May 10

Entrance Exam Series: When Is the Right Time to Start Tutoring?

Increasing numbers of families are turning to private tutors to help their children get the most out of their primary education but many parents are unsure about the best time to use them.

Despite shock headlines about children barely out of nappies being tutored, such early intervention is very rare.

In reality, there are certain points in primary education; such as assessments in the independent and state sectors at age four, seven, eight and 11 that naturally focus parents’ attention on their child’s progress and are good times to consider the benefits of tutoring.

Entrance Exam Tuition

In the early years, if a child seems to be struggling in reading, English or maths, it helps to acknowledge it sooner rather than later so support can be put in place. Avoiding a downward spiral, where children lose their confidence, is important.

‘The extra help now will make it easier down the line. Because the child finds something difficult now, it doesn’t mean it always has to be difficult,’ says Mylène Curtis, the owner and managing director of Fleet Tutors; ‘There’s a fluidity about it.’

While every families’ situation is different, for pupils at state primaries, which rarely prepare children for entrance exams, an hour once a week from around the middle of year 4 to the beginning of year 6, gives the child a year and a half to get to grips with what is required.

For children in prep schools, which generally do prepare pupils for the 11 plus, the lead time will be shorter but the exact length will depend on the child’s current level and ability. One thing to remember is that although there may be preparation in the independent sector, it is likely to be in the context of a group session, not one-to-one support.

The very nature of one-to-one tutoring means it creates a nurturing environment that gives each individual child the opportunity to ask for help, go at their own pace, master techniques that work for them and aspire to do the best they can.

For Luci, a Fleet English tutor, ‘a group is effectively another classroom situation; in a group, you’ll get children who just get it. But you may have that child who lacks a bit of confidence and it takes more time. So if you have a slightly weaker child they will not gain very much, other than feeling that they are not as good as everyone else.’

Whilst one-to-one is by comparison, more intense, Luci feels it is more effective at building a child’s confidence, as well as positive relationships.

‘The child may have been doing well and they’ve dipped, so it’s about trying to improve that situation. You might have a competitive child that’s good at maths, for instance and suddenly with English it doesn’t come as easily. It may take time, but a tutor can make a real difference to their confidence. Confidence is a big thing.’