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Preparing For The Eleven Plus

A step-by-step guide to what you need to be thinking about, and when

Date : 25/01/2019


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Uploaded by : David
Uploaded on : 25/01/2019
Subject : Eleven Plus

How early should I start?

There is no clear-cut answer for this question it depends entirely on your child. If he or she is a high-flier at a good school then you should ensure over the last couple of months before the exams that they are comfortable with what to expect. A tutor for the summer holidays may be enough, although the best ones will be booked up well in advance. It`s very rare that I would take on anyone at that time, for example - but I`m always available to provide guidance. For the least able, or those who are taking a long-shot at a place (for instance if you are aiming for a school which your child would be considered out-of-catchment ) then there is never a time which I d consider too early to start. For most children it will be somewhere in between check with your primary school and see what they feel and try to supplement what they are doing there.

Lessons - whether with you or a tutor - should not be particularly rigid and if you set a young child an hour of work they may find it a bit much. In my experience it is a lot easier to allow the child s mood to dictate how the lessons go. It may sound rather airy-fairy and liberal but a child cannot take in as much information as we sometimes think and they are certainly not able to endure hours of being told how to do things. They may show signs of understanding what they are doing but, if they are too tired, they will not retain it.

What should the structure of a lesson be?

Let your common sense dictate if you have a very attentive child then you, or a tutor, can really work with them on theory and let them have a go on their own at past paper questions of the sort you have been explaining. Others may need a direct involvement from the off and they can try blocks of questions at a time before starting to go through their errors with you or a tutor.

Children are naturally inquisitive and will relish learning if it s presented to them as worthwhile. However, you are just as likely to get a grumpy ten-year-old cursing their misfortune so you have to take a pragmatic approach. Remember that all children really do make more progress if they are praised for the things they have done correctly and are only criticised for the deliberate or outright careless errors that they make. The idea of these tests is to separate the highest achievers from the rest if your child can do everything then they are truly exceptional and if they can t, don t make them feel that they are letting you down. This will be a stressful enough time for them but they need to feel that you are a pillar of calmness and that you won t be judging them when they make inevitable errors. You will find that children forget things that they have previously known and that they sometimes just can t be taught as they are too tired or not up to the level you hoped they would be. Hold back at times like this and give them something they can do so that they feel more comfortable and in control. Provide prizes for effort and concentration, not results. A tired and unhappy child will not be inspired to work hard if they know they will not be able to reach the 75% target that has been set for them but if they are told they can have some chocolate if they concentrate, their attitude changes. You know your child you decide what a fair target is and whether there is a reward for them at the end of the task. Just remember that a child should be feeling positive and relaxed when they go into the exam and not worried about pleasing you or getting the new bike that has been promised for passing!

A good tutor will settle the child`s nerves on the first session and the child should be happy to come to them. I recently had an 11+ candidate`s parents arrange a lesson for when the next school term started, only for the child to say she wanted to come the week before as well. To get that feedback is what makes us want to work in this profession! When you`re at home, working with your child, you have to encourage them to want to do this. They must feel it`s their choice - however you twist reality to achieve this, it`s your call!

So, what`s `typical` when dealing with tuition for the 11+?

If you have a child of reasonable ability and the schools in your area are not especially hard to get in to, I would think of tuition from the end of year four or the beginning of year five, assuming the 11+ is sat at the start of year 6. Any earlier and you can drag a child into a mire of misery and stress, but any later and you may be risking it somewhat. In the first instance, talk to your class teachers regularly. They will probably say `Oh, don`t think about that yet, it`s years away` but push them on whether they feel that your child is keeping up with the required rate of progress or whether they feel that there are signs that they are struggling. Even in year 2 I can tell whether a child will be a potential grammar school candidate, although that can invariably change with the right input. Teachers HATE to be quoted on such matters so be friendly, `off-the-record` and make it clear you wouldn`t dream of holding them to any comment that they make at such an early stage of the child`s career.

If you`re going for the GL tests (Kent, for instance) you`ll find the test procedure quite different from the CEM tests. Check what the local schools use - it is important. If you find a tutor who knows little of the setting board, drop them like a stone. If you`re dealing with the CEM test, vocabulary is critical - it is for GL too, but to a lesser extent. Right from the earliest age, get them to explain what words they read mean. When they have a book to read alone, get them a dictionary to check words in and encourage them to share their new words with you.

By the time the child is in year 4, you should consider their chances in the 11+. Do they show any natural flair? Do they pay attention? Do they have a love of learning new stuff? If the answer to these is `no`, stop pushing them for a grammar education as they will simply not benefit from it. If they are keen, able and interested, that`s when the tuition route is best considered. I like a full year (at least) with a child as there is a colossal amount of stuff to learn for the 11+. It is not straightforward the papers chop and change the vocabulary of the test, let alone the content, is tough to teach some children some children will have missed elements of the maths curriculum, etc. etc...

