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Grammar school tests to be made 'tutor-proof'

(419 Posts)
breadandbutterfly Mon 05-Nov-12 17:16:02

EvilTwins Mon 05-Nov-12 17:27:08

Good. I sat next to a woman at a wedding in the summer who had paid for a tutor for her DS weekly for TWO YEARS to get him through the grammar school exam. We have one super-selective grammar in our area, then four (two girls' and two boys') selective but not super-selectives. She felt it was worth it as he had got a place at one of the boys' grammars. No idea how he's getting on as she's not someone I would otherwise have met. I was hmm and shock though. Two years?

pointythings Mon 05-Nov-12 19:24:06

I'm not sure it's possible, but it is a good idea - I would like to see a testing system which is purely based on merit, not on whether parents can afford a tutor.

Not that it affects me, no grammar schools in my area.

LaVolcan Mon 05-Nov-12 19:28:37

Maybe the grammar schools should be more strict and ask those who don't make the grade to leave at the end of the first year? Mind you, I suppose you would then get coaching post 11+ also.

It doesn't affect me either, but I don't want to see a system where large numbers of children are deemed to be 'failures' at 11.

picturesinthefirelight Mon 05-Nov-12 19:30:09

Dd has just been offered a place at a selective independent school based on her last two years results in some computer based tests called INCAS. This is the first year children have been offered places on the strength if these rather than the usual VR & NVR entrance exams.

I don't know much about INCAS other than the fact they are used in Ireland. Is interesting to see if anything can be definitely tutor proof.

Funnylittleturkishdelight Mon 05-Nov-12 19:34:46

Interviews and day exams would be better, surely? A bit like an interview for a job where you have different stages?

All a bit intense at 11 though.

exoticfruits Mon 05-Nov-12 19:38:13

I would think it absolutely wonderful if they could but I doubt it.
I would love them to all go in cold and not have a clue what was coming.

Theas18 Mon 05-Nov-12 19:41:39

Funnylittleturkishdelight I guess interviews would be great but locally there are 3 boys grammars 3 girls grammars and 1 co ed to fill each with at least 10 applicants per place. thy can barely find nough venues for all the kids to dit the 11 + at the same time. Interviews old be impossible!

These are superselectives and they believe the test is fairly tutor proof - no pat papers are released etc. however if you are training a child to take a test that assesses aptitude for grammar school then you can teach the skill that they I'll look for I'm sure.

weblette Mon 05-Nov-12 19:45:50

Bucks is in the process of devising a new selection test - the current Yr5 will sit it although no details have been made public of the actual format.

My oldest two had one term of tutoring, a local 'centre' advocates a year of pre-coaching from Yr4 with a year of specific 11+ coaching in Yr5. The reserve reserve list is usually full from when the children for that year are in Yr2. Utterly depressing.

Anything that makes this more equal would be an improvement.

gelo Mon 05-Nov-12 20:07:16

schools aren't allowed to interview I'm fairly sure. It's supposed to prevent them choosing all the middle class dc over the poorer ones.

If you must have tests (not at all convinced it would be a good idea) then it would be a good thing if they were tutor proof, but the current lot plainly aren't even though the schools claim they are, so I'm a bit sceptical that such a thing is possible, or that if it is, that it will select the right children (not that the current tests are all that good at selecting the right children imo).

BooksandaCuppa Mon 05-Nov-12 20:28:20

They definitely are not tutor proof at the moment. I know of some heavily coached (three years plus) level 3 children who have passed (vr/nvr) and many level 5 or 6 children who've failed without a single practice. That's not to say the nc levels are the be all and end all...

ReallyTired Mon 05-Nov-12 20:46:12

I think intelligence is far more complex than most people think. With the right experiences it is possible increase a child's cognitive ablities. The brain becomes more efficent with use.

A big issue is that private school children take a disportionate number of places. Partly because the richer experience of a private school makes children more intelligent and partly because of better prepation. It would help if private school children had to compete for say 7% of places at a grammar school. That way state school children would not have to compete against private school children.

Maybe grammar schools should have some financial banding. Ie. reserve say 10% of places for children in band C housing or below. That way children from poorer backgrounds whose parents cannot afford tutoring would have some chance. I'm being arbitary as it varies across the country what a band C property would give you.

I agree that there should be transfer of children who are blatently not grammar school material to the secondary modern and vice a versa.

Frankly the eleven plus system is fundermentally shit. Children vary so much in their development. I would rather have the divide made at 13. Less academic children may well choose the BTECs without someone saying they are failures.

tiggytape Tue 06-Nov-12 09:30:59

Two years of tutoring isn't so exceptional EvilTwins (although I agree with you that is is mad!).

