From the day that Baby Mozart left the maternity ward, parents desperate to do the best for their children have sought every bit of help possible. What is the situation in 2016?
Effective tutoring can be really helpful in developing literacy, numeracy or reasoning skills, but it can also be very dangerous. My gran would talk about forced rhubarb, a crop hot-housed to help it grow, but if children require hot-housing to meet the minimum expected level for entry to a school – or to keep up once they’re there - they might be out of their depth. This can damage self-esteem and hinder academic progress. Tutoring can make it harder to be sure whether a child will sink or swim.
The best way to find a good tutor is through word of mouth. Other parents (with no connection to the tutor) are more reliable than any advert, open testimonial or ‘independent’ website rating. Media stories about TripAdvisor and Amazon tell us to be cautious about the authenticity of online rating reports. It is also important that parents take proper references and examine child protection records for all the awful, obvious reasons.
When it comes to preparing your child for the 11+, find a sample / past paper on the school website and ask the school what they would see as a pass mark. It will give you a good idea whether the standards the school is after are within reach of your child.
Practice is important and tutors can help students to develop technique so academic potential isn’t masked by poor technique. On the other hand, children only have one chance of a childhood. If you find yourself sacrificing football practice, violin lessons and building dens in order to become good at verbal reasoning, then it is time to pinch yourself. Things have gone too far.
There are a plethora of revision guides and books available from WH Smiths (other retailers are available!). The best thing is to ask the school about which books are the best fit as there is a big difference between Non-Verbal Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning. In addition, some schools set their own bespoke exams. Don’t guess; ask the school.
By Shaun Fenton, Headmaster at Reigate Grammar School