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To Tutor or not to Tutor - That is the question....

(68 Posts)
indignatio Mon 28-May-12 19:11:43

Yr 5 boy, in state school, bright, willing to do practise papers, aiming for a place at a local, highly selective school in the top 20. Exams in Jan. Will be sitting both level 6 sats papers in May next year - unless they are scrapped again. Would achieve Maths now, has a fair chance (with work) on achieving English. Bright, reasonably patient parents. Past papers not available through the school or on line.

School will not prepare him for the exams and interview - nor should they, it is not in their remit.

It seems to be taken into account from such selective schools if a child is state educated and has not had a tutor.

DS is happy to sit the exams, do practise papers, but does not want a tutor.

So, do I negate the possible allowances made for his education to date by employing a tutor. If asked, he will not lie - nor would I ask him to-. Or, do I ensure he has the best chance possible by arranging tutoring for the interview and exams?


RandomNumbers Mon 28-May-12 19:14:27

from your Op it would appear that school are looking for untutored students

ask around, praps on those 11+ type forums

indignatio Mon 28-May-12 19:17:38

Thank - you.

It was a general comment re tutoring v non tutoring.

This particular school has 6 applicants for every place and the majority of places seem to go to the local prep schools.

EBDTeacher Mon 28-May-12 20:00:16

How sure are you that they have a 'rough diamond' clause?

If you are not sure I would get a good, knowledgable, got kids in to said school before tutor.

Sticklebug Mon 28-May-12 20:09:03

We are in a similar situation and have decided not to tutor. I have spoken to the private school that DD will be sitting exam for and their entrance exam is based on national curiculum, so she should be as prepared as anyone. She is also sitting L6 papers next year and acheived a 5a in maths and english in yr 4. You can get L6 papers on line at

indignatio Mon 28-May-12 21:12:06

Thank you both.

EBD - Not sure. Your plan of campaign is also my gut reaction, but I am interested in everyone's views.

Sticklebug - I've previously looked at the papers on the website you kindly suggested. Indeed, used some of them. Sorry, what I meant, was that the school does not choose to make available the past entrance papers they have set.

Sticklebug Mon 28-May-12 21:37:48

Have you asked the school what their entrance exam is based on? There are 2 schools that we considered and one is based purely on national curriculum, whilst the other tests on 'logical reasoning' and non-verbal reasoning as well as basic latin, spanish and french understanding (none of which my DD would have seen before) and some elements of maths not on the national curriculum. If we had chosen to go with latter school, then I would have got a tutor to take through these basics.

If just National curriculum then my concerns over tutoring are that the child would not cope with the school and then I would be paying for a tutor long term on top of school fees-and setting my child up to be constantly struggling. By going in on her natural ability it feels like we will get an honest view of whether this is the right school for DD. We a torn between v good private option (which she was offered a scholarship at following entrance exam at 7 - no tutoring) or v v close local 'average' state school......still not decided, but she will sit the entrance exam (with no tutoring) to keep options open...

Sticklebug Mon 28-May-12 21:38:33

Sorry, should have said 2 private schools - DD is only sitting the exam at the one based on national curriculum...

PooshTun Mon 28-May-12 23:27:19

"We are in a similar situation and have decided not to tutor ...... their entrance exam is based on national curiculum, so she should be as prepared as anyone. [She] acheived a 5a in maths and english in yr 4."

I hope that you are telling us how proud you are of your DD as opposed to advising the OP not to tutor her child smile

I home tutored my DCs and I was discussing tutoring with a workmate who had DCs at a famous highly selective grammar school and she told me how she didn't tutor any of her children and how it wasn't necessary if the child is bright.

During a later conversation she told me that her DCs went to a very academic primary school (why do some parents have all the luck with catchment areas?) and that her exams were based on the NC.

Hmmmm. Her GS exam was based on subjects taught at her very academic primary school. I wonder why her kids didn't need tutoring for the exam? grin

Some posters say that schools can spot a kid that has been tutored. How? If your DC is asked why she wants to go to that school then DC spouting about its because of the school ethos and its outstanding pastoral care plus its organic style of teaching then of course the school will know the kid has been tutored or coached.

But if a kid does very well in the written test then, unless the kid can't spell his own name correctly, how can the school tell that it was because the child was tutored?

No doubt the Usual Suspects will turn up and post about how if you need to tutor your kid in order to pass then that school isn't suitable for her. Load of piffle. My DCs would have failed if I hadn't tutored them. Now DD is in top 50% of her year so not struggling. DS is in top 20% of his year.

People who go for interviews for demanding jobs prep for it so I don't understand why people would consider letting their DCs walk into an exam room with no prep work.

PooshTun Mon 28-May-12 23:37:18

"the school does not choose to make available the past entrance papers they have set"

I home tutored DS for two schools. The school he didn't get an offer from didn't make available past papers. Come exam time DS encountered questions whose format he hadn't encountered before and so lost valuable marks.

I later found out that several of the children that were successful had tutors that were previously masters at the school in question and so knew the format of the test. This was why these tutors were booked years in advanced.

What I am saying is that if your child is bright then home tutoring will be enough but it may be worth employing short term a tutor that has experience of the school's exam.

talkingnonsense Tue 29-May-12 07:32:39

Is it a state school? For if so they cannot interview and therefore cannot ask about tutoring. If most of the intake are from prep schools I would get a tutor who can teach the exam technique ( or do it yourself) at least.
Where are you? Because some people may have more specific advice!

indignatio Tue 29-May-12 07:49:51

Thank you all

talkingnonsense - it is not a state school. There will be an interview for the top 90 (based on exam results), with 60 places available.

