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New test for Tiffin Girls

(134 Posts)
legallady Mon 20-Feb-12 22:26:49

This will really put the cat amongst the pigeons!

I have a lot of sympathy for those girls planning for 2013 admission and who have only just found out that they will now have to prepare for numeracy and literacy (at Level 5 and above) as well as VR and NVR just in case they are lucky enough to be one of the 400 girls to get through the first stage testing confused

SoupDragon Wed 22-Feb-12 12:30:31

The thing is that this doesn't change anything about "wasting" a choice of schools on the application form. You still don't know whether your child is good enough to get a place - if they are 400th out of 400 who passed, they haven't got an ice cube's hope in hell and unless you know their position, you will be wasting a choice. DS2 passed Wilsons - however he could be anywhere from top or 324th with only 120 places to go for so I am in no better position than I was when DS1 sat it after the forms went in.

CustardCake Wed 22-Feb-12 13:02:14

SoupDragon - I totally agree with you. Doing the test early and knowing that your child is somewhere in the top 400 prior to the CAF deadline is no help at all with regards to wasted choices. If your child is ranked 375 out of that 400 they have absolutely no hope of getting a place and there is no point them even listing the school (although the parents won't know this and will still waste a choice on their form).

I do think though that your assertion about the level of girls currently at the school may be more disputable.
It is a rare and gifted child who is 3 years above the expected level in Maths or in English. A 4B is defined as the expected level for the end of year 6. Therefore a 3a is about the expected level for the end of year 5 so to perform instead at a 5a at the end of year 5 implies performing 3 years ahead of target (2 sub levels of progress per year is an educational assumption)

On top of this, virtually no child who shows such exceptional talent in English will match it in Maths or vice versa. Even if a girl managed to be 3 years advanced in Maths, it is unlikely her English would be at the same level (she may still be above average in English but being 3 years ahead in both is unlikely). I know for a fact that Tiffins takes girls who enter BELOW level 4B for English and have to tutored throughout Year 7 or beyond. And that is a great criticism of tests that only focus on VR and NVR which are practiced and tutored for years in advance.

The change to the test is therefore good, the timing of the test is of no benefit at all and the proposed standard of the test is –-incredible-- surprising.

SoupDragon Wed 22-Feb-12 13:39:55

Looking at DS1s Y5 grades, he was 5c in maths and 4a in everything else. He isn't gifted and is not an avid reader. I can't find DS2s Y5 report but (IIRC) his levels were marginally higher and, again, he is not gifted.

I really don't think it would be unusual for the bright children to be able to do level 5 stuff 3 months in to Y6 and for the real bright ones to grasp L6 stuff. DS had one hour a week, term time, maths tuition for one year to put the knowledge of how to do the questions. Since his brain is clearly wired for maths, this wasn't a problem and I doubt would present a significant problem for the kind of girls Tiffins would want to attract. They want the brightest - this will give them that (probably better than the current VR/NVR tests do). To try and claim there is any other reason or to persuade people that is was done due to the whole deadline thing is disingenuous on their part.

Interestingly, Wilsons have dropped the VR from their entrance exam altogether and didn't do NVR when DS1 sat it either. Perhaps because it is relatively easy to tutor for these two things even where the child is perhaps not naturally academic.

CustardCake Wed 22-Feb-12 13:54:47

My DC was a 5b in English at the start of Year 6 and, knowing now what a Level 6 requires, I honestly don't think we could have stretched that any further at that age to cover "some level 6 elements". A 5b is very advanced for that age as it is. He was still only 10 years old.
His maths I can't remember - I think it was either 4a or 5c. It was a bit lower but still considered to be very good. The most gifted child at Primary is expected to leave Year 6 with all level 5a's. That is at the current top level for age 11.

Therefore to expect them to reach this standard a whole year earlier is more gifted than I have ever known any child to be. It would logically mean a child taking the exams, making a further 2 sub levels of progress over the course of year 6 and entering secondary school at level 7 or just below. I have never heard of any child being at that level accross all subjects but maybe our school's idea of gifted isn't anybody elses'??

singersgirl Wed 22-Feb-12 13:57:49

I don't think it's that unusual for children to be a level 5 in all subjects - certainly DS2 was at the end of y5 and DS1 was level 5 for everything but writing. I know of several other children who were as well. DS2 scored 100% on the first practice SATs test they did this year in maths - so definitely a 5a a couple of weeks into school.

You don't need to be 'rare and gifted', just academically very able. Tiffin is a highly selective school and wants to get very able girls.

I think it will be a better test of all-round ability too, regardless of the level discussion.

Although it won't help the 400 girls who pass the first test in the application process, it will help the 800 plus others who will know not to waste a slot for Tiffin.

coffeecake9 Wed 22-Feb-12 15:25:55

The change clearly has nothing to do with complying with the new admissions code as Tiffin Boys are still testing only vr/nvr and are just bringing the exam forward.

Far from reducing the level of tutoring,the change at Tiffin Girls will massively increase it. "Familiarisation" with vr and nvr at home will not now suffice. The change will also disadvantage children at state primary schools unless their parents can afford extra tuition, especially in Maths. Most primary schools will not have covered the ground in Maths and this means there will be a gap in the children's knowledge, which is not a reflection of their aptitude.

