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Grammar school tests to be made 'tutor-proof'

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

seeker Tue 06-Nov-12 19:09:42

"One would assume that the most logical thing to do would be to open more Grammar schools."

And more Secondary Moderns?

Blu Tue 06-Nov-12 20:00:53

Yup, yelowtip, I went to a direct grant school. And that would come under scholarships. Did it appear to work? I couldn't say. In the multi-cultural midlands industrial town I was in not one direct grant scholarship was given to a black or an Asian child, for example. And many seemed to go to the children of doctors, teachers etc.

crazygracieuk Tue 06-Nov-12 20:06:28

Dinky- Or scrap ALL state grammars and faith schools that use selection other than home address?

NotGoodNotBad Tue 06-Nov-12 20:17:48

Anyone who thinks interviews should replace 11+ for grammar school entrance should watch the early episodes of 7up, to see the huge gulf between the articulateness and confidence of poor, working class children and middle class children. I'm not sure, to be honest, if the chasm between the classes is as huge now as it was back when the programme was made, but the differences in the children in the programme are certainly shocking.

pointythings Tue 06-Nov-12 21:43:21

NotGood I agree - interview would hugely favour middle class children with engaged parents over bright children from poorer backgrounds. Very bad idea.

And I think that in many ways the chasm between the classes is wider, not narrower, because those at the bottom have fallen so very far behind. How is an inherently intelligent child whose parents' every other word is f* ever going to move out of that environment? But that's a whole other thread...

Yellowtip Tue 06-Nov-12 21:55:00

Well my experience of direct grant, looking back, was that it worked very well. I lived on the southern edge of London and the mix of girls at the school was phenomenal. What's more, once in, the very wide range of girls all melded into one pot, socially. No-one cared who's dad or mum did what. I never thought about that stuff then because to me as a child in that place at that time it really wasn't an issue. I do think about it now. I do know that we had a particularly impressive Headmistress who's only concern was academic merit, not class. A bluestocking scientist from Newnham College, Cambridge. I couldn't say what influence that had in who was admitted. But it was good, verging on the ideal. That had to do with the time and place too I suppose, since my school was at the crossroads of the rich Surrey hinterland and the deprived areas of south London with the families of displaced wartime refugees as well as the indigenous poor. And a good representation of the truly middle class of course. So a microcosm of sorts. It was healthy and taught everyone wherever they were on the social spectrum tolerance and understanding of others.

Yellowtip Tue 06-Nov-12 21:56:14

Interviews would only favour mc kids if you have little faith in the interviewers.

gelo Tue 06-Nov-12 22:02:18

yellow, I was also at a direct grant grammar in South London and everyone was very middle class. Not sure they put much weight on the interview - I was caught staring out of the window daydreaming in mine and still got a place, so I suspect it was more of a formality and the places were offered on test scores.

Blu Tue 06-Nov-12 22:06:02

That is how GS is supposed to be, yes.

But I don't see how an interview enabled all that to happen. If the main criteria was academic then the exam paper should have sufficed.

What you don't know is who DIDN'T get into your school.

What is it that you think an interview will achieve that will improve the current situation?

I would have little faith in the interviewers if they were like many MNers and recoiled every time someone said 'aksed' or 'haitch'. But mostly it is the lack of accountablity in a fair process that concerns me.

Yellowtip Tue 06-Nov-12 22:11:21

That's really interesting gelo but your school was clearly very, very, very different to mine. I think I engaged in my interview because I remember enjoying it and I remember the questions and who said what. Perhaps a lot was down to the calibre of the HT? Mine was extraordinary, I can see that, looking back.

CouthyMowEatingBraiiiiinz Tue 06-Nov-12 22:28:43

I am NOT of the opinion that DC's that have been heavily tutored to get into GS end up struggling. Mostly because the Deputy HT of the superselective GS that DS1 is more than likely headed for said to the parents at the open day that the DC's that have been heavily tutored for the entrance exams are the ones they find struggling and needing extra support in Y8/9 and above. And he said it becomes obvious quite early on which DC's were tutored to the test, and which were there on natural ability.

At which a blushing father asked what form that extra help would take. hmm

My DS1 started his 11+ prep in Easter this year. He sat the 11+ in September. Despite being quite ill, he achieved a mark that is likely to see him gain a place at the superselective. The only prep he did was practice papers at home. No formal tutoring.

Mostly because I can't afford it, as I'm a single mum on benefits. He doesn't get opportunities to go to outside school activities, the last time I could afford to take him to a museum was nearly three years ago, he is on FSM's.

I don't see that tutored DC's keep poorer boys out of GS's. If you have the natural ability, you will pass the 11+. Though maybe I get a skewed idea of that because my DS1 has done so well, given his background and lack of tutoring?

CouthyMowEatingBraiiiiinz Tue 06-Nov-12 22:32:19

Argh! That first sentence should read :

I am NOT of the opinion that DC's that have been heavily tutored to get into GS won't end up struggling.

Typing error.

CouthyMowEatingBraiiiiinz Tue 06-Nov-12 22:34:16

And now a grammar error too. Double negative in a sentence. Shoot me now. <<sigh>>

I'll rephrase. I believe that DC's that have been heavily tutored to get into GS do end up struggling.

Now I'm going to go and poke myself repeatedly I the eyeballs, and I'll probably type better once I have...

CouthyMowEatingBraiiiiinz Tue 06-Nov-12 22:37:17

And the reason for no interview is precisely so that DC's like me DS1 can gain entry to GS's irrespective of my income, class status, education level or anything else.

