Updated: Aug 7, 2019
Should you use a private tutor?
Who should you listen to: Mums at the school gate? The Headmaster? Your child? We’d advise listening to everyone before working out, on balance, whether a private tutor would be beneficial for your child. There is no longer a taboo attached to receiving help from outside school and there are plenty of avenues to find a tutor. The key is to make the right choices.
The first question: is there a need?
Children will develop at their own rate and, if feeling on the back foot, they may need some one-on-one encouragement for a short period of time; the personal touch can just nudge them up the learning ladder to be on a par with their peers. There are times of tension academically with 11+ entrance exams becoming more competitive than ever. London schools like Westminster, St Paul’s and City of London, aim to be as fair as possible with pre-tests from as early as Year 5 to sort out who has a chance at 13+ and who might be advised to look elsewhere. However, expecting all children to be at their personal best in Year 5 is a tall order.
There are the much reported August birthdays, meaning children can be 11+ months younger than their September birthday classmates and still expected to work at the same level of maturity; some public schools take this into account, others do not. There are international students, working from a different curriculum, who would most definitely be on the back foot without some focused 11+ exam practice. Then there are ambitious students who simply need extra help. They may not get on with their teacher, they may be distracted by a classmate or they may just be stuck on a topic and find an alternative approach, tailored to their needs, does the trick. Private tutoring can level the playing field.
To assess where you child fits academically, look at the school reports to see where they sit in the year group, then consider how academic the school is compared to other schools. Finally, look at the criteria for your senior school of choice and ask about the competition. How many places are there and how many children are going for each place?
Do not panic! Having done the research and assessed the need for your child specifically, consider that most exam success is down to both knowledge and strategy, in pretty much equal measure. Even just before the exam, students can pick up on strategies to help them point score. The more practice, the better but a great deal can be achieved in a short space of time if the student is motivated enough and the tutor is right.
The second question: are all tutors the same?
Selecting a tutor is a skill in itself. Not all tutors are regulated, not all tutors are teacher trained and not all tutors have experience with pre-tests, 11+ exams or 13+ exams. There are a great many tutors to choose from but the more expert the better when it comes to the competitive market of 11+ and 13+ exams. Your child will want to feel that they are on the right track, straight away, they will want to have confidence in the person helping them and see progress quickly to spur them on. If a tutor is not experienced in this niche area, it soon becomes apparent. Also, at some point, your child will benefit from going through some past papers. Be sure to ask if the tutor has access to up-to-date past papers. Ask for an example and check that this is in line with the expectations from the school.
Research shows that in 2013, over 7 out of 10 (72%) of 212 pupils surveyed reported that they received extra lessons out of school when they were approaching 11+ exams. Of those tutored, 8 out of 10 (78%) believed that tuition helped them to pass the 11+ entrance exam.
When weighing up your options, do not be put off by the idea of online tutoring. How convenient and flexible! Children love computers; this can prove motivation in itself. They are more than able to navigate a keyboard and the online techniques used are fully interactive so that they remain engaged. Go for a free technical trial if hesitant. There’s nothing to lose and a lot of fun to be had.