Recently we had Parent-Teacher meetings at school.
I love Parent-Teacher evenings because I’m always on my own, with four tired, bored, hungry children who would rather be doing ANYTHING except having to vaguely behave in school after-hours.
I usually let them loose in the playground with a ball so that I can half-concentrate on what the teacher has to say. The other half of me is praying that they don’t break the school windows.
As one of my children is struggling a little in one subject and another son is struggling a little in another, this time I asked the teacher if she would have any objection to me getting a tutor for them to help them get caught up. Oh no, not at all, she said quickly, in fact I can recommend Janet Hopkinson who is tutoring Maddy and Jake or Mrs Symonds who is tutoring Henry and Timothy.
I manage to keep the surprise off my face. I think. OK, so I hadn’t realised all those children were being tutored. But there’s no reason I would know I suppose.
So the next day I chatted to Maddy’s, Jake’s and Henry’s parents to get the tutors’ numbers.
And then I talked to some more parents who cheerily told me their children had been having tutors for some time. And then I talked to a few more parents who said their children had finished general tutoring and had now moved on to 11+ tutoring.
I felt like I was being initiated into some sort of club that I hadn’t even realised existed.
Our school is outstanding. It does very well in league tables. Several children go on to grammar school each year. Many of the parents are middle-class.
The tutoring thing has just left me with a bunch of questions though.
I’m not bothered that parents are choosing to have their children tutored because that’s their right if that’s what they want to do.
But I have to wonder how much of the school’s results are due to the teaching in the school and how much is due to the fact that so many of the children have catch-up tuition or tuition to get them ahead, to get them ready for the 11+.
If all these children weren’t being tutored, would my child not be one of the ones languishing in the classroom? Does the tutoring raise the average level of ability and is that a good thing, in that the others will be stretched? Or does it just increase the gap between the clever and the not-so-clever?
Are the better-off families buying themselves a better education? (Hasn’t it always been thus?)
How much does the tutoring affect the performance tables of the school and the inspection reports? Does the fact that we live in a middle-class village mean more children are tutored, bolstering the school’s results, making the school more attractive to families and making house prices more expensive, meaning only more middle-class people can afford to live here?
I realise that living in an 11+ school district means that there is more competition for state school places than there might be elsewhere. (I should point out that we plan on having our children sit the 11+ and we are already preparing them for that at home but no way do we plan on having them cram for the test or tutored every Saturday for months beforehand. I want them to pass the test if they are clever enough and not pass it if they are not clever enough. Perhaps naively, I hadn’t thought about the ones being tutored privately or sent to private school with the primary aim of being prepared for the 11+.)
Anyway, for us, the tutoring at this point is simply to get Harry and William caught up with some of the things they are supposed to have covered in class already and are a little behind on.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I just know that finding out that so many children are being tutored leaves me feeling a little uncomfortable.
Would you consider tutoring for your child? Do you feel tutoring has wider implications (good or bad) in state schools?