Buy practice / test books to use at home. See how they cope during year 4. If they are struggling, seek professional advice straight away. If they are getting the general idea, wait until the beginning of year 5 to get a tutor to start working. BUT... Contact them well in advance as from personal experience, the best tutors are booked up before the academic year begins. I tend to have one or two odd slots available come September, and they`ll usually go quickly.

Maths and English (especially vocabulary) can be taught from the earliest opportunity. Don`t expect a child to be doing year 6 work in year 3 for instance, but try to encourage them to look beyond what they are doing in school. Many online maths programmes provide good starting points if you don`t want to bring in a tutor yet.

Verbal reasoning (words, basically) can be taught from year 4, but some of the question types are extremely difficult to understand and it`s worth waiting until the following year. Non-verbal reasoning and spatial reasoning should not be started until at least the Easter of year 4. They are too tough to master and a tutor will provide lots of tips and hints which will make learning so much easier.

How do I choose a private tutor?

If you want to employ a tutor to augment your own assistance at home, there are several important things to bear in mind. Work your way through this list of important issues before coming to a decision:

1) Talk to people who have been in a similar position in previous years. Did they use a specific tutor and did they find them value for money? Word of mouth remains the single best way of employing anyone, whether it is as a tutor, plumber, plasterer or whatever. Ask the teachers at your child s school possibly they have good contacts or have heard of quality tutors potentially they may work privately themselves although you are then not likely to get any great difference in input from what the children would get in class.

2) Check adverts online. Some people who barely advertise are so good that they are already inundated. However, large numbers of tutees does not guarantee a good tutor. I hear of people who have many tutees due to the dearth of local tutors available rather than a spectacular record of success. This should also give you an idea about whether the prices you are being charged are fair and similar to the others locally remember that not everyone is quoting for the same service though, as some require that you take the child to them or else they charge extra or some only take groups of children so charge less per child. Bear in mind that `students` offering cheap sessions may have been through the test themselves in recent years, but do they have past papers? Large piles of resources to cover every need and eventuality? Years of experience in dealing with children who present all sorts of different issues? I`ve been diagnosing dyslexia and other issues in tutees for years, after schools have missed it with no formal training, many tutors are not going to be able to spot these educational issues and needs. Tutors need to be qualified - and experienced. The Kent Test / 11+ (depending on which area you are sitting it in) is a very specialised area of tuition and should not be taught by someone who thinks `it can`t be that hard`.

3) Visit the tutors at their place of tutoring if you are not having them visit your home. A good tutor will recognise the fact that you are entrusting them with your child, often on a one-to-one basis, and that you need to have complete confidence in them. When I deal with a child I offer the chance for a parent to stay for the first session so that they can see my teaching style, demeanour and interaction with the child. If a tutor will not let you do so then steer clear they may be totally genuine and quite brilliant but it would worry me that they were unwilling to let you sit in for a first session. Although it may be awkward for you, taking a child to a tutor s house is often a good way of making them concentrate more as they do not have the distractions of their own home.

4) Seek a baseline assessment. You are thinking of employing someone for the coming months at a hefty hourly wage and you want results. You may not get the eventual result you want your child may simply not have the ability to reach the school you are hoping for but you do need to know that the tutor has been improving your child s ability to answer exam questions. Most class teachers have a very good idea of where the child is academically compared to the rest of their cohort. Ask them what the last figures were for your child s tests many schools now have intelligence testing at the start of a year and they get a set of figures which are standardised as many grammar entry tests are. If these are not available to you, ensure the tutor carries out a detailed first session whereby he or she finds out and reports back to you about the child s ability. Going straight into teaching is pointless and a good tutor will recognise this. They should assess the child s abilities and be able to target their course to be able to help them. A fairly detailed early assessment should be asked for after one or two sessions a good tutor will do this as standard practice and others will do so if asked. Poor ones will not know the child or his abilities well enough and will not be happy to do so.

5) Decide whether you are really doing what is best for your child. Should the child s standardised figures from any recent ability testing all be sub 100 (the average value) then you should really not be pushing him or her to reach a highly academic school unless there are extremely significant factors impacting upon those results. If, for instance, your son or daughter has recently moved out of a failing school and into a good one, or they have been learning English as a second language, then they may be able to kick on and improve greatly. If not, talk to your child s teacher and listen to what they suggest rather than what you want to hear. Teachers do get it wrong sometimes but they tend to know the ability of your child compared to that which is required to succeed in a very academic school. We all want our offspring to follow in our footsteps or improve on what we did, but there are many children who are left traumatised by having been pushed to the limit by parents who simply do not want to hear the truth. An average academic ability child will not benefit from going to a high-flying academic school. They will feel like a failure, knowing that they cannot keep up with their peers. While you may have local bragging rights amongst other parents, consider the happiness of your child and remember that it is their life - and not yours - that is the more important.

