11+ Sutton - have I left it too late?

(22 Posts)
minifingers Fri 27-Dec-13 10:17:05

Really in a quandary regarding ds and whether to try to prepare him for sitting the test for Wilson's and Sutton.

He is in year 5 at the moment and has never had any tutoring in academic subjects. The spare cash we do have is going on piano and percussion lessons.

He goes to an inner city primary in a poor area, so I'm not sure that being in the extension group for maths at school necessarily means he is working at a particularly high level. The assumption is that the extension groups will be entered for the level 6 SATS.

I think he would thrive in a grammar. He's quite nerdy - taught himself to play chess, has the highest evading age in his year, falls asleep with a medical encyclopaedia stuck to his face every night, very musical (just got a distinction in his grade 3 piano on the back of very inadequate practice), and is small and a bit camp; I think he will sink in a big rough comp like the one his sister goes to (which I'm happy with - for her).

But I'm totally put off even trying on he basis of what I know about the levels of competition for places, and the astonishing amount of tutoring some kids are having. His cousins didn't get in and that's after years of tutoring (and one being top of his class at a local private school where he's been for 3 years). What chance does Ds have given that we can't afford proper tutoring and that we've left it so late? He isn't used to sitting down and working after school ATM - his school sets very little homework (1 piece a week) and I tend not to get involved with what he does get set. I just let him get on with it. If he's going to sit the test I'm going to have to do shed loads of work with him, but I'm not sure that it's worth putting him through this if he's unlikely to get in despite 10 months of hot-housing.

Be interested to know what others here think.

Smartbutdopey Fri 27-Dec-13 10:30:20

Hi OP. I was in your shoes a few years back with my DD. Very torn about the whole grammar v state and tutoring v no tutoring debates. The best advice I can give you is that YOU know your child best and gut instinct is already telling you that GS could be a good fit for him. Many people will give you advice and their opinions but stay focussed on your DS and dont get caught up in the whole playground divide. Yes it is hard work and yes you will both need to be totally dedicated and committed to it but if you think GS is right for your son then you should seriously consider it.

Ladymuck Fri 27-Dec-13 10:58:52

I would certainly take the time to have a look round the schools. The grammars are all single sex schools, which doesn't always suit the 'small and a bit camp". Don't get me wrong - there are a huge mix of children in these schools, but being single sex does make them a bit more testosterone driven.

If, having looked, you conclude it would be good for him, then you have plenty of time to prep. You just need to ensure that your ds understands what he is aiming for, and that it will require him to give up a lot of next summer holidays. To be honest, given that the exams are now English and Maths focussed I can't see how any prep would be wasted, as your ds will simply be in a stronger position to start (any) secondary school. To be honest the greater burden will be on you to ensure that you help him make the time to do the prep and go through it with him to work out any gaps/weak spots. Bond do a "how to approach the 11+" book or the stressfree guide or something. Get that and start from there.

Clavinova Fri 27-Dec-13 11:05:22

Maths, maths and more maths for the boys' grammars! Concentrate on Level 6 maths questions at speed - even if he's prepared for Level 6 maths by his state school the SATs exams are months AFTER the 11+ exams so the school won't have covered the work in time. Also, make sure he can write a half-decent essay/descriptive piece in 20 mins and go through comprehension exercises with him. If he's good at maths and quick he has a decent chance. Perhaps go through the basics of VR/NVR as some questions might crop up even if officially not in the exam; I've seen VR questions in comprehension papers and NVR logic in maths papers. He might be brighter than his cousins.....can they lend you their books?
Have you thought about applying for a scholarship/bursary at a private school?

Ladymuck Fri 27-Dec-13 11:53:24

Given that the one hour writing task for Wilsons is now 40% of the overall score I think that you ignore the writing aspect at your peril. According to ds there were very few children still writing after 40 minutes.

I think that the Bond book will go through it but do make sure that you understand how the standardisation process converts "raw" scores into standardised scores. So whilst you don't want to lag in the bottom half for maths, usually the same amount of effort will raise a boy's standardised scores in English more than maths (compared with his peers).

Come February it is worth keeping a look out for the Sutton Grammar school mocks registration, as their results give you quite a lot of information about where in the pack your child might sit, and what an extra few marks in either direction would have meant.

thecatfromjapan Fri 27-Dec-13 12:06:43

You should look at the elevenplusexams website. There are boards for NVR, VR, maths and English, but start with the forum for Surrey (?) - the one that coversthe Sutton and Tiffin grammars. There is at least one parent on there who started later than you and self-tutored her first child - successfully.

