Although children progress at different rates, to get a good start at secondary school, pupils need to be at a certain level at age 11, whether they are going on to a comprehensive, a selective grammar or a private school. Support prior to this transition point can avoid a lot of anxiety and build confidence.
‘Putting tutoring in at the right places along the primary journey can really help,’ says Mylène, owner and managing director of Fleet Tutors. ‘What we want to do is avoid crisis at these transition points. A little extra help regularly and early on can be much better than suddenly saying at the beginning of Year 6 “you’re not where we want you to be, we want you to do the 11 plus, we need you to do hours and hours every week”.’
If a child who is struggling with reading shows signs of dyslexia, an early diagnosis, at five or six for instance, can make a real difference.
‘While some people are uncomfortable applying labels, it does not mean children have to be pigeon-holed for life. Knowing what you are dealing with at the present time enables parents to get the support they need,’ Mylène opines.
With average class sizes of 30 pupils in the state sector, children who are not struggling or of very high ability tend to get lumped together in the middle, making it difficult for a teacher to engage each child on a one-to-one basis, even with the best will in the world.
‘So often, given school class sizes and the chaos of modern day family life, children rarely get a chance to be spotted and given individual attention, continues Mylène. Experienced tutors will know when to stretch and encourage, and when to reassure and remind the child there are quite a few things that they get right, and “now let’s just work on the things that you find difficult”.’
Reassuring a child on an individual basis that he or she is doing well creates a feel good factor about what they are doing and motivates them to want to do more.
Positive feedback from a tutor creates a sense of wellbeing; whether it is for exam preparation, a struggling child, a high ability child who is bored and switching off in class or one whose particular talents needs nurturing.
‘Motivating and inspiring the child are very important,’ says Hess, a maths tutor here at Fleet. ‘With the right tutoring, children can often do much more than they thought they could. It just gives them the opportunity and stops them falling under the radar. Within an hour’s session, you can just open up so many different avenues when it comes to maths.’
The tough new primary curriculum, with its expectation that children will master harder material at an earlier age, means that focusing on individual needs has never been more important.
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