Whereas when interviews were still commonplace, DC's like my DS1 wouldn't have stood a chance. Because I would turn up on the bus, wearing head to toe Tesco style, and the moment FSM's were mentioned, you could kiss goodbye to a place at GS for your DC.

gelo Tue 06-Nov-12 22:40:28

Our head was an extraordinary character too but I don't remember her much from the interview, but she taught me for most of the years I was there. Looking back with hindsight my lack of engagement (over several years, not just on that occasion) was possibly my reaction to a family bereavement. I do remember the rather lame excuse I made up on the fly for my lack of attention, but that's all I recollect of the interview.

Yellowtip Tue 06-Nov-12 22:42:03

Oh what complete rubbish Couthy. I don't want to patronise the less well off students at my school but there were a very significant number who were seriously disadvantaged. Life may have moved on (not in a good way) but back then it was fair.

CouthyMowEatingBraiiiiinz Tue 06-Nov-12 22:46:16

We don't have Secondary Moderns here, Seeker. Our GS takes just the top 96 pupils out of 800-1000 that apply there. From over the entire County and even into the neighbouring Counties.

I hardly see that as leaving the remaining Secondaries as Secondary Moderns. They all offer triple science to their top set or two, they mostly have some Oxbridge applicants, and RG applicants every year. NOT Secondary Moderns.

Kent and a few other areas that have GS's that take the top 25%, well, yes, they do leave Secondary Modern's for the pupils that don't pass the 11+. Those that are in areas that take the top 2% are quite different, IMO.

CouthyMowEatingBraiiiiinz Tue 06-Nov-12 22:50:40

You obviously weren't turned down personally from a GS because your SD had an 'entry level' job read manual labour yourself, then.

I was. Despite having a score well into the top 2% of those that took the test. I was turned down after interview stage.

And I'm only 31.

Sorry, but I feel that doing away with interviews for GS improved the system no end.

(Oh, I got into a partially selective Secondary, in the GS stream instead, and did just as well there, mind you. And that cow of a GS HT retired the same year that interviews were stopped. And not because she was retirement age, either.)

edam Tue 06-Nov-12 22:56:12

Lucy Cavendish mines her family life well but is talking bollocks about 'having' to drill and tutor your child for years to get them into a grammar in Bucks. I'm sure people do it, but dh's niece passed both Berks and Bucks 11+ despite no coaching, no tutoring and coming from a primary on a council estate. Although if you go beyond individuals to population groups, coaching probably does give the offspring of the better off an unfair advantage.

tiggytape Tue 06-Nov-12 23:08:40

The notion of tutoring can also extend to those who do practice papers at home and by definition have parents who provide these resources for their children and probably help to some extent with marking the tests / timing papers / explaining things they are stuck on.
I am not saying a parent is wrong to do this and many would say it is more familiarisation than tutoring. It definitely isn’t in the same league as the parents who spend thousands of £ on a three year master plan with professional tutors booked from Year 2!
But it is still preparation for a test with the aim of ensuring the child performs at their absolute best. And is an advantage that some other children don’t get.
Again – I am not saying it is wrong. I am just saying there are a lot of people who would define their children as untutored but they are far from unprepared for the tests nonetheless.

losingtrust Tue 06-Nov-12 23:16:51

Only when grammar schools are truly tutor proof would I accept more state funding and with a later age say 13 as I believe 11 Is too young to really see the benefit and this is the experience of the teachers who taught in the old grammar schools where the divide was too young and some kids at secondary modern should have swapped places. At 13 the motivated child will start to see the gains that an early bright but unmotivated child will leave behind, I was very much the latter.

Blu Tue 06-Nov-12 23:27:54

Maybe the GSs should run 'test practice' sessions, free to all comers, based on local primary schools, possibly run by volunteers, so that children who do not have parents with the confidence or cash to support them in preparation can also get some preparation.

Yellowtip - are you enjoying some rose tinted nostalgia? There were many people who quite simply felt intimidated by the very idea of attending a posh school (for those direct grant GPDST schools were considered very posh indeed where I lived). Bright kids who went to GS on the basis of the 11+ but would never have considered putting themselves up for the scholarship test or interview. Of course some did, and made it... but why specifically, do you think an interview would IMPROVE the chances now of levelling the playing field for GS entrance?

I don't know why I am so engaged in this... I don't live in a GS area (thank goodness), did not put bright, top stream DS up for the super-selectives within commuting distance (becaue I favoured our good local comp over intense prep and long travel), and have no more children to put thorugh secondary transition!

SminkoPinko Tue 06-Nov-12 23:33:02

I think we should abolish the remaining grammar schools and then there will be no need to worry about tests and tutors.

losingtrust Tue 06-Nov-12 23:33:54

Blu I agree. I avoided grammars for my above average child but that was maybe because I grew up in non-grammar era and enjoyed the mix at the comp. it amazes me when people start tutoring so young - for me education is a long process and I would rather spend time reading to my kids and introducing them to authors politics and museums. A better education in the long run!

steppemum Tue 06-Nov-12 23:38:14

ds will sit 11+ next september. We visited school this year. HT asked parents not to tutor, just need to practise old papers to become familiar with questions and get up to speed (as test is quite fast)

we only need to do VR. I think in areas where you do other papers the tutoring is more of an issue.

ds did a demo paper online last week. very first paper he has ever seen. Got 100%, but took twice the time he was supposed to.
We refuse to tutor to the test. We will do some deliberate working on vocab and times tables, and will start doing proper old paper revision at easter (for Oct exam)

My attitude is that I only want him there if he can do the work comfortably, I don't want him there struggling at bottom of the class.

We loved the school, but it wasn't really for the academic qualifications that I would send him. We have a good local comp, which is a very good second choice. It was the atmosphere at the GS. They really liked and enjoyed boys, and they were so enthusiastic about education, the boys we met were charming young men, and I want that for my ds.

I feel very sad that the only way we will get that is GS with 30 min train ride, in a town miles away.

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