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 Post subject: How much is too much?
PostPosted: Wed May 26, 2010 10:44 pm 
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I think this question has been asked somewhere else on the forum but possibly not specifically in relation to the Glos. Grammar school exam. I am conscious that the general consensus on this forum seems to be that you shouldn’t over tutor a child to pass an 11+ exam otherwise you are setting them up to struggle when they get there if they weren’t genuinely academic enough to deserve a place.

My question is, how much counts as over tutoring? My DD is very keen to pass and makes little fuss about practicing VR. I began showing her the different question types last year and this year we started doing practice papers. We have done all 10 IPS 30 mins papers and 5 of the Tutors full length papers. I am planning for her to finish the Tutors papers (we are doing one a week) and then move on to something like Bright Sparks/Walsh, finishing up with the Nfer papers just before the exam. We may also do some work on brushing up her mental maths skills during the summer holidays. We are currently doing approx 1.5 hours VR a week.

I am getting nervous that this goes way beyond ‘familiarisation’ and that I am setting her up to pass an exam for a school that she’s not suited to. I know all the arguments about even the brightest children having tutoring which pushes up the standards, and I’ve also heard stories of teachers at Grammar schools saying that over tutored children can’t cope with the work once they get to the school.

I would love to know what other people think. Are we overdoing it? Or is this about the amount that other children do?

All opinions gratefully received.

Slightly Nervous Pixiequeen.


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 1:14 pm 
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pixiequeen wrote:
My question is, how much counts as over tutoring?

Doing more than they did with their child is how most people judge on over tutoring.

I dont buy into all that and believe you do what you think is necessary for your child. Remember the schools are DCs go to are different, some are very good and some are sink school so you may need to do a bit more if they are in a so so school. I dont believe in over tutoring. To me that word just means more than I did. Any child who gets a place despite what some may describe as being over tutored deserve that place at a grammar.

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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 1:15 pm 
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Hi Pixiequeen,

It's certainly MASSES more than my DS1 did - but that doesn't mean to say that what you're doing is wrong, as DS1 did not perform as well as expected on the day (passing for some, but not all GSs.) Interestingly, my DS2 will be going into Y5 in Sept and I will definitely start work with him much sooner than DS1. It's a difficult one isn't it, knowing how much is the "right" amount, especially as people often don't talk openly about the subject at the school gate. I would be really interested to know what teachers in Glos think about this. There must be some out there - can you tell us what you think?

My view would be that if your DD is happy and you spend time doing things which will help her education generally (reading, vocab, times tables, discussing spelling rules etc) then there's no harm in it. I'd be disinclined to spend masses of time just doing VR exercises: they are incredibly repetitive and cannot be of much use to anyone apart from passing this one test on one day.

Good luck!


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 1:40 pm 
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cairo wrote:
I would be really interested to know what teachers in Glos think about this. There must be some out there - can you tell us what you think?
!



Well, you asked for it! As you know, I am a teacher, though mostly in Special Needs these days. My opinions are probably only typical up to a point, as I am hardened into deep cynicism by my own DS's (untutored) peformance in last year's tests (passed, missed STR by 1 mark). Teachers have more things to worry about than the 11+ and generally in my experience take a view somewhere between mild lack of interest and outright disapproval of coaching. In my own case, because I am primary trained but out of it really these days, I was very naive and did not buy into the coaching culture, thinking natural ability would carry the day - and in a small number of children it will. Many teachers do not believe in selective education and some of those who do pretend they don't. I am thinking of 2 close friends, one of whom has an extremely bright child who got 11 A*s from one of the area's 'worst' comprehensives, was offered a 6th form place at Pate's and turned it down to stay at the same school where she got 4 As at A level. Another teacher friend pretended not to be interested but secretly coached her child for 5 years and was successful in obtaining a GS place.

Parents will do what they will do. If you want to be sure of a place in on of our county's superselectives, I'm afraid now I would say start coaching at age 7 and keep going with as much as they can take for as long as they can take it. If you are prepared to leave it a bit more to chance and natural ability, then start an hour a week in Year 5 - that should give an able child enough of a leg-up. Please remember that the vast bulk of the county's kids never get a look-in, and the select little band who do are getting more competitive each year.

Teachers - we are concerned with minor issues like literacy and numeracy; not much interest in VR really.

As I said - you did ask! :wink:

Edit starts here: It occurred to me that at certain prep schools in Gloucestershire, you would get an entirely different answer as they market themselves on their ability to get children into GS. 3 I can think of have VR on the curriculum from at least Year 3. So a teacher in those schools would of course see this differently from me, who only has experience of the state sector.


Last edited by Anonymous on Thu May 27, 2010 3:35 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 1:42 pm 
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cairo wrote:
My view would be that if your DD is happy and you spend time doing things which will help her education generally (reading, vocab, times tables, discussing spelling rules etc) then there's no harm in it. I'd be disinclined to spend masses of time just doing VR exercises: they are incredibly repetitive and cannot be of much use to anyone apart from passing this one test on one day.

Good luck!


I agree, you know if your child is happy doing the prep or not - you need to be led by them to a certain extent, i just feel that other things in your childs life - such as out of school clubs, social activities etc. should still receive as much focus at this 11 plus time - keeping a blance will certainly be the key - as a happy child works well. :)


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 3:29 pm 
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Ahhhh, the eternal question!

