New test for Tiffin Girls

(134 Posts)
legallady Mon 20-Feb-12 22:26:49

This will really put the cat amongst the pigeons!

I have a lot of sympathy for those girls planning for 2013 admission and who have only just found out that they will now have to prepare for numeracy and literacy (at Level 5 and above) as well as VR and NVR just in case they are lucky enough to be one of the 400 girls to get through the first stage testing confused

singersgirl Tue 21-Feb-12 07:20:24

Why? They've got nearly a year to prepare and they are, after all, doing numeracy and literacy every day in school. Surely that should be long enough to familiarise themselves with comprehensions etc under timed conditions. I would have thought that any girls hoping to get into Tiffin would be at Level 5 and above anyway by the end of Year 5.

Fraktal Tue 21-Feb-12 07:23:01

I suspect that many of them will also be preparing for the private sector which has literacy and numeracy as standard anyway.

SoupDragon Tue 21-Feb-12 07:32:19

Literacy and numeracy are standard for entrance exams in my area.

basildonbond Tue 21-Feb-12 08:50:28

well, if they're not already level 5 and above by the end of year 5 they haven't got a hope in hell of getting through have they? I'd have thought most people would prefer this - it seems like much less of a lottery and will ensure they have the most able girls rather than ones who are good at VR/NVR

Interestingly at Graveney, where to get in on the test children have to get stupidly high scores in the Wandsworth test, many of those children don't get placed in extension as despite their brilliant performance at VR/NVR they're not actually as academically able as other kids who don't do as well in that particular test

stillfeel18inside Tue 21-Feb-12 09:00:28

I agree - from the kids I know who've tried and passed (or failed), they'd need to be at least a level 5 across the board to have any chance of getting in. Also a tutor has told me that a lot of Tiffin girls still come to her for english coaching as they struggle with writing essays etc so perhaps the school is trying to address that problem by ensuring they don't just get the ones who are fantastic at VR/NVR?

CustardCake Tue 21-Feb-12 09:52:28

The new test will be in 2 stages. NVR and VR at the end of September and anyone who passes that will have to go back at the start of December for Maths, Essay and Comprehension tests at Level 5 or above.
Level 5 is the norm for Grammar School children but "above" level 5 isn't. The tests are taken right at the start of Year 6 so it is a very high standard - I suppose it depends how much "above" level 5 they are aiming for!

The changes apply for entry in 2013 but the tests for 2013 are actually taken this year so the changes come into effect in 7 months time. A lot of tutored children are going to be experiencing a very very busy Summer!

jeee Tue 21-Feb-12 10:01:13

Tiffin is super-selective isn't it? So sounds fair enough to me. And having had a child sit the Kent Test last year, it seems to me that it's far easier to coach for the VR/NVR than it is for maths/literacy. I think that numeracy and literacy papers are likely to be a more accurate test of a child's true ability.

CustardCake Tue 21-Feb-12 10:13:40

jeee - you are right on both counts. Tiffins has no catchment area and no priority for local children so it is classed as a Super Selective. It gets over 1500 applicants every year.

And numeracy and literacy are far better indicators of ability than the NVR and VR tests that people coach extensively for. My only concern was the expectation that a state school child could be at "above" Level 5 by the start of Year 6 regardless of how bright they are. I am just not convinced most state schools work to that sort of level even if a child is capable. I have rarely heard of any Primary School child doing Level 6 work at the end of Year 5 / start of Year 6. Most schools are focused on getting Level 4's and Level 5's by the end of Year 6 instead.

NotYetEverything Tue 21-Feb-12 10:14:54

I think changing the tests regularly is a brilliant idea, because it will make it much harder to tutor to simply pass the test, and it will be easier to work out the children with genuine ability.

singersgirl Tue 21-Feb-12 10:19:02

Yes, you only have to look at the Eleven Plus exams site to realise that some people are tutoring their children (boys and girls) for grammar school for years before the tests. The narrower the test, the narrower the spread of academic abilities and aptitudes in the school.

CustardCake Tue 21-Feb-12 10:20:07

Again agree with you NotYetEverything but the tests haven't changed to create equality. They have changed to accomodate the new admission code that says parents must be made aware of test outcomes before the deadline for the preference form passes in October.

At the moment lots of Grammar Schools (including Tiffins) hold their exams after the October 31st deadline for filling in your school choioces. Parents therefore might be wasting one of their choices on a school that their child will not be eligible for. The change allows parents to know if their child is of selective ability before they fill out the form (although it is not a great help as several hundred others will also be of selective ability and there are only 150 places)

It is doubtful therefore that the exam format will change annually just to keep everyone on their toes and minimise the benefits of tutoring. It is a one off chnage because of new rules.

legallady Tue 21-Feb-12 12:29:28

CustardCake, it's not just "tutored" children who will be experiencing a very busy Summer, but I would have thought all girls who want to give themselves a realistic chance!

I actually don't have any DG affected by this change this year, but I still reiterate my sympathy for any state educated girl who now has only 7 months to get themselves beyond a level 5. MY DS is year 5 at a very average state school and he has only just started to learn chunking and they haven't even begun on long multiplication yet! How could he be expected to sit a level 6 maths exam if I (or someone else I pay for) didn't teach the necessary elements to him?

I have two children already at superselective GS (not Tiffins) and they certainly weren't top level 5A or level 6 when they sat their entrance tests (I would guess at nearer to a 4A hmm ) though they both achieved level 5s at the end of year 6 and have both coped very well with the level of work at their school.

I too agree that the change is a better test of ability than VR and NVR alone, but it will certainly be a tough ask for those sitting it in September shock

CustardCake Tue 21-Feb-12 14:54:05

I am not anti exam preparation. I agreed with you that state schools would not be preparing kids to this level and by “tutored” I mean home tutored as well as sent out for paid tuition. I am not anti this either. Nobody would stand a chance of getting to that level without it in fact and that has always been the case for Super Selectives (not the case at other Grammars in other counties but they have catchment areas which changes things totally and not the case more than 4 or 5 years ago when numbers applying were lower. Now that nearly 2000 are applying every year it is getting more competitive than ever).

I also responded to a comment that indicated this was a good change as it might lessen the benefits to privately tutored children and give other children a chance. I was just pointing out that Tiffins have not made this change in the spirit of equality or for any reason related to tutoring at all. They have done it to comply with new rules about holding the tests before the October deadline so parents know the outcome (sort of).

Tutored children (home and professionally tutored) everywhere will be busy this year as they now have a few months to prepare for extra exams (unless they planned to take the Nonsuch test as well in which case they'll already be doing maths and English work). That's not a good thing or a bad thing. It is just a fact (although with them all in the same boat hopefully nobody will be too disadvantaged by it).

singersgirl Tue 21-Feb-12 15:00:06

Well, lots of children in my DSs' primary school are at level 5 at the end of Y5/beginning of Y6. You don't need to be taught anything specific to be a Level 5 in reading/comprehension or writing - you just need to read a lot and write well. Maths is a bit different but I'd be very surprised if Tiffin Girls is really expecting Level 6 to be taught by that stage. All they're saying is that the child should be working at at least a Level 5, which is what you would expect.

SheHulk Tue 21-Feb-12 15:44:41

notyet They still have to pass a first test, so it's not left to genuine ability. To be accepted to Tiffin you need to be prepared for the VR/NVR exam anyway with either a tutor or with your parents...Ability is how the child uses the preparation he or she has received. The only change is they now have to broaden the preparation to include maths and english. My guess is they are preparing for other selectives too which will test for this.

legallady Tue 21-Feb-12 16:40:21


I hope you don't think that my last post was intended to be a dig at you - it certainly wasn't, but that's the risk with these boards - no intonation. I'll just have to start using more of these. grin. And you were certainly one of the people on the thread who recognised that not many, if any, primary schools prepare their children to the level required.

It does seem, however, from some of the other posts (and again I'm not having a dig at anyone by saying that) that our primary is in the minority in that it is extremely rare for a child to be at a high level 5 in everything by the end of year 5 envy

CustardCake Tue 21-Feb-12 17:05:48

legallady – I think we are in agreement. A lot of schools just focus on Level 4's and 5's by the end of Year 6 (not the end of year 5!) and anyway Tiffins is asking for ABOVE level 5 by the end of Year 5 / beginning of Year 6.
That means level 6 in effect and that level, especially in maths, cannot be achieved by reading a lot of books outside school (well not unless reading about geometry and algebra floats your boat!).

I challenge anybody to seriously suggest that even the brightest 10 year old child would be adequately prepared to take tests aimed at ABOVE level 5 purely by attending Primary school and reading a lot of books for pleasure. And remember that’s ABOVE level 5 in both maths and English not just vocab or reading.

