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Tutoring and the 7+ / 8+ exams

(169 Posts)
User44444 Tue 13-Feb-18 12:23:29

What do you mumsnetters think of tutoring for these exams? I am following a 8+ thread here and another debating tutoring for 7+ Bute exams with interest.

My son just sat the 8+. He is at a pre prep that prepares boys. Although I had some serious concerns over the quality of teaching and preparation for the exams, which wasn’t great, I stuck to my guns and did not tutor. He is a bright boy and he works hard at school, we did all the homework and over the Christmas holidays in particular got our heads down with additional work using resources like Bond papers.

He did well, got invited for interviews at all the top 3 schools applied. One rejected him outright and he is currently on the waiting list for 2 of the schools. Not the outcome I hoped for but not disastrous.

Looking at the boys who were offered places none are particularly bright but all have been subjected to hours of extensive professional tutoring every week - for months! Some have hired so-called “super tutors” at sky high fees and even former headteachers to coach their boys. When money is seemingly no object....
I guess I just feel disappointed in these schools who make a big deal out of claiming not to want tutored children but year after year cannot see through the tutoring and seem to pick mostly heavily tutored applicants. It makes me wonder if they actually care or pretend to care.

Onebusymother1 Tue 13-Feb-18 12:55:23

I don’t think any of these schools like to accept heavily tutored children but they don’t have a choice. They can only go on the evidence they gather which is exam performance on the day.

hhks Tue 13-Feb-18 13:11:34

By tutoring, do you count the work forced on to the kids by parents? if the mother is a tutor, do you consider the child is tutored? it's how the kids are prepared, by school, by tutor or by the parents. I have never ever seen any one come out of the 7+8+ exams successfully without any additional work.
Bute 7+ has a tutor declaration form, which i found naive and formulistic. I personally know 4 girls received offers, two are heavily tutored by super tutor, one tutored by ordinary tutor, and one heavily worked by her mother. Anything the school tried to catch? nothing.
But now it's only 7+8+, I heard in 11+13+ the situation is even worse.

User44444 Tue 13-Feb-18 13:12:12

They do have a choice. They can probe more at interview; they can obtain objective references from schools on a child’s natural ability level based on performance over time; they can include more tutor proof questions. One Head of a top Prep school made a huge deal at Open Day about detesting heavily tutotord boys and guess what? Everybody I know who got into that school had a ridiculous amount of professional tutoring specifically for the exams.

hhks Tue 13-Feb-18 13:19:25

that's idealistic, but practically too risky. And the true reality is that we are never short of bright kids, but the school places are limited. Even at the exams, the scores can sometimes be so close and it is pain to turn away a child. Your son is waitlisted in two top schools, i am sure he is very bright. but who isn't?
north london consortium has come out with new 11+ exam rules to tackle tutoring problem, i'd be interested to see how it will work.

User44444 Tue 13-Feb-18 13:24:49

Hello Hhks, I recognise your name from the other thread smile

Yes, heard of the new girls 11+ but even for that the super tutors are busy devising study plans and tutoring to overcome the general papers and interviews. The problem is admission to top London day schools has become a commodity. Something you can just buy, like the Chelsea house, the holiday home etc. A child’s ability has become peripheral to it all and of course when they arrive at the school the tutoring continues continues to keep up appearances and satisfy parental vanity. Poor children. The only winners here are the tutors.

hhks Tue 13-Feb-18 13:40:06

Yes, you are right. and I reckon it's not just London problem, it's actually very common in a lot of countries with excellent academic results. You can imagine who they are.
And i don't know whether it's fair to say it's only for parental vanity. there might be some cases, but the majority of the parents I know just want the best possible education for their children. I saw how much difference it can make to a child in a positive stimulating environment, and that's what i'd like my children to have.
In order to save the crazy amount of money spent on tutors, i am going to roll up my sleeves, and do it myself! wink

MsHeliotrope Tue 13-Feb-18 13:41:41

Well, as I said on the other thread, my dc attended a mediocre state primary, weren't tutored and passed 7 plus to Bute and other comparable schools. So it can be done. I had them do some past papers in the Christmas holidays and went over the questions they got wrong, but that was about it. We were taking the attitude if it happens, it happens, we had a place at a non-selective prep as back up so weren't too bothered ...

I think A LOT of parents putting their dc into these exams are from the international superrich set and yes, as far as they're concerned, money can buy you everything including places at the perceived top schools. I feel sorry for their dc who are now my dcs' peers at secondary, as the pressure never lets up. It is a very tricky conundrum for the schools, I don't know how they overcome it, references from schools aren't fool proof, many state schools won't give references or if they do, it's the bare minimum.

Still, I want to give hope that these schools are accessible to reasonably smart kids without paying £££ (in advance, you certainly fork out once you arrive) and wasting hours of what should be free, fun time on tutors.

