Middle-class children ‘are struggling in secondary schools after being ‘hot-housed’ through the 11-plus exam’

In an article in the Daily Mail, 16/06/13, HMC Chairman and High Master of The Manchester Grammar School, Dr Chris Ray warns that hot-housing children through entrance exams at selective schools could leave them struggling to keep up with more talented pupils in future.

Parents are increasingly relying on tutors to help their children pass the 11-plus for grammar schools and private schools’ Common Entrance exam sat at 13.

But Christopher Ray, the chairman of the Headmasters and Headmistresses’ Conference, said many are unable to cope when they get into their chosen school.

Some are even asked to leave at 16 to avoid damaging the school’s A-level pass rates.

‘At 11 it’s very hard [to select], so mistakes are made,’ said Dr Ray who is head of Manchester Grammar School.

‘You have to ask the question of whether students are going to make it into the sixth form at 16. The saddest thing of all is to get it wrong.

‘Why is that mistake made? One of the possible reasons is that the pupils have been over-tutored, hot-housed for the entrance exam and progressively cannot cope.’ 

Dr Ray said entrance exams for selective schools should be axed as so many children are now being intensively coached outside school.

University-style ‘assessment days’ - where teachers could monitor children over several hours in a classroom environment - would be better, he suggested.

More than half of children are being tutored privately as parents fight to get them into the best schools, a study suggested last year. Some are as young as two.

The practice has exploded in recent years despite the squeeze on family incomes.

In many cases parents are prepared to pay for their children to get into the best state schools as the overall cost is cheaper than private schools. Many grammar schools now have ten applications for each place.

Later struggle: Children who are tutored through exams may not make it through to sixth form

Some schools are now asking questions that are harder to prepare for but critics say it is impossible to completely ‘tutor-proof’ the process.

‘Entrance exams are almost the worst way to select students academically,’ Dr Ray told a Sunday newspaper.

‘They don’t really get to the heart of pupils’ potential. 

'They don’t really tell you how that pupil thinks and almost all of them can be tutored for, which gives a very unfair advantage to those who are tutored.

‘Some heads say a 15 or 20-minute interview can be the corrective for that. I don’t think so - pupils are also being tutored for interviews.’

There are also concerns at the length of time children spend being coached outside school hours and the quality of education provided by some tutors.

Ben Thomas, headteacher at independent preparatory Thomas’s, Battersea in South London, said children’s free time was being ‘devoured’ by the practice.

The Centre for Market Reform of Education think-tank last month announced plans to establish a national association for private tutors.

Members of the association - the first of its kind - would have to sign up to minimum qualification standards and a code of ethics.

Headteachers have also revealed how parents are forcing children to do lengthy commutes so that they can attend the right schools.

Jane Grubb, headmistress of Bedales Prep School in Hampshire, said earlier this year that some children travel up to ten hours a week.

Click here to read the article © Daily Mail.