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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

nals Thu 15-Nov-12 09:42:33

I am looking for a tutor for my daughter and any help would be appreciated.

2B1Gmum Mon 05-Nov-12 15:16:17

I looked at Tiffin for my daughter a couple of years ago and was suitably impressed, she particularly liked the science labs, but decided in the end not to bother, horrid journey (although only a few miles away) and besides the top 25% in her non selective local school get the same great results at GSCE as the average Tiffin girl, I will look again for sixth form. There are plenty of very bright local children who don't get in but still get to top universities - I can think of 3 girls I know who tried with very basic knowledge of past papers, one just left Oxford with a first, the other two currently applying for Oxbridge, including one for Medicine. The real winners are the tutors, especially the well known 2 who only accept cash! £60,000 plus a year by my calculations.

Copthallresident Thu 28-Jun-12 16:38:54

ewee I am sure that if you have a child who scores consistently above the 98th percentile after a bit of practise then you are wasting your money on a tutor for VR/ NVR and they have a good chance. Whether you believe me or not untutored children did get into Tiffin, I obviously can't name names but I can quote the example of the Old Vicarage, Richmond Prep that if nothing else coaches its pupils to within an inch of their lives to get them into selectives and does no more to prepare them for VR and NVR than to do one practise paper per week in VR. I am sure they come under lots of parental pressure to do more and if they knew a way that worked better they would be doing it!! Though most of the parents are going for indies they have had a steady 1 or 2 per year getting places at Tiffin, and they are not, since the pushiest parents are out for the kudos of the top of the league tables, the ones to tutor on top of the cramming. I also question the value of tutoring because I know so many parents of bright kids who didn't get in, in spite of a year of paying a fortune to make a weekly trek to be packed into the kitchen of one of the star tutors with 5 others, having only been accepted after scoring above the 97th percentile in the first place. These are kids who have gone on to success, in one case 4 A*s. My impression is not that it's a race of the tutored but based on who I have seen get in or not, that the whole thing is more of a lottery, more so than can be explained by girls having an off day. TGS obviously are not going to go out of their way to make the process more fair and discriminating because any girl who can score over the 97th percentile is bright and capable of doing well.

It also appears that tutors themselves do not subscribe to your argument that the brightest child will benefit most from coaching, here a tutor saying that the biggest problems are where children aren't already avid readers and good at English (as you would expect of children with good VR since motivation follows abilities) That makes more sense. Tutoring would therefore be more appropriate if for a reason other than just not being that able, they are not (but then would you send them to Tiffin). He is also quoting another education writer saying that you should come to NVR with a fresh mind.

Are there really a lot of children getting near 100%? The top percentile they measure to is the 99.98th, ie the child is one of only 0.02 % of the population that scores that highly. If more than 2 or 3 (10 times the national average) of the 1300 applying to Tiffin are scoring that then any psychologist would be seriously unprofessional if they didn't start questioning their tests, there just won't be that many children capable of achieving that score likely to apply to Tiffin in the whole of West London!

With attainment tests coming the standard of tutoring is bound to plummet anyway. DD works part time as a tutor and gets sent by some agency who charge a fortune for her services to tutor kids in Maths for 11+ in North London, she is obviously an amazing girl wink but experience of the tests / teaching children, zilch!!

CecilyP Thu 28-Jun-12 16:34:36

I think it was Copthall that said tutoring was unheard of. I would agree with you, ewee. I think the nature of these tests means that reasonably bright children could work out how to do them and would get through most of the questions - if they had all the time in the world. However, the tests are against the clock, so coaching would enable children to answer the questions without needing any thinking time. It is not so much needing a good tutor, as being familiar with questions and knowing what answers are expected, which could ve achieved working through similar tests with anyone. I would imagine that the level of coaching is such that normally bright children can achieve scores that would only have been achievable by very ablest in the past.

ewee Thu 28-Jun-12 13:55:44

CecilyP; I would accept that when the VR/NVR tests first appeared, they might have done a decent job at identifying potential since, as you say, coaching was unheard of back then. The problem now, though, is that it has been shown in repeated studies that practice improves average scores; the only residual debate is by how much.

