Selective Secondary School assessment

(36 Posts)
Looby4 Sun 22-Feb-09 19:31:10

I was reading an article in the North London Primary Times which had an article about an educational consultancy. This article mentions "waiting lists for tutors", and says you should put your name down for one in Y3. Bit late for me as my DD is in Y4! Do I need to start sorting out a tutor now? How do I know if she is clever enough - she is bright, but against the competition, I am not sure?
Can anyone shed light on this?

Blissed Sun 22-Feb-09 20:05:24

It all depends on which school you are aiming for? Don't panic, there really is loads of time. What are the school's criteria? What does their prospectus say? Can you find out about their selection process online? Have you telephoned and spoken to the admissions person (really helpful, I find).
The "competition" will always be there, at all levels of her education.
Know what - all clever children do fine at "any school" even if we would rather they weren't there. We all worry about drugs, mainly. They are in all schools, even the selective ones (trust me, I know). It is just that the selective schools are more efficient about kicking the users out - presumably to find more fertile ground in another school?

cherryblossoms Sun 22-Feb-09 21:46:46

Well, you can't tell whether she'll pass the exam until she takes it, really. Seriously, every year there are surprises and so much of it comes down to how each child performs on the day of the test. So if your dd likes the school and is OK about taking the test, and you are all psychologically stable enough to go through the whole process (including the possibility of not passing the test), then your dd may as well give it a go. [That last comment was just a little light-hearted.]

Tutors - Journalists love writing those sorts of articles, take them with a pinch of salt. Yes, there will be the (possibly over-rated) popular ones, who will have been booked since reception. But there are many, many others.

There are many resources you can buy and advice you can access. Visit the school/s you're interested in. Make sure you know what the exam is like. Track down practice papers, make sure your dd has covered all the subjects she should have, at the right level. Make sure she's familiar with the form of the tests. You can do that. Or you can look for a tutor in yellow pages and make sure they do that.

Have a look at here. Hunt around on the website, there's a lot of good advice, including how to check out if your tutor is OK.

(Warning: This site is very helpful but there are some intense people on this site. It's not completely representative.)

Year 4 is not at all late to be starting - in fact, most people would say it's early. If you want to start tutoring, it's probably just advisable to check your dd's school has covered everything it should have, and in enough depth, and your dd understands what she's been taught.

And be calm. North London selective schools are competitive, so it's worth developing a chilled attitude, right from the off.

christywhisty Sun 22-Feb-09 22:47:19

A friend of mine looked around for a tutor for her daughter in the May before the entrance exams for Latymer and was told by tutors that she had left it too late as most of the children had been tutored since Yr 3.

cherryblossoms Sun 22-Feb-09 23:06:44

Don't scare her, Christywhisty!!

Honestly, so much depends on your child, your home life and the school.

If your dd is at a (very) good level of numeracy and literacy, yr 4 is fine, it may even be more than fine. If not, then you'll have to see what's going on and if there's an addressable issue, address it.

It's absolutely true that a lot of parents will have started tutoring by yr 3; in the main they will have been enriching what is done by the school - challenging reading, writing and maths. In some cases they will be supplementing it (London primaries can be quite varied).

The basic "techniques" of NVR and much of VR can be "taught" in a couple of hours and after that it's just practice - and ability. Maths and English (writing and comprehension) are more tricky, but really, you do have time!

Btw - if you are thinking of Latymer, go to the open evening this year. Practice papers are for sale at the open evening. The school discourages parents turning up a year early but I think you should get the maths papers, in particular, this year, just to look over and check that your dd is on target to cover all numaracy subjects covered. As I said, primaries in London can be quite variable.

Don't get anxious - get active.

And remember - it's about your dd and not you. Some parents can get somewhat over-involved.

christywhisty Sun 22-Feb-09 23:27:39

Sorry wasn't try to scare her,just really confirming what the article said IYSWIM.

My DS applied for a place at a foundation school that took 18 children with aptitude for technology, which we found out was based on a NVR test. We just hired a tutor for 4 lessons just to give him an idea of the test. Thankfully he got in so worth the money and he is very happy there.

cherryblossoms Sun 22-Feb-09 23:36:54

Christywhisty - I know you're right - and you're quite right to say it, too. It's a fact.
I was trying for a sort of jolly, optimistic post (!) and I'm really sorry if I came across any other way. Apologies.
Congratulations to your ds too.

Quattrocento Sun 22-Feb-09 23:37:32

Looby, I honestly think that people on MN go a little bit nutty over coaching for secondary school places - be it for the leading independent schools or for state grammar schools. It is only necessary in borderline cases - and for some of the borderline cases, I do wonder whether or not it is ultimately going to be worth it. Relax. Your DD is bright. You don't need to worry.

<as someone who has never enlisted help from tutors>

cluttered Mon 23-Feb-09 00:02:47

Quattrocento, do you have personal experience of this? We are thinking of trying for Latymer for our DS also year 4, only since his teacher suggested at last Parents evening that if we were considering it we should start some sort of preparation soon. He thought the school covered literacy and numeracy adequately and we should start by getting some Bond NVR and VR books. As I say we hadn't considered it but thought maybe it would be unfair to DS not to leave his options open. We live in Hackney where in the past there have been far too few secondary places in borough but there are new academies opening which may change this.

