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angered by tuition for grammar school 11+

(262 Posts)
kelway Tue 21-Dec-10 22:31:56

i was curious but does anyone else here feel the same in being frustrated with overly pushy parents who get their offspring heavily tutored (ie 3/4 nights a week after school for at least 2 years before taking the 11+). I constantly hear of girls getting into our local grammar school who were not as clever as other girls in the same class at school but who were overly pushed by their parents. Subsequently it feels like the local grammar school has been almost 'hijacked' by such people who can afford extra tuition. I always understood that grammar schools were for the more gifted student that perhaps had parents that could not afford to send them to a private school. Our local grammar school has become very elitest. i get the impression that the way i feel is pretty standard of most mothers of girls where i live (if your child isn't tutored however bright they are they stand no chance of getting into the local grammar school).

StayingFatherChristmasGirl Tue 21-Dec-10 23:15:29

All three of my dses sat the 11+. With ds1, I didn't go for the tutoring, because I felt that if he had to be pushed to get into the grammar school, he'd struggle once he was there. However, when we gave him some past papers about a month before the exam, he did disastrously, and we spent the time until the exam stressing and worrying (though trying not to pass this onto ds1). In the end he passed, but pretty low down the list, got into the school and was happy there.

With ds2 we decided to go for tutoring, to avoid the last minute worries, and he went to his tutor one evening a week for the year leading up to the exam. At the same time his best friend's mum was working with her ds (with family help), basically tutoring him at home - and both boys got in. Ds2 would have got in anyway without the private tutor, I think.

With ds3 we sent him to the same tutor, and after only a few weeks he had a total meltdown about the work and the exam, and asked to stop the tutoring, so we did. He was all set to go to the local comprehensive, but decided at the last moment that he would sit the 11+ (we hadn't withdrawn him from the exam - not sure why), so did it with little or no preparation, and didn't get good enough marks to get into the grammar school. But as we then moved to Scotland, it was moot anyway, and the boys are all now at a very good comprehensive, and I wish that had been the option for all three of them.

The rather longwinded upshot of this is that I agree that it is not a good thing for children to be hothoused - 3 or 4 nights a week for 2 years is definitely overkill, in my book, but a child who is bright enough for the school will probably get in with a bit of extra help either from a tutor or from a parent - there are good practice books and 11+ past papers available.

kelway Tue 21-Dec-10 23:29:10

thanks for your response. where i live the grammar school only has room for 130 students but gets at least 1300 applying. having asked around (inc many of the mothers who has mentioned they have dd's there) it would appear that ALL had their children HEAVILY tutored (a good for years beforehand). this frustrates me no end. i emailed the grammar school just out of interest and they said in response that the entrance exam was based on 'natural ability' and that one should not be tutored (despite all the girls being there were more than likely heavily tutored). their response really pi**ed me off no end, an automated response. I have no problem sending my dd to local comprehensive as she is bright as i guess would (hopefully) be in a cleverer class away from the trouble makers, at least this is my memory of comprehensive schools. I just find it infuriating that at least where i live, unless your child is seriously pushed it is unlikely they will get in. I was never a pushy parent and until recently never gave thought to secondary education/scholarships and the like but being the mother of a 7 year old have been drawn into the subject my many other mothers who seem to talk of nothing else although this has opened my eyes.

llareggub Tue 21-Dec-10 23:35:19

I've met parents who are tutoring 3 year olds for entrance exams at 11, and we've had adverts from tutors pushed through our door. We're not in London, either!

StayingFatherChristmasGirl Tue 21-Dec-10 23:37:19

It seriously is worth looking at the practice books and papers with your dd yourself - there are ones that start at around your dd's age, and work up to the 11+ level. She would get experience of the way the questions are asked, and how to tackle them, and that would stand her in good stead for the exam.

If you do do some of these books with her now, and she decides she doesn't want to go to the grammar school, the work won't be wasted - she'll still have benefited, but if she does, you'll have given her a long slow build up rather than hothousing, as so many of the mums you've talked to are doing.