In my view, it's not a huge leap to assume that the more able children gain the most fom coaching (a view supported by several studies but, admittedly, not all). These will be the kids getting close to 100%.

So, as I said before, if you are the parent of a bright child, the real issue is, do you think they have an equal chance if they are uncoached (by a good tutor) when competing against those who are? The schools who claim to select on potential are being disengenuous; they select on aggregate scores. Yes, in a way, that selects potential but it's simply first past the post. They select "the best of the best coached".

Copthallresident Thu 28-Jun-12 12:29:40


I don't think it is going to be of any use to anyone else on this thread debating what happened in the 60s and 70s but out of interest I was googling to see if I was remembering rightly that some girls in my primary had to go off to an assessment centre where they had a nice chat with a teacher and played with bricks, and that determined whether they ended up in Grammar School or Secondary Modern!!! I did remember rightly, it was the Thorne scheme, the 60s really were another era! However I came across the chapters on selection methods from the Plowden Report from 1967 which quite clearly shows how the traditional 11+ was being questioned and other forms of assessment being considered clearly distinguishing between tests of intelligence and attainment, with the latter particularly disregarded and with the final recommendation Authorities who for an interim period continue to need selection procedures should cease to rely on an externally imposed battery of intelligence and attainment tests. With Tiffin bringing in tests of attainment the wheel comes full circle....

(I was going on what the registrar at Godolphin told us when she showed us round, but then that was far from the only thing she got wrong, enquiring whether they played tennis in Asia?!)

CecilyP Thu 28-Jun-12 11:13:58

Just wanted to add that Godolphin and Latymer was not a direct grant school but a voluntary aided grammar that became a private school when selection finally ended in the ILEA.

CecilyP Thu 28-Jun-12 11:09:02

Copthall, I took the 11+ in LCC in 1964 and it was English, Arithmetic and Verbal Reasoning. (And, as far as I know, I am still alive and was possibly still only a teenager when you took your 11+ in the 1970s.) The exam took all day, and all the other years in the junior school had the day off for this day. The following year, this exam was replaced in the, by then ILEA, by primary school teacher recommendation - IQ tests were then only really used to confirm that the recommendation was sound.

In London at the time, I would say there were 3 tiers of of selective school, the direct grant schools that you mention, the voluntary aided grammar schools and the normal county grammar schools. The 11+ did not determine which one you would be educated at. The letter your parents got merely said, 'your child has been selected for further academic education', and the choices your parents made would have been more dependent on how you were doing at primary school, amongst other things. I also believe, in many cases, you had to take an extra exam to get a place at a direct grant school. A free place in a direct grant school was not means tested, it was merely dependent on having spent 2 of the last 4 years at a state primary school.

Copthallresident Thu 28-Jun-12 10:36:21

CecilyP Not sure how you define tradition but when I sat the 11+ in the 70s it was VR/NVR and had been in living memory and the LA were very clear it was to give everyone a chance. There were no computers to mark them! It was to determine in which of three tiers of schools you would best be educated (that was the theory): Direct Grant Grammars, superselectives directly funded by the government via a means tested grant, your parents paid or didn't pay according to income or you got a LA (or County Council) Scholarship, Grammar Schools and Secondary Moderns, which in theory were supposed to provide education that was designed to do justice to the potential of the less able. KGS, Latyme,r Godolphn and Latymer were all Direct Grant Grammars. The concept of tutoring was just unknown. Not sure what relevence that has to this debate other than to underline that VR/ NVR tests have a long history, and huge body of scientific research behind them, all predicated on them being a test of ability rather than achievement.

