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How much tutoring?

(59 Posts)
wheresthebeach Fri 01-Feb-13 19:36:22

Our DD is at a good state school. We're in London and the area has a poor state secondary, with an couple of good faith secondaries. A fair number of children go private at secondary.
My question is this - if you moved from state to private for secondary how much tutoring did you do? We hear that people are doing 3 to 4 sessions a week which seems mad to us. Is this really necessary? Are standards so high for the selective that this amount of extra work has to be done?
I'd appreciate hearing from others who have done the switch about how much extra work then needed to do to pass the 11+.

TotallyBS Fri 01-Feb-13 22:27:32

Some parents will talk about how their DC had no prep at all and still passed with flying colours. These parents usually omit the part where their DC went to a highly academic primary or prep that did the work for the parents.

Some parents will talk about how they know kids that had been tutored for years. Strangely no one ever admits to being that parent so its always "I know someone who ....". I suspect that it's an urban myth.

With regards to how many sessions, three to four tutoring sessions a week is a bit outside the norm (I am assuming that you are referring to professional tutoring) Going by past discussions here on MN, one tutoring session a week seem to be the norm. How much 'homework' the DC does in between the session varies.

We didn't use a tutor for our DCs. It was strictly DIY. We spent year 5 Easter break going through the various types of questions. Once back at school they did about a hour a day on practice questions. During the summer break this went up to 2 hours a day and during the Christmas break this went up to 4 hours a day.

No doubt others will turn up to say that they did more or that they did less.

JoanByers Sat 02-Feb-13 01:05:52

It would depend on the specific private school.

There are private schools for everyone. Obviously if you are targeting a highly selective school, then it's going to be more difficult to get in than a private school which takes a lot of children with SENs.

What area of London are you in?

I know a parent at an Ofsted outstanding London primary and she was very disappointed because they did literally nothing to support the 11+ process (religious school so they don't care, even though as I understand it he is not eligible to go on to their linked senior school), and he failed his 11+'s although is IMO very bright.

From what I've seen of the boys the private school 11+ exams are hugely competitive in London, although obviously there are less sought after schools where you could get in easily.

I don't think you actually need to tutor at all, I would say my son did a lot of verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning tests at school, but these are straight forward to do at home if you are disciplined, and one-to-one work as a parent is very effective. For maths, my son is very able and we did nothing at all. For English a tutor probably would have helped, as he is weak in this area, and really needed one-to-one professional help, but he appears to have got through on his maths.

No school will fix big problems with your child's abilities - this requires one-to-one help, what you get from the prep school is:

* lots of exposure to the 11+ tests (but you can do this at home)
* a good, detailed reference (the senior school should write to your primary school - there is no guarantee that your head will reply)
* limited interview prep (DS was told some of the questions asked of previous candidates, given tips such as sit up straight, tuck your shirt in and so on) - again, this is not really rocket science.
* good general academic progress

You will be assessed, probably (check with the schools), in January of Y6, essentially on maths, English and probably some silly IQ tests. If you know that your daughter's maths or English are poor, then by all means get her a tutor now. But if they aren't, then I would leave it till Y5 when you have visited the schools in the Autumn Term, and then you will have a very solid four terms to prepare the VR/NVR nonsense, which is much longer than I spent with my son.

wheresthebeach Sat 02-Feb-13 09:28:48

Thanks Totally and Joan. That's really helpful. Our school does nothing to support the 11+; it leaves everything like this to the parents. We're SW London so the Wandsworth test is VR/NVR. I think it odd that the school does nothing to help the kids with this as they have to take the test. I guess it's chicken and egg...parents hire tutors so the school doesn't have to do practice paper/because the school does nothing the parents hire tutors.

newgirl Sat 02-Feb-13 10:57:03

My dd has been shortlisted for scholarship at very academic private school with no tutoring. She goes to a state primary that does no specific prep for 11plus. She is young in her year but has always been bright, loves puzzles, reading. I printed one sample paper from school site so she knew what she would be asked to do. Because we have good state secondaries it was not as important as it might be for you but I now think the whole tutoring thing is a bit of a racket - lots of kids might have been fine without any tutoring but parents feel they can't take the risk

tiggytape Sat 02-Feb-13 11:08:50

The norm in London state schools is not to help with 11+ preparation for either state or private schools. In other areas of the country the primary school is actively involved in the 11+ process (familiarisation papers, Head Teacher recommendations and all sorts) but in London it is an 'opt in' system which most kids are not entered for at all.

In terms of tutoring we do know people who have tutored for years so it is not a myth but by that they mean having a maths tutor in Year 3 and 4 to fill in all the gaps missed at school and then in Year 5 having an 11+ tutor to specifically work on 11+ papers, go over techniques, time saving strategies, common patterns, mock essays etc.

