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11-plus exam: Sleep, don't swot and parents...keep calm!

Peter Read gives his tips on the 11-plus
Peter Read gives his tips on the 11-plus

MORE than 10,000 children will be taking tests next week which will shape their academic future. Angela Cole looks at the challenge and passes on some handy hints.


The debate over whether primary school children are tested too much has raged for years, but each year in Kent thousands go through two days of testing which, had they been born in a different county, they may not have even heard of.

Next week 10,500 Year 6 pupils will take the 11-plus, or Kent Test, which could decide whether they go to grammar or comprehensive school.

Some will have been privately tutored for months, or even years. Independent education advisor Peter Read said he had even been approached by parents of five-year-olds looking for 11-plus tuition, which shocks him.

Mr Read said: "It's so competitive in West Kent; parents will do absolutely anything to ensure their child gets the highest scores.

"I'd advise any parent whose child hasn't been supported by their school to go to WHSmith, buy a couple of test papers and work through them. You don't need loads, just enough so children are familiar with the test."

And, he added, with just days to go, a relaxed approach was the best preparation. "In my experience, parents get far more nervous than their children.

"If one is going to have the 11-plus, then I think the Kent style is one of the best methods of assessment."

His view that the less pressure children feel under, the better they will perform is widely shared.

That said, there are some last-minute preparations which can make the build-up and the day itself go smoothly.

Offering a reward can backfire as it piles on the expectation, with the child fearing that 'failure' could cost them a new bike or the latest gadget. If you've already done this, suggest they'll get it just for trying their hardest.

Simple common sense measures in the lead-up to Tuesday are worth bearing in mind. Stick to the family routine, but try to make sure your child settles early the night before, and that a big blow-out takeaway hasn’t been on the menu – leave that for the end of the week.

Experts suggest that extra swotting time at the expense of sleep will be wasted. They also advise ensuring that the morning of the exam is as stress-free as possible, avoiding bathroom disputes with siblings, setting off for school on time, or before, with a good breakfast inside them.

Also make sure that glasses or any medical aids like inhalers, are not left behind. If you are unavoidably delayed, don't panic. Simply inform the school when you arrive.

Likewise, if your child is poorly on either day, don't be tempted to send them in regardless, believing their chance of a grammar place will be gone. Just inform your head teacher and arrangements will be made.

Remember the tests are about finding the best school for your child, not about success or failure. Here are Mr Read’s preparation tips:

* Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep before both days of tests, and doesn’t stay up late doing last-minute practice

* Make sure this weekend is as normal as possible – don’t do anything special as it puts more pressure on the child

* Don’t offer “bribes” for passing – your child won’t do any better because of them

* Do whatever you can to reduce the pressure on your child – don’t fuss on the morning of the tests.

Despite the pressures, the numbers of children taking the test are going up – for many years the number had stood at around 9,000. Of those taking it, 2,000 do not live in Kent.

Schools in the county are given information about the test in September every year, although they are not supposed to "coach" students.

Kent County Council, which administers the test, offers an advice booklet online. For parents with specific worries, the council’s secondary admissions team at Sessions House can help.

~ Download a copy of the advice booklet >>>

~ Mr Read's website, with links to other helpful sites >>>


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