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 17:56:19

On the contrary I have two dyslexic children, they sit NVR/ VR papers every four years as part of their assessments. Obviously no coaching, we are paying a lot of money to find out exactly what the actual gap is between ability and attainment. At risk of being one of those DD is a prodigy types ( they aren't , they are just them) both do score in excess of the 97th percentile, and their scores go down as well as up by a percentile ot two at each assessment. Achievement is of course a different matter and that is another reason why I understand only too well the distinction between ability and achievement in these entrance exams and why I do have some faith in the ability of these schools to go on potential rather than just achievement. The last thing I wanted for two girls with SLDs is for them to struggle to survive at a school they had been tutored into. Indeed when they did get in to the selectives I was careful to make sure with the school they chose that they had assessed them in the top half of the ability range and were sure they would not struggle. They specifically commented on their high reasoning scores and on the ability they had shown in tackling the other parts of their papers, given the usual problems of misread questions, papers not finished and careless errors that come with their particular can of worms.

Neither sat Tiffin because when DD1 went round she hated it, after all the interest the indies and non selectives had shown in her as a person as they showed her round she found it very cold. (Her friends who went there loved it and did well, and always wore their pride at getting in and not having to pay out on their sleeve!) DD2 wouldn't even look. However given their consistent VR/ NVR scores and the performance of their untutored peers I have no reason to suppose they wouldn't have had a good chance (though probably not if it were under the new regime and there is a shift to attainment rather than potential) .

In fact at DD2s school there was much consternation that those children who had been tutored up and were doing well in internal tests were not necessarily the ones that got into selective schools and that three girls who were not tutored, and indeed in two cases hadn't even been in the UK education system for part of their schooling did. After they had had such a great all round education and life experience at an International school I found it quite heart breaking watching the way some of DD2s peers were set up for failure, and some of those girls very clearly nurse insecurities that have caused problems in the longer term.

CecilyP Wed 27-Jun-12 17:11:19

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding here. VR/NVR tests give you an indication of raw ability, literacy and numeracy tests tell you about a child's level of achievement, what they have learnt. The reason Grammar Schools traditionally focused on VR / NVR was that they were looking for potential and didn't want to exclude bright children who had been taught poorly, came from disadvantaged backgrounds etc. A lot of private schools also include VR and NVR for exactly the same reason, to make sure they are getting the brightest pupils rather than the very tutored and crammed.

No, traditionally, 11+ exams involved 3 papers: English, Arithmetic and Verbal Reasoning. So the VR only accounted for 33% of the marks. The attraction of VR/NVR, especially multiple choice, is that it is quick and easy to mark - only right/wrong answer - no grey areas. I think VR and NVR tests might give an indication of raw ability if candidates came to them cold. As with anything, practice makes perfect, and as so many similar tests are in the public domain, (including all the examples that BeingFluffy gives) parents, if they find these schools appealing, will make their children practice.

ewee Wed 27-Jun-12 16:13:40

copthallresident; the evidence is direct experience but, also, there are several academic studies on the subject. I've not found one which disputes that coaching improves performance; the only debate is about the extent.

You have obvously used such testing; good. Perhaps, what you have found is bright people who have been coached perform particularly well across many areas. Really, I suspect you have little or no knowledge of the performance of those with absolutely no coaching. And that is the real issue for parents. If you think you have a bright child, are you really going to leave them 'uncoached' and take the risk of letting them go up against other bright children who have been coached?

In my view, coaching bright children in VR & NVR, as well as some other areas, depending on age, should lead to greater general cognitive development. Is it any surprise that they then take that forward in other areas?

I would agree with the view, however, that there is a very strict limit on the improvements that can be made with average children; probably not sufficient to justify the effort and cost. Equally, not all tutors are going to be equal. Those who simply get the child to practice endless papers without much regard to anything else are of little real value, in my view.

