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Target to get into grammar - would you go private from 7 or stick with mediocre (at best) state and tutor?

(69 Posts)
carolemiddleclasston Sun 01-May-11 18:14:21

Ds is at a very underwhelming primary where the education is disappointing, although he is very happy (other than the occasional grips about the sums being too easy etc etc). We think we'd like him to go to the local grammar at 11 but it is uber-competitive to get into. There are usually 12 applicants for every place and it is the first choice school for many of them even if they apply to other schools to.

He is a bright boy, as much as I can tell at the moment. His current school doesn't teach him much that's new in numeracy and literacy (plenty of good topic stuff though).

If we leave him where he is and tutor (a lot presumably given school is so mediocre) will that be enough? And will it mean he has to spend most afternoons after school doing extra work?

Or should we move him to a very good prep which prepares for the 11+, and will cater for him more in primary/ set good foundations (it's not a hothouse but is a step up from where he is now in terms of pace) but is further away and means he will have to move school twice - at 7 and 11?

carolemiddleclasston Sun 01-May-11 18:15:18

Gripes not grips.

Also fees aren't an issue so no financial considerations to think about.

Doobydoo Sun 01-May-11 18:33:47

It is tricky.Ds1 spent 2 terms in year 5 when we moved back to UK...He hated it.He had a few practice papers and passed 11+ then we took him out and home edded him until we found a lovely primary where he spent another 2 terms before secondary.If your son likes puzzles and will sit and go through practice papers with you and then on his own maybe you don't need to go the private route so he moves twice?
However 2 moves in the short term could be worth it when looking at the bigger picture and the fact that he will be at secondary school for a good few years!

GiddyPickle Sun 01-May-11 18:34:31

I wouldn't disrupt him for a perceived better chance at the 11+
I would tutor at home and fill in any gaps after getting him assessed by an 11+ tutor.

Remember the 11+ is just a one day snap shot of a child's ability. Even the best prepared and most highly educated child can have an off day so all that disruption could be for nothing if there's a hiccup at the end.

I also think it's not worth the disruption when the odds are so low. Given there are 12 applicants per place, I am guessing you are talking about one of the super-selectives that have 1500 - 2000 applicants every year.

We know children this year who failed to get a place at such Grammar schools even though they did actually pass the 11+ (about 500 children passed the 11+ but there are less than 150 places to go round).
These children are brilliant - truly exceptional. At least one of them is assessed as g&t in maths and works three years ahead of his class and one of the girls is similarly gifted in literacy and has been doing extension work at school for years as she is so far ahead of the others. Yet neither got a place in the grammar school. And that’s not our biased opinion or the parent’s biased opinion on their child failing to get a place – the entire school was gobsmacked that “not even XXXX or XXXX in year 6 got a place” because these children really stand out as they are so clever.
We also know other very clever children who didn't even come close to the pass mark.
The chances of even a very gifted and highly tutored child getting a place aren't great. Most children in middle groups don’t even bother sitting it so you aren't just up against 1500 - 2000 other children but they are all top group children in the main. By all means prepare for the tests and practice at home but I personally wouldn't change your whole life because of these tests when the figures are so ludicrous (the ludicrous situation of hundreds of super clever children not getting in is a whole other debate I guess). I would however consider the move if it helped with a good plan B. A good plan B school is very important if your plan A is a grammar school.

Doobydoo Sun 01-May-11 18:34:53

Also ds1's school did no tutoring whatsoever.Plenty of people paid for private tuition though.

GiddyPickle Sun 01-May-11 18:37:07

Sorry to sound so negative (just re-read my post). My experience is purely as a parent with friends who have Year 5 and Year 6 children and the pure shock that has been felt when really clever children are passing the 11+ but not getting a place or not passing the 11+ at all.

It may be that your area is different. The grammars I am talking about have no catchment areas so people from miles away apply. If your has a catchment area and you live inside it, you may find that competition isn't so ridiculously cut-throat and that may better your chances and influence your decision.

FreudianSlipOnACrown Sun 01-May-11 18:38:06

Leave him where he is if he's happy.

I went to a superselective and it was painfully obvious who had needed lots of tutoring to pass the entrance test - they were the ones who struggled.

Doobydoo Sun 01-May-11 18:40:12

I don't think you sounded negative Giddy[just honest]
Agree re area Op is in as it does depend.
Also agree that heavily tutored may mean they struggle if they get a place.But then again,not sure the test is a true mark of intelligence...rather training and timing!

