When K was still in year 2, my attitude to tutoring was “definitely not”. I couldn’t see why a child going to a good state school, would need a tutor and quite frankly, if a child needs to be tutored to get into a school, then that school isn’t for them! However, she is now in the middle of year 5 and I’m having to eat my words! Various circumstances have led us into extra-curricula tuition and, to be honest, I’m disappointed in the state school system, that has given us very little help, due to lack of funding. We are currently spending £300/ month on tuition for K, (the majority of that being for a specialist dyslexia tutor) an amount we can afford (after a bit of re-jigging) but many could not, so what happens to them?
It started in year 3. K’s appendix burst and she missed a good portion of the Autumn term. I assumed she was keeping up as the school didn’t approach me with any concerns, but I did begin to notice that we were struggling with maths homework more and more. Chatting to other parents, I discovered that teaching in state schools goes something like this: teach a new concept, go over the concept in the next lesson, move on. So K had missed vital lessons, which meant she just kept falling behind and we, as parents, were no help as the methods have all changed (and maths was never our strong point) from the way we were taught at school. However, though she was falling behind (really, just not progressing), she was still in the ‘middle’ and as any parent of state school children know, there is help for those at the bottom and gifted/ talented programmes for those at the top but nothing for the ones in the middle.
So, we looked into tutoring to bring K back up to speed. Private tutoring was our first port of call but we found that all recommended ones were booked up and they are a lot of money, so you really want a recommendation. I had heard of Kummon, so checked that out but was put off by the homework involved- I think primary school children get too much homework anyway and we were already coming to blows about that, I really didn’t want more! A friend then mentioned Explore Learning which sounded ideal. They are based in large Sainsburys and provide maths and English tuition with maximum 6:1 student to tutor ratio, it’s computer based but handwriting and spelling are also a focus. For approximately £28/ week (the tutors we looked at ranged from £30-£50/ hour) your child attends twice a week and can turn up at anytime during their opening hours (every day after school and weekends). Each session consists of one hour maths/ English tuition (combination to suit the child- we started with 3/4 maths, 1/4 English) and 15-30 minutes ‘surf club’ – games on computers or drawing in a separate section. You can make up missed sessions due to holidays or illness, it’s so flexible, it was really the perfect solution for us!
After initial meetings and tests during the Easter hols, they started K back at the beginning of year 3. By the summer holidays, she had caught up and had even started some year 4 work before starting the new school year! Though, her attitude at the beginning was ‘ugg’ (a noise she makes when words cannot describe her displeasure!), during the autumn term of year 4, she realised how much Explore was helping her and she actually began to enjoy maths. Happily for me, the arguments at homework time, also stopped, a win-win me thinks!!!
We continued with Explore but adjusted to a more even split between maths and English as K’s spelling was failing to improve as would have been expected for her age. You can read what she writes as it’s always phonetically correct, she just uses the wrong phonics eg lite, wos, wot, bak, shor – all mistakes that young children make but year 4’s should have grown out of.
Tutoring for 11+
Another catch 22! You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t! I’m not sure if K is a grammar school child and really just want her to go to the right school for her. I just want her to be on a level playing field with the rest and to be familiar with the format and the possible content of the exam. Are you familiar with non-verbal reasoning? Look it up if you are not. Considering how little time children get in this exam, if they have never done it before, non-verbal reasoning is likely to send the most intelligent, academic child into panic!! Explore offers a course (swapping one of your sessions/week) which familiarises children with the probable content, practices exam technique and improves retention of knowledge. It’s a group approach rather than strict one to one and it seems to be working for us.
And to top it off……..dyslexia!
All the evidence is pointing towards it, though we haven’t had a formal diagnosis (because it costs between £500-£700 and really doesn’t mean much at this stage), K is responding well to the tutoring which was recommended by her class teacher. I plan to write a more detailed post regarding this, once I understand it more fully.
And btw, this is not a sponsored post for Explore Learning, they really are fab!
Have you paid for tutoring? How are you helping your primary school child in their education outside of school? Will you/ have you considered employing a tutor for your child?