Rubbish Parents

“Do you think there’s much private tutoring at your daughter’s comprehensive?” I asked a
father. He was taken aback. “No,” he said. “I don’t think so. I haven’t come across it. But I’ll ask my daughter, if you like.” A day later, he sent me an e-mail. Headed “We are rubbish parents”, it said: “I’ve asked Emma. She says ALL her friends are being tutored for their GCSEs, except her. We are shocked. It seems like cheating.” In London and other big cities, private tutoring is booming. It has become one of the most important, yet also unacknowledged, factors in a child’s school performance. It disadvantages working-class children and undermines any pretensions to a comprehensive school system. Not only that, but it distorts the league tables of test and examination performance, which are supposed to reflect the quality of teaching in schools, and thus makes a nonsense of the government’s entire strategy for raising standards….There is no official information on the extent of private tutoring, because it is in nobody’s interest to collect it. Parents are often reluctant to admit to it, and schools would rather take the credit for their pupils’ results themselves. But the anecdotal evidence is sobering. Three years ago, a quarter of the 11-year-olds at one high-achieving north London primary school were being tutored. Last year, the proportion was one-third. This year, it’s half. At another, lower-scoring school nearby, one-sixth of the top year were being tutored three years ago; this year it has doubled. A third school has just two middle-class children. Each has a tutor. Ask parents in other areas of London and you find the same story. In some schools, more than half of 11-year-olds have had at least 18 months of private tuition in English and maths before they sit their tests at 11. At other primaries, none of the children is privately tutored.
Source: Russell (2002: 10).

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