SheHulk Tue 21-Feb-12 17:25:20

Do you think they're just justifying it with the fact that primaries are, as of this year, officially sitting a few DC for Level 6? It's a selffeeding snake, the pressure on our children.

CustardCake Tue 21-Feb-12 17:57:20

I didn't know about the new policy but in that case, yes, it seems that is exactly what they are doing.
Its a bit like changing the goal posts with Ofsted - satisfactory is now classsed as "needs improvement" so the "good" rating will become the new satisfactory With SATS, level 5 will stop being the aim and to be properly academic now you'll need a level 6 instead!

Which is crazy unless they are going to start getting these kids to skip GCSEs altogether and just spend 5 years doing A Levels. After all a good level 6 isn't that far off GCSE standard already and they want the kids performing at this level a whole year before they even start secondary school let alone exams!

singersgirl Tue 21-Feb-12 19:15:01

But it doesn't say the tests will be Level 6. What it says is this:

Stage 2 testing will include three tests which will assess numeracy and literacy: one each of mathematics, reading and writing. All three tests will assess performance appropriate to the English and Mathematics National Curriculum at Level 5 and above.

What I would take that to mean is that they will mostly be Level 5 with a few harder questions as well. Those harder questions will be designed to challenge very bright children. Tiffin wants to select very bright children.

Still, more work for tutors then. (I'm not against tutoring, by the way, and my son was tutored for 11+ exams).

CustardCake Tue 21-Feb-12 22:06:13

But by definition what is "above" level 5 if it isn't level 6?

singersgirl Wed 22-Feb-12 11:38:33

Above level 5 is level 6, but the wording suggests that the tests will be focused on level 5 with elements of level 6. Otherwise they would have said 'at level 6'. You would expect many of the children going for Tiffin to be able to manage some elements of level 6.

CustardCake Wed 22-Feb-12 12:17:13

singersgirl - that is certainly one way it can be interpreted and it may very well mean just that. I don't know and nor does anyone else at this stage.

However, whilst it might not be unusual to expect a Grammar School child to enter secondary school nearing level 6 in all subjects areas, you have to remember these tests are taken a whole year before that.
They are taken when the children are aged 10 and are just starting Year 6 of Primary School. Even if it is your interpretation of Level 5 with some Level 6 elements is correct, that is an incredibly high standard to ask of a child who has only just started their last year in Primary.

SoupDragon Wed 22-Feb-12 12:27:24

It says "level 5 and above" which means level 5 and 6 (or 7 I guess grin). It doesn't just say above level 5.

DSs were certainly at level 5 (for maths) on leaving Y5 and both passed the exams for selective secondaries. Their exams include questions at the end to highlight potential scholarship candidates which are certainly above level 5.

TBH, I count very much that any girl Tiffins accepts would be below the level they are now specifying.

SoupDragon Wed 22-Feb-12 12:30:31

The thing is that this doesn't change anything about "wasting" a choice of schools on the application form. You still don't know whether your child is good enough to get a place - if they are 400th out of 400 who passed, they haven't got an ice cube's hope in hell and unless you know their position, you will be wasting a choice. DS2 passed Wilsons - however he could be anywhere from top or 324th with only 120 places to go for so I am in no better position than I was when DS1 sat it after the forms went in.

CustardCake Wed 22-Feb-12 13:02:14

SoupDragon - I totally agree with you. Doing the test early and knowing that your child is somewhere in the top 400 prior to the CAF deadline is no help at all with regards to wasted choices. If your child is ranked 375 out of that 400 they have absolutely no hope of getting a place and there is no point them even listing the school (although the parents won't know this and will still waste a choice on their form).

I do think though that your assertion about the level of girls currently at the school may be more disputable.
It is a rare and gifted child who is 3 years above the expected level in Maths or in English. A 4B is defined as the expected level for the end of year 6. Therefore a 3a is about the expected level for the end of year 5 so to perform instead at a 5a at the end of year 5 implies performing 3 years ahead of target (2 sub levels of progress per year is an educational assumption)

On top of this, virtually no child who shows such exceptional talent in English will match it in Maths or vice versa. Even if a girl managed to be 3 years advanced in Maths, it is unlikely her English would be at the same level (she may still be above average in English but being 3 years ahead in both is unlikely). I know for a fact that Tiffins takes girls who enter BELOW level 4B for English and have to tutored throughout Year 7 or beyond. And that is a great criticism of tests that only focus on VR and NVR which are practiced and tutored for years in advance.

The change to the test is therefore good, the timing of the test is of no benefit at all and the proposed standard of the test is –-incredible-- surprising.

SoupDragon Wed 22-Feb-12 13:39:55

Looking at DS1s Y5 grades, he was 5c in maths and 4a in everything else. He isn't gifted and is not an avid reader. I can't find DS2s Y5 report but (IIRC) his levels were marginally higher and, again, he is not gifted.

I really don't think it would be unusual for the bright children to be able to do level 5 stuff 3 months in to Y6 and for the real bright ones to grasp L6 stuff. DS had one hour a week, term time, maths tuition for one year to put the knowledge of how to do the questions. Since his brain is clearly wired for maths, this wasn't a problem and I doubt would present a significant problem for the kind of girls Tiffins would want to attract. They want the brightest - this will give them that (probably better than the current VR/NVR tests do). To try and claim there is any other reason or to persuade people that is was done due to the whole deadline thing is disingenuous on their part.

Interestingly, Wilsons have dropped the VR from their entrance exam altogether and didn't do NVR when DS1 sat it either. Perhaps because it is relatively easy to tutor for these two things even where the child is perhaps not naturally academic.

CustardCake Wed 22-Feb-12 13:54:47

My DC was a 5b in English at the start of Year 6 and, knowing now what a Level 6 requires, I honestly don't think we could have stretched that any further at that age to cover "some level 6 elements". A 5b is very advanced for that age as it is. He was still only 10 years old.
His maths I can't remember - I think it was either 4a or 5c. It was a bit lower but still considered to be very good. The most gifted child at Primary is expected to leave Year 6 with all level 5a's. That is at the current top level for age 11.

Therefore to expect them to reach this standard a whole year earlier is more gifted than I have ever known any child to be. It would logically mean a child taking the exams, making a further 2 sub levels of progress over the course of year 6 and entering secondary school at level 7 or just below. I have never heard of any child being at that level accross all subjects but maybe our school's idea of gifted isn't anybody elses'??

singersgirl Wed 22-Feb-12 13:57:49

I don't think it's that unusual for children to be a level 5 in all subjects - certainly DS2 was at the end of y5 and DS1 was level 5 for everything but writing. I know of several other children who were as well. DS2 scored 100% on the first practice SATs test they did this year in maths - so definitely a 5a a couple of weeks into school.

You don't need to be 'rare and gifted', just academically very able. Tiffin is a highly selective school and wants to get very able girls.

I think it will be a better test of all-round ability too, regardless of the level discussion.

Although it won't help the 400 girls who pass the first test in the application process, it will help the 800 plus others who will know not to waste a slot for Tiffin.

coffeecake9 Wed 22-Feb-12 15:25:55

The change clearly has nothing to do with complying with the new admissions code as Tiffin Boys are still testing only vr/nvr and are just bringing the exam forward.

Far from reducing the level of tutoring,the change at Tiffin Girls will massively increase it. "Familiarisation" with vr and nvr at home will not now suffice. The change will also disadvantage children at state primary schools unless their parents can afford extra tuition, especially in Maths. Most primary schools will not have covered the ground in Maths and this means there will be a gap in the children's knowledge, which is not a reflection of their aptitude.

I think the school should have at least provided details of the test (eg exactly which Maths topics will be tested, whether there will be an essay, whether the English paper will be multiple choice, how each paper is weighted etc). If Tiffin wants to go the private school testing route, then it might at least provide the sort of information the private schools do.