PooshTun. We seem to be on the same wavelength. Thank-you for sharing your experiences.

Sticklebug: The exams are English, Maths and Verbal reasoning. Unfortunately they do not test NVR - DS is rather good at that.

I suppose one of my concerns is that he may be asked in interview whether he has had a tutor - thus eliminating any "rough diamond" advantage he may have.

Turniphead1 Tue 29-May-12 08:13:48

I am currently having my DS tutored for 7+. It's an hour a week plus 1.5hr homework spread over the rest of the week. He's exceptionally bright. He might well get into the school we want without this. But this tutor has 95% success rate. She is lovely and I view this hour before school as supplementing his state school work and stretching him. He really enjoys it. And his school teacher refuses to give him any differentiated maths etc in class. Which is fine - as his collection of Star Wars sketches that he does when finishing work is coming along nicely grin.

As to the rough diamond thing - I am happy for my son to mention that he has a tutor. The school he is aiming for are fine with it. It won't change his intelligence or potential - just gives him practice sitting writing a paper and a story and covers work he wouldn't have done yet.
(I know OP is talking about secondary level but principles are the same). I know loads of people on MN think tutoring at 7 or 11 is cruel. I think that's nonsense.

PooshTun Tue 29-May-12 09:21:10

"I know loads of people on MN think tutoring at 7 or 11 is cruel. I think that's nonsense"

Yes but it does mean less competition for us 'pushy' parents smile The more unprepared 'deer caught in car headlights' kids that sit the exam the better our odds. Listening to those parents going on about how cruel we are is a small price to pay that.

indignatio Tue 29-May-12 16:05:52

Thanks again.

I have just re-checked the website and it only says "We do not recommend coaching".

indignatio Tue 29-May-12 21:05:11

bumpity bump bump

Colleger Tue 29-May-12 21:51:58

You don't need a tutor if you have a highly able child, do it yourself!

Beamur Tue 29-May-12 21:59:19

I think you need to follow their advice. Perhaps their selection process is geared up to look for wider signs of suitability for their school.
My 2 DSC's were both tutored to help with 11+ and I'm pretty sure it made the difference for them in getting into the grammar school (where they have been happy and got a good education) but a friend in a different area just spent some extra time with her son and there were past papers available, and went through them and he also passed the entrance exam to the local grammar. The tutoring helped to prepare my DSC's for the type and way questions would be asked, but it couldn't actually give them all the answers, but it certainly gave them a head start.

merrymouse Thu 31-May-12 11:45:43

I have taken loads of exams over the years (starting with secondary school entrance, ongoing with professional exams). For pretty much every exam, you can improve your score by doing loads of practise papers and targeted preparation. There is definitely an art to passing exams, which may not have much to do with innate skill in the subject being examined.

There are exams where it doesn't really matter what your score is - you just have to pass, and then there are exams where it doesn't matter if you get 98% - if 30 other people have scored 99% your 98% will be meaningless.

If this school is honestly saying that they will take your word that your son hasn't received tutoring and add, say, 5% to his mark, then it might be worth not tutoring. If they are more interested in the interview than the exam, it might also be worth not tutoring.

However, if they are just making a general remark that they prefer children not to be tutored, but will still offer x number of places to the children with the highest scores, then tutoring (by you or another) will improve his chance of being in that number.

racingheart Sat 02-Jun-12 19:05:07

Indignation, they ALL say 'we do not recommend coaching.'And they all fill up with tutored DC. I'd strongly advise you to get a tutor. Not any old tutor, but one who is a specialist in that chosen school's exams. Even a dozen classes with a tutor beforehand will familiarise your child with the format.

Don't ever listen to advice which says, 'don't put your child at an advantage.' Because other people always do, and then reap the benefits.

PooshTun Sun 03-Jun-12 10:10:29

As I said above, I often find out later that parents who say their DCs weren't tutored often a) went to a very academic primary or b) the village GS wasn't heavily subscribed to because it was a village GS or c) DC was way above average 'bright'.

So unless you fall into a, b or c I suggest you ignore the advice not to tutor.

gelatinous Sun 03-Jun-12 10:51:45

I think that's quite true Poosh. I coached ds at 11 for entrance to a not hugely competitive school (though it was with the aim of a rather more competitive scholarship in mind), and he was at an academic primary and by his later achievements I guess he's above average bright too. So I'd say that even within those categories people may be tutoring too, though they may describe it differently.

We did some Bond practice papers and I made sure he could and would use the full range of punctuation correctly (sometimes children don't realise they need to show off everything they know when writing at that age). Some people will describe this as 'supporting the curriculum' and 'familiarisation' rather than tutoring, but really, what's the difference?

I also figured that being really good at punctuating and writing clearly and well was always going to be useful whatever school they ended up at. I don't think doing extra work in NC stuff is setting you up for a lifetime of extra coaching at all, why would it? More likely it will make your life easier over the next few years to have a firm grasp of the basics.

PooshTun Sun 03-Jun-12 11:06:27

gelat - I liked what you said about supporting the NC not being any different from tutoring.

I read a post from a mum who was anti tutoring. She didn't believe in it. Instead, she would take her DC on trips to museums. She would read the newspaper with DC and then discuss what DC had read. But to this mum this was not tutoring <rolls eyes>

Yellowtip Sun 03-Jun-12 13:02:16

It isn't tutoring!

PooshTun Sun 03-Jun-12 13:19:20

Of course its not Yellow. grin

And people who pay a property premium to get into the catchment area of a good state school aren't buying a better education for their kids either.

With the amount of eye rolling that I am doing it is only a matter of time before the eyes get stuck.

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