2nd March 2020

Every one of my students who took the Birmingham and Walsall consortia tests in September 2019 has been offered a place in a grammar school for September 2020 entry!

FAQ 

Questions Asked Frequently about face-to-face Grammar School Tuition in small groups of five or fewer  (with frank answers too!)

PLEASE READ THE WHOLE OF THIS PAGE CAREFULLY, THEN CONTACT ME ABOUT 11+ TUITION BY SENDING ME A SECURE MESSAGE FROM THIS WEBSITE.  (Please do not call me at this stage.) 

 

I regret that I do not have the time to offer parents general advice about the 11+ tests.  My <11+ Grammar Schools> page should give you a very clear and thorough introduction to what the 11+ involves.

 

Q: Why can I find no telephone number for you on this website?

A:  I work at home and my husband and I do not have enough hours in the day to deal with the high volume of calls from families requesting tuition places for which I have no vacancies.  

 

11+ PLACES AVAILABLE IN THIS AND FUTURE TERMS

Q: Has the announcement of the King Edward's Foundation Admissions Policy for 2020 affected which students you will take on in September 2020?    

A: The announcement has meant that I have given careful thought to my own admissions policy, to avoid parents investing in 11+ tuition for their children when there is no realistic prospect of their child/ren winning a place in a King Edward Foundation grammar school.  

Q: When and how should I contact you about an assessment for my child for the 11+? 

A:  Tuition with me begins in the Autumn Term of Year Four, but I assess students while they are in Year Three.  If your child is presently in Year 3, please contact me no earlier than the first day of the Summer Term, Monday 19th April, 2021.  Please contact me through this website, but only if your child attends a state school.  (Kindly note that I do not accept students from independent ('prep') schools for grammar school tuition with me, although I may, in certain circumstances, offer tuition for students from independent schools for Year 7 entry to the premier-league King Edward's independent schools.) You may send me a secure message via the <contact me> form at the foot of this page.  This page which you are reading has details of the information that you need to give me before I arrange an assessment with you. Many parents have assumed - incorrectly - that they can circumvent this requirement by contacting me before their child enters Year Three, or by telephoning or visiting my home without an appointment.  Please respect my assessment procedure as it is a way of trying to ensure that students from 'new' families have a fair chance of being considered for tuition with me.  To put this another way, parents who bombard me with emails, telephone calls and unscheduled visits to my home will reduce their family's chances of a warm welcome!  

Q: Why don't you begin 11+ tuition before Year Four?
A: 
In recent years, I have had calls from parents wanting to register two year-old children for an assessment; but many more have contacted me about 11+ tuition for students in nursery, reception and Year One.  This concerns me for a number of reasons, not least for children's mental health. I am aware that some tutors will begin 11+ tuition for students in Year One, but I don't advise this.  To avoid having to engage with families who would ask me to provide 11+ tuition before Year Four,
I ask that parents do not contact me before midnight on the first day of the Summer Term of Year Three.  I have chosen this particular date so that thoughtful and well-organised parents will remember to contact me from midnight on or after that date.  I hope that parents will understand this.     

Q: Do you offer any tuition for children before Year Four? 

A:  Very rarely, and only to families I know who will not press me to offer early 11+ tuition.

Q: Do you recruit any 11+ students to begin tuition with you when they reach Year Five? 

A:  No.  All 11+ recruitment with me takes place in the summer term and holidays of Year Three.  11+ tuition with me begins in Y4.  I do not accept students for 11+ tuition from Year Five.

Q: Are there currently any vacancies for students who entered Year Four in September, 2020? Would you consider placing my Y4 child on a waiting list,

A:  There are no vacancies for students in Y4 in September 2020, but I will maintain a waiting list until December. After that time, I will not fill places in the unlikely event of a place being available.  (It would be unfair on the existing children in the group.)  I appreciate that some parents are desperate to start tuition for their child, but there is absolutely nothing I can do for families in this situation.

Q:Do you offer any tuition in school hours?

A: No, except to my own students in the very exceptional situation of the lockdown. Please don't contact me to request this service.

 

Q: Do you offer tuition to children who are home-schooled?

A: No. Home schooling may well be a mistake for your child's personal, academic and social development, although some parents believe that they will gain an advantage for their children in the 11+ tests by removing them from school. For children to thrive and to meet their intellectual and wider social needs, they need to be a part of a wider school community.  My policy is that if the parents of an 11+ student of mine were to remove their from school to receive tuition at home, 11+ tuition with me would be terminated by me with immediate effect.

