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Grammar school tests to be made 'tutor-proof'

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

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 06-Feb-13 18:15:10

I only ever comment on my direct experience. I can't possibly comment about your school, for example. I expect it is a reasonable school. And you seem happy enough with it.

Yellowtip Wed 06-Feb-13 21:10:02

TotallyBS it's pretty lame to feel the need to get into some silly contest about whose school is onto Y8 curriculum after two terms for what number of subjects. The most successful people don't feel the need to compete do they? That surely is just for the also rans?

Copthallresident Wed 06-Feb-13 21:31:07

TotallyBS You were earlier saying that the example quoted where a child was being asked to complete 5 tests per day throughout the summer after Year 5 as well as being made to redo lists of words until they had improved their score from 90 to 95 was not one you could condemn, and you had condensed the same into six months!! confused That is off the scale, and frankly so is even a VR /NVR test a day for six months, though it is certainly more humane.

However as piggywigwig says where did you get all these tests? I must say that it is interesting and indicative that when DD sat these exams ten years ago you could only actually get hold of a handful (that were consistent with the tests actually sat, other publishers had books of tests they had made up themselves that were clearly not developed by Ed Psychs and were a waste of time) from NFER, who develop the test actually used in schools, which I saved up to do one a month with a couple just before the exams.

I most certainly do not think the preparation that was appropriate for my DD is appropriate for every DD, clearly that should be tailored to the child (and most definitely not the parents), and the school they are applying for. DDs help was actually with the Maths and English she hadn't covered at school, I knew her VR would take care of itself.

My comment was based on my friends and my DD's peer group who did try for the exams that were solely VR/ NVR. None of them tutored to the extent of a paper a day for six months and even with a session a week around someone's kitchen table and a practise paper or two to do in between, which is actually what even the Mrs Ws and most of the specialist Tiffin tutors advocate, they now wish they had not got sucked in.

I suggest you read the article at the Head of this thread if you think I am in a minority of one in terms of my views on tutoring, quite a few Grammar School Heads seem to be in the same camp.

Yellowtip Wed 06-Feb-13 21:37:59

I'd put money on all grammar school heads worth their salt being in that camp Copthall.

Are you serious, that 'tutors' take money off parents for group sessions around a kitchen table with the kids just doing papers? Tbh if the parents are that daft, I don't hold out much hope for the offspring.

Copthallresident Wed 06-Feb-13 22:04:17

Yellowtip That is exactly the business model, no educational qualifications necessary, word of mouth promotion to give an air of mystique, privilege and an inside track and a target market of anxious parents facing an opaque process, anxieties whipped up by apocryphal stories and chinese whispers in the playground, desperate to buy some illusion assurance of advantage, or the avoidance of disadvantage.

Mind you, that might have been me if I hadn't been on the other side of the planet at the time and blissfully unaware..............

Copthallresident Wed 06-Feb-13 22:06:01

Although actually I suspect I could have relied on DDs to tell me not to be so silly..............

TotallyBS Wed 06-Feb-13 22:09:48

Yellow -

Firstly, I was merely responding to Russian's comment about how at her school they were too busy following an accelerated program to play catch up for kids of lesser ability and how they don't even need two hours of homework to achieve this.

Secondly as for competing being lame, you and Copt have been going on about how your clever your DCs (Oxbridge etc) and how they didn't need as much tutoring as others and yet manage to do better.

So do me a favour. Sort yourself out THEN you can lecture me on my tongue in cheek response to Russian.

TotallyBS Wed 06-Feb-13 22:20:27

Copt - it has been suggested that the poster meant 5 papers a week as opposed to 5 a day. 5 a day is excessive but I was responding to it as if the poster meant 5 papers a week.

As I said. are your children that delicate that an hour a day of prep is inhumane?

Others have posted their positive experiences of tutoring. I have posted how my DC would have failed otherwise and today, far from struggling, he is thriving. You blot out all these posts and continue to insist that serious tutoring serves no purpose. That to me is being closed minded.

RussiansOnTheSpree Wed 06-Feb-13 22:26:24

BS as you know well, I was pointing out that your blanket 'selective schools do this' advice to another poster was not applicable to all selective schools. I don't think it is particularly helpful to people who are asking for information to tell them, pretending to speak with authority, that selective schools always set 2 hours a night homework. This is the sort of myth that people put around about the school that DD1 goes to, and it dissuades people from applying. And it's just a myth.

Yellowtip Wed 06-Feb-13 22:42:55

Get a grip BS I haven't mentioned Oxford or Cambridge or any other university at all on this thread. An apology perhaps? Otherwise substantiate what you said. I'm only responsible for what I say, not for what anyone else might say. in fact it would be good if you could point to anywhere on this thread where I've said anything about my own DC at all, vis a vis brilliance/ lack of tutoring. You're getting far too worked up.

