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Tutoring for selective school- how do you know if it's right for your child?

(35 Posts)
cluttered Wed 10-Jun-09 00:08:19

DS1 is in Year 4 and September birthday so one of the oldest in class. We have just started having him tutored weekly with a view to passing the exam for a selective school, the exam will be in about 16 months. I am just wondering if we are doing the right thing though or are we pushing him too hard? His primary school doesn't set much homework so having to do homework in between tutor lessons is a shock and he does complain about it.

If he were really upset about it we would stop the lessons and he says he does want to try for this school when pressed but I was just wondering how other parents using tutors have found their children have reacted. Obviously I wouldn't expect him to be eager to do the homework but how much complaining is normal and how much indicates that we're making him unhappy? Part of me thinks he should be enjoying the freedom of the last years of primary school and the other part thinks it will be good practice for secondary when he will have to do homework anyhow.

If he were struggling academically he might see the benefit more but because he is already doing well he complains that he is the only one in his class having to do extra work. He does coerce me into buying him sweets, comics etc that I wouldn't normally because of the extra lessons and homework but if I asked him to do the lessons for no extra treats I don't think he would be too happy. At this age should he be able to understand deferred gratification and should he want to do it completely of his own volition or is a little persuasion acceptable?

seeker Wed 10-Jun-09 07:48:11

I think there are a lot of questions you need to ask yourselves, him and his teacher. 16 months of tutoring seems a very long time - do you think he won't pass the exam without it? If so, are you sure he won't struggle when he gets to the selective school? How much of his time is the tutoring taking up?

Does he want to go to the school? Deferred gratification only works if the gratification is clear, if you see what I mean. Otherwise I would stick to the instant gratification of bribery!

poopscoop Wed 10-Jun-09 08:14:16

Agree with Seeker, I think that you need to find out if he would be suitable for the pressures that a selective school entail.

Bear in mind that those children will be the brightest ones, and he will need to be able to keep up once he is there. This is very important. It has been known amongst friends of mine who have used tutors just to get through the exam but they have struggled once there.

Using a tutor to brush up and to get the child used to the type of paper they will be taking is a good idea. Many state schools do not necessarily aim the children at these exams and the onus is on the parent to prepare the child themselves.

We had a similar situiation with one of our DC. In the end, we decided against the exam and she is thriving in the top stream of her comprehensive secondary school. She is taking some GCSE's early and is very well suited to this. I believe it would not have been right for her.

Good luck though, not an easy decision.

piscesmoon Wed 10-Jun-09 08:23:59

My view is that it would be fairly obvious if a DC has the ability to cope with it. I think they should only need to do a few practise papers to get the idea. If they have to start having a tutor in year 4 I would wonder whether they would suit the teaching style. Once they get the place they have to keep up with some very naturally bright DCs. Passing the exam and getting a place isn't the end it is only the start of 7yrs of pressure and expectations. I would only have a tutor for a short time and let him do it on his own merits. I would ask the tutor for a totally honest opinion (but not in front of DC).

2009 Wed 10-Jun-09 10:14:22

The parents who started tutoring at Y4 in my dc's school, seemed to be struggling more to incentivise their kids to work when they got to Y5.
I think the children just got tired of the whole routine as it had been going on for so long.
My advice, if you choose to continue tutoring in Y4, I would keep it very light and then ramp it up in the 4-6 months before the tests in Y5 when the end goal is in sight.
Personally, I would wait until Y5 unless you think that your DS will be too behind. But in that case, you should consider whether academically selective school will be appropriate for him.

mummyrex Wed 10-Jun-09 10:54:01

My DC1 is in Y7 at a Grammar School and we were just talking yesterday about his best friend who has really struggled all year and having done badly in this years assesements is now going to change schools (to a non-selective school). I applaud his parents for making the right decision (eventually) but what a miserable experience for the poor lad and imagine if he had had to stay.

My DC2 did not pass and will be going to our local secondary. He wasn't tutored because I didn't want to be responsible for making him miserable by manipulating him into the wrong school - I was happy for the test to decide which was best. I am leaving it up to him to decide whether to do the 12 +

Most kids around were tutored, 2 years was common, hours of homework, they missed loads of activities in the weeks running up to the test, the pressure was awful - and for what - a miserable child who would have done better academically and socially in the right school for them.