I think the school should have at least provided details of the test (eg exactly which Maths topics will be tested, whether there will be an essay, whether the English paper will be multiple choice, how each paper is weighted etc). If Tiffin wants to go the private school testing route, then it might at least provide the sort of information the private schools do.

SheHulk Wed 22-Feb-12 16:00:06

Soup, I wish all schools did like Wilsons. Maths and English (Reading and Writing). That should be enough. That's what they are doing in school. The reasoning is the problem. Scrap the reasoning NOW angry

legallady Thu 23-Feb-12 17:07:24

Someone from Tiffin Girls obviously reads this website - they have now clarified their test arrangements as follows:

"Stage 2 testing will include three tests which will assess numeracy and literacy: one each
of mathematics, reading and writing. These tests will be at an appropriate level of
challenge to determine the offer of places at the school and will be guided by the content
of the Primary National Curriculum. For guidance only: the level of challenge of these
tests will be appropriate for candidates anticipated to achieve Level 5 at the end of Year

Sounds much better wink

SoupDragon Thu 23-Feb-12 17:08:11


thetasigmamum Thu 23-Feb-12 17:55:28

@custardcake DD1 was level 5 across the board at the end of Y4. They didn't do (as far as I am aware) the SATs papers when she was in Y3 (at the end of Y4 the advanced kids sat the same SATs as the Y6 kids were doing). She is now at a super selective grammar (which gets pretty much identical exam stats as Tiffins year on year). DD1 was not in any way unusual in terms of maths when she arrived at her current school. I think her English is probably heading towards G&T though. And she wasn't the only one with those sorts of levels at the primary school either. DD2 was level 5 in literacy at the end of Y3 and a level 4a in Maths (she has been taught with older year groups for both of those subjects). DD2 does appear to be way ahead in literacy but there are 3 other kids in her year who are as good or better than her at Maths. DS on the other hand didn't hit level 5 in Maths till Y6 and never hit it in literacy (well, hopefully he is now but we don't get very much feedback from his school, he didn't want to even try for the grammar and is at the comp for which his primary school is a feeder, where he is very happy and settled).

Many primary schools don't push the pupils as much as they could and at that age children develop at different rates anyway, which is obviously one of the arguments against selection at 11+ but it seems clear that there are a core of kids who do hit those levels early on given the opportunity. It doesn't mean the others won't catch up, but schools like Tiffins give those kids the scope to carry on powering forward if that is the way they are going, which is surley a good thing? It seems like Tiffins has more people wanting to go there than they can shake a stick at and I would guess that based on their experiences to date they feel they will fill the places easily even setting the bar high, so why not? If they feel their remit is to provide a tailored education to the sort of kids who are hitting those levels at that age then, given they believe in testing, they need to make the test appropriate. The sad thing isn't that Tiffins sets the bar so high, it's that there are so few state schools that do that or maybe set the bar just a bit lower to capture the kids who are bubbling under (and might overtake the 'hares' in a year or so). So you see the flight to posh schools for those who can afford it - but what happens to those who can't?

One important thing to remember is the kids who end up in super selective schools have often been bullied in their primary schools for being 'swots' or geeky. DD1 was, DD2 isn't, nobody would dare grin. She's feisty. grin

Super selective schools are supposed to cater for these sorts of pupils. It's not unreasonable for them to set the test bar accordingly.

CustardCake Thu 23-Feb-12 18:04:32

It now seems that Tiffins DON'T expect level 5 or above at the end of year 5 at all judging by the clarification they have issued. It is Level 5 by the end of Year 6 which seems much more more realistic.

And by saying "realistic", I am factoring considerations that whilst bright children may be capable of getting these very high levels at an early age, not many schools offer them the chance to do it. Many schools will not let a child (however bright) be taught outside their age group and go into the year above for lessons. Many schools see Level 5 as the absolute pinnacle of what can be achieved for that age group and wouldn't dream of pushing for the next step. Many are more worried about getting the 3a children up to level 4b by the end of Year 6 so their results don't look too awful. And of course many simply do not cover the knowledge a child would need to exceed Level 5's at Primary age even if they are very bright and able.

My worry was that if Tiffins expected Level 5a / 6c at the end of Year 5 they were effectively ruling out very bright children from normal schools. By normal I mean schools that don't support children to work at level 6 in Year 6. And unfortunately that is the norm in most Primaries.

singersgirl Thu 23-Feb-12 20:53:08

The power of Mumsnet wink! At least that sounds more reassuring.

kensingtonia Thu 23-Feb-12 22:41:00

Unfortunately I don't think it was the power of Mumsnet! I know of quite a few parents who have telephoned in the last few days. I would prefer a test that was impossible to tutor for. I think the new system is an improvement but will lead to even more tutoring. It seems fairly similar to the test at Henrietta Barnett School - a colleague has a five year old who is already being tutored for that one!