Copthallresident Wed 06-Feb-13 23:00:16

Yellowtip The cult of Mrs W

Totally BS Woah! I haven't told you which school my DD got into, where she is at uni, nor what results she got in exams, I never devulge that info on Mumsnet precisely because I don't not think it appropriate to be comparing DDs' performance, or indeed bask in the reflected glory. I shared some details of my DDs preparation for the senior school exams, and her subsequent progress to demonstrate firstly that I do believe that tutoring can be useful and a positive experience and secondly, that you don't need to subject your DD to tutoring that crosses the line into a miserable negative experience that risks damaging their enthusiasm for learning and their self esteem, something my friends feel they may have done as a result of the pressures on parents around here. Immune by virtue of being on the other side of the world I can say that the extent of the tutoring of my DD and her classmates was about right to get a child who is bright enough to thrive there into one of the more selective schools from a school that does not prepare them, both in terms of getting them in and preparing them to succeed once they are there. I have also shared the experiences of other of DDs' peers. I hope I have given no more information than needed to demonstrate my points.

Anyway I am getting a bit fed up of being told I am this, that and the other, rather than focusing on the actual argument which let us remind ourselves is about the fact that there is a general feeling that the entrance exams to state grammar schools have become susceptible to tutoring and that as a result the playing field for children who do not have the benefit of ambitious parents has been skewed, and heavily tutored children are getting into the schools who subsequently struggle, a problem highlighted originally by the Grammar School Heads, not me.

Copthallresident Wed 06-Feb-13 23:04:45

Yellowtip BS Oxbridge was only ever mentioned by me in the context of those failing to get into Tiffin, subsequently getting there, demonstrating that plenty of bright applicants don't get in.

TotallyBS Thu 07-Feb-13 07:20:37

Russian - I said that my DS initially had problems coming from a state school because he went from zero homework to 2 hours a night.

Where did I say that this was the norm at selective schools?

TotallyBS Thu 07-Feb-13 07:33:07

Yellow - May be not on this thread but you regularly mention your high achieving brood here on MN.

Don't get me wrong. You are right to be proud of them. If mine can achieve the same level of academic success then I would be happy.

However, I do think that it is off to tell others (ie moi) that it's lame to talk about their DCs academics when the whole of MN knows about your brood.

Yellowtip Thu 07-Feb-13 07:52:35

Isn't that against the guidelines BS? My comment wasn't in any way directed at your DC (I've never ever done down a single DC on MN, nor would I). I said it was lame to get competitive about schools, and where a particular school is with the curriculum, because it is.

TotallyBS Thu 07-Feb-13 08:06:56

Copt - you are projecting your experiences onto others. Just because YOU think that parents like me are subjecting their DCs to great stress doesn't mean that it's true. Children (and parents) are different. Mine really wanted to get in so to them one hour of prep was no big deal.

I accept that some parents push their DCs beyond their natural limits but a lot of kids go to academically undemanding primary schools. If I followed your parenting style mine would be going to the local unremarkable comp.

As for your assertion that such a routine isn't necessary, I told you that DS would have failed if he had taken the test in the first 5 months and that it only clicked in the 6th month. It clearly was necessary in.our case. Yet you persist in telling me that it isn't. confused

Yellowtip Thu 07-Feb-13 08:18:57

I do think that if primary education is seriously inadequate then there's a strong case for intervention and help. I think the tutoring spectrum is broad; when you move away from that end of it towards the middle and other end is where it seems to have gone mad.

TotallyBS Thu 07-Feb-13 08:33:09

..also Copt.. Your DC got into 'one of the most selective schools in the country' and your A* DC is now studying Natural Sciences at an 'elite' university.

I must be psychic because you don't post about your children's achievements eh?

TotallyBS Thu 07-Feb-13 09:04:10

Yellow - You made your 'lame' comments directly after my exchange with Russian. It was not unreasonable of me to assume that it was directed at me/us.

And I disagree that school rankings are not relevant to this discussion. There are a lot of selective schools that aren't particularly selective. Yet some MNetters make the point that theirs got in with minimal or no prep. Therefore, bright kids don't need serious tutoring goes their argument.

I mentioned my DC's ranking to counter this argument which is that for highly selective schools being naturally bright with no prep just isn't going to get the job done.

orientalstudies Thu 07-Feb-13 09:19:18

target market of anxious parents facing an opaque process, anxieties whipped up by apocryphal stories and chinese whispers in the playground

It's this isn't it? Bolstered by regular newspaper stories about super-tutors, unfounded scare stories about 'state schools', (as if schools are homogeneous) and a deeply competitive culture we have at the moment.

I was a teacher and when we began working overseas as my children were about to begin school, 16 years ago, one of my major reasons for delight was that I could, like Copthall, avoid the mania, which I knew would be really hard to resist when in the middle of it. It is far easier to see the woods for the trees when your children are coming out of the other end. The differing pathways and attitudes of an international community also help one to see there is more than one way of doing things, but I really sympathise with people in the middle of a competitive areas whose children are clever but not shoo-ins for these schools.

I have young relatives who attend a provincial 'super-selective'. Their tutoring was short and sensible, but, bad luck aside, it was known from CATS type scores that they were very likely to succeed. It is harder on those who are borderline and I think an idea that is current that 'IQ can be improved' has an effect on the idea that more tutoring must be better as does a general mistrust of the education profession.