It's by no means impossible. As other posters have said, making sure they are familiar with the maths topics is probably the biggest challenge - and that is not insurmountable. After that, your child needs to be familiar with the principles of NVR, VR, and know how to write a basic descriptive essay, information report, or argumentative essay. Those are, again, not overwhelming. Really. It sounds a bit "yikes" but it really, really isn't.

I would say that single-sex schools have a place for all sorts of boys: the nerdy ones, the camp ones, the testosteroney ones. Mine isn't testosterone-driven. He likes art and music. He laughs at me when I ask if there is bullying at his school. Apparently it isn;t an issue. Which I find amazing.

Having said all of that, I know children at most of the local schools and all of them have had a good experience. So I think I would also advise you to relax a bit. If he gets into a grammar: great; if not: probably also great.

minifingers Fri 27-Dec-13 12:09:36

Thanks everyone, useful advice.

Bursary/scholarships are out. Our household income is 78K. Most of this is earned by DH so we have no child benefit, pay higher rate tax, and have commuting cost/London mortgage/3 children. I feel very strongly that I can't justify impoverishing my other children and depriving them of having the extra support they may need over the next few years in order to pay school fees for one child (dd has GCSE's and will need some tutoring for maths and science as she has missed a lot of school over the past year or so; Ds2 has ASD and is getting a big boost in self esteem from doing percussion lessons - none of this would be possible if we were spending all our disposable income on school fees).

Scholarships are also out for music - he would need to be at least grade 5 in one instrument and have a second instrument to offer. He will be a grade 4 in piano by the end of primary at his current pace and about grade 3 in percussion - not enough. Plus, most music scholarships only cover about 30% of fees. In London and without a bursary this would still leave us 9 or 10k short.

Useful advice about speed - he is very quick, despite not doing much any maths or times-tables practice. Will work on this.

minifingers Fri 27-Dec-13 12:16:02

Thecat - we are in the north of Croydon and not church goers. If he doesn't get into a grammar the other possibilities will be Harris South Norwood (good chance of getting in) Harris CP (small chance of getting in), Oasis academy (the one which used to be Ashburton), or Harris Purley (used to be Haling Manor). Not sure how well some of these schools are geared up for children like my DS.

Att100 Fri 27-Dec-13 12:20:15

of course it's not to late for DIY but your son has to be signed onto the concept of doing lots of practice papers. Agree on the maths advice...if he is already in top 5% of his year in maths then it's just a question of doing enough timed 11+ practice papers - CGP, First Past the Post, Bond etc. (same for others - VR/NVR though I am not familiar with what the 11+ for these schools involves) - but if there are gaps then you will need to fill them in. I don't think there's anything a tutor does on 11+ prep that can't be done at home by a parent DIY but what they might do is set some discipline by setting regular homework an having schedule, so you may have to set those routines yourself...why don't you work backwards from the date of the test, and set some realistic planned weekly schedule and have your DS agree that he will go for it. It's not a mountain if you do it regularly and then build up with more effort nearer the time including over the long summer holidays. Many people who pay for tutoring don't succeed, and there are others who don't who do. I think the worst mistake some parents make is pay for a tutor one or two hours a week and not get involved themselves....and even with a paid tutor, I think some children either do not have the will to work for the 11+ properly or have the foundations in the first place anyway that are needed for grammar school level.

minifingers Fri 27-Dec-13 12:56:04

I can't thank everyone enough for their comments.

I think I'm going to sit ds down and read him some of the posts - ask him if he is prepared to give it a go, and explain just how much he would need to do. See what he thinks.

It's true that nothing we do in relation to this will be wasted effort, as it will help him in year 7 no matter what school he goes to.

SweetPenelope Fri 27-Dec-13 14:41:53

Creative writing is really important in these Sutton boys exams. They need to be able to write using similes, metaphors, personifications etc to make their writing interesting and they need to be able to do it quickly.

It's not too late, but he will need to work hard. Also, don't leave the maths to the school. The exams go to the end of year 6, but are done at the beginning of year 6. You need to make sure you cover everything the school won't.

gazzalw Sun 29-Dec-13 14:18:39

More positive vibes from here....our DS didn't start doing practice papers at home with us until February of Yr 5 and managed to pass three 11+ exams so it's entirely doable - and our DS is lazy.....he is however quick and was not unnerved by the whole examination process which worked to his advantage....

