Grammar School Tuition

Autumn Term 2020

Monday 12th October 2020

Every one of my students living within the Birmingham Consortium catchment areas has met or exceeded the priority score for entry into a King Edward Grammar School.


Grammar School Preparatory Tuition

I offer grammar school preparatory tuition for all the grammar schools in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Grammar school preparation with me is for students who attend state schools only. Tuition takes place in groups of five students or fewer. I specialise in offering tuition for students preparing for the entrance tests administered by the Centre for Evaluation and Management of the University of Durham (CEM).


CEM Tests

Schools that use the Durham CEM tests include Bishop Vesey's Grammar School and Sutton Coldfield Girls' Grammar School, the Grammar Schools of King Edward VI in Birmingham (now including Handsworth Grammar School), Queen Mary's Grammar and High Schools in Walsall, Wolverhampton Girls' High School, Adams' Grammar School in Shropshire, Rugby (girls') High School and Lawrence Sheriff (boys' grammar) School in Warwickshire.

I provide a professional service of relevant 11+ tuition in English (grammar, punctuation and syntax, vocabulary expansion, comprehension and cloze completion), mathematics, verbal and non-verbal reasoning for foundation grammar school entrance preparation (no-fee schools) to children whose assessment indicates that they have the potential to flourish in selective education.

11+ tuition with me is not a soft option! I work in partnership with motivated families and children, and ask for active cooperation from parents - fathers as well as mothers. I require parents to monitor homework, but not assist children directly. Typically, I ask parents to spend between 20 and 30 minutes each day, for five days of the week, revising and testing work that their children have begun in tuition with me.

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How do you know whether your child is suited to grammar school education?  Your child's potential

I advise parents who are considering 11+ tuition for their children to think very carefully about whether their child is equipped to flourish in selective education. Tuition with me is only for state school students who show promise in a careful and thorough initial assessment. Never be afraid to ask your child's teacher or head teacher for guidance.


The assessment

The assessment is in two stages, and is designed to identify a potential for learning in selective education, rather than what a child has been taught. For this reason, the assessment identifies bright children who might not be fortunate enough to enjoy a stimulating school environment that is suited to their underlying ability. The assessment comprises:


1. A straightforward reading and comprehension assessment which is conducted over the telephone and online There is no charge for this simple assessment, which will take no more than ten minutes.


2. Depending on the outcome of the reading assessment, I may offer your family a 1.5 hour group assessment (or individual assessment if a group assessment is not possible). If I do not offer your child a full assessment after the initial reading assessment, I will explain the reasons to you personally and confidentially. All assessment results are confidential. I usually charge a fee of £40 for this service, which includes a minimum of three A4 pages of feedback. The assessment has evolved over many years of teaching and thorough research. It is based upon measurable indicators and professional judgement, which does not commit families to unnecessary or unproductive tuition. The assessment identifies specific potential for learning in the areas of vocabulary, comprehension, mathematics, verbal and non-verbal reasoning. From me, parents will gain a confidential objective and professional view of a child's likelihood of success in the individual grammar school tests, with or without further tuition.

State school students

11+ tuition with me is for students from state (but not independent) primary schools, who are likely to benefit from education in a grammar school.  The reasons why I offer grammar school preparatory tuition to state school students only are explained on the <FAQ> page.  Parents tell me often that their child is bright but isn't at a primary school that gives him or her the 'push' (or 'stretch') that they need for success in the grammar school entrance tests.  My tuition is aimed precisely at helping children from such families achieve their full potential.


In recent years, all of my 11+ students have attended and presently attend state schools in Birmingham, the Black Country,Shropshire, Staffordshire and Warwickshire. This means that I am happy to discuss prospects for 11+ tuition with me for students from a wide range of state schools, including (and particularly) those schools whose students rarely enter selective grammar school education.

Appropriate homework

Structured syllabus

Small groups of five

Regular feedback

Clear explanations

 approachable tutor

Structured homework

Cups of tea!