Drinkingcoffee Tue 13-Feb-18 14:10:07

Of course every parent wants the best education for their child but you can get a good education at all sorts of schools, doesn't have to be only Bute House, or St Paul's or Westminster. The latter two are academically elite institutions supposed to be for exceptionally intelligent children. I think the point User4444 is making is that you have children who are not necessarily of higher ability that are subjected to ridiculous amount of coaching by the parents to get into these schools often blocking more deserving children whose parents have neither the budget and/or the inclination to pay for professional tutoring. I have never heard of a parent fork out vast sums to super tutors with the principal aim of getting into an "average" school. These parents often have very specific aims. And yes, the process is corrupt. Former teachers and headteachers coaching children into their schools isn't appropriate in my view.

I think there is more schools can do to identify those over coached children but they choose not to. Bute arguably is the school that tries hardest to avoid such children but even they are not wholly successful at identifying them.

Drinkingcoffee Tue 13-Feb-18 14:26:08

MsHeliotrope your daughter is clearly very clever and has got in on merit. Unfortunately this is now becoming the exception rather than the norm.

MsHeliotrope Tue 13-Feb-18 14:48:58

Nice of you to say so drinkingcoffee but I don't actually think my daughters are super clever, they're intelligent but they're not geniuses.

I do think they had an advantage at 7 plus of being brought up in a house where they were read to a lot from a very early age and therefore had absorbed a wide vocabulary and could both write well.
A good proportion of the dc in their year at the school they eventually ended up at were from houses which either didn't contain a single book or where English wasn't the first language or both. So on the English side of the assessment, at least, I think my dc had an advantage. Many may have filled that gap by using tutors. I also had the impression at Bute, where the parents were interviewed, that the head looked favourably upon children from state schools and she was checking us out to see if we were insane super-pushy or not.

But this was a few years back, I think the head at Bute may have changed now and London schools madness has grown even worse, so I can quite believe the system may have become more corrupt.

I still don't want to put off parents of bright kids without a ton of tutoring (different from some preparation, which I do think is necessary) from having a go at these schools - we're by no means the only family I know whose kids were offered places at such supposedly elite institutions with minimal or zero tutoring. Conversely, I know families who tutored intensely for seven plus and eight plus but were disappointed.

hhks Tue 13-Feb-18 14:51:39

I am not against an ordinary tutor to help a child with some work if the parent is not able to. e.g, parents too busy with work or travel a lot, international non english speaking parents, etc.. Children need some guidance during their education, especially at young age.

Yes you can get good education in many other schools, and that's why we apply to multiple schools, not just the big names. we applied to a number of schools we consider good schools, and wouldn't be gutted if we didn't get the top 3.

Again, i think it's way too early to tell whether a boy is exceptionally intelligent at 7+ or 8+. If Einstein or Hawking were to sit those exams, they might not get offers either. 11 / 13+ is a better time to check, and if a boy is not suitable at those schools, it's very right for the HM to advise parents to make alternative plans. And if any exceptionally intelligent boy was not picked up at 7+8+, he will definitely shine at a later stage

sirfredfredgeorge Tue 13-Feb-18 16:21:51

If there are two equal candidates, it's far and away in the schools business interest to take the one that has also been tutored. Simply because it's such a strong signal of the investment of the parents.

User44444 Tue 13-Feb-18 16:34:51

SirFred your comment made me laugh. Are you serious??

njshore Tue 13-Feb-18 19:35:11

The Maths & English requirements of the 7+/8+ exams far exceed what’s being taught in a year 2 curriculum such that no six year-olds can meet them unless being introduced to it outside of school, either by parents or tutors. A child can’t just walk into the exam without being familiar with these concepts before and expect to do well. Even a “brilliant” child needs to be prepped, whether writing stories at home and/or go through reasoning papers for familiarity. Pre-prep schools are somewhat a form of “tutoring” as they are specialist schools designed to place kids at 7+/8+ and hold afterschool 7+ and 8+ clubs, a euphemism for tutoring. Boys who don’t go to a pre-prep are already disadvantaged to those who do.

People in the UK make tutoring seem like such a dirty word when in all other societies it is a privilege to be able to afford tutors. What are they but specialist teachers and if my kids can learn more and faster than their peers in school because I employ a tutor or teach them myself, what is wrong with that?

User44444 Tue 13-Feb-18 20:35:34

njshore you are making some sweeping statements about pre prep schools not really based on much fact. A pre prep school guarantees to provide your child with an education until Year 2 or Year 3, it does not also guarantee to get your child into top Prep school after that. The idea that somehow these pre preps are great tutoring institutions and therefore that justifies everyone else excessively tutoring is a myth.

Ofcourse children have to be prepped for exams but there is a balance to be struck between exam preparation and rampant tutoring, several hours a week for months on end to get average ability children to perform enough to get into the best schools.

"People in the UK make tutoring seem like such a dirty word when in all other societies it is a privilege to be able to afford tutors."

That just sums up the problem with the school system in London in particular that I was describing in my earlier post. Parents, many of whom are from overseas, view elite educational establishments in the UK as some kind of commodity they can just buy with expensive tutors.

