The Art of Passing - An interview with Rachel Hill

calendar_todayDecember 15, 2021
The Art of Passing - An interview with Rachel Hill

With a background and career in law, Rachel Hill’s pathway into offering bespoke, personalised educational tuition to youngsters isn’t an obvious or stereotypical one. However, her track record in improving those who she tutors for the 11+ examination speaks for itself.

Rachel’s role, offering bespoke, online educational tuition, is one that is becoming ever important for families and parents when they are looking for their children to reach their full potential at school. As we all know, going that extra mile really does pay dividends and when it’s your children’s education, it’s something that needs careful consideration.In her own words Rachel is “someone who is extremely familiar with private and grammar schools and has experience of all the 11+ exam formats across the UK”.With a plethora of educational qualifications, over a decade of experience as a solicitor and having previously worked in the electronics’ industry, Rachel has the educational and life skills to make a difference to the educational needs of child.

When asked why she made the move from law to education.“I was a litigation solicitor with my own department but have now transitioned out of law and now tuition work my professional business. Like law, it’s the chance to make a real difference, and it’s something I’m very passionate about, too”.Originally moving into private tutoring when a family friend asked her to assist her child with the 11+ preparation, Rachel admits she “loves a real challenge”, and was immediately interested in the various components of the 11+ test. After that, word got out about the superb service that she was offering - “and the rest is history!”

So, why concentrate on tutoring the 11+?“Well, it’s because many primary schools [i.e., those that are not the ‘feeder’ schools to local private/grammar schools] don’t teach certain aspects of the test such as verbal and non-verbal reasoning which can be quite daunting for a child.I also noticed that a child sitting the 11+ needs to know the ‘shortcuts’ and I have observed over time that primary schools are often advised to teach quite long-winded mathematical methods which eat up massive amounts of time. Very often, a child only has one minute per question when it comes to maths, so drawing multiplication grids or moving numbers instead of the decimal point are not conducive to a child passing the 11+.”

The 11+ exam is the only exam you cannot sit more than once, so it’s a tough, pressurised situation – but one you want your child to be confident in tackling and hopefully be successful in. The preliminary preparations are vital as the tests are difficult and the child is young plus they are working ahead of the syllabus. It’s a tricky combination and that’s why Rachel is adamant that the right balance has to be struck which is why she stresses that a child must also live a child’s life.“Parents often ask me if they should stop all of their hobbies to which I reply with a resounding ‘NO’! I encourage hobbies, but I also stress that children can learn through play and being encouraged to take on responsibilities in a way that does not feel like learning.My ultimate goal is to give the child the skills and ability to think and work for themselves because at the end of the day, a child will have to sit the test alone [something they often forget!]. I give them the tools they need to do their ‘job’ which is to pass the 11+ with confidence and an awareness that belies their years. I try to arm them with the skills that will not just get through the 11+ but also help them to transition into their secondary school environment so that they can ‘ride high’ in Year 7 feeling confident and happy.”

Key to Rachel’s success has been acquiring a vast back catalogue of genuine past papers, ranging in difficulty – Rachel has literally ‘sat’ hundreds of 11+ tests – literally practising what she preaches. It’s this attention to detail that ensures success….“So far, I have created my own database of practice material including what I call the ‘Foundation Knowledge Checklists’ which is intended to get a child ‘rock solid’ on the basics required to pass the 11+”, states Rachel before continuing, “I have trawled and spotted for common themes, as part of the 11+ test is very much what the exam setters do not tell you. I am often amazed by what children do not know and so this is my way of setting their foundations as rock solid!”

Tutoring professionally since 2012, Rachel’s work is now predominantly online as this means that geography is no restriction to what she does: offering a fully bespoke service. Her Facebook pinned post features a range of testimonials and recommendations from immensely satisfied clients, giving clear evidence of the quality of her work.

What is it about her role as a bespoke tutor that she loves so much?“I know it sounds a cliché, but I really enjoy working with children who are, after all, our country’s future. I love the process of taking a child from nervous and uncertain to someone who is well versed in all aspects of the 11+ test.”

