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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:12 am 
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I've seen recently that independent schools are beginning to ask parents to declare any outside coaching that a prospective pupil may have received.

For example, see these remarks on the St Paul's girls' school website:


We ask parents to make a full declaration of any additional coaching or help received by their daughter during the application process.

Private coaching, which many parents feel will be helpful to their daughter, can put extra pressure on girls and in our experience is often counter-productive.


The St Paul's entrance exams are tough, and whilst probably not completely 'tutor proof' certainly require quite a lot of thinking on your feet. You certainly couldn't go in and ace the tests by regurgitating facts learned by rote.

I'd say if you do well enough in the entry exams, interview well and have a favourable report from a previous school you deserve a place whether you've been extensively coached or not.
How can they be sure that parents will be honest? Will admitting to coaching penalise a child?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:20 am 
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... and what about those trying to make the step up from state primaries that stick to the NC without streaming and without extension work?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 9:37 am 
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Quite, Sportsmum, but I have the feeling they'd understand why 'coaching' might be necessary in this case.

Are they not perhaps trying to avoid taking a child at an academically selective prep who'd been overly hothoused (as they saw it)?

They say the exams are there to spot potential. I'd say again, if a child can pass them with flying colours, they deserve a place (extensively tutored or otherwise). The sample papers - available on the website - look very challenging to me.

For example, any stock memorised phrases wouldn't help with the English paper. You're required to extend a given story after being asked to give your opinion on it and display deep understanding. Even the longer writing task is dependent on you having understood the story. You'd need enough intellect to correctly apply anything you'd been 'coached' for I'd have thought?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:21 am 
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I think tutoring is only helpful if it is teaching the child the subject. Tutoring to pass the exam is totally useless & most of these children struggle later.

I always tell my students that I will be teaching the syllabus for maths & english - then the child is better equiped to think for itself. I don't introduce papers till the subject has been taught. It is a longer process but one which is better in the long run.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 10:42 am 
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Do you think parents should declare if they've used a tutor & justify their reasons?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:07 am 
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"... and what about those trying to make the step up from state primaries that stick to the NC without streaming and without extension work?"

Well, if the tests assess, as they all claim to, innate ability,then it shouldn't matter hat they are taught at primary school, should it?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 1:52 pm 
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I think this an excellent idea.

It would be even more useful for the schools to devise an exam that tested natural ability, rather than intensely tutored children. It is not just a matter of passing the exam, the pace at selective schools is faster.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:14 pm 
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I think the sample papers I've seen online look very difficult to specifically prepare for. Surely no amount of drilling for this exam could really lead a candidate to ace the test? Unless a candidate had also developed the necessary intellect they wouldn't do well I'd have thought?

You need to be able to apply your knowledge in context. They're very tough papers, I'd struggle in parts - especially in Maths. Take a look at the comprehension paper, they're testing logic, creativity, intellect. You don't know what will come up in advance. You need to display these skills & original thinking. How can someone that hasn't developed the ability do exceptionally well? Am I missing something?


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:29 pm 
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Cranleigh wrote:
How can someone that hasn't developed the ability do exceptionally well? Am I missing something?

You are not, IMO, missing something. They are challenging papers which would require ability. However, how is that ability developed? In the maths section many of the questions are 'word problems'. At my DDs' primary they would not have been familiar with these in any way. However, their prep schooled friends were practising questions like this from an early age. It didn't make them better at maths, but the preparation did allow them to develop the ability to answer these questions and then put them at an advantage, given all else (ability) being equal. So, I wonder, are St Paul's factoring into the equation that some children will have been prepped for the exam throughout school, some will be tutored and some will be reliant on nothing other than their innate ability? I applaud the sentiment but question the efficacy of its application. As nobody implied, hooray if we ever get an exam that tests ability/aptitude not previous education. I am not holding my breath.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 27, 2012 2:47 pm 
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How many children from state primary schools apply to exclusive independents anyway? If the exclusive independents genuinely want state school applicants, then I reckon the only way they are going to access some of the 'bright but poor' children is to go out and look for them...ie go into schools and talent spot. Then offer big bursaries to the parents of those they want. Any system which requires parents to choose to enter children for an exam, be it in the private or state sector, is going to be self-selecting and many people will be disadvantaged if they do not know how to access tutoring. For that and many other reasons lots of bright children never get put forward for entrance exams, let alone pass them.

I love the idea that tutoring for exams would be banned, but it is entirely unworkable unless schools change their selection criteria every year and spring surprise tests on ten year olds. ('right everyone, pick up your needles, and begin your sampler. Oh, you thought it was making hollandaise sauce? That was last year I'm afraid.')

Best of all would be non-selective schooling, but that is a pipe dream...


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