SheHulk Wed 22-Feb-12 16:00:06

Soup, I wish all schools did like Wilsons. Maths and English (Reading and Writing). That should be enough. That's what they are doing in school. The reasoning is the problem. Scrap the reasoning NOW angry

legallady Thu 23-Feb-12 17:07:24

Someone from Tiffin Girls obviously reads this website - they have now clarified their test arrangements as follows:

"Stage 2 testing will include three tests which will assess numeracy and literacy: one each
of mathematics, reading and writing. These tests will be at an appropriate level of
challenge to determine the offer of places at the school and will be guided by the content
of the Primary National Curriculum. For guidance only: the level of challenge of these
tests will be appropriate for candidates anticipated to achieve Level 5 at the end of Year

Sounds much better wink

SoupDragon Thu 23-Feb-12 17:08:11


thetasigmamum Thu 23-Feb-12 17:55:28

@custardcake DD1 was level 5 across the board at the end of Y4. They didn't do (as far as I am aware) the SATs papers when she was in Y3 (at the end of Y4 the advanced kids sat the same SATs as the Y6 kids were doing). She is now at a super selective grammar (which gets pretty much identical exam stats as Tiffins year on year). DD1 was not in any way unusual in terms of maths when she arrived at her current school. I think her English is probably heading towards G&T though. And she wasn't the only one with those sorts of levels at the primary school either. DD2 was level 5 in literacy at the end of Y3 and a level 4a in Maths (she has been taught with older year groups for both of those subjects). DD2 does appear to be way ahead in literacy but there are 3 other kids in her year who are as good or better than her at Maths. DS on the other hand didn't hit level 5 in Maths till Y6 and never hit it in literacy (well, hopefully he is now but we don't get very much feedback from his school, he didn't want to even try for the grammar and is at the comp for which his primary school is a feeder, where he is very happy and settled).

Many primary schools don't push the pupils as much as they could and at that age children develop at different rates anyway, which is obviously one of the arguments against selection at 11+ but it seems clear that there are a core of kids who do hit those levels early on given the opportunity. It doesn't mean the others won't catch up, but schools like Tiffins give those kids the scope to carry on powering forward if that is the way they are going, which is surley a good thing? It seems like Tiffins has more people wanting to go there than they can shake a stick at and I would guess that based on their experiences to date they feel they will fill the places easily even setting the bar high, so why not? If they feel their remit is to provide a tailored education to the sort of kids who are hitting those levels at that age then, given they believe in testing, they need to make the test appropriate. The sad thing isn't that Tiffins sets the bar so high, it's that there are so few state schools that do that or maybe set the bar just a bit lower to capture the kids who are bubbling under (and might overtake the 'hares' in a year or so). So you see the flight to posh schools for those who can afford it - but what happens to those who can't?

One important thing to remember is the kids who end up in super selective schools have often been bullied in their primary schools for being 'swots' or geeky. DD1 was, DD2 isn't, nobody would dare grin. She's feisty. grin

Super selective schools are supposed to cater for these sorts of pupils. It's not unreasonable for them to set the test bar accordingly.

CustardCake Thu 23-Feb-12 18:04:32

It now seems that Tiffins DON'T expect level 5 or above at the end of year 5 at all judging by the clarification they have issued. It is Level 5 by the end of Year 6 which seems much more more realistic.

And by saying "realistic", I am factoring considerations that whilst bright children may be capable of getting these very high levels at an early age, not many schools offer them the chance to do it. Many schools will not let a child (however bright) be taught outside their age group and go into the year above for lessons. Many schools see Level 5 as the absolute pinnacle of what can be achieved for that age group and wouldn't dream of pushing for the next step. Many are more worried about getting the 3a children up to level 4b by the end of Year 6 so their results don't look too awful. And of course many simply do not cover the knowledge a child would need to exceed Level 5's at Primary age even if they are very bright and able.

My worry was that if Tiffins expected Level 5a / 6c at the end of Year 5 they were effectively ruling out very bright children from normal schools. By normal I mean schools that don't support children to work at level 6 in Year 6. And unfortunately that is the norm in most Primaries.

singersgirl Thu 23-Feb-12 20:53:08

The power of Mumsnet wink! At least that sounds more reassuring.

kensingtonia Thu 23-Feb-12 22:41:00

Unfortunately I don't think it was the power of Mumsnet! I know of quite a few parents who have telephoned in the last few days. I would prefer a test that was impossible to tutor for. I think the new system is an improvement but will lead to even more tutoring. It seems fairly similar to the test at Henrietta Barnett School - a colleague has a five year old who is already being tutored for that one!

SoupDragon Fri 24-Feb-12 07:46:44

The (private) schools DSs sat for interview all the children who pass the exam. They base their offers on that rather than just the marks. I imagine this isn't practical for state schools though.

kensingtonia Fri 24-Feb-12 09:00:44

They are not allowed to interview! I think church schools still did up to relatively recently ostensibly to gauge religious commitment but that has also been stopped.

CustardCake Fri 24-Feb-12 10:14:34

State schools aren't allowed to interview. I agree though that it a useful tool as long as in the State sector it was only used to judge attitude and motivation and genuine aptitude as opposed to wealth or posh accents!

And I agree it would be better if they made the test harder to tutor for. An obvious solution would be to vastly change its format every year (written maths questions one year, multiple choices the next, no maths at all the following year and just 2 essays of a science based nature but the following year keeping it all fiction based with no multiple choice and long, formal answers required. Throw in the odd logic puzzle and change these vastly year on year as well). In theory you could tutor a child for every type of test in every conceivable format but with so many possible combinations it couldn't be done as intensively as it is now.

Fraktal Fri 24-Feb-12 10:21:35

custard the problem then would be an intake who excel at literacy, one with a stranding aptitude for science and a year which are brilliant at maths.

CustardCake Fri 24-Feb-12 10:37:47

Fraktal - That is true although the children would not know what was in the exam until the day they took it so would have to feel reasonably confident in all areas to enter.
Also, at the moment they don't do literacy or numeracy exams at all. They do VR and NVR. Tiffin Girls are changing this but Tiffin Boys' aren't so they can still end up with (and do end up with) some whose literacy skills aren't as advanced as you'd expect yet it hasn't seemed to hold them back judging by the results.

SoupDragon Fri 24-Feb-12 10:45:07

Even if they don't know what is coming up in the exam they will still be tutored in everything.

It is a shame they can't interview - the private schools use it to spot the children who have been extensively tutored and which appear to be naturally bright. Tutoring will get you through the exam but it may not see you through the interview.

Having said that, I would have been shocking at interview because I was/am painfully shy.

I don't think there is a way to remove the bias towards tutoring really.

CustardCake Fri 24-Feb-12 10:49:34

No there isn't - the new system will help a bit just by extending the spectrum of skills children will need though. With the best will (and best tutor) in the world there is only so much you can do with a child who excels in maths but whose English is shocking.
The old tests consisted of a VR and a NVR exam, both multiple chioice which child were coached and coached for. There were children in my DS's school who could get 100% on these purely because they had done every single practice paper available over a 3 year period and knew all the tricks, all the techniques, all the shortcuts and all the possible formats that could come up.

SoupDragon Fri 24-Feb-12 10:55:10

LOL - Ive just found out that's exactly what DS2 did in one of his exams - 81% in maths, 40% in english. grin

I do think that maths and, to a lesser extent, english rely on ability rather than being the kind of thing you can cram into a child. With maths you do have to have a talent for it in order to be able to understand what is needed, especially under exam conditions.

I think you could tutor a chid how to do well at English, barring things like dyslexia, but anything thrown at them that was out of the ordinary would mess that up and you could probably spot a "tutored" essay for example.

Yellowtip Fri 24-Feb-12 11:47:41

Tiffin will have tweaked what it originally said - sloppily - to stop speculation that it had raised the bar and is now looking towards Level 6 as standard. Which would be a nonsense.

Highish Level 5s at the end of Y6 is the expectation for the best of the superselectives. So Level 4a and above at the end of Y5 should suffice.

Changing the format randomly would be a good idea to combat the advantages of tutoring but the schools have to take great care not to disadvantage more vulnerable kids. If Tiffin's bar for the first tests is set relatively low then on the face of it it appears very slick: it conforms to the new Admissions Code yet gives the school time to spend on weeding out the best while probably minimising the advantage of tutoring. Quite time intensive for the school, but they must feel it's worth it.

YummyHoney Sun 26-Feb-12 22:33:37

This new test will help the cream rise to the top. Of course the girls have to be level 5s and above to get in . . . . that is the whole point of Tiffin Girls - it's for the super- intelligent. It's not supposed to be for your run-of-the-mill children. What's wrong with that? (goes to bed).

CustardCake Sun 26-Feb-12 22:59:27

Yummy - you've missed the whole point. Of course they have to be around level 5a to get in to Tiffins - that's pretty standard for Grammar Schools. Initially however, it was suggested by the school that they needed to be a 5a "or above" when they took the test. They take the tests a whole year before they enter the school.

That's what people were questioning - is it fair to expect state school children to reach level 5a or level 6 by the end of year 5 when most schools won;t cover anything like that? And that's what Tiffins clarified: no - they don;t expect a 5a at the end of Year 5. They just expect a 5a by the end of Year 6 so those taking the test need to at about a level 5c or 5b at the time of taking the test.

