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Should one tutor or not - am I being naive to think 'not'? (a bit long, sorry)

(18 Posts)
scampadoodle Mon 11-Jul-11 11:58:33

DS1 is just finishing Yr4. He is very bright (not being PFB: his maths & literacy grades are at Yr6 levels). He will obviously be capable of keeping up at an academic secondary school. So that's not the issue.

We live in a typical inner London borough, mix of rich & poor, state schools appalling in the main, access to 2 grammars, plus private schools. We live in the catchment of a state comp which until recently was bloody awful but has dragged itself up, is gaining a good reputation & is now, tentatively, 'in demand'. We wouldn't have considered it before but it's now a possible - only drawback being that DS1 is bone idle & we worry he wouldn't get pushed enough. The grammar schools are an hour's journey away & competition is fierce. There's an exam, obviously, but no interviews. The private schools have straightforward entrance exams (ie not 11-plus-y non-verbal reasoning, just maths & english), plus interviews. DS1 could do these easily & any teacher interviewing him would realise his potential (sorry, I'm really trying not to sound smug, just honest. He's a PITA to be honest because he never puts any bloody effort in).


I'm realising that his classmates' parents are booking tutors left, right & centre, & I don't know what to do. DS1 doesn't need tutoring in Maths & English, as in how to do it (although his handwriting is a bit dodgy) but probably needs some experience in non-verbal reasoning. I'm quite good at NVR, & spatial awareness - would it be enough just to buy some workbooks & go through them with him? I am loath to spend £100s on tutoring but am I being naive?

I'm not sure I want him to go to the grammar school anyway, simply because the journey is such a pain.

I'm worried I'll feel we've failed him when everyone else is tutored to the hilt & he isn't. With a very bright child, does it really make so much difference?

I don't want to get into a political argument about this, either way. In my mind it's an education issue.


scampadoodle Mon 11-Jul-11 12:17:00


Cortina Mon 11-Jul-11 12:27:36

If it was me and I could afford it I definitely would tutor if only for familiarisation. I'd find an excellent tutor with a great reputation (one with experience of the school you plan to send DS to) and would tell them exactly what you've told us. Firstly you need a clear plan, you say the Grammar is too far does this mean you would be looking for a tutor for the private school? Put it this way tutoring certainly won't do any harm and you can always book a finite amount of sessions if you don't want to spend hundreds. Doesn't sound like you'd need to from what you tell us.

The 11 plus forum may be able to help & advise too. It's possible you could help with workbooks if you have the time and think you wouldn't clash - I would imagine that it would make more sense to contact target school for past papers/advice in this area.

scampadoodle Mon 11-Jul-11 12:32:48

Thanks Cortina. The problem is that we're undecided as to which school would be best. We're really hoping the comp next door will be ok - local and free, what more could we ask for?! But DS1 is a lazy bugger & perhaps only private schools have the resources to push the brighter pupils rather than concentrate on the not-so-able...[discuss grin ]

A term's worth of group tutoring round here costs over £400 so god knows how much 1 to 1 is.

scampadoodle Mon 11-Jul-11 12:33:52

And when I say 'term's worth' I mean 1 session a week for 12 weeks.

AMumInScotland Mon 11-Jul-11 12:59:21

I reckon if you are going for either grammar or private, it would be worth him having at least a small amount of tutoring to cover "exam technique" for the various types of tests he's likely to get - just having startegies for how to deal with different types of questions can make a difference, and at his age he probably hasn't had any of this through his current school.

Additionally, have you visited the comp yet? You may find if there is a new head, he/she may be very keen to push children to reach their full potential, so they won't necessarily let him away with being bone idle just because of being a comp.

Cortina Mon 11-Jul-11 13:02:14

Sounds expensive? I'd do some digging and see how much one to one costs etc and get some local recommendations. I don't think he'd need a terms worth from what you've said but I am no expert (not reached this stage yet thankfully smile ).

Honestly I'd be more worried about any negative influence from the peer group at the comp especially if your son isn't self motivated (as you've said) rather than any lack of resources. This is from my own experience though and so shouldn't generalise.

Elibean Mon 11-Jul-11 13:22:47

If it was me, I'd go and talk to the Head at the Comp and have a good look around.

If I wanted my dc to go to the private school or Grammar after that, I'd get a tutor for a very short time - just a few sessions, as Cortina says, to familiarize.

scampadoodle Mon 11-Jul-11 13:24:27

A mum in scotland: yes, I went around last autumn but out of general curiosity IYSWIM as they'd just re-built it. The head is very ambitious; they have smart uniforms, houses, latin o-level etc. And they test the new intake while they're still in Yr6 so that they can stream 'set' them asap in September.

