We’ve been debating this issue for a long time – probably as far back as when my younger son was in year 1. To tutor or not to tutor?

My younger son is a bright boy. Incredibly bright. Almost off the scale bright.

Round here we have grammar schools. There is fierce competition to get into them and only the top 5% make it. Rather a lot of the kids who go to grammar schools went to private primary schools – invest cash in their early education and then get the state to provide your little darling with a brilliant free education. Then there are the kids who travel from Swindon and Bristol to Gloucestershire just to go to our grammar schools. Crazy, I know.

So there’s our predicament. My son needs to be in a grammar school. He needs to be with people of similar intelligence and he needs to have the challenge.

He should walk that exam, because he’s probably in the top 1%. But what if…

Every other kid that does that exam will have been tutored. Those private school kids have been learning in just the right way to pass that exam for years now. State school kids don’t learn the required skills, so they get tutored.

To tutor or not to tutor, that is the question?

We started off with Bond, an online learning package. It is incredibly hard. It’s probably the first thing my son has ever come across that challenged him. But he loves a challenge. He learned what was required of him and he cracked it. He could work those answers out so much quicker and more logically than his parents. I’m ashamed to say that at times we pushed him towards the wrong answer, when he was going to get it right.

But was it enough? It wasn’t a tutor.

There is a lady in our village that tutors a lot of kids, including some of my son’s friends. She gets kids to grammar school. In the end we took the plunge and got him a place with her.

And he loves it! He loves the challenging work, he loves the extra homework. On his first day, he ran home with his homework and sat doing it from 6pm to 9pm, until it was all finished.

He’s done four weeks now and he is thriving. He looks forward to going there every week. I’m so glad we did it. His exam will be at the very start of year 6, so he’s got the whole of next year (year 5) to perfect his skills.

And two years from now I’m confident I will have a grammar school boy.

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. I say go for tutoring I think you only have one shot at life so take all you can get.

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  2. We live near a grammar. My friends boy is very ‘bright ‘ he has been having a tutor since xmas and he loves it to. Our area is a poor area and a lot of the kids parents can’t afford a tutor. It’s a shame as you say they are up against kids that have been trained to pass the test for ages. My daughter is not ‘bright’ enough for it. She would hate it. My boy is different.. But i still will not be sending him to the grammar…

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  3. I think if you can afford it then do it. But that’s because I know the school you are after. I know my son didn’t get into that school (and he has a high enough iq), and although I’m happy with the grammar school he got I know it is really fierce for that one. And if he enjoys it then definitely!

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  4. Hi my son is the same top sets etc in yesr 4 however I won’t be getting him extra help if he wants to go to grammar – he can decide not me. I personally think kids are pushed within an inch of their lives if bright primary in particular and are in danger of burn out. The pressure to achieve is immense. My step daughter is 16 and a prime example. I also think if you are naturally bright you will pass and if you need a tutor then yes a child will pass but will be fish out of water once they’ve got in. As ever each to their own but thats my take on it. Let children play!

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  5. You have to do whatever you think is right for your child! As you know, I am not a fan of grammar schools, and the segregation of children at that age, nor am I a fan of the pressure. But I also know that if you are in a grammar school area, and have a bright child, it is important to do your best for them within the system you have. I just wish they would get rid of the lot! My daughter would have failed the 11+ but flourished a little later at our brilliant comprehensive, what a shame it would have been if those top groups had not been available to her because she was a late starter! I am sure he will be fine with or without, but as parents we have to help however we can! 🙂 x

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  6. Sounds like you made an excellent choice for your boy and he certainly deserves a place there. He seems to have the write learning attitude too which I also think is vital. Some people I know just got their kids to take some test papers at home, because they were naturally incredibly bright, they got in. Others tutored their children to pass but possibly aren’t naturally intelligent enough. I don’t think that’s a good idea as they will always be slightly behind the others when they get there,

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  7. Gloucestershire and its bloody selective system, infuriates me. I think your boy will do well wherever he is, it’s about the support and environment at home more than anything. You have to do what you think is right and I’m so pleased he’s thriving 🙂

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  8. You have to do what feels right for you and what feels right for your son. I had a maths tutor for a couple of years – not because I wasn’t good at it but because I needed things explained to me in a more scientific way. Sometimes a different person with a different method of teaching can make a huge impact. Hope it works out for you all x

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  9. If my boy was as bright as yours I’d probably consider a tutor or whatever it took to get him a place in a grammar. There is an excellent one near us and its 20 minutes away. It’s a long way a way yet but I’d like to think I would do the same as you 🙂

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  10. Thanks very much, everyone. It might be good not to have this system, but as we’ve got it, it’s right for him! Agree grammar school isn’t right for everyone – it certainly wasn’t right for my eldest. But younger son is not only very intelligent, but he’s also very motivated and enjoys learning! We don’t put any pressure on him.
    He plays a lot, Natasha, he is completely self-motivated in everything he does! He won’t struggle at all. I’d rather there was an even playing field where nobody was tutored as he doesn’t need a tutor. Unfortunately he has to keep up with the private school kids and the kids who have been tutored.
    And the tutor is really cheap too, Pinkoddy! 🙂

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  11. I think as long as you pass on the details of said tutor to me when Bunny is older… Lol. It’s insanely fierce around here. We chose Bunnys primary school based on the number of entries it gets to the grammar school… Meaning we were thinking about it when she was three! She’s only done one test at school so far, in a subject we have been told is her worst… She got 30/30.

    I think you are doing what is right for your son. A tutor is a great idea if he thrives on learning and I’m sure he will get in. If he doesn’t get in… Well you’ve not lost anything have you. Just given him a headstart.

    I had a tutor for math while I was on chemo and missing school. Something I’d failed to learn for years in school, clicked instantly with a one to one tutor. It’s amazing how much more you can learn one to one. Xx

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  12. Go, Bunny! That sounds promising! Our school hasn’t had that many go to grammar lately, but my son’s year are a strong cohort and I have total belief in him.

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  13. You touched one of my biggest concerns here in this post. I am so worried about how we will get our eldest to a good secondary school. We were debating the rights & wrongs of IQ tests, Mensa registrations and the likes. We have no idea how to make sure he will get in to the school he will thrive in. Such a huge decision. I am glad to hear tutoring is working for you, and your post gave me ideas and a nudge in the right direction. Thanks.

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  14. Good luck with it! It is a worry, but glad to have helped you a bit. My eldest goes to a regular comprehensive, which is fine for him, but my younger son needs to be at the grammar school.

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