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A moral dilemma -please comment!

Discussion in 'Private tutors' started by snappyshark, Jan 31, 2012.

  1. Hi,
    I have been tutoring a boy since November for grammar school entry testing in October this year.
    I had a very long chat with his Mum, who feels that he has been labelled at school and is under achieving. She is keen to give him the chance to go to the boys grammar school to try to prevent him from ending up in the sink estate comprehensive up the road. He is Jamaican and she wants to break the cycle in his family of under achieving boys. We had a very upfront and factual conversation about the underachievement of Jamaican boys and the possible causes.
    I agreed to take him on and have tutored him for 7 one hour sessions so far. However, it is becoming clear to me that he just does not have the ability to get through the test, let alone cope with being at a grammar school. I went to grammar school and I know just how competitive and fast paced it can be. I was only average within my school year and suffered huge self-esteem problems for feeling 'not good enough'.
    I know I need to tell her the truth but I don't know how to do it. Incidentally, she asked his teacher and headteacher at school and they told her he was 'borderline', which is a euphemism for 'no'. She came to me as an independent tutor to try and get an 'outsiders' point of view away from the school that she feels is writing him off. I think she has pinned her hopes on this and maybe sees it as a way of 'social climbing'.
    I am in no way making any judgement on the fact that he is from a Jamaican family and she obviously feels that this is an issue at his school. Is it immoral for me to carry on tutoring him and being paid when I know deep down he won't pass? Do other tutors carry on with pupils they know are a bit of a lost cause? Also, the longer I carry on with him, the worse it will get as they are paying me £20 per lesson and I think that his Dad is doing extra work to pay for it :(
    I know that there are loads of children who are coached through grammar school tests and get in by the skin of their teeth and struggle or drop out when they get there, so obviously tutors in this area do profit from this situation.
    I would appreciate any feedback. I have tried to just state facts here rather than get into a debate about racism/ perceived racism/ playing the race card etc etc. Nor am I debating the rights and wrongs of grammar v comprehensive.
    Thanks for any comments...
     
  2. Crowbob

    Crowbob Senior commenter

    I would be honest and tell the mother.
    Think of how much pressure the boy must be under...
     
  3. As a parent, I think you should be honest with the mother. You say "She came to me as an independent tutor to try and get an 'outsiders' point of view away from the school", so it's only fair to give her your honest opinion. It will be a blow to her, so be prepared to emphasise the positives of the situation: the boy must surely be getting some benefit from the work he's done with you so he'll start high school in a stronger position, and the fact that his parents are willing to put in so much time and effort to support him is also in his favour.

    As to how you do it, I don't know, except that you should probably do it over the phone and not (of course) in front of the boy himself. Perhaps suggest to her at the end of the next session that she should phone you for a chat, so she's in some way prepared for what's coming?

    Of course she may prefer to persevere on the basis of 'nothing ventured, nothing gained', and that's her decision, but at least it will be an informed one.

    Another thought: if the parents are willing to continue with tuition, you could work with the boy on his English and Maths rather than VR and NVR (if that's what you're doing).

    Best of luck.
     
  4. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    Assuming the boy and his family are keen and will work as hard as poss...

    I taught a woman who had escaped from a bad situation in Africa (included rape and other awful things). She had no English when she came here. By the end of the year she was working at A* level and has since done a degree here.
    I taught a 'hopeless' girl. She was dyslexic and in a medium set at a comp (a supposedly good one!) where she was ignored as she was quiet and din't cause trouble. I taught her. At first she was quiet and sullen, by the end of te year she was challenging me about Literature, and yes, got a top grade. Her school would only enter her for Foundation; in my opinion she would have got the top grade on the higher paper. But she only needed a C to get on the college course she wanted. And now she runs her own business. She had gone from being a 'drop out' to a happy successful womanmainly because of that grade.
    Before they got rid of 1:1 (criminal in my opinion) I taught a girl who could not spell her own name. Within 10 weeks she was explaining subordinate clauses to other children.
    I could go on. But you will get my point. It's always worth it. Boys tend to develop later, so who cares if he's not in the top ten when he starts? At least he will be taught by teachers who know their subjects, and the majority of his class will be keen to learn, not take drugs at lunchtimes. I am not saying this happens in all comps, but it is a fact that many parents want their child to go to a grammar or private school to keep them away from trouble. Most parents at these schools care about their children, while it's an unfortunate fact that many of the children causing trouble in our comps have never known parental love or care. I have worked in all types of schools, and the grammars are not like they apparently were in the past. And since 1:1 was removed, the poor children who need the spport-not just to pass exams but to help them get to college rather than join a gang-don't get it.
    I wish there was a grammar for my child, as I cannot afford private school and I know gangs, not the head, run our local comp at present.I am not insulting comps, many are great and I don't instinctively approve of grammars/independents. I went to/taught in comps, but too many heads spend money on soundbites and the latest initiative.
    So I think it's worth the try. Assuming you have a year,it should be possible.
     
