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The journey to 11+ success may not be a thousand miles long, but it might seem like that at the start. It is a bespoke journey that needs to be carefully timed, tailored to each individual child and broken down into clear steps so that it isn’t overwhelming for parents or students.

It’s best to start planning the journey in advance, but this doesn’t mean your child needs to start studying for the exams too early. You need your child to peak at the right time or they might find the whole process too lengthy, get bored and switch off, but some children will of course require more preparation time than others.

First steps

Before you decide if the 11+ route through selective exams is the best thing for your child, you need to know how your child is performing academically and if they are reaching their potential. We believe every child should have an Academic Assessment in Year 3 or Year 4, providing accurate facts about your child’s academic potential and current achievement, before making any decisions. Don’t worry if that didn’t happen, but you should still have your child assessed before you decide whether to pursue the 11+ and which selective schools to aim for.

If the academic assessment reveals that your child is doing well and already reaching their potential, nothing more needs to be done until Year 5, one academic year before the 11+ exams. If they are performing below their potential, for example in maths or literacy, then you might want to consider some extra activities to boost those areas during Year 3 and 4. This might take the form of extra support through tutoring, or simply building on core 11+ skills through lots of guided and varied reading, word and number games, and tackling crosswords and Sudoku puzzles. Again, don’t be concerned if your child is in Year 5 and you haven’t done this. They can of course still be supported through Year 5 to the point where they are ready for the exams in Year 6.

Be realistic

If your child is shown by the assessment to be reaching their potential, but not at the high level required by very academic selective senior schools, it might be time to rethink whether the 11+ is right for them at all. Nobody wants to set their young child up for failure and disappointment, so it is very important to ensure your senior school ambitions are achievable and that your chosen schools will be right for them.

JK Educate believe that the best school for every child is the one that best fits them as an individual, not necessarily the school considered the most prestigious and at the top of the league tables. If a child with average ability is intensively prepared and somehow manages to gain a place at a highly academic school, it’s doubtful they would cope with the school’s standards once they get there. This could lead to unhappiness, frustration and ultimately to the need to move schools again at a later date.

Journey time

The 11+ journey generally takes a year, which means beginning preparations in the first half of Year 5. This duration depends on what schools you are targeting, because state selective schools’ 11+ exams are usually earlier than those for independent schools. If you’re going for both types of school, you will therefore need to carry on with preparations for longer. Do take professional advice on when to start tutoring, based on your child’s assessment results and your chosen schools.

Parents often ask whether a child will need more help and time to prepare for the 11+ if they are at a state primary school.  Parents of children at independent schools often have better information about how their child is doing, but a good academic assessment can provide and improve upon that information, by showing where your child is against the national average. To be successful in the 11+, children will need to be able to handle maths problems and literacy challenges beyond the basic Key Stage 2. Some independent schools may provide an initial advantage here, especially if they are geared up to prepare children for entrance exams at 11+. However, high quality tutoring that is specifically tailored to the 11+ exam requirements can easily close any perceived gap. Many children from state primary schools achieve offers at highly academic senior schools each year.

Timing is everything

Expect hard work from your child, but make sure you reward their work with lots of fun activities – and don’t push them too hard or too soon. Allow plenty of time – usually a year – to cover all the required material and repeatedly practice answering sample questions. This will allow your child to prepare comfortably and without stress. If you are using a tutor, insist on regular feedback and progress checks. All good tutors should have an over-arching plan with benchmarks for your child’s results along the way, so there are no surprises close to the exams. JK Educate have a dedicated monitoring team of senior teachers to keep track of every student’s progress and intervene if necessary, to provide crucial extra support to both tutor and student.

It’s vital for your child to write lots of practice papers, especially as the exams get closer. Sign up for mock exams that recreate the real exam conditions and take away the fear of the unknown and consider enrolling for extra practice mocks to further boost their confidence and time management. Stay positive and encourage your child but don’t pressure them. If you are feeling stressed about the outcome of these exams, please try to keep that from your child and stay calm. With a well-planned journey and correctly paced preparation, your child can get to the right school for them without burning out and by peaking at just the right time for the 11+ exams.

If you’d like additional support, contact us about our 11+ tutoring services today.

Lorrae Jaderberg and Katie Krais

JK Educate

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