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 14:09:47

ewee What is this evidence? anecdote? tutor claims? My experience of VR/NVR is as part of psychometric testing for recruitment to a blue chip. Obviously it was part of a process designed to collect a whole range of evidence about individuals but it was actually a good predictor of the ability you picked up in other parts of the process and in subsequent tests and their career (and it was followed through precisely so that you could iteratively improve the process). TGS might not be bothered but businesses definitely want the brightest, not people who sit at home practising tests in their spare time, or have been through so many interview processes that they have become good at tests! And there is a huge body of research that aims to minimise the halo effect of repeated exposure to tests. You should practise for the tests but if the tests are developed properly there should be an iterative process to keep the tests moving ahead of people's experience. It is why they are widely used and valued in business and education. It sounds as though TGS or whichever firm of Consultants Kingston Council use have allowed the tests to become repetitive so that tutors have found ways to improve scores, but that is bad implementation not a problem with the scientific theory behind the tests .

However that won't stop bright pupils getting high scores after a bit of practise. It may be first past the post but it is first past the post in terms of reasoning ability compared to every 11 year old girl in Britain not just West London's cultivated flowers. If they are in the top 3% they will score in the top 3% even if it may be that tutors are getting some who would have scored in the top 5% into the top 3%. The statistical effect of the tutored west Londoners is lost in a national population. In both my daughters' cohorts, there were bright girls who got into Tiffin with just a few practise sessions (and some of them didn't go because their ability was also spotted by Indies who recruited them with scholarships and burseries). There were also bright girls who had extensive tutoring after scoring 97% in the practise paper they had to sit to be accepted by the tutor in the first place (and if it isn't about native ability why wouldn't tutors be prepared to take on a child who scores, say, merely in the top 5%, leaving aside cynicism about the claimed success rates, when tutors have selected for success) who didn't get in, but of course have gone on to academic success anyway.

The problem is that no parent knows where the truth lies because there isn't any proper scientific data and so it is opaque and so it becomes the stuff of the rumour mill and the Mumsnet thread, and a whole west london industry catering to desperate parents....

And yes, the more they progress the more that attention is given to the working out rather than the answer in Maths. DD1 doing at uni level now and it is just as well because it is impossible to get to the right answer!

ewee Wed 27-Jun-12 11:20:47

But this is where it gets a bit more difficult. If VR tests (or any other test,for that matter) truly tested innate ability and nothing else, then coaching would make no difference (or no statistically significant difference at least). However, the evidence suggests that this is not so; average pupils who are coached in the types of specific techniques used by these tests (i.e. experience with the types of questions set) do show significant improvement. Logic would tell you, then, that if there is a learning element, already bright pupils might improve even more than average pupils. That makes it very tough for the truly bright individual who has received no coaching.

Since these schools select the highest (coached) scores, selection comes down to one or two 'errors' as the factor which separates.

I agree with the view that, at least with maths, you can see working and therefore whether an able pupil has just been careless - don't get any of that with multiple choice. Still, I wonder how many teachers are struck by the innate ability of a careless pupil over and above the merits of the able pupil who gets them right!

All in all, the argument that these schools truly look for 'potential' is garbage; they select on first past the post.

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 09:47:03

A well designed VR test measures cognitive abilities or mental processes such as critical thinking, attention or judgement, so yes that final mark does give you a measure of someone's ability in those areas compared to the rest of the population , and therefore their potential when it comes to applying those abilities and processes. If they do not have those abilities then there is nothing a tutor can do to ensure your child acquires them. They are simple multiple choice questions precisely because they are just tests of the process not the outcome. In a Maths test a child can get the question wrong but followed the right logical process and so seeing why they got the wrong answer will give you an indication of potential. Reasoning tests are a measure of that process and if they get a question wrong it is because they don't have the cognitive ability / processes in place. You can stimulate what is there already but you can't put it there.

The problem with the TGS tests is that it sounds as if they have not invested in them, much like the rest of the secondary education system, to make them more rigourous and less predictable, and tutors are cashing in on it, and that the measurement you get from any reasoning test is not so reliable that it will truly identify the top 3%. I don't know the reliability of these tests but I would be surprised if they are accurate to within less than 2 or 3 % so you will get some brighter children who are actually within the top 97% scoring at 95th percentile, on the day and with that particular test, and some at the 95th percentile making it over the score at the 97 percentile. I wouldn't like to guess how much you could skew the result with tutoring but anecdotally I do know of plenty of bright children who were tutored but did not get into the Tiffins and have gone on to good unis, including Oxbridge.

