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Tutoring for 11+ or not?

(81 Posts)
MacaroonMama Wed 14-Feb-18 13:57:27

Hi All,

First post on this board so apologies if it should be on another board.

DS1 is just 9, in Y4 of a SE London C of E all-through school. He is exceptionally bright (from teachers not just me being doting mum!) Also I am a secondary teacher (on extended mat leave) and can see how he is way ahead in many subject areas.

So anyway, we are thinking of applying to a grammar school, probably just one as otherwise distance will be too much (no car). Just wondered if we should tutor or not? I think we should go through some past papers to familiarise him with the style of test, but surely if he needs masses of coaching, he shouldn't really be thinking of grammar school?

Any thoughts? DH and I both went to (and have taught in) comprehensives so we are unfamiliar with the system.

Thanks for any suggestions smile

GuestWW Wed 14-Feb-18 15:02:43

Try the 11+ forum which is a wealth of information on this subject. I don't know your area but if you can afford to tutor then you most likely should, everyone else will be... It is an emotive area, not just tutoring but the whole grammar school system so be prepared for that as well.

Ohforfoxsakereturns Wed 14-Feb-18 15:10:39

Speed, accuracy, test technique - sensible to tutor IMO.

I wasn’t comfortable tutoring initially, but it really is a case of ‘everyone’ does it in some form or another, whether they outsource it or do it themselves.

Practice, filling in the knowledge gaps, timing. Most valuable thing my DCs learnt was how to work through the paper most efficiently.

(I am rolling my eyes at myself here!)

crazycrofter Wed 14-Feb-18 15:31:16

We’re not in your area (but Birmingham so it’s super-selective) and we didn’t tutor. Both our children got into a grammar school (although not the most competitive one) and dd also got a bursary to a selective independent.

We did prepare them though. The format is very different to key stage 2, speed is of the essence and the non-verbal reasoning was new to them. They both scored at the level i’d have expected, given my assessment of their ability (probably not as bright as your son!). I don’t think they’d have done much better with another 10 months of preparation to be honest - it’s only basic maths and English after all! It’s mainly the speed aspect that differentiates and I think most kids reach their natural level after a bit of practice.

So I’d say do it yourself if you have time. We started in the June before the exam (which was first week of Sept) and that was enough.

Wheresthebeach Wed 14-Feb-18 15:34:23

Yes tutor. You'll hear stories about children getting in without any, but really nearly everyone does so they have time practicing the technique.This is especially the case with Verbal and Non Verbal Reasoning papers where the tutors really do know how to help your child work the problem out.

Your child will be up against children from Prep schools who will have had lots of practice and help in school to pass exams as it's the schools reputation on the line. I remember discovering that the most 'I'd never tutor a child' parent in the playground had in fact been having her daughter tutored for 3 years in maths.

People aren't honest about this stuff and bright children need help tool!

MacaroonMama Wed 14-Feb-18 15:42:20

Thanks so much both, those are both really helpful and thoughtful posts.

GuestWW yes, I can imagine - the whole system doesn't quite sit well with me either. I wish that all schools were the same until 14, then the children did some kind of test to see where their strengths lay, and run there could be streaming - academic, creative, practical, vocational, I don't know - just a way of showing all pupils that they were equally good but just different.

Thanks for the link.

forfoxsake I will be saying exactly the same and eye-rolling too then! I suppose I feel if we are going to do it, we should do it properly and if everyone tutors, so should we. Hmmm...

Thanks again both

MacaroonMama Wed 14-Feb-18 15:46:30

Thanks crazycrofter and Wheresthebeach for your replies too (just seen them).

Crazy, I am from Birmingham! But we lived just enough outside and near a v good comp so I didn't do the grammar schools. My parents both went to Brummie grammars too, don't think either one is any more though - St Paul's RC girls and St Phillip's RC boys. Perhaps I will look at papers first then.

Beach, that is what I wondered - how much is about techniques, and how much will private/prep (same?) schools have coached their pupils. Hmmm...

