Choosing a tutor for your child is a big thing.
There are so many considerations and so many variables.
Imagine you are going on a picnic and you ask a group of friends’ what type of bread they recommend for making the sandwiches.
One friend might respond that white bread is best. That’s the only bread their children will eat.
Another will suggest brown bread, it’s the healthier option.
“Best of Both” might be suggested as a good compromise.
Someone else may say you shouldn’t have bread, it’s too high in carbs!
This is a simple question which is really very trivial, but each friend has given a completely contrasting answer.
Imagine the implications when the question is as important as “Can anyone recommend a tutor?”
That’s why I’ve put together this list of points I think it is worth considering for yourself before making a commitment.
Once you think you have found a suitable tutor, look at their website, speak to them, ask if you are committed to a set number of lessons before you commit.
A key question is what do you want the outcome of the 11+ to be?
This sounds ridiculous but it’s something that a lot of parents speak to me about.
Some parents are completely focused on their child getting into a specific grammar school. In their mind there is no other reasonable option.
Other parents have spoken to me about the evils of the grammar school system and the prospect of sending their child to such an “institution” would be like committing child abuse!
Then, there are the parents who want to leave as many options open for their child as is possible. They appreciate that not every child is destined to go to grammar school but they want to give their child every opportunity. As long as their child is happy though, they are happy. (Though I often thing these parents do have a slight preference).
“When my oldest daughter went into year 6, we had just moved back down here from Yorkshire, where they didn’t have the Grammar school system. We decided it wasn’t fair to throw her into a formal test within weeks of starting a new school. We were confident that Lord Williams would be a good school and she would be happy there. We were not aware that entering the 11+ was the norm, rather than just be the top few.
A year later, my son came of age to do the 11+. My (ex-) husband and I couldn’t agree on the route to take. His belief was Lord Williams’ had been good enough for him, it would be good enough for his son to. My opinion was doors should be kept open. We agreed that he would sit the 11+ with no tuition and preparation. If he passed on his own merits, we would consider the grammar school. A week before the exam we looked around the Grammar school and loved it. He sat the exam and missed the pass mark by 3 points. We had agreed we wouldn’t appeal and he went to Lord Williams’.
2 years later… My youngest daughter came of age to sit the 11+. We had the same debates with the same outcomes. Literally! With no tuition or preparation, she failed by 3 marks – and went to Lord Williams.
Why am I telling you this? Over the years I have kicked myself and asked whether we should have appealed. Should we have entered Clara? She has an amazing eye for detail and would no doubt have breezed the non-verbal reasoning but fallen flat on her face with the spellings. Should we have got them a tutor, spent more time preparing them ourselves? I don’t know.
What I do know is that our former neighbour of ours when we lived in Yorkshire was the head of department in a well-regarded secondary school. His attitude was a dedicated child will do well wherever they go. A child who is not motivated will always struggle.
Now with the benefit of hindsight and many conversations I’m happy with the choices we made. All 3 have done really well (Clara works as a Business Manager at the head quarters of a national company, after his GCSE’s (at Lord Williams’) Jamie excelled at his A’ Levels (At the Floyd Grammar School) took a gap year to Australia before coming back to do Economics at Manchester. (Which in all fairness he really didn’t enjoy. He is now doing Geography and Development at UEA is amazingly happy and has been to many places around the world doing voluntary work).
Angel, matched Jamie’s A’ Level results (but stayed at Lord Williams’ to do them) before taking a paid internship in Parliament and now works as a lobbyist for “Shelter”. She debates on a daily basis, whether or not to go to Uni. As a parent am I proud? Very.
Could they have done better? Not in my eyes because each one of them has been able to do what has made them happy. Would going to a grammar school have made a difference? No, I don’t think so.
Once you know where you stand with the outcome it becomes easier to choose an appropriate tutor.
But you also need to bare in mind, whether your child has the same commitment that you have.
Taking the 11+ is a big commitment.
It will take more than just an hour a week with a tutor. You will both need to dedicate time, energy and money.
I know a lad who was tutored EVERYDAY by his mum for 2 hours (no exception). He passed but he was already labelled as gifted and talented in several subjects, yet that was the dedication needed.
I know another family who I started tutoring when she was in year 2. I thought it was just English, but it quickly became obvious it was for the 11+. She had already had to quit her clubs that she attended and had a huge pile or work books to work through. She attended Kumon and a second tutoring establishment. She and her parents, were dedicated. She failed (though got in on appeal). I genuinely believe she burned out before the actual exam.
Another lad, whose brother I tutored maths, started working with me for an hour a week from Easter of year 5. The parents were very much of the view he was a clever lad and they just wanted to leave options open for him.
They brought him some books and I spent an hour a week with him (often in the garden) between holidays. After the exams were over, the parents offered me the books as they had hardly been opened. He passed with flying colours!
Everyone is different.
How we learn also differs for everyone. This will also affect the tutor we choose.
The tutor we choose will, I suggest be influenced by the following 3 personal factors.
I believe you need to consider the following points, when deciding which tutor is the best fit for you and your child:
Where do you want the lessons to take place?
Online? These will be cheaper but the resources available will be a lot more restricted.
In a tutoring centre or at the tutor’s house? Or in an ideal world would the tutor travel to you?
(I’ve written a much longer handout on this, drop me an email and I will happily forward it on to you: firstname.lastname@example.org).
What is your budget?
If you are hoping to pay little more than £10/hour, you are probably looking at online lessons with a student.
The next step would probably be group lessons in a central location where you have the benefit of the tutor present to support the child as they work through the resources.
The other option, which is probably the most expensive option is to have a tutor come to your house and offer a one to one lesson that are completely focused upon the needs of your child. (We charge from £30/hour for this).
How does your child learn?
When I was at school, I loved covering the table with books, making notes and writing! If I proposed this to any of my children, they would think I was insane!
We all learn differently. Some people like to work through text books, some like to play games and do quizzes. For some people a black biro is suitable for everything, for others a range of coloured pens and coloured paper is what’s needed to complete the task.
You need to ensure the tutor you choose, uses a teaching style that supports your child’s learning. I believe that a range of resources work best (again I have written about my opinion on this, many times in the past so I will not go into it in great depth now, but if you do have questions, please do ask).
I’m guessing this has thrown up a million more questions and you are now even more confused. But I hope it has given you food for thought. If you do have any questions, please do get in touch and I will do my best to answer them.