  5. PlymouthMaid

    PlymouthMaid Occasional commenter

    I do think you need to speak to the Mother and explain your feeling that he will struggle even if he scrapes a pass. My daughter's friend had a tutor all the way through grammar school (and before) just to keep her up with her peers and the whole thing was a struggle for her as she was not remotely academic. It is their call as to whether the lad tries the 11+ or not but you need to give them the full story and explain the implications. Is there a better comp he could attend as an alternative to the grammar? I wouldn't say that these situations make me feel guilty but they are certainly awkward. You do not need to feel guilty about 'money in your pocket' so long as you are honest with the Mum and she can make informed decisions.
     
  6. I am sure that the boy's parents are well aware that he may not make the grades for Grammar school, but they are trying everything. And yes, of course he will struggle if he actually gets through the door.
    Talk to the parents again, tell them your thoughts and that he will find his secondary education hard work if he goes to a Grammar school.
    Saying that, I work as a private tutor. In my experience, it takes 6-10 (or even more) lessons before you start to notice a change in the child. If he has low self-esteem anyway then that change will be delayed further.
    The job that you are doing however is priceless and worth every penny. You may not succeed in getting that boy into Grammar school and to be honest would you want to? What you will suceed in however, is boosting his confidence in all areas. You are also providing a much needed boost for his parents. They are clearly concerned about their son's future as a Jamaican male in this country. By having contact with this boy each week you are actually giving much more to the family as a whole than you realise.
    If I were you, I would explain the situation to the parents, be upfront and honest but make it clear that one-to-one tuition would be of great benefit to their son.
     
  7. Georginalouise

    Georginalouise New commenter

    As a tutor, I tutor A level and GCSE science, but.... about six months ago I started my son, then nearing the end of year 4, with an 11+ tutor. About three months ago she told me, very nicely but very bluntly that my son was ahead in maths but behind in literacy in general. She felt that she could get him through the exam based on his ability in maths and non-verbal reasoning but in the long run he would struggle with written English once he was in a high-standard secondary school. We took the decision that she would continue to tutor him for another six months but only to improve KS2 literacy. At the end (which will be Easter) we will review and decide whether to pick up again for the 11+ or stay as we are. I really appreciated her honesty.
     
  8. mystery10

    mystery10 Occasional commenter

    Do you know for real how hard the entrance tests are for the specific grammar school concerned, and how this boy measures up against that? e.g. what percentage of the population do you have to be in to be likely to pass and get a place?
    The thing is, there's always an element of luck or bad luck on the day. The child could be a wonder and then flunk it on the day, so you could feel guilty then too.
    What I don't think you want to do is crush their hope about their child's potential ability. What makes you think he isn't that clever? And do make sure that you don't let your own grammar school experience flavour how you think this child would feel if he did get in. The statistics show that the children who benefit most from getting a place at grammar school are the borderline children.
    Maybe you should just stress that he is borderline (unless you really think that even with loads of work he will be way short of the pass mark), you want to give him the best chance like they do, but there are not guarantees on the day and are they really happy with the financial sacrifice if he doesn't pass? Presumably the work you do with him should help to uplift his KS2 results and place him better on starting at the comprehensive?
     

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