Q: Do you accept pupil premium students for tuition?

A: I'll assess children who are not home schooled and those who attend state, not independent schools; but for tuition with me, pupil premium students would need to show skills on a par with other non 'pupil premium'  students in my 11+ group.  I'd never take on any child - whether 'pupil premium' or not - who was average or below average to give intensive tuition to be successful in a selective test.  I've assessed some very bright so-called 'pupil premium' students and have advised some of those children's parents against having any commercial tuition because I believed that those children would be able to gain a place in selective education with the free tuition ('familiarisation' sessions) that is available in some Birmingham schools.  Seven 'pupil premium' students assessed by me during the past four years have won places in selective education without my help.

Q: Where do you teach? Do you teach anywhere else?

A: All tuition takes place at my home in Handsworth Wood (B20 2LH). Handsworth Wood is three miles north-west of Birmingham City Centre, and within 20-25 minutes drive of Walsall, Harborne, Edgbaston and West Bromwich, and slightly longer from areas such as Moseley. I am not, and have never been, employed by any other tutor; nor do I (nor will I ever) work at any other tuition centre, and I will consider taking a civil action against any tutor or person who suggests that I work for him or her. 

Q: When do your grammar school classes take place?

A: I follow the Birmingham Education Authority school term dates. Grammar school group tuition with me takes place just once a week on one regular day in term time for two hours. Please note that I do not hold any classes at the weekend.  11 + preparatory tuition is a long-term commitment on all sides: parent, tutor and child.

Q: Do you teach at weekends?

A: No. Some parents try to offer me financial incentives to provide this service; but I have family commitments, and a life and interests outside my work, as well as needing time to prepare for my own students! There are many tutors and tuition centres who do offer this service, and so I advise you to contact them.

 

Q: What are your fees for 11+ group tuition in the present school year in September 2020?

A: The fee for grammar school group tuition (in a small group of five students or fewer) is £20.00 per hour per child (i.e. £40 per week for a two-hour class, per child). The fee for six terms' tuition (calculated by six terms of 12 weeks) is therefore equivalent to two-thirds of the cost of one term at an independent ('prep') school. I believe I'm very good value for money! 

 

[The fee for independent school group tuition (in a small group of five students or fewer) is £25.00 per hour per child (i.e. £37.50 per week for a one-and-a half-hour class, per child].

 

Q: Do you offer discounts for the unwaged, low-waged, or for brothers and sisters from the same family?

A: No. I am a small business with small numbers of students and it is not viable for me to offer discounts.

 

Q: Do you offer discounts for cash?

A: No. Please do not request this from me as my refusal might cause offence.  I am registered with HMRC as a sole trader and pay tax on my earnings.

Q: For which grammar and independent schools do you prepare children?

A: All no-fee consortium grammar schools in Birmingham, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire and Wolverhampton whose entrance tests are set by the University of Durham CEM. I also prepare students wishing to prepare for scholarships and bursaries for the 'premier league' independent school. (Please see the pages <online tuition> and <independent Schools 11+> for more information.)

 

Q: Do you offer tuition in the school holidays?

A: I recognise that there has to be a balance of work and play for children and their families - and the tutor!  For this reason, there is no tuition during each of the three half-term holidays.

 

For children in Year Five and approaching the 11+ tests, I offer ad. hoc. practice tests for a limited period in the Christmas and Easter holidays, and (usually) for up to three weeks in the summer holiday in my annual Summer School.  Tuition at these times is at the same rate as term time.

 

In addition, for Year 5 11+ students in the summer holiday, I will set, on request, a personal scheme of work (which parents will need to monitor and mark). It is tailored to each child, and is for three weeks only during the six-week summer holiday, when they are not receiving tuition from me.

 

During every school holiday, I expect families to make a commitment to ensure that children read widely and adventurously.

 

 

YOUR CHILD'S SUITABILITY & POTENTIAL

"Now [my family has] been through the 11+ with you, I totally get why your website is a bit scary.  At first I didn't get why you had to put all that information down on the website. It was really offputting.  But now myself and my wife have seen how some parents just leave everything up to you and don't support their kids, I understand where you're coming from." 

Q: What sort of families use your tuition services for grammar school preparatory tuition?

