Why so many parents ‘buy’ into the 11+ exam

Okay … so most of you know that the 11+ exam is still very real. Around this time of year I get a massive influx of parents (10 so far) who are concerned that their child is not ready for this exam and every year it breaks my heart a little more… so here is why the 11+ exam is a bit of a scam.

1) The verbal reasoning part of the exam is pretty much impossible to ‘prep’ for. Unless your child has a photographic memory … or they try and memorise hundreds of words each week, they are not going to perform well. The CEM exams in particular are designed to not be pre- taught. (Although the maths is super easy!)

2) What exactly are you competing for? If your child is not naturally academic, forcing them to go through the 11+ to get into a school that will stress them out is probably doing them more harm than anything else.

3) You are competing against a lot of children – children that have spent their education so far in small classes at prep schools, children who have been listening to the classics and been to wonderful places in the world and whose vocabulary would put some adults to shame.

4) Your child will be put under a lot of stress, at the age of 10!!

5) You will spend a lot of money – tutors aren’t cheap, mock exams are not cheap and the books are not cheap – if you do it properly – you are probably looking at an outlay of 5-8K for just one year.

6) Your child will feel like a failure at the age of 11 if they do not pass – this is something you should think long and hard about. Your child’s mental health should be a lot more important than pushing them to get into a school.

After all of that … do you want to know the crazy thing? NONE of the ‘top’ school will prepare your child for the adult world. NONE of them will teach financial literacy, healthy cooking, how to control their emotions, real issues about politics, relationships and how to work in the community and be self sufficient ready to tackle the very real problems they will face as adults.

If you want to go for the 11+ full guns blazing and it is the right step for your child who is naturally academic then brilliant. But don’t shoot your child down, stress them out and cause anxiety at such an early level. Your child, will do the best they can at any school they enter into. All of the schools do the same exams and the same exam boards at Year 11, ALL of the schools face teacher shortages and an overstretched teaching team (interestingly, independent schools often opt in for the IGCSE, a different exam board which has simpler exams which state schools cannot take by law)

I personally don’t really want my little girl to go to school unless she has a burning desire to. I can see the effects of learning things that don’t matter – I teach the same lessons over and over again because the secondary students that I meet don’t understand the periodic table, or Newtons’s 3 laws, or understand basic quadratics in mathematics. Education should not be about what box and uniform your child fits into – it should just be about nurturing and building on who they are as people to become good citizens, positive people with a lot of confidence, drive and ambition. Funnily enough – there isn’t an OFSTED box for this – there isn’t an Ofsted box that tells you how many children suffer with mental health issues, or feeling like a failure, or look into staff moral. If there were – I could pretty much guarantee the schools you want your children to go to now, would change in a heartbeat.

So just STOP buying into this notion that if you get your child into the ‘best’ school they will become the best. It is just plain wrong. Instead, ask your child what they love doing, nurture their individual souls and grow them up as community loving, self-sufficient young people. No school is effective at doing this because they are designed to pump good grades out of your kids, nothing more.

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