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Is it possible to get into private school without a tutor

(46 Posts)
paddythepooch Fri 08-Mar-13 12:51:33

Dd is very bright. Top of her class in Maths, English. All of her friends have tutors with the aim of trying for private schools, some hope to get bursaries etc. we couldn't afford private school fees but might if we got a bursary or scholarship. She's not good at music or sport just clever.

I don't really want to go down the tuition route as it just heaps on the pressure. But people say you can't get in without tuition as ss don't teach the skills for the tests.

Has anyone got in to competitive private schools without tuition? Sure this has been asked before so sooty. Would love to hear from anyone who hasn't tutored.

Copthallresident Sun 17-Mar-13 18:43:22

pithy From the mouth of the Headmistress of one of the top 10 schools in teh country "we learn a lot from interviews". They have a basic cut off on attainment which prunes 25% of applicants, then interview the rest and select 25% on the basis of interview, VR and general knowledge.

pithy Sun 17-Mar-13 18:35:54

"They can make an holistic judgement...based on a whole range of factors"

These "holistic judgements" are made on the basis of subjective values and are therefore biased, no matter how experienced the assessor is likely to be. The only robust tests used are the measurable entry exams.

Copthallresident Sat 16-Mar-13 17:17:03

I should say before nomoresleep jumps in that SPGS is probably the exception to that in that no weaknesses of any sort would be tolerated grin

Copthallresident Sat 16-Mar-13 17:15:28

Actually ironically I think a child will be helped more by tutoring to get into the less selective top London schools. The exams for places like Surbiton and KGS were much more focused on attainment than G&L, LEH and SPGS who had exams it would be much more difficult to tutor a child to do well in. Nor is entry to the latter schools a case of first past the post, and 1 or 2 marks making the difference. The admissions process is designed to enable them to learn about all aspects of the DCs ability and personality precisely so they can make a holistic judgement about whether the child will succeed at the school based on a whole range of factors, attainment is just one of those. They will often admit pupils with significant weaknesses in attainment if they can see that they are bright, have potential and the qualities that will enable them to succeed at the school. All a bit opaque but when I phoned to make sure my DDs were not going to be below average they were able to articulate exactly what qualities had led to them offering them a place and had achieved a pretty good idea of their strengths and weaknesses, they are by the way about as different as two human beings could be......

Pyrrah Sat 16-Mar-13 15:41:36

Depends on the school your child is at and the school they are sitting for.

I spoke to admissions at one of the top London girls schools about 7+ and 11+ and they freely admitted that students sitting from state primaries would probably not have covered some of the maths that would be included in the exam papers.

They told me that even though they didn't like students to be tutored, if it was a child from a state school then they would have no problems at all with tutoring for the exams - but please not for the interviews.

I've applied for a primary school place in a state primary that offers extra classes to children sitting the 11+ and prides itself on an excellent record of getting children into super-selective indies and GS.

DH and I both went the selective route back in the 1980s - I went to a hot-housing prep and DH went to a state primary but had two years of tutoring (since he went on to get across the board A's at GCSE and A level, and a place at Oxford it wasn't a case that he couldn't keep up having been tutored to get in - ALL his friends were tutored to get in or went to preps).

DH and I fully intend to tutor DD for several years in advance. Competition for places is fierce as it is, and will become more so with the rising birth rate. I would feel I had let her down if I put her in for an exam without being prepared as well as possible. If we are after a bursary or scholarship then it is even more important.

It isn't a case of an average child being tutored to get into these schools, it is the case of very bright children being tutored to give them the extra 1 or 2 points that make the difference between a place or no place.

Copthallresident Sat 16-Mar-13 15:14:31

I should add that in terms of bursaries DDs' very selective indie school works quite hard to find bright children who deserve them, liaising with state primaries, running Saturday morning classes etc. I am quite sure that for most of the pupils they enable to take up bursaries the parents wouldn't have the resources to tutor. They work hard to make the exams tutor neutral and more about ability and potential than attainment. I am sure the same applies to all the old established indies.

purples Sat 16-Mar-13 14:52:02

Hi Paddy, you don't mention what school year your DD is in, as that makes a great difference to how you approach exams. Also is your DD in state or indie primary?
To get a full bursary, I see no way round it, you have to tutor. Full bursaries will only be given to the best performing DC at exam/interview, so a bright child without tutoring may perform well, but will it be well enough for a 10% or 100% bursary? DIY tutoring is fine as you know your childs strengths/weaknesses, but there has to be some form of familiarization with the papers, exam techniques etc. If you are unsure about resources, then most indies/grammar school will issue past papers that will at least give an indication of level required. I've done a mix of DIY home tutoring and some private tutoring (had problems finding a good tutor!). I must have done something right as I now have 2 DCs at superselective Grammars. Found a lot of useful advice online (especially ttp:// ).
My DC were at state primaries, so when it came to indie/11 plus exam, they are at a disadvantage to DC from private primaries. State primaries concentrate on SATs, compared to indie primaries which from a young age teach the skills needed for 11plus/ scholarship exams. If your DD is state primary, then you have alot of ground to catch up on, a bright child can succeed.

