WHEN AND HOW IS IT BEST TO START 11+ PREPARATIONS?
The road to 11+ success is a bespoke journey that needs to be tailored to each individual child. It’s best to start thinking about it and planning a long way ahead, but this doesn’t mean your child needs to start studying for the exams too much in advance. You need your child to peak at the right time or they might become bored with the whole process and switch off, but of course some children will require more preparation than others.
You need to know how your child is performing academically and if they are reaching their potential, so it’s best to have an academic assessment in Year 3 or Year 4. Don’t worry if that didn’t happen, but you should still have your child assessed before you decide which selective schools to aim for.
If the assessment reveals that they are doing well and already reaching their potential, nothing more needs to be done until a year before the 11+ exams, that is in Year 5. 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 in the meantime. 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.
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 an ideal aspiration 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 for them and that the schools will be right for them. If a child with average ability is intensively prepared and somehow manages to gain a place at a highly academic school, will they be able to keep up with the standards once they get there? 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/or at the top of the league tables.
The 11+ journey generally takes a year, which means you need to start preparations in the first half of Year 5. This does depend on what schools you are targeting, because state selective schools’ 11+ exams are usually earlier than those for independent schools and if you’re going for both types of school, you will 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. It doesn’t help to start too early – and tutoring should never be undertaken for the sake of it – but you also want to allow enough time for the child not to feel rushed or pressurised to cover everything that’s required.
Parents often ask whether a child will need longer to prepare for the 11+ if they are at a state primary school. One common difference is that 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 anyway, by showing where your child is against the national average rather than just their current classmates. Children will need to be able to handle maths problems and literacy challenges beyond the basic curriculum to be successful in the 11+ and some independent schools may have 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 and many children from state primary schools achieve offers at highly academic senior schools each year.
Take your time
Plan ahead. Heed advice. Be realistic. Stay calm.
Expect hard work from your child, but make sure you reward it 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 practice answering questions over and again. 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. This is why JK Educate have a dedicated monitoring team of senior teachers to keep track of every student’s progress and intervene if necessary, to provide extra support to both tutor and student.
It’s vital for your child to write lots of practice papers. Sign up for mock exams that recreate the real exam conditions and take away the fear of the unknown (and for extra practice mocks to further boost confidence and time management). Stay positive and encouraging with 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 by peaking at just the right time for the 11+ exams.
Lorrae Jaderberg and Katie Krais