A: I teach children who attend state schools only, and come from a variety of backgrounds. Families in the past have come to me from a wide geographical area, including Birmingham and the Black Country, Warwickshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire and Leicestershire.  I am particularly keen to teach children with the potential to thrive in selective education whose parents have not had the privilege of higher education.  I try to have a mix of students in my groups.  In recent years, for instance, I've taught the children of first and second generations refugees along with the children of teachers and lecturers, carers, domestic helps, factory and clerical workers and people with disabilities. I find all the time that parents who've had considerable challenges in their lives often make the most wonderfully supportive 11+ parents.    

 

For tuition with me, I welcome the following families:

 

1. Families who understand that my tuition homework set is not simply intended to enable a child to 'pass' a test, but is intended rather to try to foster good learning habits, broaden their child's outlook, interests and knowledge and, crucially, to prepare a child for the rigours of grammar school homework.

2. Families who have a fair and reasonable assessment of their child's abilities, and who have thought well ahead about what is best for their child, and what that child might need to fulfil his or her potential.

3.  Families in which parents can organise their own time for their child to undertake work at home, without homework becoming a battle-ground.

4.  Families (and especially parents) whose social, recreation and extra-curricular commitments enable the children to undertake supervised homework for four evenings of the week and at the weekend.

5. Families who encourage and follow their children's reading of a range of books.

 

However, families who regard a place in a grammar school as their child's right, without considering their child's suitability, families who take holidays in school term-time, along with families in which both parents work full-time and find it difficult to find time to organise time to work with their children, families who work long hours or are starting a new business, or are in full-time education or training, or whose children have more than two nights' extra-curricular activities, are unlikely to be equipped or have adequate time to support a child attending grammar school preparatory tuition with me.

I expect that all your child's homework should be completed by 6pm. If any of your commitments do not allow this, please do not consider tuition with me. For this reason, please think carefully about your ability to support your child effectively before you make a commitment to tuition.

 

Q: My child's bright: why does s/he need tuition to gain a place at a grammar school at all?

A: An excellent question! Children who are lucky enough to attend schools that nurture high ability students to their full potential, and whose parents are confident and focused in supporting them, are not likely to need my help. Tuition with me is for children whose families welcome expert and experienced guidance.

 

In recent years, one third of all my students has had at least one parent who is a teacher working in primary, secondary or university education; and yet what all the parents of my current students have in common is that they have recognised their child's potential accurately, and they have the motivation and ability to organise their own time to support the child in the 11 + journey.

Crucially, parents thinking about tuition with me should understand that they will need to make the time to sit down and work face-to-face with their child at home to revise and consolidate tuition reading and written work.

 

Q: My child has average ability, but is a very hard worker. Why don't you take on children like my child for 11+ tuition?

A: Every year, I take around one hundred phone calls from parents requesting tuition for children or teenagers who are struggling now they are in grammar schools. Often, children in this situation have received inappropriate, lengthy and intensive tuition while at primary school.  Their parents of these children believe sincerely that they are helping their children gain access to the best education available in the Midlands, while not understanding fully that their child might not be equipped to thrive in selective education. 

I am criticised  often by parents in various online reviews - for suggesting that a grammar school education isn't appropriate for every child. I don't intend that the tuition I provide should be simply the means to an end of passing an entrance test. Grammar school preparatory tuition with me is for children with the potential to perform consistently well in an environment which uses accelerated learning methods. Sadly, this won't be suitable for most children, however hard they work.

In Birmingham alone each year, 14,000 -15,000 children leave year six and enter secondary school. Only about 1,000 of those children will enter a grammar school.

My aim is not to teach or train children intensively simply to pass a test. Rather, it is to work with children of substantial ability whose present education might not equip them to fulfil their potential fully, so that in the future, and after winning a place in a grammar school, they may go on to flourish in selective education.

Q: Your website states that you take on only children from state schools for 11+ tuition. Why don't you take on children who attend independent ('private') schools?

A: There is a simple and practical reason, aside from the issue that some private schools offer intensive 11+ preparation as a part of the curriculum. The amount of homework that many independent schools set makes it nearly impossible for children attending independent schools to complete my homework thoroughly and, crucially, to read widely, which are what they need to do to be successful in the grammar school tests. Despite my explaining this, I receive at least three requests for tuition every week from parents of children attending independent schools. Please note that I have not accepted any child from prep schools for tuition with me since 2009; so please do not contact me about grammar school tuition if your child attends an independent school.

 

Q: Do you provide any individual tuition for grammar school preparatory teaching?

A: No, I don't, and for a good reason: children need to see the results of their work set against the results of other children preparing for the same tests.

