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Parents/teachers of children in lower sets in prep schools - your views on extra work/turoring gratefully received.

(18 Posts)
RainDanceMaggie Thu 18-May-17 17:59:02

Hello all,
My DD is in Y3 in a decent prep school. She loves the school. She is bright, but not in the top sets: middle set for English and bottom set for Math. She gets some extra support at school to catch up, which surprised us when this was raised (Y2), but it became painfully obvious to us that she was behind, not (I think) for any fault of hers (no special needs/no concerns), but because we did not do any extra work to help her get/stay ahead. In Y2 the class had children who wrote the 7+ and moved, and this would have obviously pushed up the general standard of the class over Y1 and Y2 and I suspect DD was nowhere near their standard.
DD is now at the end of Y3. School have no concerns, and seem confident she will do well (although she hasn’t moved up sets in either Math or English and still gets extra support for math).
Am I being naïve to trust the school (who are lovely) to get the best out of her? Is it true that prep schools tend to focus on the kids doing well and leave those like my DD in the mid-bottom set without trying to make them move up (so they prep her for the less academic schools at 11+ without pushing her, so they can focus on the kids with potential to bring better results)?
DD works every day on school work (daily homework) and we go over regularly. She enjoys reading. So its not that she is not working. Both my partner and I work full time and I travel. The very thought of doing/not doing extra exam prep on top of our already stressful days fills me with dread and guilt in equal measure. Its one thing doing it in Year 5 ahead of the exams, but to start already, or to think that we are already too late for not having pushed her in Reception-Y2, is making me nervous. 
I guess I am looking to hear from parents who simply stuck to the prep school's routine, especially with children who were not in the top sets, to get a perspective on how I should approach the looming 11+.
Also any private school teachers – are you expecting me as a parent to do extra 11+ prep at home? In your experience, do schools let the weaker set children be and not push them? What can I do to give my DD a chance at moving up sets / convince you to give her a chance?
Thank you

TeenAndTween Thu 18-May-17 18:30:52

My DDs have done the state route. So feel free to ignore.

My DD2 y7 struggles and is in bottom sets.
I do some extra work with her in holidays but not in term time as she is too exhausted from schoolwork. I focus on maths & English as I consider passing GCSE in them to be vv important if she can.

So my question is:
Why would you tutor? Why would you pay what I presume is a shed load of money to a school to teach your child, and yet still think it wasn't good enough so spend even more on tutors?

What would you define as your success criteria?
Middle sets? Top set? Top of top set?
Or just a 'better' private school after 11+ ?
What will do for you, local indie that takes all comers, one which is selective, one which is super selective, scholarship to super selective? If she has to be tutored from y2 to get there, are you going to tutor all the way through to A levels to ensure she keeps up?

If there is a specific problem area, fine, tutor to break through that.
Or if she is 'nearly in reach' of something you aspire to, then fine for a big push.

But tutoring just to meet some arbitrary 'better' at 7/8 seems over the top to me.

irvineoneohone Thu 18-May-17 18:40:19

I don't have a experience of private either, so feel free to ignore me as well.

You say that she is getting extra help in maths, so I don't think school is ignoring lower sets children.

Amaried Thu 18-May-17 19:37:59

Honestly to me it sounds like she is doing enough for now . If she does homework and has extra help at maths then I think that is plenty at her age.
If she warrants it, the school will move her up the sets but she may be working at her level,
Trust the school and relax a little.

Allthebestnamesareused Thu 18-May-17 20:23:02

I actually think it is the other way round OP.

I think prep schools (non-selective ones) and at least the ones in the area I live - do a really good job with lower end/average students and get them to a higher level than similar children in the state system whereas the higher achievers (may, depending on attitude) do well wherever they are.

I appreciate that there are some good state schools and some poor private schools too. I am lucky to be in an area where our private ones are good as they are competing against each other in a lucrative market (not London).

BertrandRussell Thu 18-May-17 20:27:29

What route are you hoping to go down at 11+ or 13+?

bojorojo Thu 18-May-17 23:46:49

My DD2 went to a high performing prep outside London and was in the same sets you describe at age 8 onwards. In fact dropped from middle to lower in maths. However I didn't resort to tutoring because I was fairly certain she would get into the school we wanted and she did a lot of extra curricular activities. She was also the type of child who would not have relished all the extra work so it wasn't worth it. The top set were chasing scholarships, and many were achieved, so she was happy and did well in the sets she was in. She got an A in English Lit and Lang and a B in maths at GCSE eventually. You have to consider what the lowest set is really like. Are they really working at a very low level? At DDs school they obviously were not that low. Her eventual achievements seem reasonable for a lower to middle set child at a non selective prep. You know your child and what you value regarding her time away from school.

nat73 Fri 19-May-17 09:32:53

It depends on

a) capabilities of your child - it sounds like she is already doing alot.

b) the 'average' standard of the school. If it is a very competitive high flying school then their 'bottom' sets might be an average schools top/middle sets. Lets face it someone has to be in the bottom / middle set.

c) it depends what your aspirations for her are.

I went to an academic school and I was always 'average'. It was only when I got to university I found out my 'average' meant top 5%. People in our 'bottom' sets got better GCSE and A level results than other other school near us (well above national average).
If you are concerned go and speak to the school.
Given she is already doing alot and you are already paying for the prep school I wouldnt expect to have to pay for tutoring on top of that. I wouldnt expect to be preparing for 11+ at year 3. Maybe year 5?

BluePeppers Fri 19-May-17 09:38:26

No experience from private school but dc2 was behind (lower ability set) in literacy atvte start of primary.
We, well HE, worked a hell of a lot and got extra support from us all throughout primary.
Some has been done by us at home under the recommendation of the we put extra attention on any homework he had (think spelling, reading, writing) and the school have him some support too.
He is now in Y7 and has excellent results in English.

