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Happy at school

How do you know if your child would pass the state selective secondary 11 + exams and then be happy at school?

This question is critical when considering the state selective secondary school options for your child. Are all children suitable for state selective secondary schools? Definitely not. It’s an incredibly challenging exam and journey to attempt.

For the right child, it’s a dream come true: life changing. For the wrong child, a potential disaster; a harmful exercise which may result in lowered self-esteem and feelings of failure for a lifetime.

The only way to approach this is to know precisely how suitable your child may, or may not be. Ask for their current and predicted national curriculum levels in maths and English at school. Better still, have an independent assessment which measures not only current achievement, but your child’s academic future potential as well.

If your child has the potential to pass these exams, then learning the curriculum and the exam strategies should follow fairly easily with effort and commitment by both parent and child.

So, how bright does your child need to be to gain a place at a state selective secondary school?

They need a high level of reasoning ability, to solve complex multi-tiered problems quickly and accurately. They need a high standard at maths and English and able to work quickly and accurately in both subjects. One parents idea of ‘high level’ may be quite different to another’s,¬† and similarly being on the ‘top table’ in one primary school for maths and English, may not equate with another primary school; it will depend on the cohort of children in the year group.

It is wrong for children to feel like a failure at the age of 11years old, because they were entered for an exam they had no chance of passing and failed to achieve a place at the chosen state selective secondary school. Why would you want to enter your child for a competition they were never going to win? Some say, for the experience, or on the off chance they get in. That is an experience they can definitely do without.

Another way to look at this is from the very bright child’s perspective. This child finds maths and English relatively easy and seems to do very well, always near the top of the class each year. This child is likely to pass the assessment and then have some light tutoring before sitting these exams; the exams are demanding and tutoring preparation makes it less stressful for the child and their parents. This route also ensures coverage of the correct maths and English curriculum that will be tested in September of Year 6. Additional curriculum input is needed to be successful, as the curriculum learnt during Year 5 will not have covered the areas to be examined in sufficient range or depth. Verbal and non-verbal reasoning strategies may also be needed, similarly mathematical reasoning strategies and finding missing vocabulary words in context.

Timing will need to be practised; working at a speed at 30 seconds a question and being able to process fast auditory instructions accurately are also being tested, combined with curriculum knowledge and methods.

From the bright child’s perspective, the exams should feel manageable and exciting, a welcome challenge; almost game-like.

How different is the view from another perspective, a child who hasn’t been assessed, is achieving well in school due to hours of practice, teaching and learning that this child has had over a prolonged period – often years of individual tutoring to keep up this level of achievement. This child is bright, but naturally is just above average, in the lower end of the top 25% of children, rather than the top 5%.

As the exams approach, this child’s levels stay much the same, and little real additional progress is made. The lack of success begins to eat at their confidence and creates a sense of despair, panic, failure and disappointment by the student, and some bewilderment by the parents as they struggle to try and understand why their child is not doing better after all the tutoring and hard work. Often tutors get the blame -the same tutors who didn’t suggest an assessment and are tutoring according to parental wishes rather than professional integrity; an irresponsible approach based on hope rather than facts.

And what happens if that child should be offered a place, by some random multiple choice probability advantage? What then? Possibly several years of misery, as the stark reality of trying to keep up with the work and their peers in this demanding new academic environment quickly takes its toll, resulting in despondency, sometimes deviance and often feelings and fears of failure.

So the question for parents is not just about which schools to choose, but also how do you know if your child would be successful long term with this choice? Not just to pass the exam, but to be happy, to thrive and flourish long term in an environment that should be as near to perfect for them as possible.

Think long term happiness, rather than short term gain.
Your child’s happiness has to be the most important factor.

A naturally clever child in the top 5% will be happy in a state selective school if it is right for them culturally, and they pass the entrance exam comfortably. A child in the top 25% at the lower end, may be happier in their local state secondary school in the top sets working at their own pace without the unrealistic pressures they might have faced.

In the end, both children will sit the same GCSEs and A Levels and have the same opportunities to go to the same universities. Providing the teaching in both school is excellent, and the personal aspirations of the student are realistic and ambitious, your child should fulfil their potential, whichever school they attend.

With your realism, support and belief behind them, they will always be a winner.

Jaderberg Krais offer educational advice, assessments and tutoring for all children, including the 11+.

If you would like more information contact Lorrae Jaderberg and Katie Krais on: 020 3488 0754.

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