Learning through motivation

What Parents Say About Dr Karen


Parents of a former state primary school student. Moseley (now at King Edward's Camp Hill School:


'We knew we couldn't do it all

[the whole 11 + preparation]

ourselves, and had tried four

tutors before we found you.

To be honest, I was ready to

give up. I could not believe the

poor quality of tuition that is

out there - poor explanations,

limited homework, time spent

in tuition doing tests when

there should have been teaching, homework taken in and never returned . . . but that all changed as soon as we walked through your door. [Our son] was devoted to you on sight, with your thousands of books, clear boundaries and

explanations about the work.

Before that time, he'd been

too afraid to ask for help.


Dr Karen's 11+ course: the facts

I offer five terms' tuition in preparation for examinations set by the University of Durham's CEM Centre (currently all selective grammar schools in the West Midlands region).


Tuition with me begins in Year Four, and not before.  My 11+ students follow a planned scheme of work, and begin and end tuition at the same time. There is no wasteful repetition of the syllabus for some, at the expense of others. Out of consideration to my students, I do not fill places in the (thankfully very rare) event of students dropping out of tuition after the first term.


A planned programme of work will prepare children for all selective grammar schools in the Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Shropshire, Walsall and Warwickshire regions. The group's focus will be on the no-fee grammar schools, but I also offer individuals within that group individual tuition which prepares for specific premier-league selective independent schools which offer generous scholarships and bursaries.


11+ course content

The first term will emphasise the importance of wide reading in building strong vocabulary awareness, and will be supported by teaching and homework in proof-reading, grammar, punctuation and syntax, vocabulary expansion and comprehension. Tuition will develop and widen the children's understanding of mathematical and verbal and non-verbal reasoning.


Students work with similarly bright children in a convivial and supportive fast-track environment. We work hard but enjoy what we do here. Throughout the 11+ course, I will encourage students to learn to appreciate the rich rewards of developing a love of learning for its own sake in the long term, and not simply rehearsing techniques to pass a test. Along with a balanced curriculum, children will enjoy reading a rich and rewarding range of books through the course. Your child's motivation and understanding will develop rapidly through the committed and enthusiastic teaching of a qualified and experienced specialist teacher, within firm but fair, well-structured learning conditions.


What is my record of success?


Between 1997 and 2020, all but one of my students who attended a three-term or more preparatory course with me gained a place at a foundation grammar school.


I can provide evidence of my academic and teaching qualifications, along with verifiable evidence of my students' success rates in the 11+ tests.

Parents of a former state primary school student. Moseley (now at King Edward's Camp Hill School):  

'We're both teachers but we didn't understand (at least not at first) that the structure of the tests that [our son] sat for King Edward's Grammar Schools was quite unlike any sort of test that you can buy in the shops ... really scary! I don't know how you managed it, but it helped that you write your comprehensions yourself. We can't thank you enough for bringing out the best for [our son], not just for the tests. It's much more than that ... Thanks for helping to make his first term at Camp Hill so enjoyable. He has met every challenge and is so contented there.'


Parent of a former state primary school student. Walsall (now at his first choice of school, Queen Mary's Grammar School, in Walsall)

'You are Birmingham's best kept secret! You don't push yourself forward, preferring to keep your standards and achievements to yourself, and have been totally honest with us. Even if [our son] is not successful in the tests [after two terms' tuition] the whole experience will have been worthwhile. You haven't coached [our son] but have broadened his horizons, giving him the precious gift of a real education in the fullest sense.'

What Parents Say About Dr Karen

Clear, purposeful tuition 

through motivation and understanding

Structured, firm but fair learning environment

An important note about the aim of my 11+ Assessment

The aim of my particular assessment is to identify students performing at a level above the national average, and whose cognitive ability and social maturity are suited to selective education.  The assessment is not designed to measure what a child has learned, practised or memorised; rather, its intention is to establish and measure an individual's potential for learning. 

