Will students taking the delayed 11+ exams be test ready?
This article has been written by Chris Pearse, founder of an 11+ tutoring company and a qualified primary school teacher.
As primary school pupils go back to start a new academic year, the impact of months without face-to-face lessons will surely be seen. This article attempts to outline the impact upon some children of a delayed 11+ exam and how best to get 'test-ready'.
11+ preparation has always been viewed as a marathon rather than a sprint. Developing a strong vocabulary and specific reasoning skills takes planning, patience, rehearsal and stamina.
Usually the 11+ tests are taken at the very beginning of year 6. This allows students the opportunity to enjoy their last year in primary school without the worry of an especially important exam hanging over them. However, this COVID-19 year has necessarily extended that journey and given parents the additional headache of how to keep their child engaged and motivated towards the 11+ exam dates.
Online courses became prevalent as lockdown hit the country. Many pupils had to adapt to a new learning environment. For some this transition was smooth: those students familiar with Skype, Zoom and Teams soon coped with that way of learning. Many students embraced this digital approach and were able to enjoy home study. However, some children lacked laptops, PCs, and internet connection. Some had busy working parents who struggled to find time to help with schoolwork, whilst more affluent families could afford tuition online. Students who could not access online courses, or whose concentration was better in face-to-face interaction with their teachers, tutors or mentors, were clearly at a disadvantage.
Motivation is a major variable towards 11+ success. To use the athletic analogy, pupils must peak at the right time. Therefore, ensuring that students retain the vast knowledge that they have acquired, whilst remaining confident in their abilities, is crucial. Interestingly, parents have, during this pandemic and over the summer period, taken varying approaches. Some have kept their child working consistently on 11+ tasks, others chose to take their foot off the gas. Neither method is right or wrong: it is important and correct to tailor practice specific to the needs of each child. Under the current circumstances, parents are definitely in the best position to judge their child’s mood and needs with regard to 11+ preparation.
For a large majority, being in lockdown afforded the chance to spend quality family time together. With the 11+ exam being so focused on good reading, vocabulary and sharp numerical reasoning skills, these unprecedented times may have allowed more opportunities to focus on, and further practise these 11+ topics. Coming together one to one or as a family, playing word and number games or reading challenging texts, have enabled children to ‘top up’ their learning in a fun way, whilst allowing parents to recognise their child’s abilities in more depth. Some parents have been able to give extra focus and support in areas of learning which might otherwise have been overlooked. Furthermore, a positive view recognises that using other mediums of learning has perhaps added some much-needed variety to 11+ work.
In summary, pupils will be adjusting to new rules at school but now must also keep focus and build momentum towards the 11+ tests. There will be all kinds of anxieties that need addressing before they are ready to sit in exam conditions in unfamiliar surroundings. With the extra time available it will be quite possible to reassure children of their capabilities and prepare them to take the test with the confidence and enthusiasm required to show how much they have learnt. It is evident that you can learn much in a home environment, but parents need to be available at this crucial time to support returning to or sustaining the routine which so clearly helps children to focus. Let us give the children a few weeks of normality before they take the 11+ tests, ensuring that all the work your child has given to this exam is not wasted. Remember to offer plenty of reassurance to your child that they can succeed and that you are there to help them, but also that, whatever the outcome, you have faith in their long term prospects and are proud of their achievements to date.
About Chris Pearse
Chris Pearse is a qualified Primary School Teacher with 10 years' experience in teaching. He started Teachitright in 2006 to provide support for children taking secondary school exams and is passionate about helping children achieve their potential whilst enjoying education.