Yellowtip Mon 27-Feb-12 08:05:52

Tiffin and others like it are for the soundly intelligent, not the 'super' intelligent Yummy. Otherwise Tiffin's results would look different.

The cream metaphor is a little unpleasant. I'd be very annoyed with my children if they took the attitude that they were 'the cream'.

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Tue 28-Feb-12 09:43:45

thetasigmamum - you ask where the DCs who are bubbling "just under" the Tiffin Girls level go. Well, in the local area they go to the local excellent girls comp and do just as well in the top streams, along with the super bright DDs who were securely in the Tiffin range but chose to opt out of the frightening arms race of tutoring.

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 11:43:09

carrots well, lucky old you, living in an area with excellent single sex comps (such as the school I went to when I was a kid). You do realise that not all kids live in areas where there are excellent comps though? And further, you do realise that many kids who go to superselective Grammar Schools (at least as good as Tiffins if not better) get there without entering into what I agree sounds like a frightening arms race of tutoring.

If every area had excellent comps with a viable top stream where the very brightest kids were not held back or bullied for being 'swots' then that would be perfect, really, wouldn't it. But not every area is lucky like that.

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 12:00:33

I can't quite see why the super bright DDs didn't just opt of of tutoring then, whilst opting into the exam confused.

Is it a London phenomenon, this arms race, or does MN distort the reality?

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 12:05:09

@Yellowtip The arms race isn't something I encountered when DD1 did the test for the superselective GS in our area. Fewer people apply though. I guess the London arms race (and it does sound bonkers) is a function of the huge numbers applying. I also don't quite understand why the super bright DDs didn't do the exam without tutoring.

mumzy Tue 28-Feb-12 12:11:28

Having just gone through this process I would say if you wanted your dc in a super selective gs or a top indie in the london area then they need to be a grade 5 across the board ( English, maths, writing) by end of year 5 and working towards level 6 in all areas by the time they take 11+ in january of year 6. At gs which takes top 25% of pupils or less academic indie then level 4a across the board by end of year 5 and working towards level 5 in year 6. Dc from state schools do require tutoring for ss gs as they wouldn't have covered some of the work asked in the 11+ and enterance exams.

mumzy Tue 28-Feb-12 12:16:47

IME level 6 Maths, English comprehension, grammar, punctuation, spellings, essay writing took a lot more time to teach and practise than VR and NVR so IMO the former is a better reflection of a child's ability .

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 12:26:48

No grammar school can disadvantage state school students by setting questions which can only be answered if parents have the funds to buy tutoring. The point about setting questions based on the whole of the Y6 curriculum is that schools don't all teach the subjects in the same order, so it's intended to counter that.

It's interesting that you say that London superselectives in effect require level 6 whilst several achieve the same results or worse than superselectives in other parts of the country where level 5 is enough. How does that work?

YummyHoney Tue 28-Feb-12 13:47:50

Yellowtip, state schools don't teach VR and NVR so they are disadvantaged . But we don't live in an equal world and there will always be disadvantaged children, whether it's money, health or crap parents. I know several single mothers on benefits who paid for tuition for their children and succeeded in getting them into top grammar schools. IMO any bright child can have a shot at gs if their parent/s want it for them.

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 13:59:37

You don't need to be 'taught' VR and NVR.

It's slightly beside the point to make the observation that life isn't equal. The point is that grammar schools cannot possibly set tests which are knowingly going to disadvantage state school children.

There are plenty of single mothers on benefits whose background is strikingly middle class and whose separated status entitles them to Child Tax Credit, which is a benefit. I expect that those paying for tutoring tend mostly to fall into that category rather than being those who've battled with disadvantage and poverty for most of their lives.

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 14:33:39

@Yellowtip I'm guessing that in London maybe the people who get offered places are at or approaching level 6 because there are so few places and so many applying and the top marks get the places. An awful lot more kids 'pass' the exams after all, than get offered places.

CustardCake Tue 28-Feb-12 14:43:33

That is exactly the case thetasigmamum. For each of the London Grammars there are 10 - 12 children applying per place and, since there are no catchment areas, the applicants are made up of the very brightest children from a 20 - 30 mile radius.
Basically you get 1500+ children who are each near the top of their own Primary Schools for ability all fighting it out for 150 places with the places going to those of them who get the highest score on the day.
The mark you need to achieve therefore to not only pass the test but to actually get a place is very high and this is driven not by the school asking for ridiculously high standards but by the need to beat competition from 1400 others who are also all very bright.

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 14:53:17

@CustardCake our superselective has a radius of 50 miles. But, the population density is lower, hence fewer applicants than Tiffins evidently enjoys.

CustardCake Tue 28-Feb-12 15:09:22

thetasigmamum - Tiffins actually gets applicants from all over the country because parents plan to relocate to Kingston if their child gets a place - the actual radius therefore is unlimited but mostly applicants are from within all the London Boroughs plus Surrey (so thousands of potential people in other words)

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 15:34:58

Sure, I get that thetasigmamum. The question was why if the intake at Tiffin's is better than ours, why don't they get better results?

I'm just being annoying really, it's all this talk of 'cream' smile

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 15:36:13

Actually it's not really a question, because I know the answer smile

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 15:49:14

@custardcake Tiffins isn't alone in getting the 'willing to relocate' crew. We get them too. Many from London. grin

kensingtonia Tue 28-Feb-12 17:14:12

Yellowtip what school are you referring to as better than Tiffin Girls re results and what measure are you using (value added, number of A*, A/B combined etc? As a parent I would say the girls on admission mainly fall into two categories - very intelligent with fairly minimal preparation and those who are quite intelligent but who have worked bloody hard. The vast majority of parents are extremely supportive. I think all girls in the school are more than capable of getting a A* in every GCSE subject. A small minority refuse to work, some have personal issues such as divorcing parents, illness, boyfriend problems or whatever. All these can affect results. Although support is there, unlike private schools of my acquaintance Tiffin does not spoon feed and it is ultimately up to the girls themselves if they have the motiviation to succeed.

mumzy Tue 28-Feb-12 17:22:40

We Did all additional teaching and tutoring between dh and myself so the only cost was bond books , got a lot of free teaching/ practice materials from internet, so you don't need to pay for a tutor. TBH if I couldn't tutor him myself I would have got a short term additional job to pay for some else to do it. It depends how much how much you want your child to attend the best school in the end.

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 17:25:08

@kensingtonia I'm guessing one of Colchester Royal Grammar, Altrincham Grammar school for girls, Invicta grammar school, King Edward VI grammar school Chelmsford, King Edward VI Camp Hill (boys), or Colyton if you're talking A levels. Alternatively, Lawrence Sherrif, Newstead Wood, Colchester High, Colyton, Skipton Girls high, Fort Pitt, Westcliffe high, Edward VI camp hill (girls), Altrincham or St Olaves if you are talking GCSEs.
If you're talking both, then it would be just Altrincham and Colyton I suppose.

Anyway - there are quite a few of them in that list (from the BBC website).

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 17:27:07

@kensingtonia Actually - NO. The Altrincham in the GCSE list is the Boys version. (I was getting tired fingers copy typing all the names and that was my downfall. Sloppy work on my part wink ) So there is only one school above Tiffin on both lists. According to the BBC. But the stats can be manipulated in many ways as we know.

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 17:40:57

I was taking a random broad brush holistic bohemian sort of approach and thinking of a CVA/ GCSE/ A Level/ leavers' destinations sort of medley kensingtonia.

I would imagine the same issues affect most pupils in comparable schools and that the parent body gives generally the same sort of support.

kensingtonia Tue 28-Feb-12 17:46:42

I think in the Telegraph TGS was the top state school at GCSE last year. It was about 10th at A' level from memory. I agree that the results can be interpreted according to which measure you use.
I remember reading years ago about a test devised by Durham University for secondary school entrants which was apparently not possible to tutor for. Personally I would much rather see a test of potential rather than how well students have already been prepared. If you can't afford to tutor or even buy practice papers you are stuffed. To be honest though, I think the school rather likes having motivated hard working girls and their supportive (pushy!) parents.

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 18:09:37

Agree. Unfortunately those papers are prohibitively expensive to use.

CustardCake Tue 28-Feb-12 18:09:54

That's always been the rationale as to why schools with very strict faith criteria perform so well. Any parent who will jump through hoops for years in advance to secure a good school place is by definition interested in their child's education and that counts for a lot in terms of how well children do.

