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PostPosted: Mon Oct 20, 2014 5:01 pm 
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Our DC placed 78th with a score of 204.3. While I feel delighted about this outcome, I can't help but feel the whole process is unfair. It is totally weighted towards families who can afford to send their kids to a private tutor. While I admit to sending our DC to a tutor since April, we only did this because we wanted them to learn about VR as it isn't on the curriculum at school. This is in stark contrast with most other successes in DC's class who have been doing hours after school since year 2. Surely these children are not the right material for a Grammar School, as if their parent had not pushed them so severely, they would likely never have got in, and hence are restricting children who have potential, but the wrong home environment from propsering. People like to point out that once these children attend CH, that these children will struggle, but it is my opinion, that these children are so over-coached that they will always be working at home to stay ahead of the pack. Does this mean if you can't beat them you just have to join them? I would be interested to hear anybody's opinions around this.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:31 am 
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You make some good points tiggsy. My DC (our first to sit the test) passed after 3-4 months of home coaching after I realised the amount of preparation being done by various parents via tutors and having read these forums. Without this he certainly would not have passed.

I'm of the previous generation where my parents were working class and I passed the 11+ and it was no big deal. We did some preparation at school and sat the exam without any fuss. There was a more level playing field. Some children had an advantage due to their backgrounds and parents but nothing insurmountable. Now tally that with an extreme case I know of where a child (not mine!) had 2 tutors and also spent 5-6 hours a day during the entire summer holidays studying !?!?

What we have now is an ultra-competitive scenario similar to modern sports where children not only get taught the method, they are coached on managing nerves, nutrition, sleep...and whatever else you can think of. Just have a read of some the posts on the wider forum and look at the unusually high scores being posted. I'm no mathematician but surely we are skewing the distribution here and minor differences in score will create huge disparity in ranking, as we have already seen discussed on this forum.

The point of coaching is that it helps you develop and reach your potential. Given that you can't control the level of coaching, the only fair solution is that children from less well off backgrounds are provided with access to some form of tutoring, but the issue is who would provide the funding. Alternatively, you change the testing method to 'tutor-proof' tests such as the CEM test in Buckinghamshire replacing GL VR.

We don't need a crystal ball to see that the excessive tutoring in Bucks will happen here as well as pressure increases due to changing demographics and an increase in primary children. So to cut a long story short, the test probably isn't fair but it's here to stay for a while and with our increasing polarised society, the 'haves' will continue to have the upper-hand over the 'have-nots'.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:44 am 
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good points made by both above, from my own viewpoint, with a son who sat and passed both the CEM at heck, and the GL with CH, the CEM is more tutor proof.
We didn't do any external tutoring, just at home, and the "practice" CEM exams seemed a little bit pointless towards the end, with only maybe speed/the odd word here and there being the advantage of doing them. Our Son said the same thing, once you have done a few of the exams and "know" the question types it comes down to vocab and maths.
The tutoring at home we did wasn't excessive, with a VR exam a week, and maybe a couple of 10 min maths tests. then the next week the same but with a NVR instead of the VR (for the CEM tests).

Unfortunately you are always going to get children who are forced into masses of work who maybe would not normally pass the exam. this is a product of the competition entrance exams create. But until local secondary schools consistently produce good results (will that ever happen?) then grammar schools will be massively over subscribed, as parents will always want the best education for their child.

Although I do feel if a child is good enough then they will still be good enough to pass the exams, even without tutoring.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 9:55 am 
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Hi Tiggsy,

We refused to pay for coaching on principle. My issue is this:

The 11+ is designed to recognise potential. We start with a level playing field; none of the children have seen an 11+ paper before, but there are materials out there that parents can buy (although pretty limited when it comes to GL) so that, for a few pounds, we can go through them at home, familiarise our children with the question types, get a view as to whether we think they're the type of child that should be sitting the 11+ and try and instill some confidence in children that we do think should be sitting the test.

The use of tutoring then un-levels the playing field. Parents pay professionals to drill their children to given them an unfair advantage. As parents, we then either risk putting our children at a disadvantage, or we attempt to re-level the playing field by paying out thousands of pounds to have our own children tutored. The only people benefiting from this are the tutors.