Is your local non-selective school so bad?

cluttered Wed 10-Jun-09 15:07:40

Thanks for all the replies! DS1 is on the G&T register and is probably the top boy in the class although there are a couple of very bright girls, so he's not struggling academically (although his spelling and handwriting aren't great). His teacher suggested we consider sending him to this school, we hadn't considered it until then.

The school takes 180 each year from about 1700-1800 who apply although a lot of applicants may be from the local area where the other schools aren't great, so not all those applying may be the very top. We are from a bit further away but our borough is one of several catchment boroughs. One of the mothers of a child in DS2's class managed to get her DS1 in by using the same tutor but his best friend tried without tutoring and didn't get in, he got to about 250 on the list. According to another mother the boy who didn't get in was brighter if anything. I am thinking that if we do try we should try properly or forget about it. I have asked DS1 if he would like to go to a school where everyone is the same level as him or to a school with a mix of abilities like his primary and he says the selective one.

The problem with the local secondary schools is that because they were so bad previously most are being replaced by academies. The first of these is great and I would be happy for him to go there but its admission policy for those living in the outer band is to prioritise those living furtherest away from any co-ed non-religious school and there is a new academy opening just up the road this September which we will be close to, hence reducing our chances at the first academy. No one knows what the new academy will be like but I don't like its location (nowhere near any green space surrounded by busy roads) or its speciality (finance). The other academy is near a park and specialises in science which is DS1's interest. I have heard that this first academy "saves" a few spaces to offer children that don't get offered a place if you make a good case. A friend got their DS1 in after failing their appeal by being very persistent and their DS1 was only average academically. So I am thinking if DS1 doesn't get a place at the selective school the first academy might want him if he scored highly on the selective school test!

Our plan with the tutoring is to do more intensive tutoring for the rest of Year 4 and the holidays (with a break for our 2 week family holiday)as they aren't doing much this half term and he does get bored during the holidays when we are at home. I think then we can scale it back for early Year 5 and then ramp it up again for the period before the exam. The tutor says he needs to have covered all of Year 6 work by the time of the test (October so the start of his Year 6)so has started doing Year 5 work with him now. Another thing I am thinking is that he is going to need to improve his spelling at some point whatever he does in the future so maybe now is a good time.

The tutor says he has an excellent chance of getting in and that he would tell us if he thought we were wasting our time (and money!). I do think he could easily cope with a more academic learning environment although it might come as a shock not to be top at everything. I guess he will be competing with kids from independent primary schools who have been taught at a higher level throughout. The problem isn't that he minds the harder work, it's that he's being asked to do it in his leisure time, hence his demand for extra treats

In answer to seeker's question we have started off with 2 1 hour lessons per week and each has some homework, probably only 15 minutes if done without any breaks. It doesn't interfere with any activities he is doing, only TV and computer time. I think 2 lessons per week is too much throughout so I think we will drop back to one per week in September. I just don't know if we are doing the right thing though, sometimes he complains so much and other times he thinks its great because he's doing even better in his Year 4 work than previously

GimmeChocolate Wed 10-Jun-09 15:36:15

One problem with the selective school coaching questions is that it depends on where you live. If you live in an area with a quite a few selectives and where the primaries are geared up for this, then tutoring for a long time might not be a good thing and could mean that children scrape in to grammars and then struggle. However where I am in N London there are very few selective schools and the ones that exist accept applications from a huge area and then just offer to the top 150 in their exams. The primaries do not prepare children for the tests as most children do not sit them. Most of the children who do sit for these schools are amongst the brightest in their class at school. If you look at the scary elevenplus exams forum - you will see that the difference between getting a place and being 250th on the waiting list can be just a few marks.So most applicants are academically bright and most are tutored. For your child to compete they need to be too. A crazy system - if no one tutored it would also be a level field but that is not going to happen.
I would drop off to 1 lesson a week sooner and then up it to 2 again (if necessary) nearer the end of Y5 when he can see the exams looming and also you can sell it to him as "just 4 months" of really hard work.
Why not try negotiating with him - so he can see you appreciate the extra effort, maybe a points chart with treats that can be redeemed. If he is a bright boy he may have worked out that moaning is a good way of getting extra treats. sorry to ramble

cluttered Wed 10-Jun-09 16:02:03

Yes GimmeChocolate we are in N London too, it's Latymer in Edmonton we are trying for. Probably only a few children from the year will try and they aren't being prepared as our borough doesn't have selective schools. I think DS1 tends to coast as he finishes his schoolwork quickly and gets to muck around while waiting for the others to finish. The school's OFSTED did say the bright ones weren't being stretched much.