At the end of the day though these are real children not just statistical blips . The system means that with parents feeling that they have to put such huge importance on their child getting through these exams, investing in years of tutoring and emphasising the penalty of not getting in as being so high, you are giving them a ridiculously narrow margin of achievement for success and a huge risk of failure. This change to the Tiffin tests is going to make that worse not better. Looking back on it all with one child already at uni I know that in her cohorts from childbirth classes on, the cream does always rise and nowhere in our boroughs is the education system so bad that it hasn't enabled bright children to go on to good unis.

ewee Wed 27-Jun-12 08:43:01

Part of the problem, of course, and the reason why we parents get so stressed is that the penalty from not getting in to one of the top schools is so high.

I do smile when I hear and see comments that these schools select on the basis of potential; absolute nonsense. Most of these people wouldn't recognise potential if it came and sat in their lunch box. Indeed, how do you identify potential from a multiple choice NV/VR test? You can't, other than via the final mark. (Now, if you could sit with each pupil and go through why they put an incorrect answer, then you might get some insight into potential.....)

Of course, including separate literacy and numeracy exams might help, but the same criteria will apply. Those with the best marks will get through, although the marking itself may be more subjective (not necessarily a good thing!).

So, like many, I'm in search of good tutors (shouldn't there be a separate topic just on that? - maybe there is but I haven't seen it). I'm trying to find some who are a bit different, not just the same old repetitive approach but someone who might develop my child's underlying reasoning abilities in the process. Guess I'll end up settling for the run of the mill since I haven't come across one yet. (I live in Kingston if anybody has any ideas.)

BeingFluffy Wed 27-Jun-12 07:45:44

While I tend to agree with most of your comments, I think you underestimate the art of tutoring. There are definitely girls in the school who are less capable than the others but got in because they had extremely adept tutors. The VR test at TGS once all the question types are learned, comes down to vocabulary. If you start two or so years in advance it is possible to rote learn pretty much any possible question. Similarly, while we would like to think NVR is a test of raw ability, again the question types can be learned sucessfully.

I think at one time, Kingston tutors had a virtual monopoly on successful tutoring. With eleven plus forums/websites, courses, CD roms and lord knows what else on the market, the information is now available to all. I think the school are trying to redress the balance and give an advantage to candidates at local schools, who they will no doubt support via networking with info about what exactly is expected.

Copthallresident Wed 27-Jun-12 00:27:50

There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding here. VR/NVR tests give you an indication of raw ability, literacy and numeracy tests tell you about a child's level of achievement, what they have learnt. The reason Grammar Schools traditionally focused on VR / NVR was that they were looking for potential and didn't want to exclude bright children who had been taught poorly, came from disadvantaged backgrounds etc. A lot of private schools also include VR and NVR for exactly the same reason, to make sure they are getting the brightest pupils rather than the very tutored and crammed . However typically they will gather a range of evidence about a child, from different tests and interview so they can be sure they are the right child for their school. You can only tutor children for NVR / VR to a ceiling, whatever the tutors might say to justify years of tutoring income. If the VR/ NVR tests are rigourously developed you will not improve a child's performance after around 10 practise papers, Occupational and Educational Psycholgists have a huge body of developmental research designed to make these tests a rigourous test of reasoning ability rather than tutoring so that Businesses and schools can rely on them as such. It is the gap between a higher reasoning ability and lower achievement that will lead teachers and Ed Psychs to suspect a Specific Learning Difference such as Dyslexia, if no other obvious explanation such as illness or poor teaching exists.

Tiffin even fifteen years ago wasn't taking any pupil who scored at less than the 97th percentile ie 97% of children of their gender and age would score below them. You would expect people who gain entrance to Oxbridge to score above the 95th percentile. I'm guessing that Tiffin was faced with the NVR / VR test scores having become so high they were excluding ridiculous numbers of bright children and feel they need another dimension to the information they have about applicants. It would be interesting to know what they would do if they had an applicant score at the 99.98 percentile for VR / NVR but not reach Level 5.

