Prep school parents - did you tutor?(65 Posts)
So dd is in year 5 at a non-selective prep. She is top sets for everything and I had been quite relaxed re 11+ as the school has said repeatedly they do enough at school and NOT to tutor. DD came home last week and said that her class teacher asked for a show of hands re whether anyone was tutored and over half the class raised their hands. Is this usual? I can't really ask the mums at the school but it is making me a bit more nervous re 11+. I totally understand that state school parents would tutor but is tutoring so widespread among prep school kids too? I feel like dd gets enough homework and she has loads on after school with sport/clubs so I don't really want to add tutoring on top, plus I thought that's what prep schools were for but now wondering if she will make the cut when it comes to Indie exams if the competition is so ultra-prepped!!
I would be quite annoyed by this teacher TBH, it's like they want you to feel nervous about not tutoring and starting doing it. Our prep is taking tremendous credit for senior schools offers to children that were tutored to the brink. And I suspect the same is true for very successful secondary schools, whose GCSEs results are also down to extra tuition. I am not saying the schools are not good, but they secretly welcome tutoring as this will boost their results. I think I read somewhere that 50% of children in London private schools get extra tuition.
Agree! What is worse is that this was 50% plus of the top set at dd's school - not those struggling. Although I think the teacher was just trying to find out who had been tutored because some of the kids were clearly ahead and doing stuff that hadn't yet been covered in class. I agree that a lot of these preps are turning a blind eye because it gets them the results.
I can understand parental anxiety. But feel this crazy tutoring arms race is putting success out of the reach of children of those on average incomes. We are currently looking at the double commodification of education - once via the private sector, then again, with the tutoring frenzy on top of this.
Unis are now demanding 10 A* at GCSE for the most competitive courses, rejecting applicants with 4 As or higher at A level because the competition is so intense. If children were allowed to perform unfettered by all this extra prodding and pushing, tutored to ridiculous levels to masque poor performance in weaker subjects, everyone would be better off.
we didn't tutor (non-selective prep) and my child did extremely well in entrance exams. They are very bright and work hard and I thought the school was doing enough preparation without me adding to it.
At least half, probably more, of the year group was tutored however, although I don't think it made much difference to the end results. With a couple of exceptions there were very few surprises - the more academic children got offers and scholarships from the more academic schools and the not so academic got offers from other schools.
There was a huge amount of parental angst which was hard to avoid getting swept up into but it's well worth resisting for both parents and child!
I have heard of this show-of-hands before, and the parent who recounted her DC's account of it said that all but one pupil raised their hand.
Yes, tutoring is rife in the private sector.
Whether that is something that should bother you depends on how competitive is selection for secondary schools in your area. And whether you think you'll loose your nerve as exams actually approach.
The preps don't 'turn a blind eye' as such. They don't really enquire that much about pupils after-school activities.
Non selective prep - I would say 90-100% were tutored
Those that weren't either had extra 1:1 tuition at school or parents who did the tutoring themselves
Unis are now demanding 10 A at GCSE for the most competitive courses, rejecting applicants with 4 As or higher at A level because the competition is so intense.*
This is not true. One of my DC has just received an offer from an Oxbridge college in a very popular subject. She did not get 10 A* at GCSE, and she will not get 4 As or higher at A level, as she is doing only 3 A levels.
Her offer is not a contextual offer, either.
Please don't try to put people off applying to the best universities.
If you hold your nerves and don't tutor, it is possible that your DD, if she is bright and the school know what they are doing, will get a waiting list offer, and get in after the tutored DC will have rejected their 4-5 unwanted offers. Not the faint hearted. But then you can come back and boast that your DD got in without tutoring LOL
I would say at least half of the children in year 6 were tutored in our prep either by a parent or by a tutor. I helped by DC with the preparation. it depends which secondary you aim for, if it is a highly selective then I would tutor or DIY, if not than I would rely on school.
My view is that it is happening a lot. My Dd was at a fairly small, non-selective prep. It may be the same as some other people on here. She definitely told me that after the exams they were asked to put their hands up in her maths group if they had had tutoring and there were only two of them who hadn't, her and one other (whose father was a maths teacher!) They were supposed to have their eyes closed when they did this but DD looked (that's my girl!) She relayed this to me with some indignation, as though she had been short changed by not having a tutor!
