Updated: Dec 2, 2020
Choosing a secondary school is one of the most daunting and some would argue most important decisions you make for your child. Moreover if you are considering schools which have entrance exams and 11 plus you will need your child to have some much needed exam preparation.
Preparing for senior school entrance exams can start in year 4, 5 or 6, indeed some parents start 11 plus preparation in year 3! This exam preparation whilst in primary school can be hard work, for parents and children alike, and therefore it really is worth making the decision on senior school options sooner rather than later. Here are our quick tips:
1. Do some internet stalking! Look on Facebook for parents association groups and general comments about the school - not just the ones on the website.
2. Visits in the current climate aren’t possible - this has given parents an opportunity insofar as attending a virtual open day is so much easier. Make use of these- perhaps look at five schools rather than three now you don’t need to leave the comfort of your own home.
3. Do email and ask for a one-to-one phone appointment with the Head or Deputy. How this experience goes from the way your enquiry is handled to the actual conversation will give you a great insight.
4. Speak to your primary school - they should be able to give you a good view in which school most suits your child as they will know them well . It is all about “fit”.
5. Keep your options open, reputations of schools have a lag time, make sure you speak to someone current.
6. Be mindful of league tables - excellent results doesn’t necessarily equal excellent teaching - if a school is very selective through its entrance exam process the intake will be academically strong and thus the results will be.
7. Look ahead - the website should have A level and GCSE subjects and information on there. If, for example, your child has a passion for baking, you may want to check the school offers Food & Nutrition as a GCSE option.
8. Don’t panic. School is only one part of the jigsaw - we all know people who’ve done well and gone to a school with a terrible reputation and visa versa.
If you do choose to apply for a Senior School with an entrance exam, such as a grammar school with 11 plus or an Independent School with an entrance exam do prepare fully.
Ask for past papers and get a feel for what is covered. Some, not all, have exams in verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning - if this is the case then platforms we use on RocketLearn such as Atom Learning are fantastic. If the exams are Maths and English make sure your child is practising questions often - we use IXL in order to give lots of practice.
If the exams cover all subjects, such as common entrance you may want to consider a specialist subject tutor. Do remember however at senior school entrance exam age excellent English skills will take them far in many subjects. We use CenturyTech to help our pupils with science, maths and English and would recommend the free app Duolingo for language practice.
Finally, the interview- mock interviews are fantastic - find an adult your child doesn’t know to give a practice interview. The experience of speaking to a stranger in an interview situation can be daunting - a practice will give them confidence and help them to think on their feet quicker. Interviews vary from school to school and there are many urban myths as to what they may or may not cover. Our advice would be subscribe to First News - the weekly children’s newspaper and watch our weekly broadcasts with Mr Garner - he encourages thinking outside of the box and covers interesting topics- giving children something to talk about at interview beyond Fortnite or YouTube!