Wheresthebeach Wed 14-Feb-18 15:54:56

Yes Prep=Private. All parents will expect those schools to work with their children so they get a place at Grammar or Private schools so its a big part of the reason they exist. Its about evening the playing field.

Roseredvelvet Wed 14-Feb-18 15:57:45

MacaroonMama I would definitely tutor a bit. There will be loads of kids tutored since year 1 & in preps so your dc will need an edge too. Unfortunately heavily tutored brights kids can appear 2 academic years ahead. Good luck!

firstboard Wed 14-Feb-18 16:23:26

I would recommend tutoring as there it would give him skills to do the tests with greater confidence.
DS was very bright and I was told that being bright doesn't mean that he is good at exam techniques too.

ChocolateWombat Wed 14-Feb-18 16:27:32

Preparation is needed. This can be achieved via a tutor or by you delivering it yourself. As a teacher, you are perfectly able to do this (as are most parents) but it's a question of whether you want to do it yourself. Some people prefer to DIY as they have more control and can fit timings to suit their families. It saves money and no-one is ever as invested it all, as a parent is. However not everyone has the time to research, access resources or a relationship with their child that will stand doing the tutoring themselves. Lots of people pay for expertise and because tutors have resources and a child might work better for them than at home.

It seems that in super selective areas, even very bright children need preparation to get in. Cleverness alone is not enough when the numbers applying are so high, that a lack of familiarisation with things like VR and NVR and ability to work in tight timed conditions are often the deciders of what gets the place.

There will be a variety of timescales and intensity though. Many perhaps do an hour of tutoring for a year, plus the associated homework. Others will work at it for 2 or even 3 years, whilst others might do 3 months.

Doing nothing doesn't seem a good option though, although it's a shame in many ways.

crazycrofter Wed 14-Feb-18 17:17:38

Basically I agree that they’ll need preparing - whether privately or by you. It’s the amount of prep that some do which I think is crazy.

Tutoring can fill in gaps in Maths particularly, if your school is lacking. And a certain amount of exam technique and speed practice is important. But I don’t think a whole year is necessary, let alone the two or three years some do.

Having said that, a good tutor can add value in other ways - but if you’re just doing it with grammar school in mind, I’d go for three to four months of regular practice at home and no more!

Ohforfoxsakereturns Wed 14-Feb-18 17:24:27

One piece of advice I would give to you OP as a parent is to stay out of playground conversations. It’s quite a contentious issue, people do it differently (some tutor from Year 1 here), I did it from Easter before the Sept exam. A mild Hysteria starts up quite early on. Results day is pretty horrible as is the next school day, it can be extremely divisive - i’ve Seen parents and children crying in the playground. I’ve learnt from experience to keep eyes down and mouth closed. The Eleven plus forum is quite useful.

I’ve done it four times, and it’s a huge relief when it’s all over. Good luck with yours!

VienneseFingers Wed 14-Feb-18 17:27:05

I'd find out what papers the school(s) you are looking at use. For example, GL assessment, you can then by practice sets of these papers. Have a look at them and get your child to have a go and go from there.

Not a grammar, but my child just sat and passed with flying colours an independent selective school 11+ from state school. He is naturally bright and so just needed to practice technique for the exams. Together we learnt about VR using the internet- there are only 21 question types and most are easy if you know how to do them.

BeesAndChiscuits Wed 14-Feb-18 17:31:05

Yes, tutor in Y5. Get an actual person for 1-1 sessions rather than a tuition centre. Don’t sign up to something daft like the student support centre. Explore learning also isn’t much use.

Hoppinggreen Wed 14-Feb-18 17:35:02

Yes you should or at the very minimum make sure he is comfortable with past papers and exam conditions. There will probably be MICK exams over the summer.
I always say this on these threads but a good friend of mine invigilates the 11+ in our area and every year without fail there are a couple of kids who turn the paper over and panic due to lack of prep. These could well be very bright kids but unless they know what to expect it could go badly wrong.
You will always hear a few parents who say they did no prep and their child did really well but do you want to risk it?

MacaroonMama Wed 14-Feb-18 18:47:50

Just doing kids' bedtime so can't thank you all personally but just to say thanks so much, loads to think about here, and plenty of helpful suggestions.

