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Does your dc do much practice for the 11+?

(17 Posts)
tomatoesarered Wed 13-May-15 13:16:48

My ds has a tutor for 1 hour a week. The tutor says he is doing well and just keep reading lots of books . Currently he has no extra work set so that is all he does. I am slightly worried as friends whose dcs have other tutors seem to get lots of homework each week. Should my ds be doing more to prepare?

Millymollymama Wed 13-May-15 16:01:43

What 11 plus are you tutoring for? Bucks, Kent, super selective? I think it makes a difference regarding how close the test is to the national curriculum or whether he has to do VR and non VR. I would ask the tutor what the exams are, exactly, and work out from that what he needs to do. If they include VR, and he is not doing any, then there is a problem. It sounds like he is working on vocabulary but what is he doing in the lessons? One would assume he needed to practice and then get used to completing papers with time constraints.

I have known people have tutors around here for our 11 plus whose children end up being way off the pass mark after two years of tutoring. The tutor said they were doing well! I would ask how well!!! I was amazed these children even had tutors because they didn't appear very bright to me. Just average, decent kids, but not grammar school bright.

sunnydayinmay Wed 13-May-15 16:50:20

It depends - on what area you are in, and how your dc is getting on.

We are in an area with part selectives, so no actual pass mark. I knew children doing several hours per week, and holiday classes, who did not fet a place.

Others who did no more than 30 mins per week in total who did extremely well.

Millymollymama Wed 13-May-15 19:35:04

The exams are designed to select the brightest. Not the ones who have to work endlessly at the same thing but make little progress! Some pass with no tutoring at all!

Hoppinggreen Wed 13-May-15 20:59:50

Ooh, controversial one !
My Dd has 1 hour once a week and about half an hour at home.
I have a good friend who teaches at our local Grammar and invigilates the exam, she has also got 2 children at the school and I am happy to take her advice on it. She tells me that there are a number of children in the exam each year who have had no preparation at all and they sit there not knowing what to do, maybe some do pass with no tutoring or at least practising papers but I imagine it's rare.

MMmomKK Wed 13-May-15 22:38:47

Here in SW London the 11+ are far from just selecting the brightest. Prep school kids practice tests non stop in Y5 - I'd guess by some point in the year they do at least some sort one practice test a week. Some of this at school, some at home.

Maybe you are in an area where that is not necessary, but if I were paying for a tutor, I'd love to see some evidence of progress. And having no set homework would worry me.

Millymollymama Wed 13-May-15 23:35:46

We have county wide 11 plus and there are parents who cannot afford tutors. It is less selective here than super selectives elsewhere and the test is the same for all and taken in the primary schools. That is why I said it depends on the area and the schools.

I do think it is best to prepare for the likely content of the papers and the prep schools do this, of course, but the state schools are not allowed to. They do have practice papers which every child completes so no-one has no idea what is expected. Around here it is also "opt out" so nearly every child sits the exams which means some very below average children take it because their parents want them to be like everyone else. I fail to understand what anyone actually gets out of that! (Apart from failure). I don't understand why you would opt your child into an 11 + exam at a school, eg where Hopping's friend works, and then not prepare for it. That makes no sense at all.

I do know quite a few children who have gone to the grammars without tuition. Some because their parents knew they were extra bright and some because of money. The exam here was totally VR, (but no longer) which made that a difficult ask. I think it is unfair that all children do not have equal access to tutoring, but no-one actually cares about fairness! The grammar schools here have incredibly low numbers of FSM children. I also know of children that should have gone to grammar schools but did not because their parents could not afford coaching and no allowance is made for this when it comes to appeal. Lots of extra coaching to scrape through guarantees you are bottom of the grammar school intake though but children do get into them here without achieving level 5 all round.

Hoppinggreen Thu 14-May-15 14:24:42

I think milly that some people take the view that if you are bright enough you will pass and if you need tutoring the you will struggle with the school work. Going forward should you get a place . I don't think it's so black and white - my year 5 DD is level 5/6 now but she is getting tuition to help with her confidence and to familiarise her with the exam. I wouldn't dream of sending her in cold. At the end of the day it's one exam on one day so even a total genius ( which DD isn't) may not do well enough to get a place and as far as we are concerned there is no pressure on her to either. However, if when she turns over that paper it's vaguely familiar then it will help her achieve what she is capable of.
According to my friend there are even cases of children never having seen a multiple choice paper going into the exam!!
As for making it fairer on children from lower income families I really don't know how it's possible, we pay around £100 per month for tuition so not a huge amount but out of reach for many I'm afraid.

nornironrock Sat 16-May-15 08:54:16

I did the 11+ in Belfast (a long time ago). I'm not sure out of school tutors existed then! But, my mother had me working after school every day, and in the couple of terms before, I remember doing practice papers almost every night. I sailed through... And, more importantly, I wish my kids had the same to look forward to.