 

For many of my state-school students, tuition is the only opportunity they have each week to mix with like-minded peers. I am very proud of the fact that many well-motivated students and families maintain contact long after tuition has ended, and several children each year go on to enter grammar schools as friends. I keep in touch with many of my former 11+ students, who are now parents themselves.

THE FINE DETAIL & KEY INFORMATION

 

Q: When should my child start grammar school tuition?

A: This, of course, depends entirely on your child. However, tuition with me is for children who show a measurable level of ability and potential in a careful and thorough initial assessment that I undertake before tuition begins. To offer continuity and structure for my students, and to avoid unnecessary repetition, Students who attend an 11 + course with me will start at the same time in Year Four, usually in September but occasionally in October.

 

Q: What subjects do you cover in grammar school preparatory tuition?

A: I cover relevant elements of the Key Stages 2, 3 (and occasionally Key Stage 4) curricula in English and Mathematics, with non-verbal reasoning. English ('Literacy') covers proof-reading, grammar, punctuation and syntax, vocabulary expansion, comprehension and cloze completion. The scope of mathematics ('Numeracy') that I cover in tuition ranges into all relevant parts of the KS3 and 4 curriculum.

 

Q: What level of term-time commitment does tuition actually require from children and parents?

A: Students have approximately one hour of homework for three nights of the week, and 2-3 hours at the weekend. (This does not include reading fiction and non-fiction, which I do not classify as 'work' at all, and which students should be undertaking every day, irrespective of their other commitments.)  For parents, on weekday evenings, I expect them to work approximately twenty minutes for three or four evenings a week, face-to-face with the child, testing understanding, and approximately five minutes monitoring work and checking (and not just asking!) whether and how well the work has been completed. At weekends, I ask parents to spend at least an hour working with a child on tasks and topics, for which I will give clear guidance in a weekly homework pack.

Q: Your website mentions an 'assessment' by you before an offer of tuition is made. What does this involve?

A: The assessment is in stages, and is planned this way to avoid unnecessary stress to families and children.  It involves:

• A simple functional and contextual reading assessment of approximately three minutes, which can be undertaken at home over the telephone and online before families come to meet me for the first time. There is no fee for this assessment.

•  If this simple reading assessment reveals that your child has a reading age of three years above his or her actual age, I will invite your child to attend a full assessment, for which there is normally a fee.

The full assessment lasts for up to 1.5 hours and takes place at my home. It takes place in a small, informal group of five students or fewer, usually online, with breaks between sections.

•  My assessment seeks to identify a potential for learning, not prior knowledge, through short tests in vocabulary, comprehension, maths and non-verbal reasoning.

•  For comprehension, I use cloze and multiple-choice formats, which children find less intimidating than writing full answers in sentences. Most children leave the assessment smiling!

 

Please note that in your child's interest, after the assessment:

•    I never discuss assessment results directly with students or anyone other than a parent or legal guardian.

•    I send a confidential full, written report of the assessment to parents by email, including scores and comments, within 24 hours of the assessment. This report will contain an offer of grammar school preparatory tuition, or alternatively, will explain the reasons why I do not think tuition with me is appropriate for your child. 

•   Please note that assessment feedback is confidential and will not be shared with anyone other than a parent or legal guardian. I appreciate that on the day of the assessment, nerves might affect performance. However, each child may have only one attempt at the assessment. In exceptional circumstances (such as an acute illness or a child not performing well in the assessment in one area, while doing well in other areas), I may offer a short period of individual or group tuition with me to monitor and measure progress. Parents can help their children by not placing unreasonable pressure on them.

My decision to offer a place in tuition with me is based on measurable indicators and is not negotiable. I will never respond to financial or material inducements, threats of online trolling or threats to leave poor reviews on websites, or any other form of intimidation in this respect, either preceding or following an assessment.

 

And finally . . .

To sum up, grammar school preparatory tuition with me is for children whose assessment indicates over a number of key areas that they have the potential to benefit from and thrive in later selective education.

 

If you think that your child might be suited to a grammar school education, please don't be afraid to ask your child's teacher or head teacher whether they think that grammar school is appropriate for him or her. I encourage parents to discuss the prospect of a grammar school education with children, and to visit the schools' open days and evenings long before they come for tuition with me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact me

Are you interested in 11+ tuition?   My groups are limited to five students and consequently fill up rapidly.  The waiting list for Y5 is now closed. 

 

©2017 Dr Karen O'Rourke updated 20.08.20