Its a bit chicken and egg-y. I didn't think DD needed additional tutoring; she seemed to be getting results that were pretty much consistent with every report she had had and didn't have any particularly obvious weaknesses or blind spots. My view was that tutoring in those circumstances would have been bonkers. As it was, she got in to all of the schools applied for, and it was a pretty top-end selection, so we were right that tutoring really wouldn't have added much into the mix. I do know that its pretty easy for me to take the moral high ground when you have a dc who is performing well - not sure what I would have done if I felt panicked that she was borderline on a few things.
But there were some children who I know were tutored very intensively, including one who was specifically tutored to get into a school which the prep school did not recommend (the parents were quite open about it). It worked.
I felt the prep school were annoyingly ambivalent about it, although I'm not really sure what they can do. I know they feel it puts additional stress on the child, and that there is a risk of muddling them when the tutor uses different methods or stresses other things. We were given mild warnings that it was not a good idea in their view. But for the preps the leavers destinations table is their selling point, so I think they really don't care that much how the results are achieved and are happy to benefit from it, while not being seen to support it. Having said that I did hear from a friend who still has dc at DD's old school that the head recently sent round a very snarky letter telling parents to cease and desist, so maybe they are taking it seriously. But for sure it is very prevalent.
HardcoreLadyType: I'm afraid this is true at some colleges for the most competitive courses.
Merton College has provided feedback on its medical applicants this year. The most offers went to 10A** stars and above. Ten A stars was average. There were comparatively fewer successful candidates with 8 A stars. I wish I were wrong and someone would come and tell me I've misinterpreted the stats. I found this revelation to be fairly shocking. Pupils need to be told the odds by schools much earlier in the game. It's not just enough to have brilliant A levels/outside interests anymore!
DS2 was at a non selective boarding prep (he's now 18 so a while ago) which at the time a good track record of getting its pupils into big name schools although not so much now. He was in the "top set". I used to listen to a couple of mums who liked to moan, talking about all the tutoring that was going on for CE and just thought it was idle slightly malicious gossip. I trusted the school. 6 months before my DS sat his schools entrance exam I discovered, by chance, that his Latin teacher barely knew any more Latin than I did appalled and worried I spoke to other parents in DS's year only to discover that most has been tutoring for key subjects since the beginning of yr 7 and assumed as my DS was doing well (according to school exams) and we were aiming for a super selective I was doing the same! We spoke to the head he agreed Latin teaching wasnt great but he was hoping it would be "ok", French and Math were also pretty poor, he admitted they couldn't cover the whole math curriculum before he sat the exam in May but he would know 85%. We didn't feel that confident, so we also started tutoring (for Latin) we felt we had no choice!
Writing like this about it years later I'm still
bitter and twisted quite cross about it, we and all the other parents were paying a significant amount in fees, and then had to pay a tutor on top of that so we all were paying twice. I stupidly had trusted the school that was particularly painful and I wondered in what other areas I was wrong. I sent a strong email to the head expressing my views and the relationship between the school and myself never recovered, I couldn't wait to get him out of the place. He was a boarding school 200 miles away so for his last 6 months exeats and holidays were filled up with Latin tutoring and the pair of us learning Latin and French vocabulary (apparently the school didn't have time to do this) trying to catch up on 3 years of basically poor quality teaching. Of course it paid off he did extraordinarily well in Latin no thanks to the school and we have made a good friend in an amazing Latin tutor, so I guess every cloud etc.
This is all a bit depressing and I feel like I've been pretty naive assuming it was a rare occurrence. We are in S London so it's pretty competitive around here and it seems that despite the Indies and grammars claiming they can weed out the over tutored I don't honestly think that's always the case.
At this stage I don't want to employ a tutor for dd on top of the school homework, but I think it is worth doing some practice at home to work on speed as she has had trouble finishing exams in time. I just have to hope it's enough and if not then frankly I think she will be better off at a less selective school than being in an environment where she's feeling the pressure from the rest of the cohort. Re what hardcoreladytype said, yes that makes a lot of sense. I was in the top 3 at my (admittedly non-academic state schools) and left with 4 'A' levels at ABCC. This was considered pretty impressive at my school back in the day (it was a loooong time ago) and I remember working bloody hard for it. I've watched year on year grade rises and it makes sense that all our kids are just working way harder than we were.