If he got a place there we wouldn't have to worry about his future as the teachers would know how to help him achieve his ambitions (at the moment he wants to do medicine) whereas at a local school we might need to do some tutoring later for GCSE and A levels, so the extra effort now would be worth it .

seeker Wed 10-Jun-09 19:39:22

I can't help thinking that 2 hours a week is too much for year 4. Surely what with the getting there and the getting back that's most of two evenings a week gone? I would be really worried that he will rebel, if he has to do that for a significant chunk of the next 16 months. Does the tutor think he needs that much time?

GrapefruitMoon Wed 10-Jun-09 19:56:18

This is an interesting thread cluttered - none of the state schools in our borough are selective but most are heavily over-subscribed. I think ds1 would fare better in a mixed school but he is unlikely to get into one in our borough (unless I opt for a failing one which will probably be shut eventually). There is a selective school in an adjacent borough which does accept children from here. The website says that there is no need to prepare for the entrance exam but I bet most kids do get some coaching!

I can imagine that I would have the same problems with my ds as you are having if he had extra homework as a result of tutoring - it is a nightmare getting him to do the minimal amount he gets at school. He is very bright, esp at maths but very lazy also!

cluttered Wed 10-Jun-09 23:26:28

Seeker, the tutor comes to our house so really it just means he gets less time on the computer or maybe misses the Simpsons or Dr Who repeats! He doesn't do any extra activities during the week (but does sports and music lessons at weekend) and 3 of 5 days we pick him up at half three from school, home by 3.45. He doesn't need much sleep (will read in bed until 10.30 pm) so he does have lots of free time in the evening even with the lessons. He has just said to me tonight he is fine with the lessons but doesn't like the homework so maybe we will keep up the two lessons but ask for less homework. I do think we can't keep up this pace for 16 months even though we have only recently started!

The tutor has said he would recommend 2 lessons per week but we could probably still get there with 1 per week.

Quattrocento Wed 10-Jun-09 23:29:07

I say this time after time on selective school entrance threads

DON'T TUTOR

They don't need it. Just go through a few practice exams.

Poor little mite - drilled to death for 18 months!!

cluttered Wed 10-Jun-09 23:50:54

But QC if the test covers year 6 work and it is only October how will they do it unless they have been tutored? I know that some children from independent schools will be sitting this test and presumably they have done the work at school so will have an advantage.

I just think if we are going to attempt it we should give it our best shot. I don't want him tutored to above his ability so that he would struggle if he got a place, I just want to put him on a level with independent school and other tutored children. I heard from another Mum that her son didn't get in with doing practice papers but his friend did by being tutored, both boys are bright but the one who missed out is apparently more capable.

Also he is missing out on an hour of computer/TV time twice a week, will that really hurt him? He complains he is bored at school waiting round for the rest of the class to finish so maybe could do with a bit of stretching.

Quattrocento Wed 10-Jun-09 23:56:50

I'm assuming we are talking state grammar school entrance

These don't test acquired knowledge (particularly - more below) they just test processing power.

What your DCs need to do is understand the type of question and the format of the exam and this is done through the practice paper stuff.

There are one or two types of question which do carry some assumed knowledge - like which is an x axis and which a y axis. Also the degrees of a circle and a triangle. You will cover this through doing practice papers.

I honestly think all this tutoring stuff is a complete con.

<DD passed GS entrance and was awarded a place this year. No tutoring>

cluttered Thu 11-Jun-09 00:26:46

Yes but as Gimme Chocolate says if you live in an area where there are few selective schools then those that do exist can be more selective. In a GS area eg Kent I assume most children would sit the 11+ so even if only 10% got in it would be the top 10% from children with a wide range of abilities. DS1 would definitely pass on doing practice papers if he just had to be in the top 10% of his class/year. If the school only takes 10% of applicants but only the top pupils apply the school can make the test harder by covering work that only tutored children would know. Doesn't mean they are brighter, just a way of selecting. Can DS1 really learn the whole of Year 6 curriculum in Maths and English by doing a few practice papers?

Your DD may be really gifted whereas DS1 is only gifted in the G&T sense of the top 10%, but I still think he would benefit from this school. Our problem is the local school he would be offered a place at is only opening this September so no idea what it will be like so we want to keep our options open. Doesn't mean I'm not agonising over whether we're doing the right thing. DS2, now, would love to be tutored, his favourite thing is mental maths but unfortunately he's only 5.

Quattrocento Thu 11-Jun-09 00:33:40

I fully appreciate and understand that you want to make the best of this opportunity.

