How to pass with flying colours as a parent whilst getting through the 'pass' or 'fail' talk of the 11+

It is possible to get through 11+ time with flying colours  - in every sense!  (image credit: Unsplash)

It is possible to get through 11+ time with flying colours  - in every sense!  (image credit: Unsplash)

Can you pass or fail a test that does not have a pass mark?

Imagine if you were to walk out of your driving test and not be told if you’d passed or failed, but that you’d be told later.  At the end of the day, the top 100 of people who took the test would be awarded a driving licence.  If one person from the top 100 left the UK without collecting her licence, and the 101st person were therefore awarded a licence, would that final person have “passed” or “failed”?

This is how the the 11+ works! So, when we heard Nick Robinson talking about 'pass' and 'fail this week, as we all do, I started to think about the pressure of grammar school testing and what we as parents can do to relieve it... 

How do you talk to your child about the 11+ test?

  • Always ensure your child knows that the grammar school is just one of a few options you are considering. 
  • Make sure you and your child are sure about which non-grammar schools will also be on your list of preferences when choices are made (the time between results and preferences is often just a matter of days, often over the half-term break, so plan ahead).
  • Discuss honestly the pros and cons of different types of education. If your child is currently a “big fish in a small pond” as one of the brighter children in the class, then how will he or she adjust to being in a bigger pond full of bigger fish?
  • Talk about life plans with your child.  If all your child has ever wanted to do is join the army or be a farmer, then perhaps a school with more practical leanings would suit better, regardless of 11+ success?
  • Talk about what you will do if you find that despite winning a place at the grammar school it doesn't turn out to be the right school. It might be comforting for them to know, this is your only endeavour. 
  • Discuss with child whether he or she will be happy in a single-sex grammar school (if that’s your local option) and if the commute is bearable (for many, the local grammar school is much further away than the local secondary school) and take seriously their concerns.

Parent checklist

  1. Make sure you look at other schools too, ensuring it’s clear that they are viable options. 
  2. Ask all the questions at each school that you’d ask if that were the only option available to you.
  3. You might even consider not viewing the grammar school with your child, depending on whether you think seeing the school will add pressure or incentive.
  4. Talk openly and regularly about the pros and cons of all the schools that are options, trying to be as balanced as you can.
  5. Think about whether you really think tutoring is necessary.  A few practice papers will give your child a good feel for the kinds of questions that might come up and if he or she is being intensively prepped through the 11+ the grammar school might not be the right school after all.
  6. If you’re looking at independent schools as an alternative try not to add any pressure on your child by talking about the financial advantages!  
  7. If you have more than one child, remember that how you’re presenting schools will affect other siblings too – small people have big ears so choose your words carefully.
  8. Not all grammar schools are single-sex, but many are.  If you don’t think your child will suit the environment, then think again about the choice of school.

What do you think might be helpful? Join in the debate @schoolhuntersuk - see you there!