Where we lived there were 4 grammar schools - two for girls and two for boys - with high demand for every place, and we had the same stories about needing lots of tutoring to get in, but as I said, ds1 got in with practically no tutoring, ds2 only had one hour a week for the last year, and ds2's friend just got tutored at home, and both of them got in too, so it is not the case that you must have your child intensively tutored to get into these schools.

KangarooCaught Tue 21-Dec-10 23:42:52

I work in a gs and increasingly tutoring is the case. Eight/ten years ago there would be a handful who were tutored, now it's the vast majority. Obviously it disadvantages those whose parents don't do this, for whatever reason; but also some very coached children can't cope with the work/workload once at the school, especially if parents think 'job done'. At parents' eve a parent actually said on hearing their child was working at B grade in year 7, "What's B grade. B grade is plumber. What are you going to do to make him A grade?"

seeker Wed 22-Dec-10 07:22:13

And that is exactly why I hate the grammar school system so much. There is nothing about it that's fair. Nothing

StanHouseMuir Wed 22-Dec-10 11:01:33

Is the pass mark fixed, or does it vary every year to cream off the top x number of places?

StayingFatherChristmasGirl Wed 22-Dec-10 11:28:01

There will be a set number of places (X) in the year group, and the top (X) number of pupils from the 11+ who put that school as their first choice, will be offered places. If any turn the place down, they will go on down the list of candidates.

Thus the mark required to get into the selective school will vary from year to year.

StanHouseMuir Wed 22-Dec-10 11:45:00

Thanks for that. I briefly looked at Bucks 11+ a few months ago and it seemed as though the pass mark was fixed at 121 and it didn't matter what score you achieved, you either passed or you didn't. Then there were appeals which, if successful, were treated the same as someone who scored 100% in the exam.

sue52 Wed 22-Dec-10 13:50:23

The grammar school system is unfair. IMO the only fair way to give all children an equal opportunity would be continuous teacher assessment throughout primary years.

Ineedtinsel Wed 22-Dec-10 18:32:53

In the area where I live we still have several grammar schools, sadly the tutoring situation is completely out of hand and all children now have to be tutored just to put them on a level playing field when they go into the exam.

The schools are massively oversubscribed and some parents are tutoring from year 3 or 4!!

In a perfect world no child woud be tutored and if I had my way tutoring would be banned and then the exam results would be a true reflection of each child's abilities.

We are just beginning to think about the whole secondary nightmare again with Dd3 and having been though it twice already it is not something I am looking forward to.

Good luck what ever you decide to do.

GiddyPickle Wed 22-Dec-10 18:43:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

seeker Wed 22-Dec-10 19:21:15

It's not the same in all grammar school areas and for all grammar schools. In some all you have to do is pass - then the places are allocated by proximity to the school, going out until all the places are filled.

Still unfair - but differently unfair.

KangarooCaught Wed 22-Dec-10 22:26:16

If they are coached intensively, children pass who get SATs level 4s or even level 3s...and that's why they struggle once at the school.

It is an unfair system, but I have yet to see one that is fair, since the introduction of league tables.

mattellie Wed 22-Dec-10 23:10:09

StanHouseMuir your understanding of the Bucks system is entirely correct. What SFCG says is not how it works in Bucks.

Incidentally there's no direct correlation between SATs levels and the 11+ because they are completely different exams which test different things. In some parts of the country the 11+ tests things which are not covered by the national curriculum, which is one reason that tutoring has become such a growth industry.

The authorities used to claim that it was impossible to tutor for the 11+, but are now starting to admit that this is, in fact, total bollocks.

GiddyPickle Thu 23-Dec-10 09:29:34

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

snowedinthesticks Thu 23-Dec-10 15:18:24

There are no grammars in our area but they still exist in the next county.
A surprising number of parents push their DCs for the tutoring, in spite of the 60 mile round trip to school each day.

mattellie Thu 23-Dec-10 15:47:36

GiddyPickle – yes absolutely, different counties, different systems. Are you in Kent? Bucks operates an ‘opt out’ system so every child takes the 11+ unless their parents specifically ask not to.

We have several grammars, single-sex and mixed, but even so they are quite hard to get into. My DD was predicted (and later got) levels 5s in all 3 of her SATs but was still some way short of the 11+ pass mark because she finds verbal reasoning difficult.