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 18:10:58

@kingstonia the Telegraph and the Graun (and the Times too, probably, but I don't buy the Murdoch press) publish tables on results day which are unverified and sometimes play fast and loose with the data. The BBC table I was quoting from was the one from the DfES published in January 2012, using the verified DfES data.

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 18:15:24

@CustardCake in fact, faith schools are represented at all levels of the curve of school performance (especially, but not only, catholic schools). It's just that nobody makes a fuss about not being able to go to the poorly performing ones, and everyone notices the high performing ones. Full disclosure - I'm a Catholic, I'd love for my kids to go to Catholic secondary school (I'd love them - well, the girls anyway - to go to the school I went to, but we live 200 miles away now). But there is a big bermuda triangle with no Catholic secondaries at all in the west country and we are in the middle of that. Despite my wish to have the possibility of faith school for my kids, I know that it's no guarantee of a top performing school.

CustardCake Tue 28-Feb-12 18:38:46

That is very true. But then there are all types of faith schools and not all of them have hoop jumping as standard! Some faith schools take people of no faith quite happily whereas the best performing ones near us (and that I know of in other areas) are the ones with super strict criteria - to get a place you need to be baptised in the first months of life and certainly before 6 months, have 2 years or more of weekly church attendance verified by the church, have taken First Holy Communion / Confirmation etc
Some parents do this because they would do so anyway as this is what their faith requires. Equally a lot of parents do it because the alternative school options are less good and they will do whatever it takes to get a place.
It was a general point really about parental motivation being related to how well schools perform more than faith as such.

kensingtonia Tue 28-Feb-12 19:00:53

Theta - I think the BBC (DFES) is based on A/AS and not GCSE (at least the one I was looking at!) As you stated, the broadsheet tables are voluntary. What I thought was interesting was that Tiffin was very slightly higher than Henrietta Barnett whose admission test is similar to the one Tiffin is changing to. Frankly there are a lot of clever girls who don't get in whichever way you look at it. 1400 applied to Tiffin Girls' this year and a similar number to HBS.

There are girls in my daughters year 11 class at Tiffin who were tutored to get in and still go to tutoring now.

When DD2 started at her inner city comp we were surprised that quite a few in her class had already been taught English and maths to level 6 at their primary schools in our inner city London borough. The top class at her school are a similar standard to Tiffin and to be honest they are worked a lot harder.

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 19:14:50

@Kensingtonia No, the link I gave above is for GCSEs. There is another table for A levels at This shows the schools I listed as being 'above' Tiffin for A levels.

Ultimately - I don't think the intake is any different actually, between Tiffins, or many other super selectives. Since they all rank their tests, they will all be taking in the kids who either are working at level 6 because their schools have extended them that far, or who could be working at level 6 if they were at schools that pushed them on (and are smart enough and calm enough to work out stuff for themselves perhaps for the first time, in an exam scenario). Plus kids working at 5A or even 5B. And the numbers are probably about the same. But in theory, a child working at 5C or even 4A can 'pass' the test in September - the question is how many will get a higher mark.

kensingtonia Tue 28-Feb-12 19:54:50

Thanks Theta. I have retried the link but when I click on the points per pupil score it is still stating those are the results at A/AS though it says GCSE at the top of the page.

Anyway it is "academic" so to speak; I agree that the intake at all the super selectives is roughly the same.

What really annoys me is the private school parents who assume their darling offspring are a higher form of life for getting into the selective independent secondaries - but that is for another thread....

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 20:04:21

Yes, that legend is a mistake. The results are from the GCSEs. As a comparison of those scores and the A level ones shows. They aren't the same.

I imagine some of the kids who get in to the indie selective schools are utterly brilliant. The Paulinas, for example (I was at Cambridge with loads of them and they genuinely were a higher form of life. But nice. As opposed to some of the girls from other indies who were much more snobby). And others aren't (many of them go to the indies because they have failed to get into the grammars). But it doesn't really matter though. They are certainly buying more privilege than our kids in the super selective grammars get, even if the raw exam results are similar (or worse, as in our area. Or better if you look at eg St Pauls). Their kids will become a higher form of life as a result of the privilege bought at 11+. Not much we can do about it, but no point in denying it.

kensingtonia Tue 28-Feb-12 21:02:16

I know about half a dozen girls fairly well who are currently at St Paul's; I don't think any of them are more brilliant than my daughter who is at Tiffin or some of her classmates quite honestly. More confident and privileged certainly but not a higher life form.

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 22:09:49

I recall being very flattered when I was mistaken for a Paulina by a Paulina (having actually crawled out of Croydon).

I never even took (or failed) the test smile

Kora Tue 28-Feb-12 22:29:55

What's this about private schools producing a "higher life form"? The great thing about TGS when I was there was the absence of that inferiority complex, whether in the company of a Paulina or not (and believe me having met a few at uni, I'd say they were a mixed bunch...hmmm just like normal people... grin)

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 22:39:52

@yellowtip I also crawled out of Croydon and never took any test other than o and A levels and Cambridge entrance. They had done away with the 11+ by the time I was 10. Clearly intellectually I wasn't in any way inferior to anyone else. The same was blatantly not true socially or economically though.

Yellowtip Tue 28-Feb-12 22:50:04

Maybe you didn't come from Croydon, Kora....

thetasigmamum Tue 28-Feb-12 23:14:19

@yellowtip Croydon LEA funded free music lessons for kids at state schools for a lot longer than most LEAs. I feel very lucky to have grown up there, to be honest. grin

halfrom Wed 29-Feb-12 19:55:25

My friends dd is 10 goes to local state primary and was level 6 numeracy and literacy at end of y5 is y6 now and has a scholarship to a good school somewhere. Couldn't say where but they call it gifted and talented. I suppose this maybe what the school are talking about.

zoffany51 Fri 20-Apr-12 13:20:17's 450 through Stage 1 actually.

breadandbutterfly Fri 20-Apr-12 16:00:57

By the way, re reference on previous page to the untutorable - but expensive - test for entrance exams produced by Durham Uni - wonder if this is the same one that HBS has just introduced in place of its separate VR and English papers?

Would be lovely if HBS went back to the chilled place it was when I was there, full of bright but NOT tutored children. Far, far too presssurised now for me to want to send my dds there - was v sad about the change in the school...

zoffany51 Fri 20-Apr-12 18:20:17

...changes to TGS admissions are interesting to say the least: my tale is that they have been implemented to assuage local parents; heard of one parent the other day starting tutoring DD at age 4; so i guess with extra hurdles to negotiate now a trend may well develop for pre-partum tutoring? smile insane - where will it all end???

zoffany51 Sat 21-Apr-12 15:07:19

i think TGS have played an absolute blinder :: local parents typically claim their oh-so t&g DCs only just missed out (& that's not fair) :: but with 450 through from Stage 1 that excuse is now void :: keeping NVR/VR as a pre-screen mitigates against any claims of the school dumming down :: Stage 2 sorts the wheat from the chaff using traditional 3Rs :: imo it's priceless :: smile wish TS would hurry up & follow suit. (though since Stage 2 is subjective i expect appeals will go through the roof.)

zoffany51 Thu 17-May-12 00:37:28 smile :: still maybe not. Is generally recognized here in KoT that whereas TS offers a broader range opportunities for the boys; TGS is more an exam factory - which i guess is why the girls are being asked to jump through additional hoops to get in; as it may be perceived the only way to elevate 'standards' yet further. Bit of a shame really. Sausages in :: sausages out!!! Where is the value-add in this process, one has to ask??? How successful would either of these schools be were they to admit children of normal ability ranges, rather than prescreening 93%-ish of the applicants out. Not exactly what Thomas & John Tiffin had in mind i suspect when they founded the school... which was established for the education of local children in need.

BeingFluffy Thu 17-May-12 06:47:51

You have really got the wrong impression Zoffany. I can tell you as a parent that TGS is definitely not an exam factory, though some parents may regard it as such! My younger child goes to a comp and is under a lot more pressure and has a load more homework. Elder DD at TGS has experienced fantastic music, sporting opportunities, trips etc. The girls are clever and are expected to do well but what is wrong with that. Some parents put the girls under pressure but not the school itself.

