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State Primary to Independent Secondary - do we need a tutor?

(21 Posts)
beggsie Tue 09-Apr-13 15:01:52

Hi all
We are currently looking at options for our Y4 DD for when she goes on to secondary (can't believe it all starts so early!). For various reasons, we have decided not to go for the 11+, and are looking at local state and also local independents. We initially thought we wouldn't need a tutor as the 11+ wasn't in the frame, but as a state school kid myself, i think maybe we are missing the point, and we should get one for the entrance exams needed for the independents. As she is at a state primary, she won't have any help from them for the exams.

Does anyone have any views/experience on this? Like I said, I and DH both went through the state system, so we are really out of our depth with the whole thing at the moment!

LadyIsabellaWrotham Tue 09-Apr-13 15:15:58

Probably not, but possibly, depending on your child and how selective the independent school is. If you are trying for a bursary/scholarship then you want to get exam results as high as possible. If not, you're competing within the pretty small pool of parents who can afford to pay X thousand a year out of taxed income, so outside Central London they can't afford to be too fussy.

LIZS Tue 09-Apr-13 15:23:25

That's very simplistic ! Competition can still be strong outside London 1:3 or 1:5 is not unusual. Depends entirely on the type of tests op (some will be VR and NVR only) and what level the primary aspires to. A thorough understanding of maths and use of language and punctuation in composition and comprehension is expected, and to produce completed work to time. bear in mind the tests are often much earlier than SATS so practice and familiarisation with style of questions and timing is worthwhile at very least.

LadyIsabellaWrotham Tue 09-Apr-13 15:30:10

Yes of course it's a simplification - it depends on the school and the child whether it's worth shelling out for a tutor, but as a general rule there will be as much private schooling in an area as there is demand.

Doing some sample tests at home is definitely a good idea though - a lot of schools will have sample tests on their websites and that will give you a good idea of where your DD sits.

Startail Tue 09-Apr-13 15:31:44

I don't think anyone bothers round here, they just hand over the money.
Never heard of anyone not getting a place.

DFs DD got offered nurseries to two different schools without a tutor, but she is very bright.

Startail Tue 09-Apr-13 15:33:26

Bursaries (11 is a bit old for nursery blush)

EggsEggSplat Tue 09-Apr-13 15:44:53

Depends on the child and how much competition there is for independent schools in your area.

DS went from state primary to selective independent secondary. He did entrance exams for two, both of which probably offer places to around half those applying. He is bright, so I had no worries about him being capable, but he did do about half-a-dozen sessions with a local tutor (joint with a friend applying to the same schools) in the run up to the entrance tests, just to get him used to things like the verbal/non-verbal reasoning papers, and the kind of questions asked in the English paper, because they weren't things he would have encountered at school.

I think your best answer will come not from MN but from asking around locally to see what other people do. If you're in London, that may involve twice-weekly tutoring from year 4 onwards; if you're somewhere more relaxed, you might just do what I did, or even just run through a few past papers with her yourself.

Nordicmom Tue 09-Apr-13 15:46:30

My DS did the 7+ to two sought after private preps in London and we didn't use a tutor . He was coming from another private school that didn't prepare him in any anyway since they preferred for both boys and girls to stay until 11. We did some bond assessment papers that I got from the bookshop and learned more timetables. He got offered places at both schools. Coming from a state school that doesn't prepare for 11 entry I probably would strongly consider some amount of outside tutoring unless you feel you are able to do it yourself . It's very competitive out there. Make sure you are looking at right kind of schools for your child or it ends up being unnecessary stress doing the tests ...

beggsie Tue 09-Apr-13 15:48:03

Thanks all. Interesting - my DH is definitely of the opinion that the schools are not going to turn down your money but I am a bit more cautious I suppose. Perhaps you are right, LadyIsabellaWrotham, and we should start with some sample tests - we could all probably learn something from that! I am pretty sure that we wouldn't be in a position for a bursary - not so sure about scholarships, so will bear that in mind.