6) Make sure that you follow up references or see documentation if you aren`t going through a proper website like this, which has taken up references and DBS details already for those who have them. If you have no knowledge of the tutor other than an advert, you should ask to see the documents that they proclaim to have. Teachers have been checked and verified by their employers and if they have a copy of their latest documents you should see them rather than accept that they exist. Anyone working purely as a private tutor should be able to provide details of past employers and a quick check online should throw up any concerns. Anyone working with children really ought to have a full CRB disclosure carried out it is their responsibility and if they work in a school they will have one for you to see. Bear in mind that they will not necessarily have a piece of paper from this year as you get one piece of paper that is then `re-verified` annually and no new documentation issued. It`s not possible to check up as a potential private employer to see whether they are up-to-date, but an original document would be a start. If they choose not to have one as they work independently, it is your decision whether or not to employ them but I would want to know why they have not been checked.

As stated earlier, a preliminary session with you present should be perfectly reasonable to ask for and should allay any concerns.

7) Check that a tutor is actually teaching. That sounds bizarre but consider the following situation that happened to me a few years ago. I asked a parent of a potential tutee about their child s current situation. The boy had been to a different tutor who had worked with a group of children at a time. The tutor had handed out sample and past papers, told children to work in silence for an hour then collected the papers in at the end for marking. The children then went home and were presented with the previous marks the following week. I asked what the boy had been taught. This, of course, was the point the very reason I was being approached for tuition rather than money-for-old-rope. If that s proper tuition then we could all be earning enough to support a very healthy lifestyle and never have to work more than a few hours a week.

8) How many children are being taught at a time? If it is one-to-one then this is ideal but do not discount sharing a session with another child or two. If this happens, suggest a reasonable discount per child this is likely to be given unless the tutor is fully booked and is doing you a favour by even considering your child. One-to-one tuition means every thought your child has can be articulated and commented upon by a good tutor. However, there is a lot of wasted time when a child is working things out in their head and the tutor cannot add anything, so working with more than one child at a time is perfectly reasonable in some circumstances. It is not something I personally favour but is still good practice, unlike a small class situation which is not as beneficial and should not cost anywhere near as much as someone who is giving their time on a one-to-one basis.

9) Listen to your child. If, after a couple of sessions, they are not happy with the tutor do not be afraid to talk to the tutor to change what they are teaching or the methods they use. If a child is unhappy and feeling that he or she is learning nothing then you are doing them no favours by sending them to the tutor. A strict tutor can be great for some children whereas others need the friendly and cheery type to maximise their interest and ability. Talk to your child about what they have learned or what sort of input they got. If it sounds like the tutor is giving no input, it could be that the child is missing the point and that a word to the tutor will help him or her to connect better with your child. Alternatively, it could just mean that they are very subtle and are getting information in without making it feel like the child is working! Personally, I like to be an `academic mentor` to a child I provide them with anything they need to know and want them to ask if there`s something they fancy learning about. While not their `friend` as such, I want them to have faith and trust in my methods and techniques for learning while feeling relaxed enough to challenge anything I say. Every child is different, and every tutor too.

10) How long do you want your child to work for? An hour session once a week is probably ideal for an average child but if you have more of a mountain to climb you may consider longer or more frequent sessions. Think about how your child responds to long spells of work if they are normally climbing the wall or falling asleep after being on the same seat for more than twenty minutes then you re throwing money away asking them to take in information over two hours. A good tutor will allow short breaks for children and let them spend five minutes having a run in the garden or to tell them about their latest sporting achievement or whatever they need to switch off . Studies regularly show that children cannot absorb information when being put under continual pressure so do not demand that a tutor keeps them sat still working for the full hour. Breaking it up will assist the child.

11) Remember who is paying the money if you are not happy, do not feel obliged to send your child to that tutor forever. Conversely, remember that the tutor is or at least should be a professional and as a teacher it riles me to be told how to do my job by people who feel they have a problem with something. Therefore hold a two-way conversation with a tutor and seek compromise but if you truly feel the tutor is not right for your child or that they are not giving any value for your money, you are not beholden to them! If you are armed with the knowledge from this article, you should know what is and is not useful for your child.

This resource was uploaded by: David

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