I'm assuming the format of the tests is broadly similar now as it was then???

The boost I got from that period has stayed with me all my life. The ability to reason and to undertake complex (for 11yo) calculations in ones head should not be underestimated. My advice would be to explain that the next (x) months are going to be tough, support your son (as you clearly already do) and practice - lots!!
Good luck to your son.

Millymollymama Sat 16-May-15 22:08:53

I can see it is perfectly possible to go into an exam in a selective school without seeing the exam format beforehand. My DD did just that for her selective independent. However for the verbal reasoning county wide test she did some practice at home and a short course (1 week) for time management and exam strategies. My DD never had to do complex calculations in her head for any exam and neither did I when I passed for grammar school either. The tests vary from area to area and school to school. My LA tests are now National curriculum based and fewer children are passing! Strange one that! I doubt I sailed through but no-one was given the marks, so no-one knew who sailed and who was a tug boat. For about 15 years now my LA has given the mark to parents and DD did indeed, sail through!

The only way to help poorer families, in an 11 plus LA, is to offer tutoring in the primary schools for all that want it in the same way the independent schools do it, but for free! I agree it is far more difficult when children are sitting tests in numerous schools and poorer parents just have to rely on quality teaching in the primary schools. My DD only did tests for 1 independent school so she went in being secure level 5 in maths, science and English. No level 6 in our day. We hoped for the best!

IvyBean Sun 17-May-15 06:24:52

Hmm my G&T/level 6 sitting DC had tutoring. There was no way frankly they couldn't have- they hadn't covered half the maths ( unlike the preps), had never done essay writing( unlike the preps), had never done multi choice comps(unlike the preps), had never had to time manage under pressure and don't get me started on VR.

Then you need to throw in the differences in teaching during year 5( refer to the thread I started re my dc's year 5 homework complete with errors) and school quality. To be honest tutoring at primary and weighting for primary school quality( like there is for age) would be the fairest but I doubt niether will or could ever happen.

Essexmum69 Sun 17-May-15 09:26:46

I have 2 at superselectives, DS didn't start any prep til 6 weeks before as it took the open evening to win him round that he wanted to go there. We did 15-30 mins 4 or 5 days a week for those 6 weeks to teach VR technique and cover the year 6 maths that he hadnt got to yet. He did 2 past papers as that was all that was available on the website. DD we started earlier, Jan before, because I knew her maths was weaker, but I would say max of 1 hour a week with me, mostly doing the year 5/6 maths syllabus and some VR, English was her strength so I left that.
IMO many children are tutored for several hours a week because the tutors say that they have to be and parents are not prepared to take the risk. Many children who passed after masses of tutoring probably would have passed with much less but the playground pressure is there to do more. Yes, children need to be prepared, it would be cruel to send them into any exam with no idea of the format or how to fill the forms in, but years of intense tutoring is not required for a bright child.
OP I have never used a tutor, but I think you need to decide if you have confidence in their opinion. Have you tried a sample paper with your DC yourself?Do you know where his strengths/weakneses lie and does the work he is doing with the tutor seem to be targetting his weak areas? My experience with immediate friends/primary school classmates is that none of the privately tutored children in either of my DCs year group passed, despite several being told they would.sad

Charis1 Sun 17-May-15 09:30:38

All children sitting the 11+ need to be made familiar with the exam format, but parents can do this better than tutors, in my opinion.

canny1234 Sun 17-May-15 09:42:24

My dd had maybe 4 tutorial sessions in mainly verbal reasoning and Maths.I also did some work with her over 4 weeks - maybe 10-20 minutes every evening .I had to bribe and induce her to do this though as she was 't used to homework every night.The books of 10/ minutes tests are very useful to do at home and relatively painless .She was scoring in the high 90% just before the exam was due but she is a bright child who has just done level 6's.

nornironrock Sun 17-May-15 09:47:36

I would agree, that practice on the format is a very worthwhile form of training for this.