It's just that I genuinely feel that tutoring is another symptom of parental guilt.

Honestly they do not test knowledge. Not at all - there's no question of his having to learn the Y6 curriculum.

Why don't you have an honest conversation with the tutor? I've met lots of people who do/have done this tutoring thing but no-one that's started quite so early.

<btw, we do not live in a GS area, the school was allegedly super-selective and DD is nothing more than ordinarily bright. She is organised though, which helps when it comes to answering a set number of questions in a set timeframe>

SOLOisMeredithGrey Thu 11-Jun-09 00:48:34

I can't help thinking 'pushy parents' when I hear of children being tutored for the selective tests. My Ds wasn't tutored and passed it and he's an August baby. I didn't even know about tutoring for the tests, but even if I had and had been able to afford it, I definitely wouldn't have sent him for the extra. They have enough work as KS2 pupils and will get a sharp kick up the bum regardless of the KS3 school they go to as regards homework etc. As long as they aren't falling behind, let them pass because they can, not because you've made sure they will.

Just my humble opinion btw

Quattrocento Thu 11-Jun-09 01:06:45

Sorry - just read this line - don't know how I missed it before:

"The tutor says he needs to have covered all of Year 6 work by the time of the test (October so the start of his Year 6)so has started doing Year 5 work with him now."

So now I understand why you think that your DS needs to have covered the Y6 curriculum but I cannot believe that this is true. The tests simply don't test knowledge. I'd suggest having a word with a different tutor to audit your current tutor's opinion.

Secondly have you thought about the effect of pre-teaching the curriculum on your DC? You say he is a bit bored in class already. Can't imagine he is going to be enjoying his school work much if he's done it already ...

cluttered Thu 11-Jun-09 11:38:28

Thanks for everyone's opinion. I haven't seen any of the school's previous papers so have no way of knowing what level of curriculum knowledge is required. I would be very interested to hear from anybody who has experience of DC sitting the test for Latymer in Edmonton as I am basing our approach on the experience of 2 boys from my son's school, both quite bright. One was tutored and got a place, the other practised previous papers and was placed about 250 on the list of applicants with only the top 180 getting in. According to the teachers the second boy was slightly brighter. The boy who did get a place is coping well so wasn't pushed beyond his ability.

The tutor is doing Year 5 work with my son but also trying to brush his basic skills such as improving his handwriting, spelling and pushing him to learn his times tables properly so this is actually beneficial in itself. I also like having an idea of what is in the Curriculum because the school doesn't send work home apart from spellings and reading books and times tables.

mummyrex Thu 11-Jun-09 12:16:07

Hi QC

I agree that tutoring is a bad thind but I just need to corrects you. Some test in some areas DO cover Y6 work. We are in Bucks so it is only verbal-reasoning for us but at least one of the schools in neighboring Slouh has a maths test which includes material that state-primary children will not have covered by the time they tahe the test in November. Other areas therefore probably also have this - especially in 'super-selective' areas where only the top performers are accepted.

seeker Thu 11-Jun-09 12:57:41

cluttered, I REALLY think you need to get hold of some past papers. Or get from the school details of the sort of thing they are looking for. There have been cases of tutors getting it wrong - and (with apologies to any tutors0 they do have a vested interest in doing as much tutoring as possible. It sounds as if you are relying on the tutor a lot - I would go for the horse's mouth if I were you!

cluttered Thu 11-Jun-09 13:11:05

Yes I will try to get past papers but we are using the same tutor that got another boy from DC's school a place, whereas another allegedly brighter boy who just practised previous papers missed out. Hence he must have some idea. But yes, as you say it is in his interest to do lots of tutoring so I do want to see what the school requires.

cluttered Thu 11-Jun-09 13:14:07

In response to mummyrex I know that there are VR, NVR, maths and English tests for Latymer so would be very interested in anyone who knows whether the maths and English tests do cover Year 6 work. I won't be able to tell from seeing the papers and nor will DS1 since he is only Year 4 at the moment so can't distinguish between Y5 and Y6 work

mummyrex Thu 11-Jun-09 14:20:08

perhaps you could ask someone, a teacher or tutor who knows the system and that you can trust. And it needs to be someone who knows the Latymer test.

Also I have always found the 11 plus forum to be very helpful so perhaps ask over there elevenplusexams.co.uk/forum/11plus/index.php

oh, and apologies for my typing, obviously not my forte (along with proof-reading!)

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