Apparently he is one of the most able but not absolutely head and shoulders above all the others. He is doing well on the NVR and VR tests getting 90-95%, these are year-appropriate so a lower standard than he would actually sit. Apparently 3 children from the school got into Latymer last year so it's not impossible from that background. DP is really against tutoring him, he feels if it is the right school for him he shouldn't need it. Do you really think that tutoring doesn't make much difference as we have heard of people living near Latymer who have tutored their DC from year one! It seems that only 1 in 10 of children applying get a place, if all of those children are bright we may as well give up now as I don't think we are competitive enough!

singersgirl Mon 23-Feb-09 07:59:00

All of the children doing 11+ entrance in DS1's class were tutored, but mostly from the January of Y5; however, waiting lists for tutors are often full by Y3 round here. I know a couple of children who were being tutored from Y4, but usually for a specific 'weakness', like handwriting or maths.

Specific 11+ tutoring focuses just on learning how to tackle the papers that they'll sit. I think that most children would feel happier and more confident in the exams with some practice - DS1 is very able but he didn't really understand some of the basics of how to do an old-fashioned style comprehension before last year.

DS1 has just got into Latymer as well as several other west London selective schools.

thirtysomething Mon 23-Feb-09 08:45:03

Just to give another perspective, I have come to the conclusion it's all down to competition for places rather than the child. It seems schools in London are very oversubscribed so you need every advantage to stand a chance of passing? We are in the Midlands and DS has just got into a very selective, academic school at 11 with no tutoring, from an average state primary. He is bright and articulate but not a genius. We just did a few practice papers and revised a bit of maths in the run-up to the exam. The school were pleased he hadn't been tutored as it allowed them to see his real potential. However, the competition was only about twice as many applicants as places - I suspect in London and elsewhere it's much greater?

singersgirl Mon 23-Feb-09 09:08:57

One of the schools DS1 got into told us there were 540-odd applicants for 100 or so places; bear in mind, though, that most of the children are sitting at least 3 schools so the competition is not as great as it might seem at the 'top end', as some children get offers from all the schools they try and they can each only go to one.

thinkingabout3 Mon 23-Feb-09 12:54:40

We're in N London and planning on starting mid year 4 which will give us 18 months before the exams. I agree clever children should get in anywhere but given that even the prep kids are being tutored the state school children don't stand a hope if they don't get some help.

DesperateHousewifeToo Mon 23-Feb-09 13:44:56

Ds has just done 7+ (no experience of 11+, sorry) and our feeling was that there was no point in tutoring him to get him into a particular school and then for him to struggle.

No-one in his class tutored and 5 out of the six boys who sat the exam got into Latymer (he is at a non-selecetive Independant schl).

His current school did a lot of preparation in terms of verbal reasoning and interview practice, we just made sure he did the set homework and a little extra maths when he had a 'blip' just before xmas.

When visiting the schools, the only time they advised tutoring was for any children coming from the State sector as they would not have done any VR.

I did hear that the children would be asked if they were tutored as they preferred them not to be but don't know if that is an 'urban myth'!

cherryblossoms Mon 23-Feb-09 14:42:01

Singersgirl and DesperateHousewifeToo - are you referring to Latymer, the independent school, in West London or Latymer, the Grammar school, in North-East London?

I only ask in interests of clarification. Some people start their research on the mysteries of state secondary transfer by googling, and may not realise that there are two Latymers, or that the state one doesn't have 7+ entry or interviews.

I think original OP and cluttered are N. London based and, though their questions are general, and all the answers respond to those general questions, cluttered, in particular, was referring to Latymer-the-North East London-grammar-school.

(Not that it makes a great deal of difference as regards your posts. Moment of self-awareness - I am a pedant!)

DesperateHousewifeToo Mon 23-Feb-09 14:49:22

You are absolutely right cherryblossoms, I am talking about The Latymer in in West London!

Sorry, even more of an unhlepful post from me.

But I guess the gist of the post was for you to decide whether by tutoring you get your child into a school at which he could struggle, iyswim.

cherryblossoms Mon 23-Feb-09 15:01:03

I'm not the OP (just a nosey, bossy, pedantic interloper) but I didn't think you were at all unhelpful.

I was just remembering what a numpty I was when it came to secondary transfer - that (conjecture) person starting with the internet - that was me. blush

I'll buzz off now - I'm too interfering by half. (You can tell this is a displacement activity.)

DesperateHousewifeToo Mon 23-Feb-09 15:09:10

grin I should have made it clear that the last sentence was addressed to the op.

Not interferring at all, cherryblossoms, it's always wise to clarify things, otherwise some of us could have been talking at cross-purposessmile

singersgirl Mon 23-Feb-09 15:23:01

I'm talking about Latymer Upper in Hammersmith, too - my fault for not spotting the Hackney reference.