Bonsoir Sun 01-May-11 18:40:59

If you are very underwhelmed with your DS' current school and have no financial constraints on private education, that alone is good enough reason to move him to a better school ASAP.

Doobydoo Sun 01-May-11 18:41:23

Where are you OP?
The 11+forum has all the areas and a discussion board if you want to take a peek at itsmile

carolemiddleclasston Sun 01-May-11 20:07:32

Bonsoir - the downside is the longer journey - maybe 25 mins each way instead of 5 mins. I think otherwise we'd just move him. The other school is lovely.

Dooby, I can see your points.

Generally, I agree that a child who is going to struggle in a grammar shouldn't be tutored to get through. The problem is it isn't a level playing field round here (N London) so you won't get in at all if you don't tutor (from state at least - and no doubt some at the preps do too). Ds seems to be grammar material but this is a super-selective one and he's only year 1 so I don't know. He is way beyond the top groups in some areas, not in writing. But he is only year 1 as I say.
For a super-selective, what sort of levels would dcs be working at in say early year 6 - a couple of years ahead or more? This will give me an idea of the scale of the task.

I do appreciate it does all come down to performance on the day too. We would try for a few different selective schools not just this super-selective one so would have fall back options. I imagine ds wouldn't struggle to get into at least the middle of the road ones.

Another consideration though is that going by the current teaching, I think he might well get bored later on in the school when learning is less practical and fun.

Fundamentally I suppose it's a stick with where he's happy but doesn't progress as well and might struggle to get into the nice grammar or switch to the nice prep but have a longer journey and the potential tears of moving school (although I think one of his two best friends will move anyway).

eggsit Sun 01-May-11 20:36:15

7 is very early to start mapping out your child's secondary education. As a Y2 teacher, I am often surprised by who passes the 11+ (and who doesn't).

I would ask you to ponder the expectations you are relaying to your ds at such a young age.

Bonsoir Sun 01-May-11 20:43:02

I don't think 7 is at all early to be mapping out secondary education - if you want to get into any sort of selective secondary school (grammar or private) it will require a strategy, and you need to work out that strategy to ensure that your child will have covered the ground necessary to at least have a chance of getting a place at one of the schools you are aiming for.

A 25 minute journey isn't too bad - would you be doing that by car?

carolemiddleclasston Sun 01-May-11 20:49:55

Eggsit - ds doesn't know anything about all this. I would never talk about the grammar school idea to him or make him feel he is expected to go there. I wouldn't be mapping his secondary education out if I didn't live in the kind of area where there is a bunfight for the best schools and I feel we have to bear this in mind for the junior school phase.

Bonsoir - yes by car. It might end up 30 mins one way. It's about 12 miles I think. Ds could read and we could chat but it would be a drag for me there and back twice a day. Willing to do it if it's better for ds.
But there is an argument that journey time saved each day of say 40 mins would equate to the amount of extra work ds would need to do to make up for being at the duff primary? IF I could persuade him to sit down and work for that time.

Bonsoir Sun 01-May-11 20:52:31

Could you share the journey with another parent? I used to have that length of journey to prep school and my mother used to share with other mothers in the morning. My sister and I got a public bus back home in the evening.

carolemiddleclasston Sun 01-May-11 20:56:01

Good point Bonsoir - provided there are other families in his class round here, which I think there are some, yes that'd be an option.

It would still be a bit of a pain for playdates, parties, school events etc.

So tricky. He is so happy and settled where he is but the education he is getting is such a disappointment and isn't catering to what he can do at all. I don't think he has learned much that's new in numeracy and reading at school this year.

Bonsoir Sun 01-May-11 20:59:46

I would be terribly reluctant to leave a child in a school that really isn't teaching him/her much. Childhood goes startlingly fast, and when they are 13/14/15 you will regret the wasted windows of opportunity of their primary years <voice of experience>

severalyearsdowntheline Sun 01-May-11 21:01:03

If you are talking about North London Grammars, I'm assuming QE Boys / Latymer kind of places then I'd say that you simply cannot count on even a brilliant child getting a place and you'll need to have a firm back up in place. If his state school really is mediocre I think that you might do well moving him either to a state school which has a history of children moving into selective secondaries or a private school and bear in mind that the private school parents will also be tutoring, even in the schools with a reputation for being extremely aggressive.

