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Archive for November, 2012

The end of tutoring to get into grammar schools?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Competition for places at the 164 selective schools in England has always been fierce – with parents going to great lengths to help their child secure a place in their chosen school. A popular way to help children has been to employ the services of a one to one tutor or tutoring school to help them prepare for and pass the 11+ or entrance exam required for a specific school.

Last week it was reported in The Telegraph that education authorities are planning to change these tests to make them ‘tutor proof’ because they are worried the wrong children are winning places at selective schools.

Some headteachers are reporting that children have been intensively ‘trained’ to pass a test only to struggle when they start at the school. Many feel a test should only be a part of the selection process to give those who can’t afford tutoring a better chance.

At 121 Home Tutors we work with many children who sit the 11 plus exam and we think selective schools are a good thing, allowing for variation in our school system. Grammar schools tend to be highly academic and therefore need a rigorous entry test to ensure those who are capable get the places. In our experience the children we tutor for 11+ are already well suited to this type of school and the kind of assistance they need is to do with timing during tests and putting the ticks in the right boxes! We know there are children who aren’t suited to grammar schools and are put through intensive coaching, unfortunately usually by pushy parents who will be that way regardless of the school.

For us tutoring for the 11 plus is all about helping children achieve their potential, often they need  extra support outside of an already overstretched education system.  Deciding who should and shouldn’t be put forward for a grammar school place is tricky – do we allow schools and parents to nominate a deserving child who then may end up being tutored anyway because the school and parent want them to be ‘top’?  Our concern is that by changing the test to select those best suited academically might be harmful to those who are naturally bright or simply encourage parents to seek out independent schooling.

What do you think about tutoring to get a place at grammar school?

If you want help with tutoring for 11 plus in Manchester (Trafford) and Cheshire call 121 Home Tutors.




How did you learn to read?

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Can you cast your mind back and remember how you learnt to read? How does it compare with how your children have learnt to read? In most UK schools children are taught to read using a phonics system (decoding words by sounds) but the debate about whether this is the best method continues to rumble on.

Alison,  our MD recalls how she learnt to read…”I remember being read bedtime stories , my mum thought I could read but then worked out I’d memorised the stories! Then I just remember reading lots books  alone. I can’t really remember any school input though do remember lots of copying [but think that was handwriting lessons!]”. There’s a great opinion piece here on the best way to teach children to read and we thought we’d share some top tips from our tutors who have helped hundreds of primary and secondary children improve their reading skills.

  • Phonics might feel very foreign, especially if you didn’t learn to read that way but it’s worth improving your own knowledge (buy a basic phonics book or ask your child’s class teacher) as it’s a great way for most children to learn the basics of words and reading.
  • A word of caution about phonics – it doesn’t work for all children, some really struggle and if your child doesn’t seem to grasp the basics then it’s time to sit down with their teacher (and possibly a one to one tutor) to develop different learining to read strategies so they don’t lose confidence and fall behind.
  • Make sure that you instill that reading is fun. There may be important school books to read but magazines  and websites are just as good. Your child is more likely to want to learn if they are enjoying themselves.

Our last tip would be to give your child access to reading books, whether that’s buying them or using your local library or charity shops. If you think your child needs support with reading then we can help – call 121 Home Tutors and chat to us about reading support at primary and secondary level across Manchester and Cheshire (Heaton Mersey, Northenden, Cheadle, Alderley Edge).


Numeracy skills add up to good job prospects

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

When was the last time you had to do a bit of mental arithmetic at work? Tot up your hours for a timesheet?  Understand a graph or chart for a presentation?  Last week the BBC reported that 17 million working age people in England have only primary school level maths skills and there are fears that poor maths and numeracy skills are damaging Britain’s economic performance.

A charity, National Numeracy, is asking employers to help workers improve their numeracy skills as part of their plan to help a million adults over the next five years.

So what is numeracy and why does it matter? Numeracy isn’t just maths, it’s more than adding up.

“Numeracy is a proficiency which is developed mainly in Mathematics but also in other subjects. It is more than an ability to do basic arithmetic. It involves developing confidence and competence with numbers and measures. It requires understanding of the number system, a repertoire of mathematical techniques, and an inclination and ability to solve quantitative or spatial problems in a range of contexts. Numeracy also demands understanding of the ways in which data are gathered by counting and measuring, and presented in graphs, diagrams, charts and tables.” (Department for Education and Skills)

If you read the description above it’s easy to understand why many jobs require basic numeracy skills – from using a till to analysing information.  We also know that a lack of numeracy skills stops people getting jobs in the first place and then holds them back when they want to progress in their career.  And numeracy skills play a vital role in our every day life – from understanding which mortgage would be the best for you to working out if a 3 for 2 deal really is good value.

How can you help your child to develop the basic numeracy skills they need to succeed in a future career?

  • The most important aspect of helping your child with numeracy is giving them a positive attitude to numbers and maths, avoid negative language or telling them that ‘maths is hard’. The great thing about numeracy is that it’s all around us – you can have fun with it in the supermarket or playing simple games at home.
  • Find ways to make numeracy and maths fun – there are some great ideas on the National Numeracy website
  • Track down resources – there are books, websites and tutors that focus specifically on  numeracy skills and can embed these skills with younger children. If you have an older child or are an adult who wants to improve your numeracy skills then one to one tutoring is a great solution and can be done in your own home.

If you’d like more information on one to one home tutoring for numeracy in Manchester and Cheshire (covering Sale, Trafford, Wilmslow and surrounding areas) then contact 121 Home Tutors.