Tutoring for toddlers. Sounds bonkers but that’s what is going on among the well-heeled elite of central London I found out last week when I researched a story for The Sunday Times . Getting into top schools in places like Chelsea and Notting Hill has apparently become hugely competitive with four or five toddlers fighting it out for every place. Schools like Knightsbridge prep and Putney High are using something called the “four-plus”(a battery of tests) to choose which brainy kids to accept. Parents, worried that their offspring might miss out, are paying up to £50 an hour to get their little ones, some as young as three years old, tutored.
Agencies more used to helping teenagers prepare for GCSEs say they are now tutoring three and four year olds.
Kate Shand, who runs the Enjoy Education tutorial agency in Knightsbridge, says she has 30 families on her books asking for advice about the education of their four year olds. “Schools are not very forthcoming about the four plus assessment,” she says, “so parents do worry about what their children will be asked to do.”
Shand charges around £35 an hour to tell parents what to expect. She tells parents that the child will be interviewed and so will they. The school will give the child activities to see how the child interacts with other little ones – can they share, listen to instructions, answer questions about a short story, perhaps?.
The schools say their assessments are gentle and fun. Jo Wallace, at Putney High School, where 150 four-year-olds applied this year for 44 places, says the little ones go away with a smile on their faces at the end of the day and the parents write in to say how much their children enjoyed the experience.
Banker’s wife Sophie Walters, of south London, however, felt so strongly that she didn’t want her son risking rejection aged three that she didn’t put him forward for any selective schools at all.
What do mums out there think?