressed DCs anyway? Would it be the biggest disaster if you had to go elsewhere?. Some people I know transfer to a Prep School at 11 and do common entrance at 13. This would be an alternative if the school has a good track record of getting DCs into first choice school. If it not Eton standard, why are you so worried? It cannot be ridiculously academic!

hatsybatsy Fri 30-Aug-13 18:47:50

blackmogul - are you choosing to deliberately misunderstand me?

The schools I would like to ds to attend all start at 11 and all beat Eton in the league tables by some way. Your last exclamation does not bear up to scrutiny.

I believe the posts on here and my conversations with other parents locally indicate that tutoring for these selective schools is widespread. While I would prefer not to follow, like whore of the worlds, I feel I have to go along with the system to avoid disadvantaging ds. Well done you if you were able to stay strong and congratulations to your kids for succeeding. (As they're not at Eton though presumably it wasn't "ridiculously academic??)

None of the schools ds would aim for interview every applicant. My first choice selects all pupils purely on the basis of the exam - so although he has many hobbies, these won't make a bit of difference to his application.

And as for prep school til 13 and then a public school - erm no. I don't have the odd £30k net per year per child to spend on their education.

WhoreOfTheWorlds Fri 30-Aug-13 18:59:54

It might not be a miserable 2 years hatsybatsy. Our DD actually likes her tutor and she's definitely enjoyed the boost in confidence it has given her.

I do think 2 years is too long though.

WhoreOfTheWorlds Fri 30-Aug-13 19:05:13

BlackMogul, I take it you are aware that tutoring is only for one hour per week, followed by roughly an hour's homework?

So our DD had plenty of time to pursue her other interests. She represents her school at tennis and netball, and she's a keen amateur photographer. Children can be tutored and still lead enjoyable and interesting lives.

Dancergirl Fri 30-Aug-13 19:06:03

There is a huge difference between an over-tutored child who is really not cut out for such an academic environment and a child who IS academically capable being given the very best chance. I don't recommend the former but highly recommend the latter!

To start with, you have to be completely honest about your child's academic ability. Find out where they are, talk to their teacher, ask a private tutor for advice if necessary. Then look at schools and ask yourself which would suit your child.

Starting tutoring at the start of Year 4 does seem a bit early to me, end of Year 4/start Year 5 is more reasonable. Most private school entrance exams tend to be Jan of Year 6, grammars and other state selectives the exams are generally Sep of Year 6.

I got private tuition for 11+ for both my dds are they were at a state primary school which didn't prepare them at all. I would have thought most private preps do a fair amount of preparation though...?

WhoreOfTheWorlds Fri 30-Aug-13 20:15:06

I agree with you Dancergirl. Our private tutor met our DD beforehand and did a few quick questions with her, and had a chat just to see how her mind worked.

He told us he would have a very clear idea of her abilities within just a couple of weeks of tutoring her. After which he would meet with us again and let us know whether she was grammar school material. He made it very clear he wasn't in the habit of hot housing average children, and he wouldn't be prepared to tutor DD unless he thought her academic enough to thrive at GS.

I have known of children that he has declined to tutor, despite parents trying to persuade him otherwise.

Shootingatpigeons Fri 30-Aug-13 22:08:36

By the way the schools my DDs got into are at the very top of the league tables, two of them consistently in the top 10. You really do not have to tutor, just have a bright child who has had lots on interesting and stimulating experiences. What exactly do people think a tutor achieves in an hour a week with a half hour of homework that a good Prep won't do in the other 35 hours of their school week, not to mention 5+ hours of homework. When the results came in DDs' peers got to the schools you felt they belonged in, irrespective of tutoring, there were no great unexpected failures or any unexpected who were tutored to success .

sittinginthesun Fri 30-Aug-13 22:14:02

Varies on your school round here. Some have a real panic around Christmas/Easter year 4 and parents feel they are failing if they don't start then. Others (including my dcs' school) don't have a culture of tutoring at all - it happens, particularly in year 5, but parents don't admit to it.

Ds1 is going into year 5. We have decided not to tutor, but to spend time at home instead. He's thriving at school, so we'll see how it goes.

