Can 11-plus exams ever be ‘tutor-proof’?

December 12th, 2014, 1 Comment

Two children reading

I caught up with BOFA11plus.com founder and best-selling Bond Assessment author Andrew Baines for his take on a very topical question.

HF:  Andrew, you have many years’ experience teaching in selective schools in state and independent sectors in the UK and abroad, and you’re a supplier of an online tutoring resource. In your view, is it possible to create an 11-plus exam that is ‘tutor-proof’?

AB: To over-simplify what is a complex equation of social, philosophical and economic issues: in theory, ‘Yes’, but within current realities? It’s a ‘No’. The methodology behind ‘tutor-proofing’ relies on keeping question formats in a state of constant evolution in order to limit the effect of coaching. But what’s been misunderstood is that children can in fact learn the skillset of being flexible of mind, so they’re not phased by unfamiliar questions or presentation.

HF: Are you saying it’s possible to teach children to be academic?

AB: It’s certainly possible to help them become good at approaching new questions and problems, and a lot more adaptive to educational testing. What tutors, parents and children need to know is that it’s not a case of being Einstein: the real advantage is developing the mental agility to approach any subject from any angle. Obviously pupils still need to gain knowledge, but really it’s this acquired skillset that is the key to exam success. This approach underpins the BOFA system and we’ve seen it help pupils to flourish. It also sets pupils up with a brilliant life-skill too – to become good at learning anything.

HF: As context for those who don’t know, what is BOFA?

AB: BOFA is ‘bespoke, online, formative assessment’. It delivers automated teaching support that’s entirely personalised, and filtered to be time-efficient.

HF: What do you see as the future of the 11-plus exam?

AB: There will always be schools that select by ability. The concept of a ‘tutor-proof’ exam was a well-intentioned initiative. However, the unintended consequences have meant that it’s become a confusing branding tool and has also heated up the market in extra tuition, which in some cases has widened the gap between state and independent pupils. Within a complex two-tier education system we know things will never be even. Part of my company ethos is to make support available at a cost that’s accessible. That’s always been very important to me.

 

Tutors registered with The Tutor Pages can trial BOFA11plus.com free for 30 days if they book by 31 December 2014. Contact BOFA on 0800 9553011 or at enquiries@planetbofa.com. There’s no financial tie-in to registering with BOFA.

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National Freelancers Day – why it matters for private tutors

November 22nd, 2014, 0 Comments

national freelancers day

Last Wednesday was the sixth National Freelancers Day – a celebration of freelancing right across the UK. Why is this important, and specifically why is it important for private tutors?

Freelancing as a way of life and working is snowballing in the UK, with almost 5 million people now self-employed. At the forefront of this change is IPSE, the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed, which has been campaigning on behalf of a certain cohort of freelancers for years. This year’s rebranding of IPSE (it used to be PCG – the Professional Contractors Group) embodies its desire to reach out and represent all types of self-employed people – indeed its competition 15 for 15, where it sought out 15 of the brightest and best self-employed people for 2015, demonstrates this. For example, a cameraman, business coach and cake designer (though no private tutor!) were among the finalists.

This year’s National Freelancers Day was particularly important because it coincided with an announcement by the prime minister of the appointment of an ‘ambassador for the self-employed’, David Morris MP. According to IPSE, economists agree that the move towards freelancing is structural, with the number of self-employed workers likely to top those working in the public sector by 2016. Yet recognition in the government, infrastructure, education and taxation systems are all lagging behind, making it harder than it needs to be for freelancers. IPSE – with its new manifesto, Britain’s Secret Weapon:Unleashing Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed in the New Economyis seeking to redress the balance.

So where do private tutors fit in? For a start, there are hundreds of thousands of them in the UK, and at least 84% are self-employed. Some aspects of IPSE’s agenda seem hardly relevant to tutors (such as simplifying government procurement processes, abolishing IR35, or cutting rates for workhubs) but there are a number of changes which private tutors can get behind. For example, the proposal to simplify taxation by merging National Insurance with Income Tax, or the demand to make it much easier for the self-employed to invest in their own skills. The latter is going to become increasingly important as foreign competition in online tuition heats up. Online tutors will also support the call for massive improvements in national broadband coverage and speed; in the words of the manifesto, ‘this would help address the rural–urban economic divide and make homeworking easier for independent professionals’. More broadly, of real relevance for many tutors will be the IPSE campaign to make sure the self-employed are treated equally when it comes to maternity and paternity-related benefits.

Finally, the manifesto highlights some areas of education which need addressing, such as ensuring that self-employment and entrepreneurship are on the curriculum at secondary and sixth form level. Mentoring in these subjects by private tutors seems like it could be a definite growth area.

There are, however, of course some specific challenges for private tutors which are not looked at by IPSE. Perhaps the most obvious obstacle for many is  the ongoing difficulty of obtaining a DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) certificate as a self-employed individual. Some Tuition agencies’ unreasonable terms and practices have also recently been highlighted.

Now over to you. If you’re a private tutor, are there any other structural changes you would like to see?

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Online Tuition Survey – Private Tutors take part!

November 13th, 2014, 0 Comments

If you’re a private tutor of any subject – academic, languages, musical instruments or anything else – do take part in our short survey about online tuition. Here’s the link:

http://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/1867347/UK-Online-Tuition

Online tuition is a growing segment of the private tuition industry, and yet very little information is in the public domain.

The Tutor Pages is running this survey not only to find out what UK private tutors think about online tuition, but also to help them become better informed. For example, online tuition may help open up another income stream for you.

You don’t have to have tutored online to complete our survey – in fact, if you’ve never tutored online, this is a great opportunity to find out more.

We expect to publish the results in early 2015.

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