Lucy Elphinstone, head of Francis Holland Sloane Square, vigorously endorses Ben Thomas’ views. She says that the level of stress displayed by children at Open Mornings is marked.
This continues once the girls arrive at secondary school. Tutoring often continues the whole way through school, reducing self-confidence and self-belief. In addition, children that have been ‘shoe-horned’ into the wrong school continue to struggle and feel under-achievers. She says that girls approach exams in a state of hyper-anxiety. Next year she is considering bringing the Y7 summer exams (which she is going to re-name ‘assessments’) forward to come before half term so that pupils can go and enjoy the break rather than face a week of intense tutoring.
Tutoring also undermines the confidence of and in a child’s teacher. Elphinstone says it is exasperating for class teachers either to have their work supplemented unnecessarily or, increasingly, for pushy parents to expect schools to run weekend and holiday revision ‘clubs’.
The other effect of tutoring is that pupils lose their natural creativity. They come up with formulaic pre-prepared answers, including the right amount of adjectives and interesting nouns, but devoid of sensitivity. In this regard, Elphinstone will be consulting with other secondary heads to discuss ways of changing the 11+ English entrance exams to enable pupils to better display their natural ability. In addition, she is open to the idea that some form of biometric testing should be introduced.
Like Griffiths, however, she agrees that one of the major problems is that there is huge demand for a limited number of places. The level of competition is only ever going to go down if there are more secondary schools she finishes.
Francis Holland School, 39 Graham Terrace, SW1