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11+ School Selection and Academic Assessment. The Vital Combination.

Evaluating your child’s options for senior school can be stressful, and the overwhelming amount of information available about schools can be quite bewildering. Schools have different styles and academic standards, and it is important to choose one where your child feels both comfortable, motivated and will thrive. You need try to stay focussed on what is important for the development of your own child’s needs; the “best school” is always the school that best suits your individual child: academically, socially, ethically and geographically!

To create a shortlist of schools to consider, it is a good idea to focus initially on academic standards to ensure that your child will be able to cope and won’t be bored. It is vital that a child goes to an appropriate school. It can be as difficult for a child to go to a school that is below their academic level as it is to go to one which is beyond their ability. In both cases it can be a negative experience for the child, which is why it is essential to find out your child’s academic potential.

Which schools to target?

How do you know which schools offer the right academic level for your child? The first step in fact is to establish how our child is performing at school in relation to the national average and assess their academic potential. Once you have a clear picture of these factors, you can decide on a shortlist of schools that would be the best academic fit for them, ideally with some expert advice.

How is your child performing?

How do you establish your child’s true academic performance and potential? This is where professional academic assessments come in.

Comparing a child against the national average requires reference to national or age-standardised figures. Schools used to be able to do this using national curriculum levels, but since 2014 these have been phased out. All schools are now told to track pupil progress in the way that they feel best represents the school. The government stated that by removing levels it would allow schools greater flexibility in the way that they plan and assess pupil’s learning, but in many cases, this has led to confusion, vagueness and a lack of consistency.

Ultimately, whatever method of tracking your school uses to replace national curriculum levels, you need to know how your child is working compared with the national expectation. One thing the school can do is tell you your child’s age-standardised scores in school tests. This is calculated by putting a child’s raw score and age into a grid and comparing against national norms. Those who score between 85 and 115 are within the average range with a score of 100 being exactly average. If you are told an age-standardised score for your child, this will put their performance into context, but it still doesn’t give in-depth information about their strengths and weaknesses.

To know more about an individual child, you need a tailored assessment, in effect a run-down of their strengths, weaknesses and ability. These provide a benchmark that gauges how they are doing compared to others, and if they are reaching their full potential.

How do assessments help you plan an education?

Assessments show how a child learns and highlight their strengths and weaknesses, as well as establishing their academic potential. It is this depth of information that allows consultants and parents to work together to identify the right school environment for a child’s future education.

JK Educate assesses children from Year 1 to Year 9. The assessment lasts from one and a half up to three hours depending on the child’s age and includes tests covering reading, writing and maths, as well as verbal and non-verbal reasoning. The assessment is a fun and engaging experience for the child and is followed up by a comprehensive written report, including suggested secondary schools. There is also an hour-long face-to-face feedback meeting with parents to discuss the findings and what steps should be taken next.

For those children already working to their full ability there is no magic wand you can wave to further their academic progress, and tutoring would serve no real purpose. It might prepare them well enough for the 11+ exams to secure a place at a highly academic school, but that environment would be too demanding for them on an ongoing basis and would therefore set them up to fail in the long-term.

JK Educate are often asked to provide a tutor to get a child into a specific selective school. The answer to these enquiries is always that JK are happy to assess a child to see if it is the right school for them – if they would be happy there, cope with the academic standards and reach their full potential. For most state selective schools, the child would need to be scoring in the top 5% nationally, so if the child was performing at that level or showed clear potential to do so, JK would be happy to tutor them to show their best on the examination day. However, we firmly believe children should only be prepared to sit entrance examinations for schools that are appropriate for them. Our extensive knowledge of the school system and of specific schools allows us to guide you to target your school applications carefully and only sit examinations for schools that would suit your child best.

The vital combination

In summary, to select the ideal school for your child, you first need to know how your child is performing against national expectations, their academic potential, and how that stacks up against the academic standards and entrance requirements of potential schools. The correlation between these two factors is the key to a successful match.

Equipped with detailed academic knowledge of both your child and the potential schools, ideally combined with expert guidance on which schools to go for, you can create a longlist of possible destination schools based on these key factors. You can then evaluate this smaller number of schools against all the other criteria that are important to you as a family, such as location, provision for sports and the arts, facilities and extra-curricular activities, culture and discipline. Those that match your needs closest will become your shortlist of chosen schools for which your child will study and sit the entrance exams. As in many areas of life, information and preparation are the best possible foundation for success.

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