BeingFluffy Thu 17-May-12 07:08:07

BTW I don't think the original foundation of a school has much bearing on the present. My old school now an outstanding Ark Academy was founded as a charity school in Westminster in 1699. Moved further west in the 1930s and went through the transition from great grammar to failing comp before it's resurrection. I am sure that its current status is not what the founders intended which was to teach basic skills to the poor around Carnaby Street. In fact the current Queen visited the school years ago and said they had linen which was sewn by the girls a couple of hundred years ago. Thankfully time has moved on and schools are funded from the public purse.

zoffany51 Fri 18-May-12 12:57:03

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zoffany51 Fri 18-May-12 13:05:13

btw my 'wrong impression' is based on experiences of several girls i know who have been through TGS. In the sixth form years the school is widely seen as an exam factory - dunno what year your DD is in; but it's common knowledge here in KoT how the focus of the school shifts in the upper school years. smile

zoffany51 Fri 18-May-12 13:11:53

...many similar comments have been posted on this forum; so not my uninformed opinion - it is a fact. Good that your DD is enjoying TGS; i wish you & her all the best and every success. Kindest z smile

BeingFluffy Fri 18-May-12 20:36:36

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zoffany51 Wed 30-May-12 21:24:12

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zoffany51 Wed 30-May-12 21:34:49

...if you read what ia actually posted: i wished you & your family well & every success, only to be met with a barrage of insults. shock

zoffany51 Wed 30-May-12 21:39:23

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gazzalw Thu 31-May-12 06:35:18

Personally, I think all schools and particularly highly-sought after grammar schools will by default become exam factories the further up the school you go. I am sure though that most of the children at the schools wouldn't see it in those terms - they are generally striving to do the best they can do - largely with great success!

BeingFluffy Thu 31-May-12 13:11:36

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zoffany51 Thu 31-May-12 21:33:47


zoffany51 Thu 31-May-12 21:37:30

i agree.

zoffany51 Fri 01-Jun-12 00:55:20

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zoffany51 Fri 01-Jun-12 09:13:57

gazzalw - i agree, very well put. Thanks for your input. smile

morethanpotatoprints Fri 01-Jun-12 22:09:02

I observed several threads regarding Tiffin girls, originally as I hadn't a clue what one was. I don't understand why so many parents are surprised by the level of education expected from such a school. My dc's have all attended average state primary schools all different, with some dcs attending more than one due to moving. In each y4 and y5 class whilst they attended there was the odd child out of a class of 30+ who had gained a level 5,6. Now these were deemed exceptional and now gifted and talented. Surely this is the standard that is required. These children didn't have any extra tuition, they barely received homework. In some instances came from a deprived area and upbringing. It's just my opinion but if your dc's need a lot of extra tuition to pass the tests, they aren't bright enough and perhaps would struggle to keep up anyway.

tiggytape Fri 01-Jun-12 23:35:14

morethan - It has all changed in areas where there are schools like Tiffins (super selectives that only accept the top 150 scores).

If you consider over 1500 pupils take the Tiffins test (all of whom will be a level 5 minimum or most likely a level 6 SATS in all subjects) you can see this isn't a test to see who is clever enough and who isn't.

It is a test that takes 1500 kids (of whom at least 1000 will be exceptionally gifted and easily clever enough to excel at Grammar school) and whittles them down to the last 150 men standing.

There are children who take the test who achieve level 6 in all their SATS who don't get a place. With 10 - 12 applicants per place, getting just one question wrong or being a fraction too slow is the difference between getting a place and not getting one. This is where tutoring comes in - speed and accuracy as well as short cuts and familiarity might gain you 3 extra marks on your paper and that makes all the difference.

Once upon a time (and still today in some areas) the 11+ sorted children who were clever and would benefit from a grammar school education from those who would not be suited to it.
Nowadays most people do not take the 11+ exams and the test just acts to assess which of the 1000+ exceptionally bright children who apply should be chosen.

tiggytape Fri 01-Jun-12 23:38:03

Or a shorter answer - yes you are right. That is the standard required but when applicants apply from all over Surrey, London and the South East all of those 1 or 2 exceptional children per school soon add up and you end up with 1500 of them competing for 150 places.

zoffany51 Sat 02-Jun-12 23:37:14

tiggytape - brilliantly put: hope your contribution to this thread will clarify the case for many parents who seem simply not to understand. DS was at an outstanding primary; 10+ boys from the school took the test [all bright & capable] - but he was only one to get in. Some of those who were not successful went on to Hampton to avoid local sink secondaries, but we were effectively the only family to secure a 'choice'. And if you look at the stats - what you're quoting - that's about right; in essence 92% who sit Tiffin entrance will not succeed (irrespective of whether they have been tutored or hothoused or not). Hence the reputation as super-selective. z

zoffany51 Sat 02-Jun-12 23:45:26

fyi - in fact all of the other boys had been tutored - some extensively; success rate = zero. So the question i see asked on these threads over & over - should i get a tutor; which one; when is just plain stupid. Parents don't get it - your DC will either be able to perform [speed/accuracy/intellect/mental agility] under extreme time pressure & hold it all together - Happy.Glorious.Victorious, as you might say - or else 'fail'; but then they'll fail whatever you do. smile

zoffany51 Sat 02-Jun-12 23:56:45 of course there is a not insubstantial element of luck. All boils down to supply & demand; the scarcer the commodity - the more people want it. We all basically work the same way - it makes us feel special. Nothing which is excellent is ever easy. Ultimately, i expect the whole system to implode as the numbers of applicants ever increases and the odds for success (at gaining one of a fixed number of places) diminishes year on year. However, there is no sign of this happening yet. Would probably be a good thing though, since we all as parents would need to be a deal more creative instead of simply following the herd. smile

zoffany51 Sun 03-Jun-12 00:23:05

i would strongly advise any parent reading this forum to take a step back and see the bigger picture - is your child actually happy - obsessing about perfomance levels and whether your DC is 'very t&g' or whatever, as i have read so often with dismay on forums such as this causes immense stress within the family unit, and ultimately will manifest in transfer anxiety within the child. Any child; girl or boy is the greatest gift in itself - and we all doubtless possess a great many talents. It is difficult i accept, but do at least make the effort and try to look beyond the confines of academic expectation to the possibilities of a happier and less stressful family life. Your child will surely thank you for it in the long term. smile

nals Mon 25-Jun-12 13:26:10

Any advice on tutors .. Pls help! Names and nos much appreciated.

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 00:27:50

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding here. VR/NVR tests give you an indication of raw ability, literacy and numeracy tests tell you about a child's level of achievement, what they have learnt. The reason Grammar Schools traditionally focused on VR / NVR was that they were looking for potential and didn't want to exclude bright children who had been taught poorly, came from disadvantaged backgrounds etc. A lot of private schools also include VR and NVR for exactly the same reason, to make sure they are getting the brightest pupils rather than the very tutored and crammed . However typically they will gather a range of evidence about a child, from different tests and interview so they can be sure they are the right child for their school. You can only tutor children for NVR / VR to a ceiling, whatever the tutors might say to justify years of tutoring income. If the VR/ NVR tests are rigourously developed you will not improve a child's performance after around 10 practise papers, Occupational and Educational Psycholgists have a huge body of developmental research designed to make these tests a rigourous test of reasoning ability rather than tutoring so that Businesses and schools can rely on them as such. It is the gap between a higher reasoning ability and lower achievement that will lead teachers and Ed Psychs to suspect a Specific Learning Difference such as Dyslexia, if no other obvious explanation such as illness or poor teaching exists.

Tiffin even fifteen years ago wasn't taking any pupil who scored at less than the 97th percentile ie 97% of children of their gender and age would score below them. You would expect people who gain entrance to Oxbridge to score above the 95th percentile. I'm guessing that Tiffin was faced with the NVR / VR test scores having become so high they were excluding ridiculous numbers of bright children and feel they need another dimension to the information they have about applicants. It would be interesting to know what they would do if they had an applicant score at the 99.98 percentile for VR / NVR but not reach Level 5.

And yes the tutoring industry will greatly benefit from this......

BeingFluffy Wed 27-Jun-12 07:45:44

While I tend to agree with most of your comments, I think you underestimate the art of tutoring. There are definitely girls in the school who are less capable than the others but got in because they had extremely adept tutors. The VR test at TGS once all the question types are learned, comes down to vocabulary. If you start two or so years in advance it is possible to rote learn pretty much any possible question. Similarly, while we would like to think NVR is a test of raw ability, again the question types can be learned sucessfully.

I think at one time, Kingston tutors had a virtual monopoly on successful tutoring. With eleven plus forums/websites, courses, CD roms and lord knows what else on the market, the information is now available to all. I think the school are trying to redress the balance and give an advantage to candidates at local schools, who they will no doubt support via networking with info about what exactly is expected.

ewee Wed 27-Jun-12 08:43:01

Part of the problem, of course, and the reason why we parents get so stressed is that the penalty from not getting in to one of the top schools is so high.

