The message coming from grammar schools and independent school heads at the moment is don’t tutor for the 11+ but clearly if you don’t tutor, you stand little chance of success.
I’ve heard it so many times – the head of English at a top west London private school imploring a family not to tutor their daughter; one grammar school head saying don’t tutor but get your child to read; another head of an ultra-competitive north London grammar advising parents to get a few books from WH Smith but not to go down the tutoring route.
From the school’s point of view, it would be easier to select the most able students if nobody tutored – whether that is done at home by a parent or tutor or in a centre.
One head of a south London private school admitted it was possible to spot a child tutored in English but not so easy when it came to maths.
There have been numerous attempts to make the 11+ tutor proof.
The verbal and non-verbal reasoning component which remains in some exams is an example of this.
Non-verbal and verbal reasoning tests were supposed to be untutorable but now experts agree if a child practices these exam formats, they will improve, before eventually plateauing.
The instruction from heads not to tutor simply does not reflect the present reality.
In year 5 at a leading private school I have knowledge of – 70 percent of students are tutored.
Of course, some parents will not admit to getting their children tutored.
But in the long queues outside grammar schools on test days, most parents will be honest about what they have put themselves and their child through in the lead up to the exam.
One woman outside a school in west London said her daughter had started at a tutoring centre in year 4, continuing through to the exam in year 6, where the expectation was one hour of homework a day, in addition to the three hours on a Sunday at the centre.
Another mother took two weeks unpaid leave off work in the summer before the exam to tutor her daughter, in addition to tutoring her daughter herself at home.
I know of other families who had a tutor come to their home nightly in the run up to exams.
I went to a talk at an 11-plus exam centre by a father who freely admitted tutoring his son four hours a day in the summer before the exam for a leading London grammar school. His son made the cut.
The reason parents tutor their children is because they are unlikely to have any chance of success without some extra help.
Surely it would be more helpful if heads were to admit that this was the case.
What do you think?