Private tutors boost chances of grammar school place?

Many parents rely on private tutors to boost their child’s chance of a grammar school place, suggests a small poll.

Seventy-two per cent of 212 first year grammar school pupils said they had been tutored for entrance exams in their last years of primary school.

Researchers from the Institute of Education (IoE) spoke to students at grammar schools in south-east England. The results suggest pupils may not have an equal chance of getting into grammar school, said author Prof Judy Ireson.

“Parents may see private tutoring as a rational way to help their children perform well in the entrance exams for schools of their choice,” she said. “Yet if our findings reflect a national picture it means that grammar school selection is not a level playing field with some children having a substantial amount of coaching to succeed.”

I find a few points worth noting here. 212 children were tested? That is effectively the population of 2 grammar school cohorts. That sample size is far too small to make any reasonable assumptions out of it. Those 2 schools could well be in London where Grammar School Places have higher competition by virtue of the fact there are simply more places to fight for.

There are a couple of other issues I have with private tutors. The big issue is of course the expense. Private tutors are very expensive and there are not many of them out there, which means that certain areas may not have access to them. This means that there is a clear kind of class divide between those from lesser income families who can’t afford a private tutor and the financially well off.

The other problem I have is that it effectively means that the overall abilities of the child are not being tested. I remember the only practice I had for going into the entry exams were going into WH Smiths and buying a practice pack and working from those, simply because that was what my family could afford. The fact that these children are effectively coached in, rather than earning it off their own back, causes a lack of equality.

All of this means that the playing field is not level at this moment in time. Although there is not enough specific evidence to suggest there is a difference in performance between those who had coaching and those who haven’t, and the numbers of children who have received coaching, it is quite clear that in certain areas, there is some sort of ambiguity as to the equality for all children from all walks of life, which, as an ex-grammarian myself, is quite disconcerting.


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