Rachel’s work is very necessary too, as children have to work ahead of their school syllabus as the 11+ takes place either in the September or January of Year 6. As such, she has to show them many different aspects of the Year 6 [and indeed Year 7] syllabus well in advance of their school syllabus.“A big part of what I do is gaining a child’s trust very quickly and giving them reassurance that we will work through it together, as children often find the experience quite frustrating. The 11+ questions are vastly different to what they experience at school, and it is often hard for a child who is used to getting ‘all their sums right’ to understand that if they achieve 50% in a mathematics paper that is a huge achievement as schools are often looking for potential not just a perfect score.”

Whilst school class sizes can often be high, the one-to-one experience that Rachel offers is very special and unique. Her personalised style of educational advancement means that she can learn very quickly how to deal with a particular child, how to make them comfortable, and more importantly, confident enough to work with speed and accuracy under pressure.It’s all based on 100% focus on the child during the session….“Yes, I do not just sit there and wait for a child to work their way through a paper. I am there with that child throughout the whole process, talking and dissecting issues as we go along. Sometimes a child does require a more ‘hands on’ approach.”

Rachel’s development of her own resources are often used in conjunction with past papers to build a bespoke programme to take a child through the 11+ process, ensuring that when she tutors a child she is looking for the ‘holes’ in their knowledge and helps to fill them in using techniques that work for that child.“I know I use the word a lot, but the service I offer is truly bespoke. I don’t assume that a child knows something, and I ensure that I ‘track’ what a child has covered and if necessary, what needs to be revisited. Unlike many tutors who seem to ‘fly by the seat of their pants’ I have created a service that is unique due to the materials I have in my possession but also my own capabilities too. Dependent on how long a family allows for the 11+ preparation, I work to my own system that ranges in difficulty from ‘easy’ through to intermediate, difficult, and then extremely challenging dependent on the child’s abilities.”

100% reliable, trustworthy, and discreet, Rachel also expects 100% dedication from the child and family too, and that’s also why she has written a SATS preparation book. It’s a book that contains all Rachel’s best hints, tips, and advice from someone who has “lived and breathed the 11+ for a long time”. The book that was borne out of a desire for her to “give back” to those people out there who needed to go it alone as they could not afford private tuition.

So, what sets Rachel apart from others in her new career?“On a number of occasions, I have been told by families that I am their second or third tutor [even fifth tutor!] as their child simply hasn’t settled with anyone else. I’ve also been told that I have been the only tutor who has cracked a particular question that has defeated many other tutors or parents who themselves have Maths A level for example and are even professionals such as doctors! Strangely, the 11+ has been compared to GCSE difficulty as the presentation of the questions and the level of difficulty [weighed against the age of the child] is unique and as such, many highly educated people still struggle with the rigors of the test.In a nutshell, my experience, common sense, and intelligence have been acquired over a long time and I feel I have only improved as I have seen the 11+ evolve and change over the years. I love a challenge and I have always been expected to solve problems whether at school, university or in my career.”

Most parents/guardians understand the value of an excellent education. However, children need to be shown how to think for themselves, solve problems, and be resilient so that they stand out in the right way. Rachel seeks those she tutors “to be a truly bespoke individual, who can diversify, then this will give them the true survival skills they will need not just at school but for the rest of their lives.”Rachel is keen to highlight that her tuition does not just begin and end with her tutoring sessions. In her own words, Rachel states “Tuition is a holistic experience and so I do expect a child and their family to realise that tuition is not a magic bullet: they must be fully on board with the process too.”

You may ask just why Rachel Hill’s tutoring is truly bespoke? It’s because every child is different - physically, socially, emotionally, and educationally – and every child matters. After all, one-size-fits-all isn’t always the case in life, is it?

Rachel Hill
Rachel Hill is former litigation solicitor, now turned bespoke tutor. She is also the author of ‘11+ and SATS Preparation: Be Your Own Tutor On A Shoestring’, which can be purchased directly on Amazon.

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