I went to one of the big hitter london day schools myself, consistently in the top 3 or 4 of A Level league tables. In my day entrance to these schools was based purely on merit. Everyone sat examinations at 11+ and the brightest kids got into the best schools. When we arrived at our new school no one had to be tutored to keep up. Can I ask what becomes of today's children who get into top school nowadays on the back of professional tutoring? Is it a "privilege" for those boys and girls to spend their weekends or after school time being tutored because they lack the natural intellect to keep up with peers?

rockabyba Tue 13-Feb-18 20:44:10

User44444 good luck with this... for taking on the London's competitive parents. Bragging rights is SO important. Much more satisfying to tell your friends at dinner parties that little Oscar is at St Paul's than Jo Average School. The fact that these precious little darlings have been coached to within an inch of their lives to get into desired school is often the biggest elephant in the room.

Rowingthebigboat Tue 13-Feb-18 20:47:58

User4444 of course it is a "commodity" because private school education is not free last time I looked. I'm not quite sure what exactly your grievance is.

hhks Tue 13-Feb-18 21:04:00

I agree to some degree that the tutoring is partially triggered by unrealistic scope of 7+8+ exams, especially for boys. And hence the preparation plays a bigger role than intellectual ability.

I don't like to compare to the old days, when I was 7 or 8, I definitely was not able to do the work my son is doing now. And there was no globalisation, there was no internet, there was no VR, there was no brexit, things were very different. If DS is born in this generation in London, he will need to face competition from all over the world sooner or later.

Rowingthebigboat Tue 13-Feb-18 21:15:09

Hhks - I agree. Good point!

schoolmadness2016 Tue 13-Feb-18 21:30:58

I completely agree with njshore. And find the concept of “natural intellect” to be snobbish, condescending and compelte unproven rubbish. A 5/6yo with the focus, work ethic, and perseverance to keep up with the demanding curriculum ( at least 12-18mo ahead of Y2) required to pass 7+ exams for top schools - regardless of how many hours it took them to get there - are all equally deserving of a place.
DD is at a non selective prep which follows the recommended Y2 curriculum. I compared her school work with that of her friend at a 7+ pre prep and it was like night and day. Her friend was doing exactly what I was working with her on for 7+ ( bond books etc ). I consider my dd to be tutored even though 98% of it was unpaid ( other than with my tears 😂 ) as we worked together for around 5-7 hours a week for a year . Had she been in the preprep we would have had to do significantly less outside school to achieve the required level. Does this mean she will struggle in her new school ? I seriously doubt it . She is self-motivated, hard working and bright - just like lots and lots of other kiddos out there . Would she have gotten her top choice school based on her lovely nurturing school’s y2 curriculum ? About as likely as a snowballs chance in hell, I recon .

FanDabbyFloozy Tue 13-Feb-18 21:43:03

It is MUCH worse at 11+!!

Kids all know who is in their ability set/table/ group since Y3, yet everything shifts around Y5 as the effect of heavy tutoring hits.

Some parents tutor themselves, others pay for it. Some take a gentle approach and others really go for it. Regardless they will say that they didn't really tutor and that he/she got in on her own intelligence.. Often the child's success is seen as an extension of themselves.

It is terrible for a child's wellbeing of course. Some visibly start to crack up.

njshore Tue 13-Feb-18 21:50:45

Nowhere did I say the pre-preps “guarantees a top Prep” but that going to one is advantageous. There are no guarantees in life, I’m afraid. Their sole purpose of existence is to prepare a child for next phase of schooling, not necessarily the top 3 boys’ schools, but a place somewhere just like a Prep school’s Head is responsible for finding a secondary place for all his/her students. These pre-preps live and die by their exit results so, of course, they will try to get children in the more popular schools (“Such and such is a good pre-prep b/c most boys go to X, Y and Z.”) and parents choose them because if it. They send home holiday packs, teach exam techniques and hold extra classes in Y2. Now you tell me a school that goes to 13+ will do same for a boy who’s interested in applying 7+ elsewhere.

I think you should do more research on London schoolings and what goes on at pre-preps (in fact, many parents at pre-preps feel their school is not preparing their child enough!) before making “sweeping statements not based on facts...” Let’s not kid ourselves.

User870098543 Tue 13-Feb-18 21:53:50

I cannot believe some of the stuff I am reading here. Parenting gone mad.
Schoolmadness2016 if you have to subject your 6 year old to 7 hours of extra work a week for a whole year to get them into a particular school then frankly they shouldn't be at that school. Who are you doing this for anyway? Your vanity or your child? Not all children are born equal. Fact of life. Some are more intelligent than others. Some will cruise through entrance exams at all the top schools. Others will scrape in after horrendous amount of coaching. There will always be parents who cannot accept that simple fact.

"Schoolmadness" indeed. London has gone mad and it's frightening reading so many parents in this forum justifying it all.

User870098543 Tue 13-Feb-18 21:56:00

njshore I think you are slightly deluded and obviously have neither been in this country that long or gone through the UK education system yourself. Your comprehension of reality is somewhat incorrect.

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