As far as I was concerned I would help my DS1 (and now DS2, taking it this year) to develop the techniques and background knowledge they needed to pass and succeed at grammar. If that meant working hard with me, then that's what happened. I was not happy with the two comps in my catchment area(one in special measures and the other 'improving' but with some way to go).

The problem is you really do have no idea what the standard will be the year your DC takes the test. Our joint philosophy was "If you want to have a choice you have to do the work." My DC's often quote it to me now!Thankfully both my DC's have been happy to do the prep 99% of the time.

I decided on the format of work: reading, vocab improvement, practice papers, basic maths, comprehensions etc. which we did bits and pieces of each week. It was not that I thought my DS1 needed tutoring because he was 'not quite bright enough to pass on his own merits' it was just I reckoned everyone else would be tutoring their kids and he might lose out because I had not structured his time effectively to prep for the exam. As long as other people are going to tutor their kids, then I was going to tutor mine. If you can't beat 'em...and make no mistake you will be in the lap of the gods if you don't give them any tutoring, then join 'em. Enjoy the journey and try to make it fun. I did not worry at all what, or how much, others were doing. I knew my child and his capabilities and never cast a thought to what other people thought was 'acceptable' or 'not acceptable.'

At the end of the day it is your DC who has to open that letter, deal with the contents (hopefully happy!) and make that choice. No-one likes to talk about it but believe me there will be parents having their kids tutored up to the hilt while glibly saying "Oh, we have done nothing!" :roll:

I did the prep with my child and my conscience is clear. He is off to Pates this year and he cannot wait :D
Now ....just DS2 to go. Am I nervous....like a wreck!!!!! :lol:


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 8:49 pm 
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This is a tricky one but I would say this. Not all children regardless of tutoring gain the high scores necessary to get into the Grammars in the county. So if your DC was really not capable then you would know by the marks she was getting in practice and how hard she was finding it to grasp the question types. For example a bright child after practising code questions will quickly come up with short cuts. Some of the trickier maths questions will also give you a clue i.e the bracket types. A bright child may initially score fairly low marks in the tests if they are completely alien to them but will in a relatively short space of time increase those scores.

The next issue is in regards to the individual grammars. Whether it is right or not we have an hierarchical situation going. So some Grammars require higher scores than others to gain a place. This is where I think it is possible to fall foul of over tuition if you are concerned about your child struggling. The average CAT score of Pates pupils is 125, Tommies is 120 and Crypt 115( I have boys hence the bias). CAT scores are not an exact science and there will be exceptions but I think these figures do show that on average Pates does have the more naturally academically gifted children (I will point out here that it won't have all of them as people do opt for other Grammars for all sorts of valid reasons). Disproportional tutoring/preparation means that the brightest children will not necessarily score the highest add to that the small percentage of children who will under-perform on the day and you have a situation where some tutored children will end up with a score that is not a true reflection of their natural ability. Hence the stories of them struggling.

My thoughts are this. Be honest with yourself about your child's capabilities. Ask the school if they have done any tests on them and how well they performed? Are they in the top groups, are their SATs levels above average? Do they have a high reading age or have a flair for maths? Whether the school is pro Grammar or not they still have to give you this sort of information if you ask and some give it out anyway. Then decide which school is suitable for your child not your ego. If they are naturally highly gifted then take your pick if not then be more selective.

That said some children don't mind struggling a bit and if it results in them getting an educational advantage then is it a bad thing? Frequently on this site I hear people complaining their children aren't being stretched so frankly this is the alternative. We can't have it all ways.

If your DD is happy to work then encourage it as it will stand her in good stead for the future. I don't think starting in Y5 like you have is over-doing it at all. I didn't do any long papers with my DSs until after the summer holidays but it has all moved forward this year so people need to be more organised.


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 9:46 pm 
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Thank you everyone for your opinions. The jury here is still out, but I am inclining I think towards doing more work to ensure a pass and hoping my instinct that DD is bright enough to cope at Grammar school is correct.

I know everyone says 'a parent knows how bright their child is' but actually, I don't. DD's school has a very small year 5, so not many other children to compare with (not that we ever get to see any other child's work anyway) and although DD is in top groups, that's not saying much when there's pretty much a 50/50 chance! No CAT scores as although the school do them, no one seems to want to give me her scores and judging by what I've read on this forum, they can be misleading anyway.

Thank you for reading my rambling. I just need the Grammar school fairy to come and wave her wand and say "X you are definitely bright enough, speed up your timing a little and you shall go to the Grammar School." :)


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 10:07 pm 
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If you want to do extra work then I would definitely push the vocab side rather than repetitive VR tests, unless your DD is an avid reader. My elder DS1 out scored my younger which was not on the cards as DS2 had consistently scored higher in all the practice tests I did with them.

DS1 is a more natural performer so may have had the edge on the day but he also reads a lot whereas DS2 doesn't. I get the impression that tutored children found this years test easier than last years so can only assume it was down to the vocab as DS2 was strong in all the other areas.


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PostPosted: Thu May 27, 2010 10:13 pm 
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Quote:
If you want to do extra work then I would definitely push the vocab side rather than repetitive VR tests, unless your DD is an avid reader.


DD reads in the car, at the dinner table, on the toilet; it's her maths that slows her up. Any ideas for boosting her maths - especially the missing number ones with the brackets gratefully received.

I have to add that reading on the toilet is not a trait she has inherited from her mother :roll:


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