Copthallresident Sat 16-Mar-13 12:50:21

The schools will publish details of their entrance exams, some even provide past papers. I am not aware of any indies that require attainment past the Year 6 curriculum. It is more a case of making sure they are secure in all the concepts and processes covered in the Year 6 curriculum and preparing them to be asked to use logic to apply familar concepts in unfamilar contexts. like the later questions here However they won't allow the unfamilar contexts to become familar, because it is the way in which they approach finding the answer that they are interested in. The year that DD sat the Godolphin paper the last question kept several of us mothers (Maths graduates, business postgrads etc.) busy for a day or so trying to be the first to get to the answersmile but it was more logic puzzle than maths question

DD did finally encounter how to solve a question that arose in SPGS's Science comprehension when doing AS Biology! However you could not tutor an 11 year old to that level!! They are looking at how they approach finding a solution rather than whether they know how to do it.

poppydoppy Sat 16-Mar-13 11:30:04

I would be interested to know how far into the curriculum parent tutor their children to gain a place at 11?

Copthallresident Sat 16-Mar-13 10:50:34

nomoresleep I don't actually know of any girls who went to SPGS from DDs' prep having had additional tutoring but then any serious SPGS prospects are trained like prize race horses by the school............ DD1 was completely put off SPGS by the exam and interview process, she felt that they were arrogant and disinterested, one of the things that put her off was that their answer when we asked why such a small proportion of state school pupils got in compared to the other schools we visited, that state school pupils were behind prep school pupils and they weren't prepared to enable them to catch up shock Pretty short sighted view since those coming from state schools to DDs' school were every bit as much represented amongst the top achievers.

Needmoresleep Sat 16-Mar-13 07:53:22

It depends on the school. I disagree slightly with Copthall. (Unusual as I usually agree.) We tend to know the more central London girls and I would be surprised if many of the SPGS girls we know were not tutored. Some, as she suggests, very very extensively. (The exceptions were very bright and from prep schools.) There is a huge cache around getting your child into the school, and the school is looking for girls who expect to work very hard. The school unlike others, does not seem to do much catch up in Yr 7. You need to hit the ground running. Hence, I assume, their relatively small percentage of kids from state primaries.

The same does not seem to be true of other schools in the area, where the proportions from state schools tends to be higher, and where kids from private preps get the chance to consolidate in Yr 7, whilst the others cover the ground for the first time.

Many kids from state primaries though do seem to have had some tuition. I went to a Yr7 coffee morning where there was a widespread moan about the local tutors and how much they charged. I suspect this may have been the first time people were open about the subject. Many of the kids had had a shot at grammar and were primarily prepared for this, with the indie as a fall back.

Like any exam your child needs to have covered the syllabus and be secure in their understanding. Prep schools should have done this. If your child is from a state primary, there may be gaps in maths which need to be covered and unless your child is a natural, they may well need essay and comprehension practice. They should also be familiar with the sorts of VR and non VR questions that may come up.

Beyond that they need some exam practice, the aim being to have them go into an exam confident and able to perform well in a timed setting. Again prep schools have this covered. If you child has not done many exams, get them to do timed papers. If you have room you might also consider applying to a couple of selective state schools amongst your options. Their exams are in the autumn and will be way more scary. Private school tests, where they lay on good food and try to help kids feel at ease, then appear like a walk in the park.

Beyond ensuring your child is able to show what they are capable of I suspect tutoring starts to be counter productive. Schools are looking for potential. They are judged on what they achieve with 18 year olds, not what their 11 year olds know. Too much tutoring is likely to lead to anxiety or lack of spontaneity, and leave the school unsure how much is the child and how much is the coaching. You want your child in the right setting, and squeezing a kid into a more academic school is probably not in anyone's interest.

sue52 Fri 15-Mar-13 19:45:02

I just checked the cut off score for 2012 at DD's old school. It is now 413 out of a maximum 420. Anyone not doing a bit of extra tutoring with their child had better be very confident.

poppydoppy Fri 15-Mar-13 19:07:43

DD sat for St Albans high school without being tutored and got in.

loveyouradvice Fri 15-Mar-13 18:45:38

I do think you need to prepare them unless you are at an exceptional primary - two very bright kids I know were relatively untutored this year and didnt get offers... just as bright as all those who did but not prepared.

You can do it yourself - I did a fair amount with my daughter, especially about techniques and what they were looking for.

Two key points - I think it is unfair to put them in without preparing them adequately AND I do think just doing all the prep has huge benefits and needed be pressure but a positive experience. My DC has grown enormously in confidence and love of writing storiesand now enjoys maths for the first time ever - as well as more ready to try new things. Key for us was DC decision to go for it in June - ie self-motivated - and we then did 3-5 hours a week for six months, which is NOT a huge amount but did make a HUGE difference. You'll be amazed how fast a bright child can learn! Result - offers from all schools (all academic), scholarship from one - and I do not think she is brighter than those who performed less well, but just better prepared and more "ready" on the day.