I do smile when I hear and see comments that these schools select on the basis of potential; absolute nonsense. Most of these people wouldn't recognise potential if it came and sat in their lunch box. Indeed, how do you identify potential from a multiple choice NV/VR test? You can't, other than via the final mark. (Now, if you could sit with each pupil and go through why they put an incorrect answer, then you might get some insight into potential.....)

Of course, including separate literacy and numeracy exams might help, but the same criteria will apply. Those with the best marks will get through, although the marking itself may be more subjective (not necessarily a good thing!).

So, like many, I'm in search of good tutors (shouldn't there be a separate topic just on that? - maybe there is but I haven't seen it). I'm trying to find some who are a bit different, not just the same old repetitive approach but someone who might develop my child's underlying reasoning abilities in the process. Guess I'll end up settling for the run of the mill since I haven't come across one yet. (I live in Kingston if anybody has any ideas.)

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 09:47:03

A well designed VR test measures cognitive abilities or mental processes such as critical thinking, attention or judgement, so yes that final mark does give you a measure of someone's ability in those areas compared to the rest of the population , and therefore their potential when it comes to applying those abilities and processes. If they do not have those abilities then there is nothing a tutor can do to ensure your child acquires them. They are simple multiple choice questions precisely because they are just tests of the process not the outcome. In a Maths test a child can get the question wrong but followed the right logical process and so seeing why they got the wrong answer will give you an indication of potential. Reasoning tests are a measure of that process and if they get a question wrong it is because they don't have the cognitive ability / processes in place. You can stimulate what is there already but you can't put it there.

The problem with the TGS tests is that it sounds as if they have not invested in them, much like the rest of the secondary education system, to make them more rigourous and less predictable, and tutors are cashing in on it, and that the measurement you get from any reasoning test is not so reliable that it will truly identify the top 3%. I don't know the reliability of these tests but I would be surprised if they are accurate to within less than 2 or 3 % so you will get some brighter children who are actually within the top 97% scoring at 95th percentile, on the day and with that particular test, and some at the 95th percentile making it over the score at the 97 percentile. I wouldn't like to guess how much you could skew the result with tutoring but anecdotally I do know of plenty of bright children who were tutored but did not get into the Tiffins and have gone on to good unis, including Oxbridge.

At the end of the day though these are real children not just statistical blips . The system means that with parents feeling that they have to put such huge importance on their child getting through these exams, investing in years of tutoring and emphasising the penalty of not getting in as being so high, you are giving them a ridiculously narrow margin of achievement for success and a huge risk of failure. This change to the Tiffin tests is going to make that worse not better. Looking back on it all with one child already at uni I know that in her cohorts from childbirth classes on, the cream does always rise and nowhere in our boroughs is the education system so bad that it hasn't enabled bright children to go on to good unis.

ewee Wed 27-Jun-12 11:20:47

But this is where it gets a bit more difficult. If VR tests (or any other test,for that matter) truly tested innate ability and nothing else, then coaching would make no difference (or no statistically significant difference at least). However, the evidence suggests that this is not so; average pupils who are coached in the types of specific techniques used by these tests (i.e. experience with the types of questions set) do show significant improvement. Logic would tell you, then, that if there is a learning element, already bright pupils might improve even more than average pupils. That makes it very tough for the truly bright individual who has received no coaching.

Since these schools select the highest (coached) scores, selection comes down to one or two 'errors' as the factor which separates.

I agree with the view that, at least with maths, you can see working and therefore whether an able pupil has just been careless - don't get any of that with multiple choice. Still, I wonder how many teachers are struck by the innate ability of a careless pupil over and above the merits of the able pupil who gets them right!

All in all, the argument that these schools truly look for 'potential' is garbage; they select on first past the post.

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 14:09:47

ewee What is this evidence? anecdote? tutor claims? My experience of VR/NVR is as part of psychometric testing for recruitment to a blue chip. Obviously it was part of a process designed to collect a whole range of evidence about individuals but it was actually a good predictor of the ability you picked up in other parts of the process and in subsequent tests and their career (and it was followed through precisely so that you could iteratively improve the process). TGS might not be bothered but businesses definitely want the brightest, not people who sit at home practising tests in their spare time, or have been through so many interview processes that they have become good at tests! And there is a huge body of research that aims to minimise the halo effect of repeated exposure to tests. You should practise for the tests but if the tests are developed properly there should be an iterative process to keep the tests moving ahead of people's experience. It is why they are widely used and valued in business and education. It sounds as though TGS or whichever firm of Consultants Kingston Council use have allowed the tests to become repetitive so that tutors have found ways to improve scores, but that is bad implementation not a problem with the scientific theory behind the tests .

However that won't stop bright pupils getting high scores after a bit of practise. It may be first past the post but it is first past the post in terms of reasoning ability compared to every 11 year old girl in Britain not just West London's cultivated flowers. If they are in the top 3% they will score in the top 3% even if it may be that tutors are getting some who would have scored in the top 5% into the top 3%. The statistical effect of the tutored west Londoners is lost in a national population. In both my daughters' cohorts, there were bright girls who got into Tiffin with just a few practise sessions (and some of them didn't go because their ability was also spotted by Indies who recruited them with scholarships and burseries). There were also bright girls who had extensive tutoring after scoring 97% in the practise paper they had to sit to be accepted by the tutor in the first place (and if it isn't about native ability why wouldn't tutors be prepared to take on a child who scores, say, merely in the top 5%, leaving aside cynicism about the claimed success rates, when tutors have selected for success) who didn't get in, but of course have gone on to academic success anyway.

The problem is that no parent knows where the truth lies because there isn't any proper scientific data and so it is opaque and so it becomes the stuff of the rumour mill and the Mumsnet thread, and a whole west london industry catering to desperate parents....

And yes, the more they progress the more that attention is given to the working out rather than the answer in Maths. DD1 doing at uni level now and it is just as well because it is impossible to get to the right answer!

ewee Wed 27-Jun-12 16:13:40

copthallresident; the evidence is direct experience but, also, there are several academic studies on the subject. I've not found one which disputes that coaching improves performance; the only debate is about the extent.

You have obvously used such testing; good. Perhaps, what you have found is bright people who have been coached perform particularly well across many areas. Really, I suspect you have little or no knowledge of the performance of those with absolutely no coaching. And that is the real issue for parents. If you think you have a bright child, are you really going to leave them 'uncoached' and take the risk of letting them go up against other bright children who have been coached?

In my view, coaching bright children in VR & NVR, as well as some other areas, depending on age, should lead to greater general cognitive development. Is it any surprise that they then take that forward in other areas?

I would agree with the view, however, that there is a very strict limit on the improvements that can be made with average children; probably not sufficient to justify the effort and cost. Equally, not all tutors are going to be equal. Those who simply get the child to practice endless papers without much regard to anything else are of little real value, in my view.

CecilyP Wed 27-Jun-12 17:11:19

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding here. VR/NVR tests give you an indication of raw ability, literacy and numeracy tests tell you about a child's level of achievement, what they have learnt. The reason Grammar Schools traditionally focused on VR / NVR was that they were looking for potential and didn't want to exclude bright children who had been taught poorly, came from disadvantaged backgrounds etc. A lot of private schools also include VR and NVR for exactly the same reason, to make sure they are getting the brightest pupils rather than the very tutored and crammed.

No, traditionally, 11+ exams involved 3 papers: English, Arithmetic and Verbal Reasoning. So the VR only accounted for 33% of the marks. The attraction of VR/NVR, especially multiple choice, is that it is quick and easy to mark - only right/wrong answer - no grey areas. I think VR and NVR tests might give an indication of raw ability if candidates came to them cold. As with anything, practice makes perfect, and as so many similar tests are in the public domain, (including all the examples that BeingFluffy gives) parents, if they find these schools appealing, will make their children practice.

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 17:56:19

On the contrary I have two dyslexic children, they sit NVR/ VR papers every four years as part of their assessments. Obviously no coaching, we are paying a lot of money to find out exactly what the actual gap is between ability and attainment. At risk of being one of those DD is a prodigy types ( they aren't , they are just them) both do score in excess of the 97th percentile, and their scores go down as well as up by a percentile ot two at each assessment. Achievement is of course a different matter and that is another reason why I understand only too well the distinction between ability and achievement in these entrance exams and why I do have some faith in the ability of these schools to go on potential rather than just achievement. The last thing I wanted for two girls with SLDs is for them to struggle to survive at a school they had been tutored into. Indeed when they did get in to the selectives I was careful to make sure with the school they chose that they had assessed them in the top half of the ability range and were sure they would not struggle. They specifically commented on their high reasoning scores and on the ability they had shown in tackling the other parts of their papers, given the usual problems of misread questions, papers not finished and careless errors that come with their particular can of worms.

