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What's the difference between a "hothouse" and a school that pushes your child to meet their true natural ability?

(200 Posts)
HappyDads Thu 20-Dec-12 01:56:00

On Mumsnet, "hothouse" often seems to be used - by implication - as a slightly derogatory term for "damaging your child" by those not getting into said hothouse school (Westminister, St. Pauls, Eton, SPGS, Tiffins, Habs, Wycombe Abbey etc - whatever floats your boat actually).

Yet we all want our DCs to reach their maximum potential, and be stretched, yet without being damaged. Where is our dividing point?

Seriously I struggle to balance my own thinking with my DD at a school often described as both a "hothouse" and yet also called "balanced".

So what is a "hothouse" and is it more a term of jealousy vs your own DC's ability, or is it something more tangible you can describe?

JoanByers Thu 20-Dec-12 03:18:30

At any comp at year end there will be a number of pupils with strings of A*s. These children are obviously bright kids, no hothousing.

At a very selective school there might be ONLY bright kids, and therefore very high numbers of A*s for all is not evidence of hothousing.

Hothouse practices are:

* not allowing children to sit their exam, or making them sit privately, or expelling them if they are thought not to be on track for A's.
* taking a less able intake (so NOT the likes of Wycombe Abbey) and spoon feeding then to get high numbers of A's
* insisting on constant activity (this seems to be the case at Eton)

I think that the most successful schools have no need to hot house because they attract the brightest children. That's not to say they won't engage in hothouse practices because they want to get 98% rather than 96% A's, but it's not necessary.

I would imagine that there's a lot of hothousing going on with the less able children, e.g. the d grade students, to push them up to A's. but for the bright there's simply no need, but that's not to say the school won't then demand taat they also do numerous other activities, music, etc.

propatria Thu 20-Dec-12 07:12:05

Hoithouse schools are attended by other peoples children,the school that pushes to ensure true natural ability is met is attended by ones own children,simple...

TotallyBS Thu 20-Dec-12 07:22:39

Insisting on lots of activities is an example of hot-housing???

My DCs each have extra curricular activities 3 times a week on top of music lessons and practice sessions. One DC also goes to two lunchtime clubs on top. My kids were being hot-housed and I didn't know. I thought that they were just packing a lot into their lives.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 08:19:57

"expelling them if they are thought not to be on track for A's."
I think the schools would rather it was called "asking them to find a more suitable school" this is I suspect the norm in all super selectives and in fact in many selectives in the independent and state sector even our "comp" (one of the top performing comps in the UK) asks children to find a more "suitable" school if their AS results aren't good enough.
Some children thrive in a "hothouse" environment they love the A* culture and participate in a myriad of extra curricular activities as well others simply drown. You just have to work out whether or not your child will like it or not.

wildirishrose Thu 20-Dec-12 09:05:48

Thousands of children gain a string of A/A*s at GCSE and A level each year without being "hothoused"

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 09:25:06

I think it becomes a hothouse environment when an A* (or whatever I suppose) becomes the expected norm and a child is going to struggle to achieve this, feels under intense pressure whether from his parents or school to do this.
I've repeatedly heard in the last few months from a variety of heads in both the state and independent sector that achieving an A at GCSE (Im not so sure this applies so much to IGCSE as there's no course work) is not a mark of intelligence it's an ability to follow instructions and jump through hoops in the correct order. Perhaps many children feel that a lot of pressure is being applied to make them jump through these hoops in the right order? Also perhaps this order is contrary to what they feel comfortable doing?

bulletpoint Thu 20-Dec-12 09:29:07

Joanbyers - "taking a less able intake (so NOT the likes of Wycombe Abbey) and spoon feeding them to get high numbers of A's" confused care to elaborate more ? You also mentioned less able children pushed up to get A's do i detect some disdain for the less able child here ?

So basically a less able child in your opinion a D child, has got A's and that means child has been hothoused. How would you be able to correctly assess another child's true ability ?
by your very definition this maybe exactly what some parents might call "stretched to reach their maximum ability without being damaged "

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 09:36:13

Many years ago my DH went to one of those mentioned by the OP above it. It was super selective then too. Only a relative handful got all A's at O level and and an even smaller handful A's at A level. Those who achieved these results were seen by my DH and other to be super super bright in a school of the very bright. If bullet your saying a genuine "D child" with the right help can achieve an A therefore backing up the comment I made above then surely something is going very wrong with our exam system?

Bonsoir Thu 20-Dec-12 09:45:32

Some children thrive in a competitive hothouse - that very environment is the one that pushes them happily to achieve their maximum potential. My DSS2 (15) is one of those children - he adapts to meet the challenge as he always wants to be "best in class" at whatever he turns his hand to. DSS1 (17) is a very conscientious and hard-working pupil, but he is quickly at the limits of his capacities - he doesn't have time for much in the way of extra-curricular activities if he wants to perform well at school, and he needs a lot of TLC. They both go to the same school, which is perfect for DSS1 and gets the most out of him. I suspect DSS2 could deal with an even more demanding environment...

For DD (8) it is still a little early to tell, and I don't want to pressurise her at all. But I suspect she is more like DSS2 than DSS1... and we will choose her school accordingly.

bulletpoint Thu 20-Dec-12 09:48:37

Happyg - I strongly doubt a true D child with the right help (bar providing all the answers in an exam) would suddenly metamorphose into an A, at most would pobably acheive a strong C'.

But i detect in joanbyers tone complete contempt for any child that is less than "super bright" trying to better him or herself, a tone i've alo picked up from her in other threads. I also wonder how she can get a accurate baseline of child unless she is the teacher, and would like her to explain to me how she knows someone with an A, is actually D material.

