The 11+

Hello, mums, do you remember your own summer holidays from school as hazy long days with endless hours of fun and relaxation. We all felt like one of Enid Blyton’s famous five as we left school and it’s bell for the last time for a 7/8 week holiday. We had the choice of playing with friends in the local park until it was time for bed or snuggling down with a good book. Children today don’t have what we had. Life has changed. Nowadays children seem  always to have to better themselves, educationally, as one exam or another looms. Unfortunately, this leaves them with very little time to read for leisure, which develops their vocabulary and helps with all their subjects.

Preparing your child in the summer holidays for their new school and assessments

Your child may be starting year six and have grammar school 11+ exams when they start back in September. They might have private school entrance exams in December/January. Regardless of which, this summer holiday is crucial for revision and the time must not be wasted. Nevertheless, it is their summer holiday, so you want it to be enjoyable too. Balancing fun time and work time is crucial. So mum to the rescue! Negotiating work and fun times with your child will be the key.

What can you do to help?

The first thing you and your child can do is to start reading through end of year reports, to establish subjects that require more effort, and to check the targets that have been set. This helps your child to recognise their weaknesses and what they need to work on over the summer.

To help support new learning over the summer, read books, visit museums and galleries and spend time on plenty of varied discussions together. Overall, for the targeted summer work, trips to the local library and buying revision workbooks online, will provide the range of books that they will need. Even visits to the cinema, theatre and talking book/CDs will provide language opportunities and bring books to life, for keen readers. Verbal reasoning/general knowledge is a massive part of the exams, so time spent on these, is time well spent.

Educational book-publishers provide excellent revision materials for your child to work on during the summer. CGP have lots of great colourful practice books available, and these are accessible to all students at primary and secondary school levels. The books will contain clear explanations and useful practice questions. They also provide step by step explanations for you and your children to follow and learn from. Schofield and Sims, Lett’s and Scholastic, all offer suitable materials for summer revision and learning.

Is your child starting on the 11+ journey?

If so, then the Bond series will be very helpful with a large range of materials available from Oxford University Press who took over Bond. Take in all professional advice before deciding to take the 11+, as you will need to make sure it is appropriate for your child’s ability. Check the national curriculum levels by asking your school, and complete some of the assessments in the 11+ instructional books from Bond and CGP. There are plenty of teachers and organisations, similar to my school, who will carry out assessments.

Children should test themselves once all the work has been finished. Have a look at the mistakes they have made and correct these, until they are confident; checking their progress as they go along. If correct, they should continue, if not they should go through the explanations and try again, if they’re not sure. Parents often step in too early, thinking that explaining the answers will address the problem. Actually the opposite is true, children need to be able to make sure they can work alone because they need to be sure their understanding is correct; and they have inserted a new concept or way of working. The child will also feel good about themselves, if they achieve independently.

It’s hard, not helping, but it’s also crucial, if they are to be successful in the 11+ exam. Speed and precision are essential. If they have too much support then they will never achieve these two skills.

A parent’s interest for learning is contagious. They will find that their children will be more eager to learn over the summer, if they feel it is valued and it is approached in a positive and enthusiastic way. Treats and sticker charts can be used as a reward to the child.

A planned day of “fun and learning together activities” will help children respond positively. When the child feels ‘included’ in the decision, and not forced into it, they perceive that they have some control, and will become more motivated. They will welcome the challenge as exciting and worth their time.

So work together over the summer with lots of fun and inspiring activities, rewards and positive feedback and watch your child blossom and grow, ready for their new year. When they go back to school there will be no need to worry when they sit the test. It will not be a stressful time at all for either of you.

Until next time, Elisa