Neither sat Tiffin because when DD1 went round she hated it, after all the interest the indies and non selectives had shown in her as a person as they showed her round she found it very cold. (Her friends who went there loved it and did well, and always wore their pride at getting in and not having to pay out on their sleeve!) DD2 wouldn't even look. However given their consistent VR/ NVR scores and the performance of their untutored peers I have no reason to suppose they wouldn't have had a good chance (though probably not if it were under the new regime and there is a shift to attainment rather than potential) .

In fact at DD2s school there was much consternation that those children who had been tutored up and were doing well in internal tests were not necessarily the ones that got into selective schools and that three girls who were not tutored, and indeed in two cases hadn't even been in the UK education system for part of their schooling did. After they had had such a great all round education and life experience at an International school I found it quite heart breaking watching the way some of DD2s peers were set up for failure, and some of those girls very clearly nurse insecurities that have caused problems in the longer term.

Copthallresident Thu 28-Jun-12 10:36:21

CecilyP Not sure how you define tradition but when I sat the 11+ in the 70s it was VR/NVR and had been in living memory and the LA were very clear it was to give everyone a chance. There were no computers to mark them! It was to determine in which of three tiers of schools you would best be educated (that was the theory): Direct Grant Grammars, superselectives directly funded by the government via a means tested grant, your parents paid or didn't pay according to income or you got a LA (or County Council) Scholarship, Grammar Schools and Secondary Moderns, which in theory were supposed to provide education that was designed to do justice to the potential of the less able. KGS, Latyme,r Godolphn and Latymer were all Direct Grant Grammars. The concept of tutoring was just unknown. Not sure what relevence that has to this debate other than to underline that VR/ NVR tests have a long history, and huge body of scientific research behind them, all predicated on them being a test of ability rather than achievement.

CecilyP Thu 28-Jun-12 11:09:02

Copthall, I took the 11+ in LCC in 1964 and it was English, Arithmetic and Verbal Reasoning. (And, as far as I know, I am still alive and was possibly still only a teenager when you took your 11+ in the 1970s.) The exam took all day, and all the other years in the junior school had the day off for this day. The following year, this exam was replaced in the, by then ILEA, by primary school teacher recommendation - IQ tests were then only really used to confirm that the recommendation was sound.

In London at the time, I would say there were 3 tiers of of selective school, the direct grant schools that you mention, the voluntary aided grammar schools and the normal county grammar schools. The 11+ did not determine which one you would be educated at. The letter your parents got merely said, 'your child has been selected for further academic education', and the choices your parents made would have been more dependent on how you were doing at primary school, amongst other things. I also believe, in many cases, you had to take an extra exam to get a place at a direct grant school. A free place in a direct grant school was not means tested, it was merely dependent on having spent 2 of the last 4 years at a state primary school.

CecilyP Thu 28-Jun-12 11:13:58

Just wanted to add that Godolphin and Latymer was not a direct grant school but a voluntary aided grammar that became a private school when selection finally ended in the ILEA.

Copthallresident Thu 28-Jun-12 12:29:40


I don't think it is going to be of any use to anyone else on this thread debating what happened in the 60s and 70s but out of interest I was googling to see if I was remembering rightly that some girls in my primary had to go off to an assessment centre where they had a nice chat with a teacher and played with bricks, and that determined whether they ended up in Grammar School or Secondary Modern!!! I did remember rightly, it was the Thorne scheme, the 60s really were another era! However I came across the chapters on selection methods from the Plowden Report from 1967 which quite clearly shows how the traditional 11+ was being questioned and other forms of assessment being considered clearly distinguishing between tests of intelligence and attainment, with the latter particularly disregarded and with the final recommendation Authorities who for an interim period continue to need selection procedures should cease to rely on an externally imposed battery of intelligence and attainment tests. With Tiffin bringing in tests of attainment the wheel comes full circle....

(I was going on what the registrar at Godolphin told us when she showed us round, but then that was far from the only thing she got wrong, enquiring whether they played tennis in Asia?!)

ewee Thu 28-Jun-12 13:55:44

CecilyP; I would accept that when the VR/NVR tests first appeared, they might have done a decent job at identifying potential since, as you say, coaching was unheard of back then. The problem now, though, is that it has been shown in repeated studies that practice improves average scores; the only residual debate is by how much.

In my view, it's not a huge leap to assume that the more able children gain the most fom coaching (a view supported by several studies but, admittedly, not all). These will be the kids getting close to 100%.

So, as I said before, if you are the parent of a bright child, the real issue is, do you think they have an equal chance if they are uncoached (by a good tutor) when competing against those who are? The schools who claim to select on potential are being disengenuous; they select on aggregate scores. Yes, in a way, that selects potential but it's simply first past the post. They select "the best of the best coached".

CecilyP Thu 28-Jun-12 16:34:36

I think it was Copthall that said tutoring was unheard of. I would agree with you, ewee. I think the nature of these tests means that reasonably bright children could work out how to do them and would get through most of the questions - if they had all the time in the world. However, the tests are against the clock, so coaching would enable children to answer the questions without needing any thinking time. It is not so much needing a good tutor, as being familiar with questions and knowing what answers are expected, which could ve achieved working through similar tests with anyone. I would imagine that the level of coaching is such that normally bright children can achieve scores that would only have been achievable by very ablest in the past.

Copthallresident Thu 28-Jun-12 16:38:54

ewee I am sure that if you have a child who scores consistently above the 98th percentile after a bit of practise then you are wasting your money on a tutor for VR/ NVR and they have a good chance. Whether you believe me or not untutored children did get into Tiffin, I obviously can't name names but I can quote the example of the Old Vicarage, Richmond Prep that if nothing else coaches its pupils to within an inch of their lives to get them into selectives and does no more to prepare them for VR and NVR than to do one practise paper per week in VR. I am sure they come under lots of parental pressure to do more and if they knew a way that worked better they would be doing it!! Though most of the parents are going for indies they have had a steady 1 or 2 per year getting places at Tiffin, and they are not, since the pushiest parents are out for the kudos of the top of the league tables, the ones to tutor on top of the cramming. I also question the value of tutoring because I know so many parents of bright kids who didn't get in, in spite of a year of paying a fortune to make a weekly trek to be packed into the kitchen of one of the star tutors with 5 others, having only been accepted after scoring above the 97th percentile in the first place. These are kids who have gone on to success, in one case 4 A*s. My impression is not that it's a race of the tutored but based on who I have seen get in or not, that the whole thing is more of a lottery, more so than can be explained by girls having an off day. TGS obviously are not going to go out of their way to make the process more fair and discriminating because any girl who can score over the 97th percentile is bright and capable of doing well.

It also appears that tutors themselves do not subscribe to your argument that the brightest child will benefit most from coaching, here a tutor saying that the biggest problems are where children aren't already avid readers and good at English (as you would expect of children with good VR since motivation follows abilities) That makes more sense. Tutoring would therefore be more appropriate if for a reason other than just not being that able, they are not (but then would you send them to Tiffin). He is also quoting another education writer saying that you should come to NVR with a fresh mind.

Are there really a lot of children getting near 100%? The top percentile they measure to is the 99.98th, ie the child is one of only 0.02 % of the population that scores that highly. If more than 2 or 3 (10 times the national average) of the 1300 applying to Tiffin are scoring that then any psychologist would be seriously unprofessional if they didn't start questioning their tests, there just won't be that many children capable of achieving that score likely to apply to Tiffin in the whole of West London!

With attainment tests coming the standard of tutoring is bound to plummet anyway. DD works part time as a tutor and gets sent by some agency who charge a fortune for her services to tutor kids in Maths for 11+ in North London, she is obviously an amazing girl wink but experience of the tests / teaching children, zilch!!

2B1Gmum Mon 05-Nov-12 15:16:17

I looked at Tiffin for my daughter a couple of years ago and was suitably impressed, she particularly liked the science labs, but decided in the end not to bother, horrid journey (although only a few miles away) and besides the top 25% in her non selective local school get the same great results at GSCE as the average Tiffin girl, I will look again for sixth form. There are plenty of very bright local children who don't get in but still get to top universities - I can think of 3 girls I know who tried with very basic knowledge of past papers, one just left Oxford with a first, the other two currently applying for Oxbridge, including one for Medicine. The real winners are the tutors, especially the well known 2 who only accept cash! £60,000 plus a year by my calculations.

nals Thu 15-Nov-12 09:42:33

I am looking for a tutor for my daughter and any help would be appreciated.

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