We live in an area where several super selective grammars are within commuting distance These schools take the top 150 of 1700 (normally heavily tutored) children who apply.
It used to be the norm to tutor in Year 5 because the exams were taken mid Year 6. Then as the applicant numbers per school topped 1000 and the exams got earlier, people started tutoring for 18 months or two years in advance. Now that applications per school are nearer 2000, people start in Year 2!

In Year 2 they want to ensure their child gets all level 3's (in case a future appeals panel ever enquires about a proven track record of academic ability!)
In Year 3 it is perfecting tables and learning lists of adverbs, collective nouns, homophones etc
Year 4 is perfecting the reasoning techniques, maths and English comprehension skills required and Year 5 is timed tests with the aim of reaching over 95% in each subject under timed conditions.
The 11+ is taken at the start of Year 6.

Not all children do all of this. Some 'only' have a year of tutoring sessions twice a week (plus homework) or some work through every book at home with their parents but one way or another it is virtually unheard for to enter the tests untutored unprepared.

tiggytape Tue 06-Nov-12 09:39:24

Interviews aren't allowed for state schools.

I am sceptical that they can be made truly tutor-proof.
But it would be great if the tests could be made totally and utterly unpredictable instead so that tutoring could not be teaching to the test at all.

One year give the kids a business plan of a florist shop and ask for 10 ideas on increasing profitability with diagrams and maths demonstrated as appropriate, the next year give them a Shakespeare extract and ask comprehension questions, the following year all code breaking and sequences with an obscure essay to finish. A truly intelligent child will cope with whatever is presented and be able to demonstrate ingenuity as well as plain old academic prowess.

Of course though such tests are too expensive. With nearly 2000 children per exam, they just want something that can be fed into a machine and marked in seconds.
The schools have little incentive to change. They know that any of the top 400 or 500 scoring children in the exam are so exceptionally clever, they will do well at grammar school, get good GCSEs and in a sense they don’t really care therefore which ones they get allocated. The schools don’t suffer from not being able to differentiate between a truly gifted and completely untutored child and a moderately less clever but very well prepared one.

seeker Tue 06-Nov-12 09:43:38

An interview would be the only thing that could be worse than the current system!

Blu Tue 06-Nov-12 09:48:20

LOL re the economic criteria - cue a rush by mc parents to rent one bed flats in band C at the beginning of Yr 5 wink . Thus putting up the price of one bed flats in GS areas...

I have an idea! Abolish them and make sure every comp has a good GS standard top set.

seeker Tue 06-Nov-12 09:49:56

What Blu said.

But whatever else not interviews!

ReallyTired Tue 06-Nov-12 10:38:14

Blu I see your point. I suppose we would have to have middle class parents list ALL their assets. Prehaps we could look at parental income, I don't know.

Anyway thank gawd ds is not in a grammar school area. (Except for Parmitars which is so selective as to be irrelevent)

difficultpickle Tue 06-Nov-12 10:42:31

Eton do a computer test at 11 that is apparently tutor proof.

singersgirl Tue 06-Nov-12 11:03:23

I don't believe in a 'tutor-proof' test. I'm sure there are some tests that it's harder to drill for, but the inequality in children's educational experiences in and outside the home is going to mean that even without extra paid-for lessons some children are better prepared for any test. Even if they're not getting specific VR and NVR question types preparation, some children will be signed up for online maths programmes or go to Explore Learning Centres, have books galore bought for them or be taken to the library every week, have educational games and apps provided for them at every opportunity. And others won't. People will pay for tutoring just to give their child the experience of sitting an exam or doing a timed test. Whatever form a test takes, there will be ways of familiarising children with elements of it or practising the kind of thing that comes up.

My sons and many of their friends were effectively 'tutored' just by living with their own parents, compared to some of the children in their class.

laughtergoodmedicine Tue 06-Nov-12 11:42:57

Yes, I agree, too intense at 11 years of age. We are not Chinese. Who according to Woman Hour do intense tutoring for 3 year olds. (If thats true I prefer our culture to theirs)

Hamishbear Tue 06-Nov-12 11:51:16

Singersgirl - I completely agree, I am only surprised that more don't seem to realise this. Bisjo - some preps prepare boys with computer tests, cognitive ability tests, NVR and VR all will mean that boys improve - some more quickly that others. You do enough of a similar sort of thing and most will quickly gauge what's required.

singersgirl Tue 06-Nov-12 12:09:14

And unless schools change the format of the test every year, as someone suggested earlier, people will start working out what's required or at least helpful. I think the idea of a different type of test each year is great, but it would of course be incredibly expensive and would also mean a very different cohort from year to year depending on what that year's test had selected for - problem solving or creative writing, diplomacy or fast maths facts.

richmal Tue 06-Nov-12 12:32:27

If interviews are used as selection, people will start tutoring for interview.

Hamishbear Tue 06-Nov-12 12:40:12

They do already, richmal. Preps have special classes and many have tips on their websites, breaking it down for each individual school and listing past questions.

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