If you would like further information regarding the assessment process, please contact me by email first, and do not call me at this stage. If you send me an message via the <Contact Me> page of this website, at the time requested, I will reply, usually within 24 hours, with full details.  Please note, however, that priority for assessments will go first to brothers and sisters of current or recent students from supportive and engaged families. 

Practical Matters

Fees and terms & conditions for payment for individual and group tuition are fixed and are non-negotiable. Fees for 11+ group tuition will be £20.00 per hour per child in a group of five students or fewer from September 2020.


Please be aware that in providing a service of high-quality, mainly individual and small group tuition, I organise the teaching I undertake under clearly-defined terms and conditions and contracts with parents, which are reviewed and, subject to performance, can be renewed each term.


Therefore, the tuition that I provide is best suited to motivated, well-organised families for whom a balanced education and wider interests and the welfare of a child takes priority over parents' work commitments and wider family and social functions.

Are you interested in 11+ tuition?  Please note that all Y4 and Y5  places are taken and the waiting list for Year Five is now closed.   My groups are limited to five students and consequently fill up rapidly.  

For families with prospective grammar school candidates currently in Year 3, please note that you should return to this page no earlier than midnight of the first day of the Summer Term in 2021 and fill in the contact form below.

What Parents Say About Dr Karen's 11+ Tuition






Parent of a former state primary school student. Harborne. Birmingham (now at King Edward's Five Ways School): 

"Thank you for everything.  [Our son] is really happy he has a place at Five Ways.  We are too.  I can't express our thanks for being a godsend to our family, and for not giving up on [our son] when we were ready to."









Parent of a former state primary school student. Harborne. Birmingham (now at King Edward's Handsworth School):

"I want to tell you that before [my daughter] began tuition with you, I had bought all the test papers I could from W.H. Smith, but I still didn't know how to start. When she did the papers and made mistakes, I really had no idea how to explain the corrections. We were going round and round in circles. It was the same with maths and non verbal reasoning as well. But you changed all that. I now know that understanding grammar and developing a wide vocabulary is the key to getting many verbal reasoning questions right."  



















Parent of a child formerly at a state school in Oldbury (now at King Edward's Five Ways School):

"The hardest thing that I had to grasp as a parent was that although my [my daughter] was in tops sets at school, and flew through her homework, what the school offered her was not nearly enough for the CEM tests ... I am grateful that you guided our family right through to the end .. . You told us that the scope of the tests was 'broad and deep'. Just seeing her face as she came towards us after the tests showed us that this was the hardest thing she had done in her ten short years on the planet. It wasn't easy but it was worth every minute."

Parent of a child at Queen Mary's Grammar School:

"The service you offer families isn't a business, and is much, much more than a profession.  I don't know any other teacher who works as hard as you do."   


Parent of a child formerly at a state school in Coventry, now attending Lawrence Sherrif School in Rugby:

"You were worth every penny & every second of that journey on that bloody motorway for 3 terms. I shan't miss the wait at MacDonalds at Perry Barr - but [my son] and I will miss you. Please stay in touch!"










Parent of a former state primary school student. Shirley (now at King Edward's Camp Hill School):

"The whole 11+ business was a nightmare before we found you. Yes, it made our lives [as parents] harder for a short time because you insisted on us pulling our weight at home, testing and revising, and so on. But we soon got into the flow of it all..."


















Parents of a child at a state school in Moseley (now at King Edward's Camp Hill [boys']School):

'"You educate our children so well because you are an educated person yourself. What we like about the way you teach is that you spot the child's weaknesses and have solutions at hand. We couldn't do this as parents. Your handouts and support material are second to none, Karen, because you put your whole heart into what you do. [Our son] won't forget you when he starts his secondary school at Camp Hill in September ..."
























Parent of a child in Y6 (To start at a King Edward's Grammar School in 2015):

"From the assessment to the results, you stood by us, even when we wanted to give up.  You are so organized and passionate about your work.  [Our child] will thank you for this opportunity in the future.  Everything you have done with him he will use there."

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©2017 Dr Karen O'Rourke updated 20.08.20