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My child is currently in year 5 preparing for exams to senior schools. A number of the parents in the class have employed tutors in order to get their child into the desired school. Should I get a tutor to coach my child through these exams?

Melissa Hope, Fulham

There seems to be a growing obsession with employing outside tutors to assist with entry into senior schools. Whilst I do not believe that the employment of tutors per se is a bad thing and handled carefully can be beneficial, the trend is reaching epidemic proportions and the added stress and pressure put on children appears to be having a hugely detrimental effect.

Recent research has shown that children, particularly girls, can become so panic–stricken that the thinking part of their brain can cease to function effectively when faced with tests or exams. On questioning of the children in my school, over 80% of our present year 5 confessed to being really frightened by the prospect of exams. Whilst it is completely understandable that parents want to give their children the best chance, this obsession with extra work is actually having the opposite effect.

The following guidelines may be useful to bear in mind when thinking of employing a tutor. Consider the use of a tutor if:

  • This has been advised by the school for a specific reason.
  • You are unable to help your own child without this ending in tears.
  • You do not have time to sit down for half an hour a week together with your child.

In preparation for exams, children should have no more than one hour a week – half an hour practice and half an hour one to one with an adult. This is a particularly good idea during the holidays to keep the brain sharp.

Work with the school – working against them will not help your child but will give them extra stress from the conflicting information they receive increasing their levels of anxiety. It is important to remember that it is in both the school’s and your interest that your child achieves their potential within a happy, stress–free environment in which they are able to blossom. And, at the end of the day why would you want to push your child into a school to which they are unsuited and where they would ultimately be unhappy?

Diana Watkins – Headmistress of Leaden Hall School, Salisbury

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