There is a growing nationwide trend. Over the past 10 years that I have been running my tuition business, I have seen an exponential increase in the number of children applying to the local grammar schools. The local grammar schools have grown in popularity as parents have become more aware of school standards.
Locally there are a number of grammar schools. These are single sex schools that take students based on their performance in an exam they sit in September of year 6. Parents consider these schools to be the best state schools available and a viable alternative to expensive private schools. The local grammar schools in Wolverhampton, Walsall and Sutton Coldfield are consistently amongst the best schools in league tables.
So what do I have to do to get my child into a grammar school?
The schools in our area are in two consortiums. The one includes Queen Mary's High School (https://qmhs.org.uk/) and Queen Mary's Grammar School (http://www.qmgs.walsall.sch.uk) in Walsall, Wolverhampton Girls' High School and two in Newport, Adams Grammar School (https://www.adamsgs.uk) and Newport Girls High School (https://www.nghs.org.uk).
The second consortium includes schools in Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield. These schools are Bishop Vesey's Grammar School (http://bvgs.co.uk), Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls (https://www.suttcold.bham.sch.uk), King Edward VI Aston School (https://www.keaston.bham.sch.uk), King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Boys (http://www.camphillboys.bham.sch.uk), King Edward VI Camp Hill School for Girls (http://kechg.org.uk), King Edward VI Five Ways School (http://www.kefw.org), King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls (https://www.kingedwardvi.bham.sch.uk) and King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Boys (https://www.handsworth.bham.sch.uk).
The entrance exam for both consortiums is very similar. Both exams are set by CEM (University of Durham) and involve two test papers. The papers cover questions on Verbal Reasoning, Non Verbal Reasoning, Maths and English. The tests involve some multiple choice questions and each paper lasts 45 minutes. Each paper will cover all areas and be broken down into smaller individually timed sections. A Familiarisation Booklet is sent out to children who applied to take the test. This booklet will also detail key dates. The results are usually sent out in mid October. The child will receive their score and usually an indication of what score was good enough to secure a place in previous years. The places are offered based on ranked standardised scores. The child will only know whether they have secured a place when the secondary school allocations are announced in March the following year.
How can I improve my child's chances?
Preparation is the key to success. Like any exam that you are going to sit, the more you are prepared for that exam the better your chances of success.
1. Don't Start Preparing Too Late
Cramming for exams doesn't work and it's a short-term solution. You should start preparation at least one year before the exam so ideally at the start of year 5. If you leave it too late it will build unnecessary pressure on you and your child. I find that children who start early also adopt a good work ethic. They get into the habit of regular daily study on top of their school work and these skills will be invaluable at grammar school.
2. Build a Good Foundation
Grammar schools take the top 5% of students. For a child to have a good chance of passing the 11 plus exam, I recommend that the child should be in the top set and the top table in both English and Maths. This alone is not enough, children must be keen readers. With an emphasis on vocabulary in the CEM tests, reading is a vital tool to help improve vocabulary and general knowledge. General knowledge cannot be learnt by reading an encyclopaedia, rather it is learnt through experience or through reading around the subject. It is important that as well as being a good reader , a child should not stick to one author or type of book. Children gain the most by reading a variety of texts including more classic novels (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/9114392/Ask-Lorna-top-100-books-for-children.html).
3. Involve Your Child in Every Step
A child who is included in decision-making will be more willing to put the work in. It reduces the burden for you too. The decision to take the exam needs to be made by the child as well, as it will involve a significant commitment of time and effort. To help with the decision:
4. Use a Variety of Resources
Use books. The popular books are by Bond, CGP and Letts.
Use worksheets. You can download practice questions by searching “practice 11 plus worksheets”. Worksheets are better in some ways because once you have downloaded them, you can print them as many times as you need.
Use online sites. Online sites like 11plus.co.uk provide online practice tests and exercises and also do mock tests. Wordbuilder is an excellent site for vocabulary practice.
Use practice papers. When doing practice tests, first focus on ensuring that your child answers every question without a time limit. Work on accuracy and technique and let your child familiarise themselves with the different question types. You dont want your child reading the instructions on how to answer each question in an exam situation, they should just start working it out. After that you can start doing practice tests under timed conditions
Play games and puzzles.
Experts say that you cannot prepare a child for grammar school because they either have it or they don't. I'm not here to argue that point. I'm just here to help you help your child. Whether they get into grammar school or not, it's the journey that matters.
If you would like further advice or to get a clearer idea of your child's suitability for grammar school The Tuition Centre at Cannock offers free, no obligation assessments. For further information or to book an assessment email email@example.com
Member since: 17th August 2018
Qualified teacher with 10 years experience providing additional tutoring for pupils of all ages through The Tuition Centre, Cannock.