Millymollymama, it strikes me a backward step if kids are no longer required to work things out mentally, what a shame. Also, I don't think that poorer families, or any other, are necessarily helped by throwing money at them. When I took mine, my (single) mother helped me. We lived at the time on a council estate and were by any definition poor. Ultimately, the support of parents (and one is enough) is what is needed.

voddiekeepsmesane Sun 17-May-15 21:53:51

My personal experience is that as long as the parents are read up about what is required and are motivated they can do just as well if not better in some cases than a tutor. A tutor is not always need for a pass.

AnonyMusty Mon 18-May-15 07:21:03

I'd agree that parents can support children themselves without the need for a tutor. However, some children don't respond well to parental input and their hidden anxiety comes out as anger and resistance. For this reason, and so that parents feel reassured that they're on the right tracks in terms of preparation (what to do, how often, etc.), a tutor can be more than handy.

As for preparation, I'd expect a good tutor to be working with your child on something you'd found to be tricky for him/ her (preferably while doing a practice paper/ exercise that they'd set for him/ her to do at home); to teach this concept (one that you may already have tried and failed to get across to your DC) and set some further examples of this and related/ unrelated concepts.

The tutor should be guiding you as to which practice papers, exercises or tests to be doing each week. It's important that your DC is used to the types of questions and format of the tests they'll be sitting.

You may also like to sign up for Mock Exams. These can be alarmingly discouraging but very helpful in terms of getting to know what it's like to sit the exams, neutralising the impact of the test to some extent and feedback so that you can practice the exact question types that your child omitted or made errors with in the mock.

Has your tutor provided you with some basic information such as:
Test types
Practice materials
Breadth of question types - and which your child needs to work on
Recommendations for above (each week)
Your child's timings (are they finishing the paper/s in time?) etc.

By now, despite huge (and very recent) changes in the test formats and contents, your child should ideally have covered most of the mathematics curriculum of Year 6 and beyond, in certain aspects (more advanced ratio & proportion, Fibonacci series, etc.). They should be preparing like mad for the VR (if that's relevant to your area) and beginning to practice with test papers.

Despite their usefulness, a tutor is not necessary, as I said. There's so much available online. What IS necessary is to prepare. Sadly, unlike the school in which I began my teaching career, most schools fail to prepare their students with adequate 11+ booster groups. Those that exist in schools are of the 'too little too late' variety - especially now, when early VR (vocabulary) preparation is becoming paramount. School curriculums do not sufficiently cover the mathematical concepts tested, as much of it is in the Year 6 curriculum (too little, too late by the beginning of September, Y6).
As for the depth and breadth of vocabulary and the VR exercises - these are not taught in the school curriculum unless arising in the odd weekly comprehension. It's inadequate. Schools are aware that some children will be sitting the 11+ exams and I feel that they have a moral obligation to support them with their preparation. However, many schools are 'school centred', interested in their SATS results and not in being child-centred in this respect. Rant over.

In answer to your original post (and back on topic) OP, I'd say that a minimum of 1 hour of weekly work would be appropriate at this time of year - comprising of a combination of a test paper (even if it's a 10 minute test in VR & in maths - depending upon what is tested in your area) AND consolidation (exercises / further questions to practice an aspect that your DC found hard before you/ the tutor helped them in their lesson. In addition to this, if your DC is going to be sitting a CEM VR test, they should be working on something to broaden their vocabulary and spelling.

While there are always those children who 'perform' brilliantly in the test with 'no preparation', these are rare. In fact, I'd not be lulled into a false state of security in assuming that my child would be one of these Sword in the Stone type legendary characters we all hear about. Let me share something with you: I had s tutee who came to me for a year and a half prior to the exams. One evening, as my next tutee waited in the corridor, current tutee's parent arrived to collect them and for feedback. When both parents met in the corridor, one said to the other: "Oh, I thought you said that xxx didn't have a tutor!". It was awkward. It is also a valuable lesson: don't believe the hype or illusion that many parents give. Parents will only tell you of 'their tutor' once you're no longer competition. If it's a good tutor and your friend tells you about them, you've a real friend!
Parents understandably like their children's achievements to be viewed as personal achievements - not a reflection of a good tutor's work. I actually agree with the importance of this principle. It takes us back to the central argument about whether tutors should exist / be used: a child can have the most wonderful tutor but if they are not 'able' enough to score highly, they won't.

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