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Tutoring 3 & 4-year-olds for private school assessments

(59 Posts)
expatkat Thu 25-Mar-04 14:59:53

How do you feel about this?

I left Manhattan in part to avoid this madness, only to discover that in London getting your kid into a decent school, state or otherwise, is an equal or worse nightmare.

As Janinlondon pointed out on a fascinating thread on school interviews, people REALLY DO have their kids coached for their school assessments. All the time.

Now, I honestly don't care what people do or what choices they make and--to illustrate this--I'll explain I was once called on mumsnet, rather damningly I thought, a member of the "live and let live brigade." But I really have a problem with tutoring small children. I feel viscerally, deeply horrified by it. I wish I could see it more objectively or forgivingly, but my own upbringing--which emphasized academic achievement & name-brand education at the expense EVERYTHING ELSE in life--showed me the pitfalls of following that path.

I would be very open to other views, though. What do y'all think?

marialuisa Thu 25-Mar-04 15:15:53

It's a strange one. To all intents and purposes my DD is being tutored because she goes to a school nursery class (she's just turned 3 so not in Reception until sept 2005) and she's already doing lots of "academic" things. But TBH she seems to be "that way", she will sit and write words for ages, even after school. BUT I am still relieved we live in the provinces and can avoid this merrygoround of testing as it seems so scary, i understand why it's developed and why parents feel obliged to put their kids in for it but I find it terrifying.. one of the reasons we have chosen to send DD to a private school is because we do not want to send her to the local school and then have to resort to tutoring after school and at w/e to make sure she gets on ok.

marialuisa Thu 25-Mar-04 15:22:35

interestingly my own upbringing sounds quite similar to yours Expatkat, my dad was determined I would go to schools that people had "heard of". Looking back I appreciate a lot of things about the education I received, but age 17, my sweetest revenge was showing my dad an offer letter from Oxford and then telling him I was going somewhere else (ironically for the subject I was studying the Uni I went to outperforms Oxford and Cambridge, but it's not one his friends would be impressed by!)so maybe I was a bit screwed up....

Sari Thu 25-Mar-04 15:23:17

I'm with you all the way on this. I had a really academic upbringing, was hothoused through everything, and held up as an example for my academic achievements. Yet I honestly feel I didn't start thinking or learning anything remotely relevant to life until I was 25. In fact I think my education was in many ways a handicap.

With my children I'm going the opposite way. If they're bright they'll manage wherever they are, and if they're not I will not give them the idea that they have somehow failed because good grades are going to set you up for life. In fact I don't even really care if they go to school at all. My husband didn't finish school and in many ways he's one of the most intelligent people I know.

I think it's far more important to encourage them to think for themselves, to be enthusiastic about knowledge, pursue the things they are interested in and find out about life. They won't get that from being pushed down a narrow educational path where grades are everything.

expatkat Thu 25-Mar-04 15:23:19

I see what you mean, Marialuisa: how do you really define tutoring. I guess what I'm talking about is that very literal sense of shelling out extra money and making your kid do structured academic work in addition to going to nursery. I'm told in Japan kids do this all their lives. . .so there a lot of people in the world who do this as a matter of course. But in London, where it's not "norm" per se, it seems so unfair to parents without that kind of money, and unfair to parents who want their kids to be kids. Because, sadly, it's very often the kids who are *not* tutored who don't get into private schools. It seems like once a few parents do it, than all the parents have to do, just to give their kid a chance.

expatkat Thu 25-Mar-04 15:24:41

sari--I agree with everything you said. Well said.

Hulababy Thu 25-Mar-04 15:30:07

f they're bright they'll manage wherever they are,

Sari - I am not sure that this is always the case sadly (it should be, but isn't always) - I teach at state secondary. If your child is in a class with other pupils who are not the same, it can rub off. If the class has a significant number who do not want to learn then your teacher will be forced to spend more time dealing with these children, and less with the brighter or more well behaved ones. This means that the brighter children cannot be given the time need to extend and push them further in the classroom.

I know this sounds dispressing and an unpleasant idea - but it is reality in many schools.

Sari Thu 25-Mar-04 15:49:06

Hulababy, if I think that a school is not providing them with what they need, or having an adverse effect on them, I will take them out, or look for alternatives. I'm not going to stand back and watch if it is obvious that things are going wrong. What I won't do though is push them down a particular path from an early age simply so they end up ticking the boxes that seem to be so important to some people. I will always be more concerned with the children as 'individuals' rather than 'grade-getters'.

Also, I think I'm fortunate in that dh and I have our lives set up in ways that provide us with many escape routes, eg both from different countries, both self-employed with portable skills. That probably does make it easier to be more laid-back about it all.

webmum Thu 25-Mar-04 15:50:34

I couldn't agree more, but I feel the same way towards v. pushy mothers who turn everything into a teaching occasion instead of letting games be just games once ina while!

i remember a lady at our tumble tots class who kept sking her (not yet) 2yo constantly 'what colour' was this and that and just felt kie shouting to her 'just give her a break pls!'

we've put our dd's name for a private school (because of the abysmal choice of non-religious state ones in our area) but I didnt even consider those that required an assessment interview with the child. I did not want to go through that and I think it is totally unacceptable and useless.

I think they're still young and should be able to play and enjoy their education while they can.

I remember enjoying going to primary school and I hope I will be able to trasmit to my daughter this joy of learning, and she will therefore achieve naturally without being pushed into it, which as some of you have proved may also be v. conterproductive!!