Good luck..... I think you know your own children and really know if they are capable of passing or not.....

minifingers Sun 29-Dec-13 16:14:54

Gazz - is your Ds at a private primary?

gazzalw Sun 29-Dec-13 17:50:28

No he went to a very mixed (socially and culturally) state primary :-). I'm afraid I'm ideologically opposed to private education!

minifingers Sun 29-Dec-13 19:11:40

That's cheered me right up. There are some really clever children at my dc's state primary, which is in one of the poorest wards in the borough, but very few sit the 11+. The school pretends it doesn't exist...

tiggytape Sun 29-Dec-13 22:11:30

Anyone who says you need no preparation at all either doesn't know the school or doesn't know the system as it stands nowadays. Some preparation is important because everyone else will be prepared in some way for these exams (even if it is just a few practice tests at home to get used to the timing) but it is definitely not too late.

It is also probably best to adopt a 'nothing ventured, nothing gained' approach even with a super bright child. Nobody goes into a test with 2000 other very bright entrants knowing they will pass with a place at the end of it. Not even the brightest child relies on getting through and luck plays some part (the scores tend to be similar and bunched up so it is luck what comes up on the paper and luck as to where the axe falls for handing out places each year) so try not to pin your hopes on a definite place but equally don't be despondent hearing about very bright children who didn't get through on the day.

Smartbutdopey Sun 29-Dec-13 22:12:46

Hi minifingers. My DDs state primary also gave no support and teachers refused to even discuss the 11+ with me. It was also a taboo subject in the playground. I noticed (with interest) a splintering amongst the parents which started in y5. There was a definite divide between those tutoring (secretly) for the 11+ and those parents who were publicly anti grammar. However, nearly half the Y6 class went on to sit the 11+ in a variety of Kingston and Sutton Grammar schools, but what I found interesting was that the children who I thought would be a dead cert to pass, didnt, and several children who were mid table, did pass. So you just never know. wink

gazzalw Mon 30-Dec-13 10:06:27

I agree with all that's said 'up-thread'....

We thought DS was of the required standard but couldn't be entirely sure and he certainly wasn't arrogant enough to consider it a 'given'. What he lacked in finely honed literacy skills he made up for with speed and being 'cool, calm and collected' on the days of the tests.....

Interestingly the brightest boy in his year, who I'm pretty sure is already destined for the Maths Tripos at Cambridge, only passed one of the 11+ exams....

Yes, a lot of the Heads are ideologically opposed to the grammar schools - we had the same issue with the Head of DCs primary not even mentioning the 11+ exams.....funny then that 6 in the class went on to selective schools :-). It is irksome though to find that at some schools the Heads are actively helping children with after-school clubs and others are just not entering into the debate at all....That in itself does much to make the playing field uneven....

Minifingers you just need to take a measured approach...we started off with Bond Online (which I think is now considerably better than it was when we first signed up to it...), then did more and more of the Bond books etc.....but aim to peak for the beginning of the summer hols and even then they shouldn't probably be doing more than two half hour sessions a day.....

Suttonmum1 Mon 30-Dec-13 10:37:06

You never know, he might get academic scholarship at a private. They have interesting ways of allocating their money. Try Trinity. Take him for a pre assessment for a music scholarship there. They do not insist on G5 and might be more likely to give him an academic schol if they have also seen his music. They seemed very fair and inclusive to me and not so fixated on the private kids.

tiggytape Mon 30-Dec-13 10:56:33

Sorry if I implied differently, I definitely wasn't saying anyone was arrogant to enter the tests.
I meant, all of the boys who pass are exceptionally bright but so are many / most of the boys who fail to get a place or who only pass one of the exams.
It is a very fine line with a few extremes at either end (a few genius children and a few who are nowhere near the standard required) but, for the most part, all the boys who take the test are clever, top group children and therefore it is very hard to tell in advance who will get through and who won't. It is a bit of a lottery really in the final cut.
There are huge surprises every year with really able children not getting through and we too know children who are exceptionally bright who did not end up with an offer. Exam nerves, a few misread questions, a number in the wrong place.... just a few silly errors or timing issues can make the difference because it isn't an ongoing assessment of ability. It is one test day and that's it. The child is judged purely on what they write on that particular day no matter how they perform at all other times.

gazzalw Mon 30-Dec-13 11:13:34

No you weren't implying arrogance Tiggytape.....it's probably some of the parents who are guilty of that rather than the boys :-)......

I think though that the 'unknown' of the exam outcomes is what makes the whole 11+ (in Sutton anyway) process so stressful...

tiggytape Mon 30-Dec-13 11:16:39

Absolutely gazza - it is also stressful right up until March because of the shortage of places compared to the number who pass the test (I think at the girls' school this year about 700 passed for less than 200 places)

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