Olivo Wed 14-Feb-18 18:50:52

We chose not to get a tutor for DD but gave her some practice papers that I went through with her afterwards. Most of her friends were professionally tutored but not all got in, as CATS scores and teacher assessment also were taken into account. Timing was the main thing in the exam, and following questions through (ie reading thoroughly so not stopping halfway through an answer)

whataboutbob Wed 14-Feb-18 20:30:01

My son wasn’t professionally tutored, not least because I was hopeless at finding a tutor- I found there was a lot of secrecy around tutors with names and telephone numbers being passed amongst friendship groups and not openly available. Anyway, a kind friend who was preparing her daughter took DS on for weekly 1 hour maths class3, and I did some top up in English. He passed a super selective grammar school test. Whether he has a place or not we shall find out on 1st March.
So I think it is possible to DIY, if one starts early enough ( 1year in our case). And does a little research into exam formats.

TefalTester123 Wed 14-Feb-18 20:49:53

1) It is the most extreme 11+ people who post on the 11+ forum. Most of us read and take it with a pinch of salt. Do not get too panicked by them.
2) Ignore most of the people who said they did no prep, had no tutor etc. They will turn out to be teachers/ auntie flo is a teacher/ be at private school etc.
3) Take the stories that my kid was from state school, did little prep and sailed into a private school with another pinch of salt. Their kid is probably pretty bright but private schools can pick who they want, and that's not always done on the raw score.
4) If you choose to tutor yourself (and many people are academically able to do it) then take account of the fact that unless you have a compliant child you may be setting up a bit of a battleground, which is where outsourcing to a tutor can be a good idea.
5) Not sure where you'd be applying. Presumably Kent/Sutton. Local knowledge (supplied by local tutor) can be invaluable, as sample tests may not be available and tutors build up a bank of knowledge of what schools test on.

FineSpanishLady Wed 14-Feb-18 22:25:44

And don't forget that the 11+ covers curriculum areas that will not have been taught yet at school (e.g. Y6 maths). Which makes so totally, pointlessly unfair on those who can't afford a tutor that it makes my blood boil. But that's a whole other rant. We very reluctantly decided on a tutor during Y5 and are now glad we did. DS 'should' sail through 11+ but his tutor has given him lots of useful hints and tips, and it's really thrown up the fact that he has a tendency to rush things and never checks his answers! We could have tutored him ourselves, but I suspect it would have been an endless battleground. This way, he really enjoys his tutor sessions, and does his homework with zero complaint.

Middleoftheroad Thu 15-Feb-18 07:15:59

I'd echo that it's about understanding the style/format.

Exam technique, as speed is everything in these tests.

I know it's been said before, but reading widely is one of the best tips I could offer. We could have done more of that!

Ohforfoxsakereturns Thu 15-Feb-18 08:55:08

Good advice from middleoftheroad, I’d add to that knowing times tables really well. Speed is of the essence.

NoStraightEdges Thu 15-Feb-18 09:01:28

Also a Birmingham 'mom'. We didn't tutor. He did go to a practice session at a private school in the holidays where he sat a mock paper and we went through the results to see if he needed any help. (Although it was only 2 weeks before the actual exam so not much time if there were huge problems!) and we discovered we (and he!) knew nothing about cloze tests. So we did about 5 of those and we did some 10 minute practice things with him because again, we didn't realise the test was lots of short parts that you can't go back over once the time for that section elapsed.

He passed with flying colours and said the test wasn't the hardest he'd ever done. Feedback from other kids showed that the kids who had no prep simply didn't answer enough questions to get the marks needed.

We didn't choose the most selective school because I didn't like it, (crazycrofter will remember my thread about the head teacher I'm sure!) but he'd have got in.

Hope that helps?

Ohforfoxsakereturns Thu 15-Feb-18 09:07:03

That’s the thing isn’t it? Test technique counts for so much. If a child doesn’t know to leave a question and move on, that the questions don’t get harder but are a mixed bag (CEM tests here) then working through a paper methodically goes against them. Makes me so cross!

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