There is actually a report in Bucks (not widely circulated, surprisingly wink ) indicating that it is now accepted that tutoring can make a significant difference in a child’s ability to pass the 11+.

Interestingly, there is very little correlation between children’s 11+ scores and their GCSE results, though presumably if the tests had no validity at all the schools themselves would press for a different system.

MrsGuyOfChristmasBorn Thu 23-Dec-10 18:12:48

OP - your original statement is very vague - you have 'heard of' girls, who we not as clever - how do you know they are 'not as clever'? Seems a bit sour grapes because you dd did not get in. A prevailing attitude on MN seems to be that the system is only 'fair' if the poster's own child gets the school they want.
In any case - why would it be 'fair' if 'clever' children got in, over those who were not 'as clever' but had demonstrated commitment and hard work going to a tutor/doing extra homeowrk etc? Since when would it have been 'fair' that a chld who was already blessed with innate 'cleverness' should waltz into a school on the basis of a gentic gift, not through their own achivement?
I have always thought the children who 'deserve' the best education are those who are NOT naturally 'bright' as the 'bright' kids already start with an advantage, whatever their economic circumstances, and those in greatest need are the not-so-clever poor children who are prepared to work hard and who need every bit of extra assistance possible...

seeker Thu 23-Dec-10 22:44:25

I am one of the most vociferous "the system is not fair" people - and my dd is at a highly regarded, high achieving grammar school.

That's how I know how skewed they system is towards middle class children from nice middle class homes. You only have to look at the free school meals statistics to see this.

The whole point of grammar schools was to provide a step "up" for bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds. Such children have a snowball's chance in hell of getting inot a grammar school nowadays. the vast majority of the places are taken up by children from "Grammar schools are wonderful - now we don't "have" to pay school fees" homes.

mattellie Thu 23-Dec-10 23:05:48

Agree 100%. Parents have 'done the maths' as they say and realised it's much cheaper to tutor their little darlings twice a week for 2 years than it is to pay school fees for 5-7. The grammar schools don't mind this because it means they get a cohort of nice, middle-class kids who will get support from home and whose parents, having saved themselves a few bob, won't mind contributing generously to school funds/trips/prizes for the Christmas fair and so on.

DS is at a super-selective, highly academic grammar school. He loves it, it's a great school but all his mates are middle-class kids (as are we, no axe to grind here), about 50% of whom went to private prep schools and whose parents are mightily relieved they no longer have to pay.

drosophila Thu 23-Dec-10 23:12:14

My ds has had lost of cognitive tests and he has a very high IQ. He also has issues (reason for the tests) but that is for another thread. We don't have grammars but something very similar here. I had him tutored as his issues can affect how he takes exams. Strange though how cognitive tests can identify his ability but I know that the VR and NVR are not good indicators of his abilities.

We can't afford it. DP been unemewployed for 20 months but I knew the system is unfair so I wanted to give him an edge. Still don't know how it will pan out. Hate this sytem!!!

ThisIsANiceCage Thu 23-Dec-10 23:12:22

My jaw is sagging a bit at this "it is now admitted that tutoring makes a difference" stuff.

I grew up in Kent, and was tutored by my primary school for the 11+ in the 1970s. In the 1980s (as part of the Baker reforms?) tutoring by the schools was banned.

I remember my primary teacher mother citing in the 80s the known fact that tutoring raised scores across the board by iirc 1-2 percentage points. So that tutoring by the schools takes all students forward equally and keeps the playing field level; partial private tutoring immediately creates a step-difference and massively skews grammar school intake.

FWIW, I loathe the grammar school system - and I came in the top 10 in the county in my 11+ year (obv I'm not supposed to know, but had parents in educ mafia), but went to a comp out of parents' choice. Not only is entrance very dodgy, but I felt my comp served people with variable talents very well - eg people who were excellent at English but struggled with maths, or who only found their niche at 14 or 15.

seeker Thu 23-Dec-10 23:15:38

And, even setting the tutoring aside, the tests themselves are not a lvele playing field. In Kent, certainly, they favour children from bookish homes - my favourite example is a question where you had to know that there were 3 meanings for the word "sage".

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