Tutor view: Colin and Sarah, 11plus Tutors

You have to find the right balance between work and play.  Young children tend to burn out if they are given too much work, says 11plus Tutors in Purley.

Top tips for maths: Practise, practise, practise.  It is necessary to be fully aware of the 11-plus maths syllabus for the pupil’s chosen schools or to find a tutor with the knowledge gained from tutoring towards those schools.  

In the Borough of Sutton, for example, there is stiff competition from thousands of pupils for hundreds of grammar school places.  Usually, pupils are tested on topics covered at school throughout the whole of years 4, 5 and 6, even though most grammar school 11-plus tests are held in September of year 6 and private school 11-plus tests in January or sometimes earlier.  

Both grammar school tests and private school 11-plus tests tend to be more difficult than the SATs tests in May of year 6 several months later. As a parent, if you have decided to teach your child yourself then working through Bond Assessment Papers is a good place to start.  Bond Assessment Papers have books for different age groups and, unless your child is particularly gifted, I recommend starting with the age group below that of your child.  

This ensures that they score about 80 percent in the papers and your child’s confidence grows rapidly.  As time is limited, a good approach is to focus only on the topics where your child has made mistakes and teach them how to do these types of questions.  So, you are essentially filling in the gaps and not bogged down with teaching them everything.  

Please, please, please do not do too many papers and do not go up to the next level until your child is likely to score 80 percent. Confidence in Maths is key. If necessary, when a book has been completed, select random questions where your child originally had made errors.  A variety of sources can be better than just one source, though there is a huge amount of maths material available and some needs to be avoided.

Additionally, I recommend the papers from Learning Together which we have introduced in year 5 for the last few years to supplement our own material and, much nearer examination time due to their level of difficulty, perhaps in July and August, GL Assessment Papers. However, our approach is quite different.  We believe in covering the whole of the 11-plus maths syllabus in our classes rather than just filling in the gaps. We have produced our own 11-plus maths eBooks, based on many years of experience with 11-plus pupils, which we use extensively in class.  We spread the work for years 4 to 6 over two years, starting in September of year 4 and finishing in September of year 6 or in January for private schools.  

We test as well but we provide far more emphasis on teaching and gradually introduce more testing including our own online 11-plus mock tests which we run from April to August of year 5.

Top tips for English: Sarah, a very experienced and qualified teacher who is head of English, recommends reading above all.  Building vocabulary through reading is essential.  This will help improve understanding in comprehensions, be more creative when writing and obviously help with vocabulary, synonyms, antonyms, compound words and other exercises which might appear in an 11-plus test paper.  

If your child has a reluctance to read then please find them a book, a magazine, an online article or similar which they might like, even if it is a report on a football match of your child’s favourite team.  Cultivate an interest then your child will read more.  Once your child wants to read, introduce writing down new words together with their meanings in a pocket notebook, ensuring that they are spelled correctly.  A good dictionary is imperative.  

Additionally, make a note of expressions used, similes, metaphors, alliteration and the like, which will aid in creative writing.  Sarah refers to over 100 English books and online articles and video clips too numerous to mention.  However, many of her books are from Bond but also include CGP, Collins, Haydn Richards, Learning Together, Letts and of course she uses a lot of her own material.

Top tips for verbal/non-verbal reasoning: Before embarking on learning all about verbal and non-verbal reasoning, check that these form part of the 11-plus tests at your chosen schools.  We recommend Bond Assessment Papers for both verbal reasoning and non-verbal Reasoning.  Some parents struggle with some of the concepts of both and so find it hard to teach their child a topic that their child does not understand.  It can also be quite daunting teaching many of the non-verbal reasoning concepts as they are very visual.  In this case, we recommend that you find a tutor with strong experience of verbal and non-verbal reasoning concepts and techniques.

Are you now offering online tutoring? Yes, we are successfully providing online tuition to about 50 pupils each week, more than 30 of whom are in year 5.  We use Zoom for the interactive online sessions and meetings with parents and Google Classroom for exchange of class work and homework, marking and reports which works very well.  Michael, previously employed on the IT Support Desk at Lenovo, is helping us and our clients with any technical issues that might arise.  

How are children responding? Before moving all our pupils to online virtually overnight, I was a little sceptical of how primary school pupils would respond.  I have been pleasantly surprised at not only how well our pupils have adapted but also how they perform in class.  All our class work is shared on screen with our pupils and we have incorporated YouTube videos and other online resources to stimulate interest.  Whilst most pupils sit attentively alone, a few parents sit with their child and provide additional support like a teaching assistant in schools.

When should a child start preparing for the 11-plus? The optimum time to start preparing for the 11-plus for most pupils in our area is in September of year 4. Before this time pupils tend not to be mature enough for the 11-plus, though there is no harm in parents helping children with basic reading, times tables and so forth.  

In 2004 when 11plusTutors had our first grammar school candidates there were still many bright children who could gain a place at a grammar school without extra help from a parent or tutor.  However, times have changed and due to the heavy demand for places, preparation for the 11-plus tests for even the brightest of children is now necessary.  Though in some areas where the 11-plus test is less challenging, starting in year 5 might not be an issue. 

How many hours a week does a child need to study? You have to find the right balance between work and play.  Young children tend to burn out if they are given too much work.  Less is best; quality is far better than quantity.  If they enjoy what they do then they will learn far more.  Find a tutor who covers all the syllabus but does not expect the child to be working all hours to achieve the end result.  11plus Tutors follows this philosophy and it has worked very well for us and our 11-plus candidates over the last 15 years or so.

Best materials to use: Bond Assessment Papers for learning and testing.

Schools tutored for: We tutor for pupils wishing to gain a place at most secondary schools including grammar, private and state schools.  We are experts in our local area which covers grammar schools in the Borough of Sutton and private schools within a 10-mile radius of the Borough of Croydon, though schools also include Eton (13-plus) and other prestigious schools.

How long have you been a tutor? Colin has been a full-time tutor for over 15 years and part-time for many more.  Sarah has 30 years’ teaching experience with the last ten as a full-time tutor.

Price of tuition per hour: £26
Email: help@11plusTutors.com


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