I would check out how eligible you are for bursaries with your key schools - we only were with one which we didnt alas like (although a top school not right for DD)... they vary enormously

Copthallresident Fri 15-Mar-13 16:22:09

TWOTB Having had two DDs at a top indie, I know a significant number of girls were not tutored. The exam tests ability as much as attainment and they put a lot of value on the interview. They also ask if girls have been tutored and take that into account. They build up a full picture of the pupil with reasoning, logic and general knowledge questions as well as attainment. Providing they reach the minimum level of attainment that they build on they will take girls with weaknesses in attainment if they have demonstrated ability and potential. I know because I was concerned whether my dyslexic DDs should be there but they clearly had a very good idea of their strengths and weaknesses. The Head actually said to me that you learn a lot about a girl at interview. Year 7 starts by consolidating Year 6 precisely to bring everyone up to the same level.

Copthallresident Fri 15-Mar-13 16:10:41

I think it depends on whether your child is confident over the required syllabus. DD1 from an International School that paralleled state schools here hadn't covered the syllabus so we used Key Stage 2 Maths workbooks in the Autumn term to bring her up to speed. She had a lovely tutor, also for a term, a cosy hour in her living room with squash and biscuits to do the same on the literacy side. Most of the schools she applied for had exams that tested ability as much as attainment and though we practised reasoning and logic questions, if they don't have the ability you can't put it there. She got in to the four top girls' schools.

Oh Dear Confused DD2 applied from a South West London Prep, there were a couple of deranged parents who had tutors on top but it was totally unnecessary as they were rehearsed over all the ground to within an inch of their life, any more and they would have spontaneously combusted. Since tutors were engaged because said deranged parents thought their child would be a failure if they didn't get into St Paul's Girls', it was a waste of money too (they didn't whilst the brightest, though untutored, did), and quite probably child abuse.

The scene for boys at 13 is different though as they seem to want them ready prepared for AS level......

Startail Fri 15-Mar-13 15:14:13

I'm guessing you are talking about London. Here you write a cheque and have a bash at the scholarship exam if you think your clever enough.

DFs DD got offered scholarships at two different schools, not a tutor in sight. Very bright girl and a pretty reasonable state primary.

MTSgroupie Fri 15-Mar-13 14:58:21

RE the value of scholarships, at DC's they have 50% each year to divi up. Typically that means 5 scholarships at 10% each but it varies from year to year.

In DC1's year the split was 20%, 20% and 10% (=50%). In DC2's year it was split 30%, 10% and 10%. I heard that one year a kid was miles ahead of the competition and got the whole 50%. Here on MN I heard of DC's getting 100% (I don't know how common that is).

So, depending on your school, a scholarship can make a difference. And even at 10% that's still about £1500 pa x 5 years. £7500 is quite a saving.

JollyYellowGiant Fri 15-Mar-13 14:37:12

My brother and I both got into a selective private school from a state primary without tutoring. We both also got bursaries. But it depends entirely on the school and the exact level of academia expected.

TWOTB Fri 15-Mar-13 14:35:07

... when for eg, for Tiffins, you are competing with 2000 pupils who are all incredibly bright for 150 or so places, and most of those 2000 have been well prep'd for just that test.

TWOTB Fri 15-Mar-13 14:33:41

Lets be clear here: there are selective schools (in 11+ counties) and there are the top indies (st Paul's, Westminster and so on) and the superselective gramamrs (Henrietta Barnet, Tiffins and so on).

Can believe its possible to do what newgirl says for the Bucks/Kents "ordinary" grammars, but not for the latter - with exceptions perhaps for the most highly gifted of children.

newgirl Fri 15-Mar-13 14:12:38

Yes my dd got selective place w no tutor though I did two test papers w her. But scholarships might not be as valuable as you think - my dd got one for 10% which barely touches the fees! Bursaries only avail to those earning combined less than 40k.

amidaiwish Fri 15-Mar-13 13:46:21

Thanks Countess. Sounds good. do you know what tests LEH and surbiton high do? Have been to SHS but waitingfor all the open days this autumn to get all the info.

Farewelltoarms Fri 15-Mar-13 11:57:44

ODC - I am also puzzled by all the prep school kids who get tutors. I have always thought the appeal of a prep school is that they would, er, prep your child so that you could subcontract out all that anxiety and just enjoy your children outside of school. But, yes, they all do seem to have tutoring on top which is why the average state school child is at a disadvantage if they have no preparation (parental or otherwise).
We have relatives who are very smug about the fact that their boys got into QEB 'without tutoring'. They went to a prep school and their dad is a teacher who trained himself up in VR etc...

CountessDracula Fri 15-Mar-13 09:49:17

amidaiwish if you are going for KGS 10+ they only do VR not NVR so don't waste your time on NVR. DD did it this year - said the maths was hard, English ok and the VR was very easy, she did it in 10 mins and had time to go over it 3x

She has just started small group tutoring (ie 6 of them in a class 45 mins a week) and got in to KGS without being tutored. I bought a couple of VR books and we looked through them just to see if there was anything that flummoxed her the weekend before the exam.

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