And yes the tutoring industry will greatly benefit from this......

nals Mon 25-Jun-12 13:26:10

Any advice on tutors .. Pls help! Names and nos much appreciated.

zoffany51 Sun 03-Jun-12 00:23:05

i would strongly advise any parent reading this forum to take a step back and see the bigger picture - is your child actually happy - obsessing about perfomance levels and whether your DC is 'very t&g' or whatever, as i have read so often with dismay on forums such as this causes immense stress within the family unit, and ultimately will manifest in transfer anxiety within the child. Any child; girl or boy is the greatest gift in itself - and we all doubtless possess a great many talents. It is difficult i accept, but do at least make the effort and try to look beyond the confines of academic expectation to the possibilities of a happier and less stressful family life. Your child will surely thank you for it in the long term. smile

zoffany51 Sat 02-Jun-12 23:56:45 of course there is a not insubstantial element of luck. All boils down to supply & demand; the scarcer the commodity - the more people want it. We all basically work the same way - it makes us feel special. Nothing which is excellent is ever easy. Ultimately, i expect the whole system to implode as the numbers of applicants ever increases and the odds for success (at gaining one of a fixed number of places) diminishes year on year. However, there is no sign of this happening yet. Would probably be a good thing though, since we all as parents would need to be a deal more creative instead of simply following the herd. smile

zoffany51 Sat 02-Jun-12 23:45:26

fyi - in fact all of the other boys had been tutored - some extensively; success rate = zero. So the question i see asked on these threads over & over - should i get a tutor; which one; when is just plain stupid. Parents don't get it - your DC will either be able to perform [speed/accuracy/intellect/mental agility] under extreme time pressure & hold it all together - Happy.Glorious.Victorious, as you might say - or else 'fail'; but then they'll fail whatever you do. smile

zoffany51 Sat 02-Jun-12 23:37:14

tiggytape - brilliantly put: hope your contribution to this thread will clarify the case for many parents who seem simply not to understand. DS was at an outstanding primary; 10+ boys from the school took the test [all bright & capable] - but he was only one to get in. Some of those who were not successful went on to Hampton to avoid local sink secondaries, but we were effectively the only family to secure a 'choice'. And if you look at the stats - what you're quoting - that's about right; in essence 92% who sit Tiffin entrance will not succeed (irrespective of whether they have been tutored or hothoused or not). Hence the reputation as super-selective. z

tiggytape Fri 01-Jun-12 23:38:03

Or a shorter answer - yes you are right. That is the standard required but when applicants apply from all over Surrey, London and the South East all of those 1 or 2 exceptional children per school soon add up and you end up with 1500 of them competing for 150 places.

tiggytape Fri 01-Jun-12 23:35:14

morethan - It has all changed in areas where there are schools like Tiffins (super selectives that only accept the top 150 scores).

If you consider over 1500 pupils take the Tiffins test (all of whom will be a level 5 minimum or most likely a level 6 SATS in all subjects) you can see this isn't a test to see who is clever enough and who isn't.

It is a test that takes 1500 kids (of whom at least 1000 will be exceptionally gifted and easily clever enough to excel at Grammar school) and whittles them down to the last 150 men standing.

There are children who take the test who achieve level 6 in all their SATS who don't get a place. With 10 - 12 applicants per place, getting just one question wrong or being a fraction too slow is the difference between getting a place and not getting one. This is where tutoring comes in - speed and accuracy as well as short cuts and familiarity might gain you 3 extra marks on your paper and that makes all the difference.

Once upon a time (and still today in some areas) the 11+ sorted children who were clever and would benefit from a grammar school education from those who would not be suited to it.
Nowadays most people do not take the 11+ exams and the test just acts to assess which of the 1000+ exceptionally bright children who apply should be chosen.

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