Crunchie Thu 25-Mar-04 16:48:12

Call me uninformed on this one, but when private schools/nurseries do 'assesments' what are they actually assessing?

I can understand the private tutoring at a slightly older age, it happens here in Colchester as we have grammer schools and all the kids who want to pass the 11+ get coached. We may consider this with our kids as they get older as we cannot afford private schools so a grammer with amazing results maybe an option. What I don't understand is tutoring at such a young age. Boys natuarlly develop more slowly than girls, so at 3 and 4 often boys are showing no 'acacdemic' leaning. Some barely like to sit don and colour. Girls are much more likely to 'pass' at this age if it tests children on academic stuff like language and literacy. Does thia mean they only take girls??

So what are they looking for? an ability to communicate? to sit at a desk and 'work'? to throw a ball straight? How can you tutor children at this age to be cleverer than others. OK flashcards for babies and baby einstein videos, but surely this is something taht needs to be continual to have an effect, not once a week for 1/2 an hour.

hercules Thu 25-Mar-04 16:54:01

I agree with Crunchie. When I worked in a girls grammer some of the girls who had been tutored really struggled there as they had been trained for the exame but didnt have the natural ability and so were very unhappy there.
Imo it would be fairer on the child to see if they make it on their own ability but then I wouldnt put either kids through this anyway. I know it is very informal but if they didnt pass I wouldnt want them to be a "failure" at that age.
I also agree with Hulababy, brighter kids dont necessarily work well in state schools as it is usually not "cool" to work and achieve. They are against peer pressure.

Hulababy Thu 25-Mar-04 19:55:29

Crunchie - the school DD is down for do an 'assessment' day the year before they start - to get to know the child, and to check that they are 'ready' for school. They do not expect children to know any thing in particular - reading, writing or number work, etc. They also visit the child in their nursery too and chat to the nursery staff about the child.

SenoraPostrophe Thu 25-Mar-04 20:16:06

phew, I thought this might be a thread asking for advice on tutoring toddlers.

It's not right is it? I'm mildly uncomfortable about the fact that dd's nursery start teaching them stuff at 3 - it's all right for many kids but can put some off IMO.

And anyway, what are they doing assessing 3 and 4 year olds? Wonder how the failures feel.

hercules Thu 25-Mar-04 20:17:54

That's very different Hulababy to "testing" which I refered to. Why then would someone want to tutor for this? Or do some schools really look at stricter assessment?

Hulababy Thu 25-Mar-04 20:53:03

Not sure hercules. Certainly here they do not teat. However, from the other thread it would appear that some do - Janinlondon was talking about London prep schools which apparantly do

I can't imagine ever trying to tutor DD to 'pass' something at age 3.

Biw Tue 08-Dec-09 13:44:25

My daughter aged 3 and a half has her prep school assessments for in January. We live in South Kensington where competition is fierce. Call me a sucker but I really want to play the game and get her into one school in particular which is very very good. I'm going to play dirty.... Happy to pay for coaching. Does anyone actually know where to find such a coach???

bellissima Tue 08-Dec-09 14:00:28

No idea where you would get such a coach. When we lived in north London DD1 went to a good prep that was not selective before age 7 - I'm sure that there are others around. Just as well as we had recently moved back from a foreign posting and, what with going to a French speaking creche and having bouts of glue ear, she was significantly behind in English and there is no way she would have passed an assessment. My own (GDST) alma mater now apparently assesses for the primary section at rising five and yet throws a proportion of girls out in Year 6 - which only confirms my view that it's impossible to test accurately at nursery age. Yes you might spot a couple of obviously bright children - but you will also get a significant batch of trained robots.

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 08-Dec-09 14:09:04

There is a fascinating discussion of these sort of assessments at 3,4 or 5 in the US private school system and their lack of predictive validity in a book called Nurtureshock by Po Bronson and Ashley someone or other.

Basically, they are not very predictive.

Bellissima, does the school's name have four words in it?
Sounds familiar.

wheelsonthebus Tue 08-Dec-09 14:10:48

Biw - don't get lured down the path of tutoring at this age. any reputable agency would tell you it's too young. a stimulating home environment will prepare your child.

titchy Tue 08-Dec-09 14:32:36

I think you're about a year too late if the assessments are next month... If you leave it till they're 3 tbh they're too set in their own personality rather than the type of personality the school looks for.


dilemma456 Tue 08-Dec-09 14:48:28

Message withdrawn

Cortina Tue 08-Dec-09 14:58:42

I know of children who have been turned away from pre-prep after 'failing' an interview. One little girl I knew hid in Mummy's skirt and so failed apparently...

What's really going on if they do this? Are they checking that only PLUs apply or something? A snob element?

bellissima Tue 08-Dec-09 18:43:22

thegrammarpolice - yes!

And Cortina - maybe! You hear of some preps that interview and rate the parents (a friend of mine swore that if his son's prospective prep invited him to such a parental assessment he was going to go covered in woad and claim that he was king of the druids - alas it didn't!).

dilemma456 Tue 08-Dec-09 19:31:04

Message withdrawn

pagwatch Tue 08-Dec-09 19:37:17

Thats nonsense

Assessment at private schools are not about passing and failing
They are usually a play enviroment ( DDs was a princess party)wherethe staff get to observethe children and assess their abilities. That is not their academic prowess just whatever their criteria is - enquiring, chatty, whatever.

MY DDs school was over subscribed and ( being a private enterprise) they chose the kids they would most like to have.

It may not be great but if they have 50 apply and only 30 places they are going to choose.

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