Specifically, we are looking at the Worcester schools, and possibly Cheltenham - if anyone has any experience of these entrance exams, I'd love to hear.

beggsie Tue 09-Apr-13 15:53:35

I feel like it is very competitive too, which is very stressful! I am not sure I am up for tutoring her myself (would rather preserve our relationship!) beyond the usual supportive help. We are working hard to make sure that we are looking at the right schools, one of the reasons why we have decided not to go down the grammar route. I certainly feel like I want to minimise the stress for her - they are little for such a short amount of time, and have the rest of their lives to be stressed!

Nordicmom Tue 09-Apr-13 16:27:46

What ever you end up doing beggsie good luck smile! Don't worry it'll be fine in the end as long as do some preparation !

Mendi Tue 09-Apr-13 18:21:46

OP I've nothing to add to what others have said but re your DH I would say:

Last year we put DS (state primary) up for 11+ for a independent secondary. I knew DS would need a lot of help but exH insisted the school would be falling all over itself to have him.

I organised tutoring (sadly only rather late in the day after exH had said he would, but didn't) while exH did not much. Even with tutoring, DS did not get into this school, whereupon exH was amazed to find that good schools are not just grateful for anyone's money: they are highly competitive.

DS is predicted 5Bs for end of year 6 so not thick.

I would say definitely tutor, and do so early.

marinagasolina Tue 09-Apr-13 19:42:20

My niece got a place at one of the top independent secondaries in the country from a state primary with no tutoring whatsoever, as far as DB and SIL were concerned if she was bright enough she'd get a place, if not then never mind. She was offered a place and is now in upper sixth at the same school, it's been fantastic for her and she'll be sad to leave. She is NOT and never has been one of the best in the year, but she tries hard and gets good marks, and if all goes well will be off to a Russell group uni in September. She's been happy and the school has definitely been the best place for her, both academically and socially.

What's interesting is that she has friends who were heavily coached both in their prep schools and at the weekends (some of them for the two years before the exam shock ) with the sole aim of getting them into this school, and some while some of these friends have done very well, others have struggled through GCSEs and are struggling now to get good A levels. They're not doing badly at all, but in a year group in which almost 60% got 10 As and A*s at GCSE, they're well below this level. Their confidence has suffered noticeably as a result. It does make you wonder whether coaching and coaching these children to get them into this particular school was such a good decision on the parents' part. Yes it's one of the top schools in the country results wise and is regarded as excellent in terms of its ethos in the area, but these girls who have got in down to excessive coaching rather than academic ability have struggled hugely and as a result have grown into lovely young women, but not half as confident as my niece and the others who have not struggled.

It's worth thinking about. I teach in a standard comp and there are a few in my classes who I know ended up here because they failed the exam for a selective indie very similar to my niece's school. These pupils are bright and would have coped, but not exceptionally so, and I do think the indie would have been a huge dent to their confidence, even if they came out with a decent set of grades. It's hard to be proud of your own best in an environment where almost all the pupils bar you are getting A*s.

SqueakyCleanNameChange Tue 09-Apr-13 19:59:57

Whatever you do, make sure your DC is familiarised with the nature of the test. Even the brightest child can crash and burn when confronted "cold" with a VR test in a format they've never seen before - many entrance tests are deliberately put in a timeslot too short for the test, which gives the well-practiced a serious advantage over the brilliant but unrehearsed. But you don't need a tutor to give a child practice at a multiple choice test.

marinagasolina Tue 09-Apr-13 20:16:59

Squeaky- good point, admittedly the school my niece is at only tests candidates in English and Maths, no VR.

racingheart Tue 09-Apr-13 20:26:38

It really depends.

Are the independent schools you're looking at quite competitive? (It's nonsense to say that outside London you just hand over your money. I know several bright children at our state primary who didn't get into a handful of good independent schools, and they are all top set or second set at primary.