Again, I think the tutoring is more relevant to state school applicants, like DS1 and his cronies. I know children who've been preparing for 11+ at private schools and they've been far more intensively 'tutored' for the exams and interviews than the hour a week plus homework that I'm talking about. I agree that if your child's at a school that's preparing them for those exams (and private schools' reputations rest on their leavers' destinations) then a child shouldn't need additional tutoring.

athometoday Mon 23-Feb-09 20:12:11

DD got into Latymer (Edmonton) this year and had a tutor from end of Year 4. I agree bright children can cope with NVR and VR but for us the main issue was maths. There is no way dd would have stood a chance without tutoring as her state primary just would not have covered the curriculum by the November, which is when they do the final round. I think the actual Latymer maths test is beyond even what she eventually covered in her primary school by the end of Year 6, never mind the beginning.

cluttered Tue 24-Feb-09 00:00:41

Thanks for the clarification, you are correct I didn't realise that there are two Latymers. This thread is very helpful as I had no idea tutors got booked up so early! I do know the Mum of one boy who got into Latymer (Edmonton) from our school and will ask her for their tutor's details asap. She said she didn't tutor until Year 5 so thought there was no hurry!

Athometoday I understand that Latymer excludes a lot of applicants with an initial NVR test, do you know how high this initial bar is set. Good advice about the maths as I was wondering about whether they would be expected to know Year 6 curriculum or not. DS's teacher seems to feel DS is outstanding in maths but only above average in literacy (probably due to his reluctance to read for pleasure which we are working on) so if maths is his area of strength it would be a shame if he didn't perform to his ability because he'd not encountered the work!

cherryblossoms Tue 24-Feb-09 00:42:33

cluttered - do go along to the open evening (as i suggested to Looby4). They sell past papers (about 6 maths papers in the set iirc), so you can go through it and work out topics - I'd advise not leaving it all to a tutor.

The Latymer maths test is interesting. It's obviously set by someone who has a real interest and feel for number, so some of the questions are quite ... conceptual. A lot of the questions are problem-solving ones, which is quite different in feel from the practice papers you can buy in shops and on-line. If your ds is naturally gifted at maths, he will probably really enjoy the Latymer papers. I remember seeing one question that asked children to sort of think their way through counting in base 6 - but in a really interesting, not obvious way.

And do look at the 11+ Exams website. There's a section on English that has some really good suggestions about how to boost English (a perennial boy thing). Fwiw, I'm so literature focussed that I think creative, wide, interesting vocabularies are a life-skill; it's joy-bringing when you nail something in conversation with a butterfly-on-a-pin image.

I think the cut-off mark this year for the NVR was about 70 - though what that means in real terms is anyone's guess. I suspect, though, that at 90%, your ds has a natural propensity for NVR.

Latymer uses Athey-style NVR papers, which you can buy in Waterstones in Malet Street.

And lastly - I think you should listen to your ds's teacher. He's telling you that your ds will do just fine if he gets a place at Latymer. Don't worry yourself on that score.

(See - I am indeed Mrs. Bossy-Interloper.)

athometoday Tue 24-Feb-09 19:24:58

I think they take about 600 through to the second round after the NVR (out of 1778 last year). I think the cut-off in the past has been at around 105 (this in relation to a perfect score of 141) but don't ask me how this is worked out - I don't really understand it! As far as I'm aware the NVR mark is carried forward so if someone just scrapes through the NVR I suspect it's unlikely they'll end up getting a place.

On the maths, you can get hold of numerous copies of past papers so you can see how your child copes.

cluttered Fri 06-Mar-09 19:46:54

OK, have just been to second parents evening and am feeling confused now! Following last term's parents' evening we started thinking about applying for a place at Latymer (Edmonton) for DS1 purely because the teacher suggested we might want to consider it. However this time he seemed a lot more ambivalent about the idea. I don't know whether he has revised his idea of DS's abilities downwards!

I guess I am just feeling like the OP: how to tell if your child is bright enough to put them through the stress? Are all of the 1800 or so children who apply for Latymer or similar schools brighter than average ie at level 5 in KS2 SATs? DS1 might be in the top 10% of children his age but probably not in the top 10% of bright children IYKWIM. Another Mum whose son got a place last year has given me the details of the tutor they used but I don't know if I could trust him to tell me the truth if I asked if my DS1 is the same ball-park ability as the other boy?

Athometoday how did you decide in Year 4 whether to tutor your DD as obviously at that stage the test papers would be way above their ability?

athometoday Sat 07-Mar-09 13:08:09

Hi Cluttered. The school had been telling us she was very bright from Year 1 onwards and a couple of teachers at various points told us they didn't feel they were able to meet her needs. However, this was at a very ordinary state primary so we were unsure what this meant in relation to kids at other schools. We were fairly sure that on maths and english the school would not be able to get her where she needed to be early enough so we decided to go for a tutor. It was also partly to give her the chance to spend an hour a week with someone who could focus just on her. Nearer the time of the tests I also did quite a lot of one to one with her. She really enjoyed the sessions with the tutor and the whole school selection thing really wasn't stressful for her - in fact I think she got quite a buzz out of it. I think we thought she had a good chance of getting in based on what we could see at home and also feedback from the primary school. It's still a bit of a lottery on the day though! Hope this helps.

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