You will also get people who say they've done no tutoring at all who in the next breath tell you that their children did workbooks at home or went to prep school where VR and NVR tests are completed regularly.

Basically preparation of some sort is the norm and is pretty much required in view of the fact that there are a lot of bright children competing and all of them, no matter how naturally clever, will probably have had some kind of extra help to pass. As to how much you have to do, it depends on which schools you are aiming at. Some take 40-50% of all who apply whereas others (state) have 12 applicants per place. It also depends on how they format their tests. Some are purely VR and NVR whereas others now include English comprehension and other skills that have associated tips and tricks which can be taught to maximise marks scored.

tiggytape Sat 02-Feb-13 11:14:44

Meant to add: as to how much you should do with a child who is very bright and set to pass: I found a quote the other week from the Head of a Grammar School in SW London. He said that 'a dozen' tutoring sessions was reasonable and parents could either do this themselves or book a tutor where they didn't have time.

With VR and NVR especially, the concern would be that any bright child could probably get 100% in such tests but timing is the issue. If they've never seen a NVR paper before, they will be bright enough to answer it but will probably run out of time. If they open the paper and instantly recognise the type of puzzle being posed, they can crack on and solve it and not waste time working out the basic methods from scratch.

annach Sat 02-Feb-13 15:05:28

You'll learn a lot from googling the 11+ forums and asking on there. I tutor and can assure you that some parents do tutor their children for three years beforehand.

Most do a year of one or two papers a week, with breaks during the holidays. This helps state school children become acquainted with any VR and NVR papers they may have to sit (which aren't covered by many state schools.) It also helps fill gaps in their maths and English. State schools often don't have a programme in place for the more able pupils to complete level 5 maths by the end of autumn term, and test papers may well draw on topics the schools haven't covered.

Also, this may not be true in some areas, but where I tutor, the state schools are way behind in preparing able Yr 6s to plan and write structured essays and stories within a short time frame. Your DC may well need practise in all those areas.

People who say they did nothing are almost certainly kidding themselves. It's a rare child who could gain 90% or more in an 11+ NVR paper without some explanation of what is required. That's why preps and tutors teach NVR techniques.

annach Sat 02-Feb-13 15:07:21

I'd agree with the Head who says 'a dozen sessions'. My caveat is: a dozen on each time of paper, so one of each a week for 12 months - i.e. a year's tutoring at home using Bond or similar and past exam papers, or with a skilled tutor, should be just right.

newgirl Sat 02-Feb-13 16:05:21

I'm not kidding myself - my dd just did well with no tutoring - fact - her state primary has done a good job

projectsrus Sat 02-Feb-13 16:10:35

I agree with annach.

We know quite a few children who went to selective independents at 11+ and all had tutoring since Y5. A couple since Y4. Things covered were:
- English, Maths, NVR and VR.

If you are lucky and your school covers L5 in Y5 then that's great. Also great if they cover NVR and VR. If they don't (ours doesn't until Y6), they will have a slim chance in a competitive 11+ school at L4 and no practice of NVR and VR.

tiggytape Sat 02-Feb-13 16:26:04

newgirl - there are really exceptional children and exceptional primary schools but both are quite rare so you probably fall into the super rare category of having both.
It also depends on the school you are aiming for - if you only have to score in the top 25%, the standard required (and therefore the amount of prep work) is hugely different than if you are looking at schools where you need to score in the top 10% or 5% and need virtually full marks on every paper to get a place.

I'm pretty sure the score required to get into Graveny on the Wandsworth test was over 95% last year - it may even have been over 98% - one silly mistake or running out of time and any bright child could fail. Tutoring for bright children isn't about making a middling child bright, it is about making a bright child fast and accurate.

newgirl Sat 02-Feb-13 16:52:50

Yes I do agree that being fast and accurate are skills that will help. It's just a shame that parents try so hard and spend money on tutors when maybe the kid would have been ok. If we didn't have good state secondaries I probably would feel very different!

tiggytape Sat 02-Feb-13 17:13:48

That is true newgirl but, unlike virtually every other kind of test or exam in life, there are no second chances so even parents of the very brightest children get sucked into panicing that being clever isn't enough - they need help on the strategies and shortcuts and enough practice of timings that they don't make one silly slip that could lose them their place.

It is a mark of how competitive things have got and how so many people are chasing so few places.
When you start with the notion that 95% might not be enough, it is easy to see why parents want to make doubly sure. Especially in areas like Wandworth (and a lot of London) where the state alternatives if you narrowly fail might not be very appealing unless you happen to be very lucky with catchments and where you live.

soaccidentprone Sat 02-Feb-13 17:39:09

I think it depends of your child.

you probably have a good idea as to what level your dd is on now, and where she is expected to be at the end of y6 when she takes her SATs.

you need to look at the entrance exam structure for the schools you are interested in, and the work out where additional help is needed.

ds2 has just taken his entrance exam for private school. the state primary he goes too is excellent. his teacher is brilliant - inspiring and motivating. ds2 plus 3 others in his year have been receiving teaching at level 6 for maths for 1 session per week since October half term.