I don't think that this would have been possible wo extra work at home (for us that was 20~30mins each day in the am).
And it wouldnt have been possible wo the extra support from school either!

BluePeppers Fri 19-May-17 09:40:29

And YY about what it means to be 'average' or bottom set in a school or class that is actually etc highly achieving.

Which then brings two questions:
- can she do better than she is already doing (she might not wo being tutored to the limit)
- is it worth it?

LIZS Fri 19-May-17 09:44:36

Do they do pips or cats as that would give you a better feel for where she sits relative to her wider peer group? I've known lower set children get academic scholarships and be top sets at secondary transfer, but the setting in prep was skewed by overconfident and capable children (and parentshmm), some of whom were tutored all the way through prep. If she is happy and learning well it may be that being taught in the middle just suits her.

bojorojo Fri 19-May-17 10:01:39

Yes. Prep school parents do pay for tutoring but in my experience it is not the majority unless you are in London. At our prep it seemed to be the "lower" achievers who worried about this and wanted a top destination school rather than a realistic one. Being realistic is best for your DC. Mine had a seemless transfer and no angst at all. No endless scholarship exams or fear of being rejected. Younger DD didn't sit our county wide 11 plus either although a lot did to check how bright they were. They had no intention of taking up the places but it informed their choice of school at 13 plus. We went for a school where she would be accepted and had its own entry tests.

yikesanotherbooboo Fri 19-May-17 11:07:08

Really good advice/ thoughts from pps
My 3 children all went to super selective from lower sets. They sat at top of lower sets and that suited them.
Everyone has their position in a cohort
At our prep the top sets got bigger as parents wanted their children in them and some pressurised for this to happen
In the long run it didn't effect destinations
We did resort to maths tutoring for a while in yr 6 when Boho's scenario happened , DC3 was in top maths set ( not English) and almost all the children had 11+ coaching whether or not they were aiming for the grammars.... thus left him behind his class in maths ... he had a term or so of extra maths covering that work.. caught up with the group and we stopped the tutoring.
Extra one to one does help academics but it is a lot to expect of a child who has a long day at an independent school and probably some extra activities as well.
Think about your aims.
Lots of children take longer to mature, e.g. My boys with summer birthdays but it seems to sort itself

RainDanceMaggie Fri 19-May-17 12:02:35

Thanks so much for all your responses - its been immensely helpful and reassuring. We are inclined to leave DD to be given we think she is already working quite hard; long school days plus homework. I have no illusions about her abilities nor am I keen for her to get into a particular school at 11+. I feel she will come into her own in her own time. One of the reasons for going down the prep school route is the belief that they would help us and her figure out what secondary school is best suited to her. My reason for starting this thread was that I was beginning to doubt my approach and wondering if it was actually harming DD (by not pushing her harder/doing extra work), given what I am seeing and hearing around me. Thank you very much!

underneaththeash Fri 19-May-17 12:15:20

Where are you? The majority of the prep schools in my area (bucks) don't really prepare for state 11+ although they do for CE.

My DS did 11+ and we just did extra workbooks with him at home and he passed easily. He's top set English and bottom for maths.

ElsieMc Fri 19-May-17 15:22:02

I have a gs who is a bright little boy now in Yr 6 - not at a prep school. He was clearly behind in his village primary and had to have some extra work set for his handwriting in year 1/2. After this, I had to pester the school and I just ended up getting some extra parent help within the school. I did work with him around three times per week at home.

By Yr 5 I was really worried about his progress, particularly as the Yr5/6 teacher was nearing retirement and seemed to be just doing enough, but no more and was a rather lethargic character.

I decided to have a look at another primary school and we just never left. He looked round, stayed for the afternoon and that was it. Its a whole lot tougher environment, but just last term his teacher showed me his work with evident pride. They have worked hard with the children so they do not panic about sats and offered three extra 1 hour sessions with the teaching staff/Headteacher every week without my requesting it.

As for gs, well he is not top of the class, but happier and more confident. He said doing his sats was just like another day in school because they had prepared.

Rambling a bit here op, but I found that with gs 2 my "help" did not in fact help and it was demoralising for both of us. With gs 1 I also did work with him and the school commented positively, so I guess it is the difference in children. For us, there was a big difference with the new school which is a Catholic Primary.

bojorojo Sat 20-May-17 11:17:01

I am Bucks and all the prep schools near me, bar a couple, prepare for the 11 plus. It is their main selling point! Lots do not have many children who stay on to 13 plus except Godstowe, Swanbourne and a handful of boys schools. In some schools the only ones who stay have not passed the 11 plus so parents try CE to get a better destination at 13 plus or they definitely want Stowe.

Our prep school didn't do Sats. The 11 plus was optional. If you want independent secondary I couldn't see the point in knowing you had failed! You can avoid all of this at prep school. In fact you can have a much easier life if you aim for an appropriate school at your chosen age. You do not even have to do CE if the school offers its own exams.

Needmoresleep Sat 20-May-17 20:31:22

If your child is working hard and enjoying school, and the school seems to supportive I would leave it. Not everyone can be top set, and there are as many tortoises as hares.

That said it is worth considering support if a child is bumping along the bottom and struggling to master key maths and English skills, as the lack of them will affect everything. Plus could be an indicator for dyslexia.

Also it does matter where you live and the range of destination schools available. Bucks seems an exception. Where I am entry to private schools can be very competitive indeed, with fewer less academic options. Inevitably parents will feel that if their child is borderline, it is worth giving them an extra push.

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