SoupDragon Fri 24-Feb-12 07:46:44

The (private) schools DSs sat for interview all the children who pass the exam. They base their offers on that rather than just the marks. I imagine this isn't practical for state schools though.

kensingtonia Fri 24-Feb-12 09:00:44

They are not allowed to interview! I think church schools still did up to relatively recently ostensibly to gauge religious commitment but that has also been stopped.

CustardCake Fri 24-Feb-12 10:14:34

State schools aren't allowed to interview. I agree though that it a useful tool as long as in the State sector it was only used to judge attitude and motivation and genuine aptitude as opposed to wealth or posh accents!

And I agree it would be better if they made the test harder to tutor for. An obvious solution would be to vastly change its format every year (written maths questions one year, multiple choices the next, no maths at all the following year and just 2 essays of a science based nature but the following year keeping it all fiction based with no multiple choice and long, formal answers required. Throw in the odd logic puzzle and change these vastly year on year as well). In theory you could tutor a child for every type of test in every conceivable format but with so many possible combinations it couldn't be done as intensively as it is now.

Fraktal Fri 24-Feb-12 10:21:35

custard the problem then would be an intake who excel at literacy, one with a stranding aptitude for science and a year which are brilliant at maths.

CustardCake Fri 24-Feb-12 10:37:47

Fraktal - That is true although the children would not know what was in the exam until the day they took it so would have to feel reasonably confident in all areas to enter.
Also, at the moment they don't do literacy or numeracy exams at all. They do VR and NVR. Tiffin Girls are changing this but Tiffin Boys' aren't so they can still end up with (and do end up with) some whose literacy skills aren't as advanced as you'd expect yet it hasn't seemed to hold them back judging by the results.

SoupDragon Fri 24-Feb-12 10:45:07

Even if they don't know what is coming up in the exam they will still be tutored in everything.

It is a shame they can't interview - the private schools use it to spot the children who have been extensively tutored and which appear to be naturally bright. Tutoring will get you through the exam but it may not see you through the interview.

Having said that, I would have been shocking at interview because I was/am painfully shy.

I don't think there is a way to remove the bias towards tutoring really.

CustardCake Fri 24-Feb-12 10:49:34

No there isn't - the new system will help a bit just by extending the spectrum of skills children will need though. With the best will (and best tutor) in the world there is only so much you can do with a child who excels in maths but whose English is shocking.
The old tests consisted of a VR and a NVR exam, both multiple chioice which child were coached and coached for. There were children in my DS's school who could get 100% on these purely because they had done every single practice paper available over a 3 year period and knew all the tricks, all the techniques, all the shortcuts and all the possible formats that could come up.

SoupDragon Fri 24-Feb-12 10:55:10

LOL - Ive just found out that's exactly what DS2 did in one of his exams - 81% in maths, 40% in english. grin

I do think that maths and, to a lesser extent, english rely on ability rather than being the kind of thing you can cram into a child. With maths you do have to have a talent for it in order to be able to understand what is needed, especially under exam conditions.

I think you could tutor a chid how to do well at English, barring things like dyslexia, but anything thrown at them that was out of the ordinary would mess that up and you could probably spot a "tutored" essay for example.

Yellowtip Fri 24-Feb-12 11:47:41

Tiffin will have tweaked what it originally said - sloppily - to stop speculation that it had raised the bar and is now looking towards Level 6 as standard. Which would be a nonsense.

Highish Level 5s at the end of Y6 is the expectation for the best of the superselectives. So Level 4a and above at the end of Y5 should suffice.

Changing the format randomly would be a good idea to combat the advantages of tutoring but the schools have to take great care not to disadvantage more vulnerable kids. If Tiffin's bar for the first tests is set relatively low then on the face of it it appears very slick: it conforms to the new Admissions Code yet gives the school time to spend on weeding out the best while probably minimising the advantage of tutoring. Quite time intensive for the school, but they must feel it's worth it.

YummyHoney Sun 26-Feb-12 22:33:37

This new test will help the cream rise to the top. Of course the girls have to be level 5s and above to get in . . . . that is the whole point of Tiffin Girls - it's for the super- intelligent. It's not supposed to be for your run-of-the-mill children. What's wrong with that? (goes to bed).

CustardCake Sun 26-Feb-12 22:59:27

Yummy - you've missed the whole point. Of course they have to be around level 5a to get in to Tiffins - that's pretty standard for Grammar Schools. Initially however, it was suggested by the school that they needed to be a 5a "or above" when they took the test. They take the tests a whole year before they enter the school.

That's what people were questioning - is it fair to expect state school children to reach level 5a or level 6 by the end of year 5 when most schools won;t cover anything like that? And that's what Tiffins clarified: no - they don;t expect a 5a at the end of Year 5. They just expect a 5a by the end of Year 6 so those taking the test need to at about a level 5c or 5b at the time of taking the test.

Yellowtip Mon 27-Feb-12 08:05:52

Tiffin and others like it are for the soundly intelligent, not the 'super' intelligent Yummy. Otherwise Tiffin's results would look different.

The cream metaphor is a little unpleasant. I'd be very annoyed with my children if they took the attitude that they were 'the cream'.

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