Updated: Sep 13, 2019
The 11+ can be stressful for children and parents. A tutor can help, but are they a necessity?
Do you need a tutor?
The simple (and most honest answer) is 'probably not'. It is entirely possible (and many children do it every year) to succesfully pass the pre-tests, the 11+ and the subsequent interview, without recourse to a private tutor.
The key factor for succesful preparation is to practice. A child that has a tutor but does little in the way of practice will not fare as well as a child without a tutor who is committed to completing practice papers and perfecting their technique.
Why are Tutors so Prevalent?
When I was training to teach I remember speaking to one of my mentors. He was talking about his daughter's tutor and the interesting work they were doing together. I asked why he didn't tutor her himself (given the subject area was his own). "A prophet is never appreciated in his own homeland" he joked. Although his answer was tongue-in-cheek, there was an element of truth to it. His daughter would focus and work well with the tutor because the tutor was there for a determined amount of time and knew there was a natural end to the session. After the lesson, she could enjoy their family time together.
Many parents find having a tutor a useful way to demarcate academic work and family time. Some parents do not want to 'muddy the water' and become their child's tutor while others do not have the time (or experience) to offer the same support. Like many service industries, it is sometimes more cost-effective to get a specialist in.
That said, armed with some practice papers and a spare hour a week, a parent can support their child effectively. There is now an entire market of practice papers websites and established publishing companies. There are also plenty of free materials out there, particularly on school websites. If a parent has a sound grasp of comprehension and creative writing, they could provide all the support their child needs for English.
The same can be said for mathematics and to a degree the reasoning papers (verbal and non-verbal) although these can be a bit trickier to teach. If a parent does want to teach their own child the main thing to focus on is explaining why the answer is the answer, not just what the answer is. This is a harder skill and where a skilled tutor can make a difference.
Which Tutor is the Right Tutor?
If you decide to go down the tutoring route it can be difficult to know which tutor (or tutoring agency) to go for. Like many things, there is a lot to be said for word of mouth recommendations, particularly when it comes to specific schools you are targeting. It can be useful to speak to parents of said schools and see if they have any recommendations.
It is also worth noting that the tutoring sector is lightly regulated. In effect, anyone can set themselves up as a tutor and while this has its benefits it is important to make an informed decision.
Here at Argent Education, we believe that there should be little distinction between tutoring and teaching. Tutoring is teaching but just on a smaller scale. For that reason we only work with qualified professional teachers with proven track records of success. As mentioned above, the key to children performing well in the 11+ is knowing why an answer is correct. Professional teachers are trained to do this and do it on a daily basis.
In addition to our experienced professional teachers, we are working on a number of resources (both free and for purchase) that break this learning strategy down into manageable steps. We base this process on the 'zone of proximal development' (which will be explained further in an upcoming blog post) which all teachers ought to be well versed in. If a parent wants to give their child additional support but does not want a private tutor, this can be a good compromise, or at least, initial assessment.
So, as we saw at the beginning, no child needs a tutor. There is plenty a parent can do at home to prepare their child, for minimal cost. But, if a parent does wish to hire a tutor its best to ensure they have a good track record and are a qualified teacher. If you would like further information, just drop us a message and we can offer some complimentary advice.
And of course, good luck to all the young people preparing for the assessments!