As the parent of a child taking the 11+ you will probably find the process stressful. In areas where the alternative schools are of an acceptable or even high quality most parents tend to remain fairly calm, safe in the knowledge that their child will still receive a good education even if they do not qualify for a grammar school. Unfortunately in some areas the alternatives to a grammar school can be less than appetising, and levels of parental stress tend to be accordingly higher. Whichever situation you find yourself in there are some very important points that can help you and your child survive your 11+ journey with as little stress as possible.
Apart from the alternative schools on offer, the other factor that conspires to raise parental stress is the silence that apparently prevails about the 11+ in many areas, especially where there is fierce competition for places:
•Parents will often not discuss the 11+ openly
•The type of tests that make up the 11+ are concealed by schools to prevent preparation, although parents with older siblings who took the test will already have that information
•The names of good tutors are spoken of in hushed tones among friends, but rarely shared with others
•Parents may hide the fact that their child is being tutored, blithely mentioning that they are “doing an hour here and there”, when in fact the child is seeing a tutor for two or more hours a week, and doing large amounts of homework to follow up
•Information about appeals is hard to find.
The list simply goes on and on. As a new member of our 11 Plus Forum wrote: “Around here people are more secretive about the 11+ than MI5 and the CIA put together!”
Seek information — and stay informed over timeIt is critical that you know exactly how the admissions process for grammar schools works in your area. Information really is power during the 11 Plus process, and these are the three key steps you need to take to be fully informed:
•Find out what the Admission Rules are for your preferred schools to check if you will have any chance of gaining a place. You will find more information to help you do this in our 11+ Schools section. Places may be allocated by 11+ score, by distance or by another criterion such as religious commitment, sibling priority or priority feeder schools.
•Admission Rules can change from year to year, so do not check them three years before your child is due to take the test and assume that the same rules are still in force when the time comes around.
•Find out about the testing process for your preferred schools – what the tests consist of and when they take place. Again, look out for changes to the tests, because the content can vary considerably for topics such as Verbal Reasoning and English.
•Keep yourself informed throughout the 11 plus process. In Kent a consultation process about the 11 Plus Admissions procedure was launched in autumn 2007. The result was that the 11+ tests were brought forward from January to September in order to allow parents to have the results of the tests before completing their application form for schools. The change to the test date was announced in late May 2008 in advance of testing in September 2008, only three months ahead of the tests. This could have curtailed quite severely the 11+ preparation process for many children taking the test that year. The consensus was that at least all the children were equally disadvantaged by the change, and in this case the change of timing was widely publicised through the consultation process. In the case of individual schools or a small consortium of schools, such changes may not be widely publicised, especially to parents who live outside of the school’s own Local Authority area.