I am pretty sure ds2 will be getting 6b for maths, 5a for English and 5a for science in his end of year SATs. he is very motivated, and very bright. we don't particularly push him, except for his spellings (he can't spell for toffeegrin ). I don't know why he is like he is. he has always been like this. but he does get very angry with himself when he doesn't get things right. he gets really stroppy. we tell him it doesn't matter, all we care about is that he has worked to the best of his ability, no matter what the outcome.

so I suppose what I am trying to say is, if your dd genuinely wants to go to private school, then be prepared for it to be competitive. there were 200 children for 72 places at ds2's entrance exam.

find out what the tests are. for ds2 these were maths, English and reasoning. each test was an hour. work through past papers. work on areas where your dd is weak. I think it is better to do fewer questions and get 100% than finish and only get 90%.

pm me if you need any further help or advice smile

mumteacher Sat 02-Feb-13 21:55:20

The 11+ is very competitive (depending on where you are) and when you only have one shot at securing a place parents feel they have to do whatever it takes.
3/4 sessions a week seems a lot. Most children will start with maths and English once a week.

Tutoring can also be translated to a parent teaching the child not just a trained teacher.

Newsgirl it's great your DD has done so well, although I have to agree with annach that someone has to have sat down and told your DD the forum. Someone would've needed to time her to make sure she can complete the exams in the time frames given. A state school with 30 chn (approx) in each class couldn't have done all that alone.

Good luck x

Yellowtip Sun 03-Feb-13 10:12:49

tiggytape that HT was simply a single HT (Sutton) giving his own personal view. Other grammar HTs are vehemently opposed to any advocacy of any outside tutoring whatsoever.

You also say that in other parts of the country outside London state primaries help prep for the 11+. I can tell you that in my area at least they absolutely do not!

According to the Telegraph today Russian oligarchs in London and others too are paying tens and tens of thousands a year for Oxford and Cambridge graduates to prep their kids daily. But I'm guessing that's towards the upper end of the spectrum.

tiggytape Sun 03-Feb-13 10:29:39

Yellowtip - You are quite right - one H/T stuck his head above the parapet and said what everyone in our area already knows. Timing and accuracy are the deciding factor when faced with thousands (literally) of very bright children from all over London, Surrey, Middlesex and even Slough competing for a few hundred places - therefore familiarisation is needed. He didn't advocate tutoring but said a tutor could undertake familiarisation where a parent had no time to do it. The grey area between familiarisation and active tutoring is as grey as ever! Most parents here engage in active tutoring or, at the very least, familiarisation of test papers at home. Very few do absolutely nothing at all if they decide to enter their children for the exams.

In other counties all children are given at least one familiarisation test paper at school.
In some areas the H/T actively gets involved in recommending children he or she thinks should pass and supporting them at appeal or even lodging a H/T appeal on their behalf to try to win them a place.
In some areas grammar schools have catchment areas so less children apply and children living close don't have to meet the same crazily high standard as those who compete for schools with no catchment where top score wins.
London is a mix of no catchment grammars with no primary school involvement and it is all down to parents how much or how little they do to get children though. Other areas are totally different and so parental involvement probably differs too.

Yellowtip Sun 03-Feb-13 10:40:42

But I wonder where this 'quote' derives from tiggy? Do you know? I'm interested to know if it was a half quote or perhaps in answer to a leading parental question at an open day? He's certainly swimming strongly against the political tide if he champions tutoring.

Perhaps in some counties kids are given a familiarisation but that's definitely not true in ours.

tiggytape Sun 03-Feb-13 10:56:37

Bucks do familiarisation. This is the direct quote explaining their reasoning behind it (which as it happens is the exact same argument a lot of parents use for tutoring when they live in areas that don't offer help):

"When anyone takes the test it is important that they understand exactly what they have to do. If some people are more used to taking tests than others, this could lead to differences in performance. For example, people with more experience might be more relaxed about taking the test, need to spend less time reading the instructions, and have more time to think about what answers to give.
Year 6 children attending primary schools in Buckinghamshire will work on the materials in the familiarization pack in class. Schools should allow 5 lessons for children to work on practice questions. The teacher will help to explain the techniques involved in each type of question.

From this year participating children will then undertake THREE complete practice papers lasting 50 minutes and comprised of 80 questions. These should be administered by the school under examination conditions."