Does your primary teach beyond NC requirements each year? Most good ones do but our school needed hefty nudges, finally from Ofsted itself after years of ignoring parents, and have discovered to their surprise that lots of year sixes are level 6 for the first time ever. They weren't taught to that level before. A comfortable high level 5 gets you into most good schools, but level 4s no longer do unless the school isn't academic.

Has the primary school really grounded your DC in times tables and basic English grammar and comprehension skills?

Most important - do any of the independents you're looking at ask for VR or NVR tests to be taken. Some state primaries do them, but most don't. If not, I think you'd be missing a trick not to familiarise her with these and help her get up to speed on them.

IMHO, it can't harm to have a tutor but it may harm not to. That said, hire the tutor with the attitude towards you DC that the tutor will help her get ready for the exams, and help her develop good skills for secondary, wherever she goes. Avoid emphasis on tutoring as a means to pass (rather than prepare), so she doesn't lose face or self confidence if she doesn't get through.

As you're starting soon, she could have a tutor one hour a week, and there will be no pressure. Pick a tutor with a track record in succeeding for the schools you're aiming for, and let her gently prepare, stress free, over time.

We started tutoring half way through yr 5 and it worked for us.

Nordicmom Tue 09-Apr-13 23:02:18

We did some practice bond assessment papers with DS because I knew the tests would have things that DS hadn't yet covered at his very good private school ( not a preprep )at all and it would be unwise and unfare to put him into a situation completely unprepared . They hadn't yet done any reading comprehension by then , doubt that he'd seen reasoning type papers either , hadn't done all the times tables etc. I think a few weeks of casual practicing made him more confident and he wasn't stressed about the tests and interview days at all and was then offered a place at both school we went for . Now he's very happy at the new school that is very academic so there is more pressure definitely but it doesn't seem to bother him so far . Hopefully we made the right decision ...

trinity0097 Wed 10-Apr-13 07:56:30

Depending on your location the 'entrance exam' may really just be for setting purposes and to weed out children who should be in a special school (as opposed to below average children who would cope in a mainstream environment)

beggsie Wed 10-Apr-13 09:22:35

Wow! Thanks for all your response - some very measured opinions, which is really helping getting my head straight! I definitely need to do more research around the schools we are considering and go from there.

And thanks for the good luck, Nordicmom!

Dededum Sun 14-Apr-13 18:12:51

We took DS2 to look at an independent in year 5. It is not highly selective, looking for a range of abilities. DS2 loved it, asked what he needed to do, I said an exam and he requested a tutor. I am putting no pressure on him, just supporting his desire to get in. There are highly selective schools in our area, not right fr DS2 even if we tutored him within an inch of his life.

On the other hand another mum I know is putting so much pressure on her yr 5 son.

I think it depends, you know your daughter, find the right school/s for her, let her know what she needs to do and then support her. Education is meant to be fun. My advice, you and your husband look at the schools, decide which might suit her, you can afford, can stomach (some are just a bit posh for me), which she is likely to get into. Then take her back to the selected ones and see what happens. DS1 looked at private options and choose state.

Happymum22 Sun 14-Apr-13 22:46:14

Probably repeating other posters comments a bit but IMO..
It completely depends on the selectivity of the school you are applying to. If it is a highly academic school in an affluent area or which is boarding and so attracts from a wide sphere due to its reputation then you may need a tutor to help your child understand the type of exam and how to answer the questions in the format independent entrance tests tend to be in.

For my DS doing a highly academic and very oversubscribed independent boys day school exam we didn't tutor but we did buy the Bond 11+ Books which are great. I decided if, with a bit of practice, he wasn't going to score highly enough then it probably wasn't the right school for him. Tutoring too much can often be spotted by the schools and also can mean they are accepted into a school they aren't going to cope with or suit. They do need to be familiar with the exam style though and practice, just don't cram and push them up so much that their performance is nothing like their natural ability and only temporary brilliance! IFYSWIM- there are two types of tutoring and preping.

There are lots of independents however which aren't selective or are less selective and not so oversubscribed and I expect you don't need to tutor for. I'd still do the Bond papers though to help your DD feel comfortable on the day

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