Cortina: the negative influence is exactly what I'm worried about. The Too Cool for School brigade. DS1 knows he's clever & thinks it's enough & I'm always having to tell him that lots of kids are just as clever & lots less so and they WORK, so he can't just sit on his laurels. (This, by the way, is when he's moaning about doing his homework, not all the time - I'm really not pushy!)

Ok, maybe a bit of exam-specific coaching in the Spring or Summer term next year then.


IndigoBell Mon 11-Jul-11 13:50:52

I think I'd be very tempted to go for the reformed comp. The HT is the most important thing in a school, and if you liked his approach.....

A grammar school with an hour commute each way is not going to make a happy child. When's he going to do all the vast amount of home he'll get? When will he have time for friends or other activities?

If he goes to the comp, and you feel he needs a top-up, you can always get a bit of tutoring in the GCSE years......

If the comp streams based on test results, then he'll be put in an 'able' stream - and he'll be expected to keep up with the other able kids.

AMumInScotland Wed 13-Jul-11 10:01:43

The new Head sounds like he'll make sure the bright ones are pushed (if nothing else, because it will push his school up in the league tables when they get good results) - and if they are in sets for a lot of subjects from the start then his "peer group" is likely to be the brighter ones anyway, which wil lhopefully mean that the "peer pressure" will be to achieve rather than to not bother.

castlesintheair Wed 13-Jul-11 10:13:24

I'd get a tutor if you decide to try for the grammar school only so he can practice doing the VR/NVR tests at speed and if it is anything like our 2 local grammars, you can only get the exact practice papers from a specific grammar school tutor. It doesn't sound to me like he needs a tutor for the 11+ exams if you go privately. I'd just get a few Bond Papers to practice under test conditions at home.

I'm in a quite similar position to you (DS also just finished Year 4) and am veering towards state schools (not grammar) now. More and more local parents are opting towards this too 1. because of the expense of private schools I presume and 2. because of the major hassle of getting in and consequently local comps are really improving and one at least is oversubscribed. Only downside being lack of 6th form. It's a huge dilemma which keeps me awake at night and I guess we'll only know if we've done the right thing once we come out the other side and even then I'll probably still wonder.

callow Wed 13-Jul-11 10:32:29

See if you can find a place that just does the tests.

In my area there are several tutors that run Saturday exam practice sessions starting 6-10 months before the exam date. One place offers it each week and another twice a month until 3 months before then weekly.

It is cheaper that a tutor as the there are lots of children. The exams take place in exam conditions and are usually returned marked during the week or the next week. One place would put every child's mark up on a board, the other would just give the top, bottom and average mark. This is good to see as you know where your child is in relation to others.

You do need to go through the returned papers and correct the mistakes with the child.

Philem Wed 13-Jul-11 11:31:28

Message deleted by Mumsnet.

VivaLeBeaver Wed 13-Jul-11 11:42:39

If he's that bright and you think you can motivate him enough to do workbooks and that he will listen to you if he needs any help then I think getting the workbooks will be fine.

I've just started dd with a tutor as she refuseds to listen to me when I try and help her when she's stuck. The vr and nvr stuff is different to anything they do at school so definitely need some practise at it.

Hullygully Wed 13-Jul-11 11:44:51

I had my dd assessed by a very good tutor to see if tutoring would help, and he said it was unnecessary for her and suggested a couple of books she could go through.

So if you get a good tutor, they will tell you whether or not they are needed!

swash Wed 13-Jul-11 14:32:59

I think the workbooks will be fine if you can go through things that he gets wrong and help him to understand them. That's what we did with dss. His mum booked him a tutor for a while but I think what we did was far more worthwhile.

feckwit Wed 13-Jul-11 14:39:21

I did not tutor my first two and will not tutor the others either. I totally believe that the right child for the grammar school environment will get in regardless of tutoring. My eldest didn't - she just missed out - and I have always felt the local secondary was right for her. She is one of their top students but would have been near the bottom had she passed into the grammar, and I think that is very demoralising.

My son will be starting grammar in September. He's not had any tutoring but was obviously the right child for the school. I had parents horrified when they heard I wasn't tutoring him - saying that he was so bright I was letting him down etc. I said I did not want to set him up for an environment he wasn't able to cope with and the right child would pass which he did.

I think no3 might get in, no4 I doubt.

The only thing I would do is buy a NVR paper and VR paper so they can see the sort of questions that might be asked. Mind I did that and my son came out and said the paper was nothing like what I showed him anyway lol!

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