And the quote from the Sutton H/T comes from the FamiliesOnline website for London and Surrey discussing Sutton school options. Funnily enough it is an anti tutoring message in the sense that most parents aiming for the Sutton grammars aim for 2-3 years of tutoring. This quote is basically telling them to calm down a bit and that 12 sessions would be just fine instead. In full the quote is:
“My biggest message to parents is that there is a lot they can do themselves.
If parents do not have the time or inclination to do this, or if the family situation makes it difficult, then no head teacher would have any argument with parents who pay for a dozen sessions with a tutor to do more or less the same thing."

The grammar it refers to has over 1500 applicants for about 150 places and parents go crazy with tuition here to ensure a place (and that includes children who finish Year 5 on level 5a's and would be considered a safe bet). The trouble is there's no catchment, it is on a mainline train route and within a 20 - 30 mile radius, the number of exceptionally clever children far exceeds the number of grammar places on offer.

In essense the Sutton H/T was only saying what Bucks council freely admit - that a child who goes into a test with no preparation at all is at a disadvantage no matter how brilliantly celever they are.

Yellowtip Sun 03-Feb-13 11:07:21

I thought it would be an anti tutoring message in essence tiggy, that makes more sense. Are numbers applying to the Sutton grammars as high as those for the Tiffins?

newgirl Sun 03-Feb-13 11:10:24

Me! I familiarised her by printing out one maths and one english from the school website. She sat down and did them and I timed her. She took under the time allowed.

Yes I agree that lots of practice will give kids a huge edge I'm not denying it but I do think it is madness when kids might have been ok on their own.

I think it is hugely depressing when parents are considering tutoring for a couple of hours a week three years before the tests. Not much fun for the kids.

tiggytape Sun 03-Feb-13 11:15:47

Bucks is also the area where the Heads seem very involved in the process eg giving differing levels of recommendations for each pupil, allowing some kind of review if a child misses the qualifying score and even supporting appeals if it gets that far. A far higher proportion of those appeals are successful.

London has no H/T involvement, no practice papers at school, no review process (just an appeal one) and no qualifying score. There is a pass mark but a child has to not only pass but pass way above the pass mark to actually get an offer. In the current Year 7 of every comp are children who passed the 11+ for one or more schools but did not beat the top scores and therefore did not get an offer. They are in the top sets of course. They start school on level 6's and are very bright kids (this is good for the comps of course).
Dozens appeal each year when their child passes the 11+ but doesn't get a place - few if any win those appeals - far, far fewer than the national average of about one third.

I am not saying the Bucks system is softer because I don't know what the pressures must be like if it is all so involved or what the alternative schools are like. I am saying however that the London system is competitve beyond belief because thousands apply and because passing the 11+ means nothing. A child has to pass with a top score and as such many children who pass the 11+, reach level 6 in their SATS and basically should be at grammar school don't get in because they were pipped to the post by somebody answering one more question than they did.
That is why parents fret and tutor - it isn't about making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, it is the fear that getting 97% instead of 98% will be the difference between a comp they don't want and a grammar school they really do.

annach Sun 03-Feb-13 11:20:39

Yellowtip, I think the Sutton grammars and Tiffin overlap a little. Sutton Grammars have very high number of candidates but there are 3 boys schools to choose from, so may accept candidates with lower marks than Tiffin does (still very high achieving, bright children though.)

I like what Bucks say. That is fair and so true.

Newgirl - did you or her teachers at school really never show your DD a single VR or NVR paper or puzzle before the test? Did she just stroll in, work out codes and sequences in record time with zero prep? Did her school help her cover the entire syllabus up to level 6 in maths before her exam? That's a rare and wonderful state school. Did you not even tell her to answer comprehension questions in full sentences? How can she instinctively know what's needed with no input from anyone?

Most people aren't that lucky.

I do get frustrated at this notion that tutored children aren't otherwise bright enough to get into selective schools and will fall behind the minute the tutoring stops. Bright children need to be taught what is expected - from parents or otherwise. They are taught what to expect on the day of the exam so they can do their best. No one says bright children don't need to revise for GCSEs. 11+ is an exam. Candidates prepare for it. No big deal.

tiggytape Sun 03-Feb-13 11:25:04

X post yellow: Yes - the numbers are similar.
Sutton is on the main trainline from Victoria and on numerous bus routes. It neighbours lots of boroughs with less desirable schools and is one of the few grammars that still has no priority for local children so is truly open to all. It attracts pupils from many miles away.

They had 1588 applicants for 120 places last year - about 13 applicants per place.
Tiffin Girls got 1471 for 150 places so slightly less than Sutton Grammar.
Tiffin Boys had 1700+ sit the test for 140 places so about the same as Sutton Grammar in terms of the numbers chasing each place.

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