We're just starting to make waves into looking at private secondaries and are going to start tutoring at xmas of yr4 and I have been speaking to recommended tutors to find out when they like to start assessing. When asked, I told a tutor last week that DS was currently 4a / 4b half way through year 3 which I thought was pretty good but she declared it slightly above average. That's what we're up against in N London.

kattyo Sun 01-May-11 21:01:42

I was pulled out of a state primary at ten, crammed for a term for extremely selective private schools, passed one (who took me on 'potential' - there is only so much you can learn in a term) and then put back in the state school till the new school started. It wasn't particularly disruptive. But then, I didn't have many friends.

However, I did find the super selective school bewildering. I didn't have any of the habits the other kids had (they had all come from prep/private primaries). I had never done homework, hadn't been taught proper maths (couldn't add or subtract! We used counters!), had no idea of discipline whatsoever (this was the seventies, all open plan etc).

Based on this, if I thought my child was bright enough to merit trying for a grammar school or a good private school - and I wasn't sure that the primary school was up to scratch - I'd probably change schools at 7 or 8 to give them a chance, and teach them some good habits. But of course this is based entirely on my own experience. I'm sure lots of state primary schools now are more organised than my own.

Mangomargarita Sun 01-May-11 21:12:13

I would stick to your state primary and go with the tutoring if your aim is the 11+.
Prep schools will have a lot more homework and in addition to doing this you will also have to do your own 11+ preparation at home.
I think it's somewhat of a misconception that a prep school prepares for 11+, this is certainly not the case for entry into super-selective grammars in London. A prep school might have smaller classes and better facilities, but does not necessarily translate into sufficient 11+ preparation and this is done largely at home(or tutors) imho.

carolemiddleclasston Sun 01-May-11 21:28:53

This particular school definitely prepares for the 11+ - it's not a 13+ school and their core competence is getting kids into good senior schools. But yes there would probably be a lot more homework which might cancel out the tutoring effect.

How far ahead do people normally start tutoring (again bear in mind this is for uber-competitive grammar - albeit funnily enough it's not at all hothousey when there - not just any old grammar?)

Mangomargarita Sun 01-May-11 22:35:36

carolemiddleclasston - what I meant when I say they don't prepare you, is that because it is so competitive these days, you cannot leave it just to the school. Before a bright child going to a prep school would be able to get into a grammar(and that might still be the case for some areas).
However, in London if you want say Tiffin or QE boys then being bright and going to a prep school will probably not be enough. Children in prep schools are still going to tutors, as 11+ preparation is very specific - the schools will never tell prospective parents this and will take all the credit for the results.
The prep school might get you to a level where you get into most independent schools you apply for, but to get into a London grammar(esp. one that is non-area specific) then the parent will have to invest time/effort in helping their child.

carolemiddleclasston Sun 01-May-11 22:40:42

OK that makes sense. But surely you have far more chance from the prep which is working at a higher level in the classroom?

GiddyPickle Sun 01-May-11 22:46:00

The problem a lot of parents of bright children face is getting the children to a stage where they are equal in English AND maths. Our friend whose son didn't get in despite passing the 11+ is streets ahead in maths. He has always been a complete maths genius been but his English is "only" about a year or 18 months above average for his age so, although he passed the 11+ tests, his English score dragged him down and he didn't get one of the places (he is on the waiting list but not many are getting in from waiting lists so far this year)

Generally it is advised here (London) that children do not sit the test unless they are at least 2 years ahead in both subjects. A SATS level 5 in all subject areas is considered the bare minimum. Obvioulsy tutoring can help bridge any gaps but it is a common problem that many children excel far more in one area than another and, for the Grammar School tests, this is a disadvantage. It is far better to be 2.5 years ahead in everything than a genuine maths genius with a decent English score in terms of gaining a place.

Tutoring starts for some here in Year 3 and by Year 4 most of the parents who are seriously considering the 11+ route are formally tutoring once a week plus completing homework and vocab lists set by the tutor at home. Some parents only do home tutoring and they too seem to start somewhere in Year 4.

Mangomargarita Sun 01-May-11 22:51:26

They might be working at a slightly higher level, but in my opinion certainly not a year ahead in English and Maths, like a lot of preps state.
A prep school will also go into more depth in subjects like science, history, geography, which is not tested in the 11+ , so that doesn't help and just adds to the burden.
A prep school is maybe good at getting children/parents into the mindset of being tested and this maybe drives parents to get their children to do more work.
I personally think a child going to a state school and going to a good tutor has a better chance than a child going to prep and no tutor.

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