It seems they are damned if they don't and damned again if they do succeed.

I must admit I had always thought of a hothouse as a school that pushed academic achievement to the exclusion of everything else. So whilst St P and Westminster are academically pressured, given how selective the intake is, I wonder if they are true hothouses.

I may get a different perspective as I am starting the school tours shortly.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Dec-12 09:52:10

In Paris there are some schools that are true hothouses - there are almost no co-curricular activities or deviance from an academic curriculum. They are very competitive and produce prototype nerds who excel at engineering school and have massive mid-life crises.

I don't think England has such schools, tbh.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 09:52:57

bullet you say this and it makes sense to me but this is not what Im hearing from heads. They are very firmly telling me that with the right teaching, an ability to follow instructions to the letter with regard to answering exams and cpourse work and lots of hard work that a A at GCSE is doable for most children these days hence the "big jump" that many children find between GCSE and A level.

ReallyTired Thu 20-Dec-12 09:54:17

Lots of countries have no qualms about working hard. It is only the UK (or possibly the US) where working hard is looked down on. Intelligence is mallible and working hard and doing lots of interesting things makes a child brighter.

Why is it considered better to veg in front of the TV or nintendo than go to the extra maths tutition. Some children love permamently being on the go and learning.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 09:56:12

Chaz what about when children are very firmly told that academic achievement must at all times take priority over everything else some would say "bloody right too" other especially the child may feel that this is not what they want. I suspect as I and others have said above its all about whats right for the individual.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 09:57:51

"or possibly the US"
My BIL worked for a US bank I didn't get the impression hard work was looked down upon in fact the complete opposite.

bulletpoint Thu 20-Dec-12 09:59:27

Bonsoir - by your description i agree i dint know of any school in the u.k like this either. I have heard of people referring to the partially selective school in the next village from me as a 'hot house' (it only takes about 10%, selectively by the way), when really they haven't got a chance of getting in because its not in our catchment! Nothing to do with the basic test they may be required to sit.

Another local parent was aghast when a parent whose child was at the school mentioned her DD doing homework till 9pm (yr 9 by the way), Ds is 11 and does homework sometimes way past that.

wordfactory Thu 20-Dec-12 10:00:01

I think the term 'hothouse' probably means schools with highly selective intake and high expectations in terms of results.

For some DC such places are dire. Others thrive.

I know a lot of kids at Habs and some love it. Some are utterly utterly miserable.
DD absolutely refused to go.

DS attends one of the schools mentioned by chaz and finds it great. He's laid back and doesn't do stress or pressure. During his entrance/scholarship exams I heard some real horror stories from other parents and yet DS didn't lose a second's sleep. The morning of one of his assessments he asked if he could pop in a cafe for an extra bacon sarnie!!!

seeker Thu 20-Dec-12 10:03:55

Is the child concerned genuinely happy (not just parent pleasing), excited about learning and keen to go to school? Then the school is giving your child what it needs, and sufficient challenge.

If no, then not.

Bonsoir Thu 20-Dec-12 10:04:27

The hothouse mentality is sadly still alive and well in France (the prépas, a sort of extra two years of schooling required to prepare the competitive entrance exam to grandes écoles are hothouses). You only need to take a cursory glance at France's position in the international educational league tables to draw a conclusion about the wisdom of such a system.

happygardening Thu 20-Dec-12 10:06:26

I suspect the super bright thrive in the schools thought to be "hot houses" maybe the slightly less able who might have been tutored or perhaps are in the bottom of the intake and lets face it someone has to be are the ones who struggle and feel insecure although Im sure some don't and could care less. Others are natural perfectionists and how ever well they are doing even if they are in the top of the intake might be personally driving themselves to to better all the time the pressure is coming from within.

seeker Thu 20-Dec-12 10:07:46

I agree, bonsoir, my god daughter is at one. Her mum thinks it's fantastic. We have agreed not to talk about it!

Oh, and no 11 year old should ev be doing homework past 9 at night. Unless it's a self induced crisis of some sort. And then only as a one off thing.

BellsaRinging Thu 20-Dec-12 10:08:44

i actually went to one of those mentioned and really don't think it was a hothouse if you mean it in the sense of results are all and students are spoonfed gcse passes. i didn't particularly enjoy the social aspect of school-basically i preferred being with my non school friends and didn't fit in too well. however, the education was second to none and encouraged independant thinking and also female academic achievement. the upside of this is that it was never suggested to me that i couldn't achieve something because i was female. the downside is that because a clean sweep of a's at gcse and a level was the norm i have to struggle against being unimpressed with anything else from the children!

Miggsie Thu 20-Dec-12 10:10:14

I know someone whom I consider to have hot-housed their child:

Taught them counting from 9 months, sat them in front of times table Videos from 1 year so they could chant all the times tables by the time they were 18 months.
Did not bother with songs or nursery rhymes as "they are not important".
Taught them all the names of mathematical solids so they knew what a googleplex and a tetrahedron was before they could say "cat".
Taught them to sit at a PC and do maths websites beofre they were 2.

Sent them to nursery from age 2.5 but when the child would not mix declared it was becasue the other children were below their child's level intellectually (although I would have siad it was because he coulnd't speak so it was difficult to establish social relationships).

Relentlessly took them around educational centres and museums every week to learn maths and science.

I consder that to be hot - housing.

A child who can chant times tables up to 12x12 but cannot string a single sentence together has been damaged by that process.

5 years on and his speech is still under developed - but is 3 years ahead in maths.

At DD's school there is a family whose children have 30 mins music lesson beofre school and 30 mins after school every day, they also obviously have to practsie a lot at home. They are on grade 6 by age 8 - however they don't actually seem to be enjoying the process.

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