An oft quoted opinion that I am not at all sure about is the one about over-tutored children struggling. If a child gets through a selection process then fails to thrive, then it suggests the tests and the assessment of them are inadequate. More importantly though, I think it is a real failure on the part of the school: a child who can do sufficiently well to be selected on the basis of a test looked at by teachers can be supported without too much difficulty thereafter.

At one time, my children attended an overseas school which could be compared to a 'super-selective' in terms of intake and outcomes. Teachers' children did not have to pass the test, nor, I suspect did some others for community/social reasons. They sometimes needed extra support from school but they were never described as failing or struggling and they inevitably did well in the end because the school took responsibility for them. Some of these school in the UK don't as far as I can tell.

Like Yellowtip, I am also interested in why provincial schools with a far smaller pool from which to choose and a less febrile attitude in the community seem to do well in a kinder way than some of the schools in metropolitan areas with a huge pool of able children from which to choose.

TotallyBS Thu 07-Feb-13 09:45:36

Oriental - a lot of parents in London and the SE post about how crap their local non selective is and how going private is not an financial option. The competition for the relatively few GS places is such that a single point can be the difference between getting a place and not getting a place.

Clearly parents are very anxious but why do some people persist on going about parents being unnecessarily anxious or how unscrupulous tutors are stoking the fear and how a bright child merely needs to show up unprepped and that their natural intelligence will allow them to sail through?

And why do you assume that parents are so weak minded that their negative thoughts on state schools comes from biased media reports. Could it be that their negative opinions comes from actually living down the road and knowing kids that go there?

Marni23 Thu 07-Feb-13 09:57:35

I live near enough to the Tiffin schools for them to have been possibilities as secondary schools for my DD and DS. In both cases I decided against trying for them.

Up until this year, both schools admissions tests consisted of VR and NVR only. It is well known that, in order to qualify, DC have to be scoring well in excess of 90% in both tests. This is because the tutoring culture round here is such that DC spend months, if not years, honing their technique in the different question types. Obviously, to reach these sort of scores, DC have to be bright in the first place, but after that it is a case of how many hours you/they are willing to put in.

The latest research by NFER (who set the tests in this and other areas) has found that prolonged practise of the tests does in fact lead to higher scores (previously they had claimed that after about 6 or so practice tests, any improvement was minimal/non-existent).

I think, where the Tiffin schools are concerned, the children who get places are bright, but not necessarily the brightest of their cohort (although, of course, some will be). That this method of selection does not translate to league table-topping performance vs provincial schools doesn't surprise me at all.

Tiffin Girls' School has now moved to an entry process that includes English and Maths papers, presumably because they felt the VR/NVR system, given the tutoring culture, has ceased to be an effective selection tool.

orientalstudies Thu 07-Feb-13 10:08:14

And why do you assume that parents are so weak minded that their negative thoughts on state schools comes from biased media reports

I didn't mean to give that impression: I accept that parents know their local schools, but I think the media distorts reality.

orientalstudies Thu 07-Feb-13 10:14:00

Clearly parents are very anxious but why do some people persist on going about parents being unnecessarily anxious or how unscrupulous tutors are stoking the fear and how a bright child merely needs to show up unprepped and that their natural intelligence will allow them to sail through?

I agree with this - I thought I had said that it is easier to see clearly when your children have gone through the system or if they are very clever. I am not criticizing parents - just the system. But some parents are undoubtedly daft in terms of the excessive pressure they put on their kids. A friend of mine at the overseas school I mention had her child spending lunchtimes in the primary school library doing practice papers for a couple of months before the test. The primary school was really wet to allow it.

RussiansOnTheSpree Thu 07-Feb-13 10:29:26

BS - I can assure you that school rankings are irrelevant to this particular discussion. If you don't believe that then that's up to you.

However there is an interesting point here - that being the highest ranked school doesn't necessarily mean being the most selective, we are all to a certain extent the victims of our geography. I think it might be worth asking, if Tiffins (say) is so very very selective at intake that the kids going there have to undergo what some of us suspect may be cruel and unusual levels of pre match coaching, then why does it not perform better in the ranking tables? Why does it not regularly annihilate what you describe as less selective schools?

Like you, and unlike some others in this thread, I come from a music background and my kids are used to doing serious stuff practically every day, so they actually probably wouldn't have automatically considered an hour a day doing academic stuff an imposition per se (although they couldn't have fitted it in what with all the other activities they do without junking some so that would have caused resentment - but for different reasons). You know, and I know, that an hour a day doing something that is designed to achieve an end you want definitely isn't undoable for kids that age or even younger. But I still think that the way the tiffins parents carry on (if the stories here are true) seems bonkers and I still think that surely the law of diminishing returns must play a part (you will know the phenomenon of over playing an exam piece until it gets stale, especially at a young age before you have realised that life can't always be new and exciting and sometimes it is just doing something again for the empty-thrumptieth time).

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