So, we decided to go against the grain. We used the Bond Parents Guide to the 11+ to assess our child to help determine that he was the type of child who should sit the test. We then started working through some of the Bond materials (as there's lots of it) and in the last few weeks, moved to GL (our local test setter in N Yorks) for lots of practice tests. In total, I think we paid less than £200 and DS passed the test with a decent margin. This approach does require a lot of commitment from both you and your child, although it's probably a good practice for the amount of work they'll be expected to do at grammar school.

In answer to the question as to whether the 11+ is fair - no, it favours the wealthy, and I guess you might argue that in investing time and some money, we supported the status quo to some extent. It isn't going to be fair until someone comes up with a truly un-tutorable test.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:12 am 
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Docb wrote:
...until local secondary schools consistently produce good results (will that ever happen?) then grammar schools will be massively over subscribed, as parents will always want the best education for their child.


Aren't grammar schools a self-fulfilling prophecy here though? Take 25-30% of the most capable children out of mainstream education, and the results of the local comp are bound to suffer.

We did consider bucking the trend and sending DS to the "other" school, but unfortunately I don't always have the conviction of my principles where my children's education is concerned! :oops:


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 10:30 am 
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Completely agree with you Automaton.

I think most people would agree that the current entrance exam process requiring months of practice and (more often than not) private tutors is completely unfair. But maybe it suits the grammars to maintain this style of testing? Using the rigour of a one-day test you need to practice for, perhaps the schools are more likely to fill their places with those from more prosperous and educated families who are more likely to support their children’s ongoing education. The children in turn are more likely to be hard-working and academically disciplined, having demonstrated they can put their minds to this level of sustained practice at the ages of 9 and 10.

Also, maybe the kids who can put in 5-6 hours a day during the summer holidays :shock: are showing rigorous levels of determination, patience and powers of concentration, all of which I would have thought were suitable qualities for a grammar school pupil (?). I could barely get my DD to sit down for one ten minute test per day or every other through the holidays so I’m kind of full of an amazed admiration for that….

Whether we agree with the grammar school system or not, we have all bought into it for one reason or another. I admit to having had regrets about choosing to do it along the way, but it would be a much more strongly prinicpled person that me to reject the process for ethical reasons. We don’t seem to have the same level of competitiveness that exists in other boroughs but maybe it’s heading that way?


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 12:54 pm 
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Aren't grammar schools a self-fulfilling prophecy here though? Take 25-30% of the most capable children out of mainstream education, and the results of the local comp are bound to suffer.

We did consider bucking the trend and sending DS to the "other" school, but unfortunately I don't always have the conviction of my principles where my children's education is concerned! :oops:[/quote]


But are we not saying that the more able children are being left behind as more affluent families can devote more resource into having their children tutored, to within an inch of their lives, and therefore the more "able" child with little or no resource is left to the secondary schools?

the able children "should" still expect to get a quality education, looking at the schools around us that didn't appear to be the case unfortunately.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 1:01 pm 
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All selective schooling is unfair. We put our kids through the 11+ primarily for them to be able to go to their nearest secondary school - CH in our case. It also happens to be a good school, but if we'd lived next to say, Brooksbank, we would probably have sent them there.

What really, really bugs me is that people from other areas can come and take our school places. I don't blame them, but it shouldn't be allowed.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 3:23 pm 
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Hi Docb,

Yes, fully agree. Our local comp (the grammar's actually our nearest school) doesn't offer a very good range of subjects - no split sciences, and a single languages teacher who only teaches French. There will doubtless be some very able children at this school, but their choices are limited from day 1. Whether they can achieve their potential with limited choices may depend on their interests.

I'm preparing to be shot down here, but it's possible that educational migration could be a positive thing. If parents who are willing to spend a small fortune on tutoring move into the area, it means that the number of able children who don't meet the 11+ cut-off will increase, which should improve the results of the comp? I'm only theorising here; if I was a parent of a child who'd just missed the cut-off because of an influx of wealthy parents, I'd feel pretty hard done to!


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 6:38 pm 
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Of course it isn't fair. I'd love to know the actual figures for the Calderdale 11+. How many children pass the test without tutoring??? Do any? My child didn't pass the test. We didn't have a tutor as I naively thought practice papers would be enough (having only recently moved from an area without the 11+ system). Clearly this wasn't the case. We could have afforded tutoring, but really believed that a child working at the top of the class in every subject would have done well without, so long as they were familiar with the types of questions. Really saddened by the whole thing. Our little one speaks three languages, is an incredible musician and a gifted artist. He is not so hot on VR apparently :(


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