I am actually just going to take a deep breath and trust in dd. I believe she is bright enough for the superselectives and wants to do well, but she's a gentle soul, so perhaps those schools wouldn't be right for her anyway.
I think tutoring is fairly ubiquitous, particularly for the super-selective schools in North, Central and South London. Have a look at the eleven plus forum for your area and you'll see the level some of the children are at. Personally, I don't think it's enough to have a bright child - there's too much competition. For 11+ entry it's a good idea to work on exam technique and speed. On top of that, so many children offer great extra curricular as well ie; county sports/music etc.
Hopefully your school will advise which senior schools to sit for (after all, that is what you are paying for). They will know which children got into which schools with the same academic profile as your child.
My children went from a state primary to prep and then selective secondary private schools from year six. We never tutored at all.
No we didn't get any outside help or do any preparation; we left that to the prep school. Though of course we ensured any homework was done and helped with it if asked by DC.
Both DC were offered places at highly selective schools (DS also won a scholarship).
Similarly, when DD wanted to transfer at sixth form , we left that process to her secondary school and they did everything necessary (which is above and beyond considering they wanted her to stay in their sixth form).
My DC are now year 7. Both DCs very active outside school so had a wide range of friends from state and prep schools and we know the parents very well. I dont knowca single child who sat the local entrance exams that wasn't tutored.
I wish you luck OP. We did tutor quite a bit for the indies 11+, and it was more for calming my own nerves than anything else, in West London parents are going crazy, and reading forums I decided I was not leaving it to chance. It paid off but then I was worried I was putting too much pressure on DS and that maybe he would suffer in his superselective school, but no, he is in the middle of the bunch for most subjects and top for a few. And guess what? We have decided to start tutoring in maths. He is in Y8 now and will need a A* in maths as he wants to go to uni in a scientific subject. And most of all he cannot cope with being average in maths, he was always top of the class and will not comprehend that being average in his school is very respectable indeed. He has a maths assessment tomorrow that he revised with his tutor who has given him some practice questions on the subjects covered, we are expecting a very high mark indeed. Let's see.
Threeschools, thank you very much for beeing so open about your experience
We have just done the 11+ and did not tutor (SWLondon). I trusted the school, they were preparing them very well and my DD was working very hard. The last thing she needed was more work with a tutor, I think she would have totally turned off work, it would have been too much. She is a bright girl and I hope she gets to the right school for her, if not she will end up at the school that is the right level for her. I would hate her to struggle to keep up and end up disillusioned and miserable questioning her abilities.
So I guess in a couple of weeks We will find out if we have done the right thing. She has remained calm, relaxed and unstressed through the whole thing and that can only be a good thing.
Not having to tutor is what you pay a prep school for. It makes me question the sanity of OP's fellow parents.
We did not tutor. DD got into a top indie and is doing very well. Makes me wonder if the tutored DCs get offers to schools that the will struggle at or get eliminated at interview from over tutoring.
Thanks all for the feedback, especially Threeschools, thank you for your honesty. The system is just bleurgh and I feel for parents having to make this decision. At the moment I just feel it will do more harm than good for dd, although I will be paying more attention to how she's doing and going over some past papers with her at least. I actually get why parents end up doing the extra tutoring as I'm feeling the panic too. Ultimately only time will tell what the right decision is. horsemadmom re the schools weeding out the over tutored at interview, I don't think they are half as successful at this as they would like to be, I know 2dc's who went to superselectives from dd's prep who were from uber pushy families whose kids were tutored to the hilt.
Thank you Op as I thought I might have been a bit blunt and stressing you out. you still have time though, and there are plenty of resources online or mock 11+ exams that will tell you any weaknesses you could concentrate on near the time. But plenty of practice, particularly for timed exams in VR and NVR are a must in my opinion, as schools don't do a lot of those. And make sure you download the sample papers for the schools you have in mind and your DD is comfortable with the level required.
Thanks Threeschools that's very useful info. DD's prep does very little VR and NVR and I will definitely make the effort to familiarise her with these exams and see how she goes with timed tests etc. Thanks again for your honest feedback - I have only met two mum's at dd's prep who have told me they have a tutor yet based on the show of hands in her class there must be many more - so it's good to hear from someone who is forthright about it.
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