A Beginner’s Guide To The 11 Plus – Kent, Medway and Gravesend Edition
Chapter 8: Should Every Child Sit the 11 Plus?
Deciding whether to let your child sit the 11 plus exam is a complex decision that you will need to make in conjunction with your child’s teachers. There are no set rules about particular standards that your child will need to be achieving to succeed in the 11 plus, but you will need to bear in mind the impact on your child if they fail to reach the necessary pass score.
Assess Overall Learning Ability and Student’s Weaknesses
Your child’s teacher should be the first person to give you advice on the way that your child is performing in school and their ability to learn more challenging topics. If you’re thinking about the 11+ for your child, you really need to start discussing this with your child’s teacher during year 4 – or, at the very latest, the beginning of year 5.
Alternatively, you could enroll your child with a tuition service that provides tuition for the 11+ exams. Tutors familiar with the 11+ will easily be able to offer an assessment and advice about whether your child has the potential to succeed in the 11+ exams.
It’s also important to identify your child’s weakest areas – as, if you decide to proceed with 11+ registration, it is these areas that will need to be worked on the most, either at home or with a tutor. We’ve found that it’s the problem solving aspect that most students struggle with.
Although you as a parent may want your child to have the opportunity to take the 11+ test, you should bear in mind that not every child will have the level of academic ability needed to succeed in the tests. In those cases, it may be more damaging to put your child through the pressure of an examination that they are more likely to struggle with.
It should also be noted that not all students will improve at the same rate. This means that more able students may only need one hour of tuition every week at the beginning of Year 5 but students who take more time to learn and retain new concepts would require more (weekly) teaching time to give themselves any sort of chance. Again, an experienced tutor should be able to provide some sort of insight into your child’s level of ability after an initial assessment and to provide a recommendation of how you should move forward. If it’s recommended that your child would need two hours or more per week to stand a chance of passing then you may want to weigh up the cost/benefit of them going through 11+ preparation.
Observe Rate of Improvement
When you’re preparing for the 11+ exams, it’s important to keep a record of your child’s progress. This is easy to monitor if you are using practice papers. You may find that your child is not improving sufficiently in their weaker areas, in which case you may want to reconsider your decision for them to sit the 11+.
Having your child sit a test that they are not academically equipped to succeed in can be much more damaging than you may realise. Many parents suggest that putting their child through the 11+ knowing that they are not likely to pass is a life experience and an opportunity to learn – but this can be counterproductive and could lead to your child developing anxiety about their academic performance. It’s also worth noting that during 11 plus preparation, students will have to learn content that isn’t relevant to the curriculum so it could just be time wasted.
Even if your child is making some improvement, but just scraping passes, then you will need to consider how this may affect them when they begin grammar school. If they pass but are consistently at the bottom of their sets, then their confidence could be affected in the long term.
Observe Attitude to Learning
Even the most academically able children can have a poor attitude towards learning, and this is something that you should consider before putting your child in for the 11+ tests. If your child is learning-averse or resistant to completing academic work at home, it may be difficult to adequately prepare for the 11+ test.
Ultimately, the decision about whether to register your child for the 11+ is yours, but try not to see the 11+ as some kind of benchmark for measuring your child against. It is important to weigh up the costs and benefits of the 11+ preparation and exam and evaluate the impact that the test may have on your child. You should also keep in mind that some students will be much happier and more well suited to being in a regular comprehensive school.
There’s a lot to consider when you are thinking about allowing your child to sit the 11+ exams. While in many parts of the country, grammar schools and the selective testing for admission are less common, in Kent and Medway there are a significant number of grammar schools and these are seen as a sign of academic success.
One of the most important things to remember about the 11+ tests is that although they test similar things to the topics studied as part of the Key Stage 2 curriculum, the format and style of the questions is quite different to what your child may be used to. For this reason, it’s really important to start preparing for the 11+ early.