WhoreOfTheWorlds Sat 31-Aug-13 09:25:24

Shootingatpigeons. My DCs aren't at prep school, but they're at a very good primary that's ranked among the top in the county.

With the best will in the world, our dd is still in a class of 30 children and the school don't provide any real focused tutoring for the 11+. So the one hour per week she spends with her private tutor is invaluable.

She has always been one of the bright ones, but lacked confidence in her abilities. She has really blossomed this last year and now approaches her school work with a positive 'can do' attitude that wasn't there before.

And she's completely relaxed about the 11+ exam itself because she hasn't failed any of the practice papers yet.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 31-Aug-13 09:39:17

worlds if you read my original post I do see the value of using a tutor, or supporting your child yourself if your school does not prepare your child to sit exams, and, since I didn't mention it, to cover those parts of the syllabus not yet covered in state schools by Jan in Year 6. OPs DC though is at a prep. It's a decision you make based on your DCs needs but my experience at a good prep was that too many parents make that decision based on their own needs, to allay their anxiety etc etc and as a result they put pressure on their children and put hem through a negative experience. I have no problem with tutors if it is a positive experience but certainly around here it almost never is. I know a lot of parents who regret feeling they had to do that to their DCs and if your child is at a prep that prepares them for the exams it is rarely necessary.

exoticfruits Sat 31-Aug-13 09:47:07

I think it is an entirely mad world! The children should just just do a few practice tests and if they are bright they get a place.
However the reality is that if all the bright children are being tutored from year 4 they are going to win the place over the bright children who have never been tutored. I suppose it means there is less chance fro the less bright child who has been tutored but even they might be drilled enough to get a place over the bright child who hasn't been prepared.

Actually if all children were tutored from year 4 then it would be fair because it would be back to the brightest! You would have to pity the children though and not everyone can afford it.

Shootingatpigeons Sat 31-Aug-13 09:50:18

exotic which is why the best selective independents go to a lot of trouble to set exams it is difficult if not impossible to prepare for, questions that test ability not attainment.

missinglalaland Sat 31-Aug-13 10:23:08

This thread is timely for out family. My dd1 is entering year 5, and we hope to send her to an Independent secondary school.

In our area, parents hoping for selective secondary schools generally start having their children tutored in the middle of year 5. This way, their dc have a year of 1hr/wk tutoring for a year before the entrance exams in the middle of year 6.

We go to a well thought of CofE state primary school. About 20% of the class has been tutored since yr1! I think this is not 11+ prep, but just parents who lack the time or confidence wanting to make sure that their children "keep up."

We have decided to skip tutoring altogether. I have just ordered some Bond Books 10 Minute Tests. The plan is to sit down for 20 minutes twice a week this year and work through these mini-tests. 40 minutes a week shouldn't be too burdensome and by doing it ourselves we'll save money, and I'll have direct knowledge of how she is doing. (Control freak? Why, yes, yes I am!)

I am clear that her reading is up to a high standard, her math is a high standard for our state school but wouldn't be outstanding for a good prep; so work needed there.

I also need to see how she responds to the non-verbal reasoning questions. If she engages, and thinks they are fun little puzzles, then we are onto a winner. We can consider highly selective Independent schools. If not, we need to look at solid, quality schools that are a little less high flying.

Phew! Sorry for the long post, I hope it gives you some detailed insight into why someone would skip a tutor.

WhoreOfTheWorlds Sat 31-Aug-13 12:25:29

I'm sorry, I didn't see you'd written that shootingpigeons. Our DC's school does hardly any prep for the 11+, and neither Dh or I have the patience to tutor dd so that's why we hired a tutor.

WhoreOfTheWorlds Sat 31-Aug-13 12:28:44

exoticfruits, I do agree with you. I was against dd being tutored because I knew she was clever and a good reader. But she wasn't the cleverest girl in her class, and when I knew cleverer girls than her were seeing this tutor, I had to take a tough decision.

In a weird way it's still sort of fair, because if all the already clever girls are being tutored then still only the cleverest will get a place iyswim?

But what isn't fair is that some clever children don't have parents who can afford to pay a tutor.

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