In 2 days’ time my eldest child will be sitting the academic part of her 11+ exam, along with hundreds of other kids.
She sat the music part of the test a couple of days ago, on Tuesday.
To be honest, I’ll just be glad when it’s all over; it’s been a long, hard haul.
Compared to a lot of families in this area, we’ve been pretty laid back in our approach. Yes, we’ve used a tutor, but only for a year. A lot of children around here have had a tutor since they started Junior school.
We had no problem justifying a tutor as our attempts to go through the material with her ourselves were short lived. We were lucky if we lasted 5 minutes before World War 3 broke out at our kitchen table. And we figured even if she didn’t get into the school we were aiming for, it wouldn’t do any harm for her to have some extra maths work for a year. The topics she’s covered over the last 12 month s are actually the work she’ll be doing in class this year, so she should find Year 6 pretty cruisey.
DD1 is academically and musically inclined, and her teachers have no doubt she’d hold her own in a grammar school. The trouble is that we aren’t in a grammar school area, so the only schools we can apply to are the superselectives or independents.
Most of the grammar options are at least an hour away. After a little thought, we decided this was too far for DD to travel as there is no direct transport link; she’d have to take a mixture of buses/coaches and trains. I’m sure DD would be fine getting to school and back on her own, but I worried about how I’d cope if she had to be picked up from school by me for some reason. And getting her double bass there was likely to be a nightmare.
We did have a quick glimpse at the local independent schools; we are surrounded by them. But I don’t really believe in private schools in principal, and remain unconvinced that private schools give you that much of an academic head start these days, if you have a decent state school and supportive parents. With our income, it’s unlikely we’d get more than a 25% bursary for a private school, and we’d have to give up our holidays and a lot of luxuries to put even half of our kids through. In short, we can’t really afford it.
Thirdly, we aren’t religious and weren’t prepared to even consider ‘finding god’ for the sake of a place in a good school.
And we are lucky, as we don’t really have to choose whether to pay or pray. Even if all this tutoring and preparation comes to nothing, and the chances are high it won’t, we have a perfectly good secondary school just around the corner. 70+% of the kids who attend get A-Cs grades in their GCSE’s ( including maths and English) and over 30% get A-A*s. As a fall back option, it’s a pretty good one.
In the end we picked the closest selective school to try for. It’s a bit odd in its selection policy; if you live in the Borough, it is a grammar school, but if you live in some of the surrounding postcodes (ours is one), you can apply separately for a handful of places. As you can imagine, competition for these places is extremely high. There are more than 100 girls going for each place so DD’s chances of getting in are not huge. Still, she wanted to have a go, so we got stuck into the tutoring.
At first it wasn’t too bad. Every Saturday DD would be dropped off at the tutors for an hour, and she’d have about an hours ‘homework’ to get through during the next week. She didn’t mind it; in fact she seemed to enjoy the work.
But gradually things hotted up and by the time the summer holidays rolled around, she had mock exams to contend with and was supposed to be doing a paper at least every couple of days. She was definitely less happy with the pace and we had some arguments trying to get her to knuckle down. But as far as I’m concerned, she had decided to have a crack at a place at this school, so needed to try her hardest.
DH and I probably didn’t help by dragging the kids all over the place during the holidays. DD ended up doing a lot of revising on the road, and probably did a paper every 3 days instead of every 1-2. Some of her class mates had been doing hours of revision every day…
Here she is doing a paper beside the camp waterhole in Namibia. She kept getting distracted by a very curious hornbill who was convinced her pencil case was his dinner.
But since we’ve been back home, she’s been pretty good and we’ve done a few papers a day.
Anyhow, in a couple of days it’ll all be over. We get the exam results before we apply for the schools, which should be interesting, but she won’t find out which secondary school she’s been allocated until March next year.
Until then, I’ll have my fingers crossed, but for which outcome, I’m not entirely sure.