The aim of the 11+ process is ultimately to find the best fit between your child and a senior school as children will thrive in an environment in which they are happy and feel that they belong. For parents the process will probably start in Year 4 when you may want to start visiting open days at possible schools. At Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School, we suggest open day visits as these can be useful to obtain an idea of the facilities and the strengths of the school. However, for popular schools, they can be crowded, hectic and somewhat overwhelming affairs which can be off putting for your child.
Once you have made a short list of schools it is also important to visit them when they are in full swing with pupils present, in order to get a more accurate feel for the atmosphere and the culture as well as a more detailed view of what the school is offering. It is often best to wait for these small group tours to take your child to visit a school. By then you will have a good idea of the aspects that might particularly appeal to your child and will be able to present that school in the most positive light.
It can be a wonderful motivating factor for children when they see the breadth of
opportunities open to them in a senior school and children’s performance can substantially improve when they have a target to aim for. However, children can only keep up this enthusiasm for a limited time and so timing is everything. Rather like climbing a mountain, one needs to pace oneself, gradually building up momentum whilst ensuring that there is still enough energy to summit.
Your child’s primary school will play a crucial role in ensuring they are fully prepared for their exam and the changes that are to come. At Prince’s Gardens Preparatory School for example the support pupils will receive when they first join will continue as they move through the school and we will work together to ensure a smooth transfer to their destination senior school for the next stage of their education. From Year 4, the curriculum will be enhanced by the addition of verbal and non-verbal reasoning and current affairs lessons. Children will be encouraged to research and debate the issues of the day. Along with learning about how to study, these subjects provide opportunities for the development of debating, reasoning, critical thinking and presentation skills.
As they get closer to the 11+, Year 6 children will have weekly interview and exam practice in the autumn along with scholarship sessions tailored to the requirements of the schools they are applying for. Also, the children will have the support of a personal tutor as well as their form tutor which allows them to talk about their plans for the future and focus on any specific areas of preparation.
So much effort goes into preparing your child for the exam process that it is easy to become fixated on one particular senior school. However, it is important to remember that there is not only one “golden ticket” school in which your child will thrive. Usually your child’s primary school will suggest a number of good options which may develop their potential in a way you might not have predicted. Do make sure your child understands this too. If they feel under too much pressure in the lead up to the exam, their cognitive ability and wellbeing will be impacted. Check that they’re exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and understand that all they can do is try their best.