As the parent of a child taking the 11+ exam you will probably find the process quite stressful. Reducing stress where you can is essential to ensuring your child’s success in securing a place at their school of choice. Here we have compiled some of our top tips for easing the anxiety that seems otherwise inescapable as you begin the 11+ journey.
It is critical that you know exactly how the admissions process for grammar schools works in your area. Information and preparation are the key words for any parent during the 11+ process.
The ElevenPlusExams forum is an ideal place to find information with regards to this, from parents who have also gone through the 11+ process and have shared their experiences.
Part of your research and preparation should be finding out what the admission rules are for your preferred schools; this will allow you to check whether your child has a good chance of securing a place.
You will find useful information in our 11+ Schools pages. Places are typically allocated by entrance exam score, by distance or by another criterion such as religious commitment, sibling priority or priority feeder schools. Understanding what your school is primarily looking for is a crucial first step in how to prepare effectively for your 11+ campaign.
Keep in mind that admission rules can change from year to year! Checking these rules very early on in the 11+ process may be less helpful to you than when your child begins year 4 or 5. The same rules three years before your child sits their 11+ test may not necessarily remain in force when the time for them to sit their exam comes around.
Your research should also include finding out about the testing process for your preferred schools: this means what the tests consist of and when they take place. Again, look out for changes to the tests, because the content can vary considerably!
Managing your child’s stress
Most children taking the 11+ will experience some stress during the process and this can lead to burn out if not managed carefully.
Even if you regard yourself as an exceptionally easy-going parent, it can be difficult to assuage the anxieties that arise from playground chatter and the worries voiced by friends and family members also sitting the 11+. Therefore, although you may be able to stay calm and laid-back, it cannot always be assumed that your child will feel the same way. Children deliver their best work when they are rested, happy and confident and so keeping an eye on their stress and anxiety will directly benefit them along their 11+ journey.
- Reassure your child of their future, regardless of the outcome of the 11+. What is their “Plan B” for their future schooling? It may be difficult to convince them that their last choice catchment school will be a good alternative to their preferred grammar school, but convince them you must! Your child needs to know that you are in control of the situation and that you have their future securely mapped out for them.
- Reassure them you will be proud of them no matter what happens, because of their hard work at school, for their work in preparing for the test and for their courage in taking it. A positive result – should your child qualify – is a bonus, and not validation of your relationship with your child.
- It is often the case that parents promise some expensive gift for the child at the end of the process. It is a personal decision for each family of course, but consider carefully the terms you set for the child to receive the gift. If the gift is offered in return for passing the 11+, how will you deal with the situation if your child does not qualify in the test and then faces the additional upset of not receiving the promised gift as well? It is the view of many of our forum members that such presents should reward effort, not achievement!