What age to start 11+ preparation?

(55 Posts)
PeppermintScreams Mon 21-Oct-13 14:13:43

DS is in year 1 shock and already other parents are talking about preparing them for the 11+ and doing workbooks. (I'm guessing the Bond aged 5-6 ones) While obviously I'm not going to sign him up for a tutor just yet hmmgrin what sort of things should I be doing now or making plans selling a kidney for in the distant future?

Forewarned is forearmed.

PastSellByDate Mon 21-Oct-13 15:40:45

Hi PeppermintScreams:

Wow - not sure what part of the world you're in and I can't claim to be a great success (DD1 was close, but didn't quite make last year's cut-off so it's not looking likely) but this is my advice:

Y1/ Y2 (KS1) - Make sure that they leave KS1 with sound reading skills (aim for free reading end Y2).

Make sure that they leave KS1 with sound skills in numeracy: so able to add and subtract at least up to 30, but preferable up to 100. Able to count by 2, 5 and 10 (effectively know those times tables - but not necessarily realise it).

Y3/ Y4 - READ! Really have them read proper fiction (DD1 really didn't get there until Y5 - and this is what I regret. Y3 may be a bit early, but by Y4 they should be reading things like Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Fantstic Mr. Fox, etc...), Michael Morpurgo (9 lives of Montezuma, Animal Tales) or Classics like Charlotte's Web and Babe (The Sheep Pig is the original title).

Around here (midlands) many start tutoring in Y4 (especially if they have doubts about core skills - numeracy or literacy) but most start seriously with Bond Books/ Practice Exams/ Mocks in Y5.

If you haven't discovered it the eleven plus forum has information by your area of the country and that's a good place to start. At the top of each regional forum there is usually advice on how to prepare.

Finally, as a Mum who's DD1 didn't quite succeed - especially if this is an area where competition is fierce - please please consider making this about gaining sound skills for the move up to senior school (so they'll do well wherever they go) rather than about pass or nothing.


applebread Mon 21-Oct-13 17:19:14

Tbh I think the most effective 11+ prep is done prior to conception, choosing a partner with qualities that ensure your child is intelligent and if not, ensuring you're rich enough for tutoring or private education.

givemeaclue Mon 21-Oct-13 17:36:38

Intelligence is not hereditary

applebread Mon 21-Oct-13 19:45:59

My response was tongue in cheek to the op and other poster talking about 11+ prep with a 5yo.

But a portion of intelligence is genetic.

NaturalBloodsuckerYeahRight Mon 21-Oct-13 19:52:00

Books everywhere, loads of reading and strategy type games (mastermind type of thing) was all I used until yr5 for mine. My Dsis is starting earlier and DNiece already pulling back.

PastSellByDate Tue 22-Oct-13 10:41:04

Hi applebread-

I just wanted to point out that I didn't suggest tutoring in Y1 - I suggested focusing on core skills (3 Rs if you like). Again, I can only speak for our area but around here many start sometime in Y4 (we actually started beginning Y5).

I know what you said was tongue & cheek - but children from more affluent families/ highly educated families tend to make up quite a substantial portion of the intake to grammar schools. The statistics make for sad reading.

Worse yet there is now a trend in the UK of University Lecturers being the children of University Lecturers more often than not.

Statistically Britain is less socially mobile than in the 1950s/1960s.

And I'm now very depressed just thinking about that.

PastSellByDate Tue 22-Oct-13 10:42:17

I should also stress we didn't hire a tutor in Y5 - but did bond books, practice exam materials (Bond/ GL Assessment - NEFR). And we read a lot.

Willemdefoeismine Tue 22-Oct-13 10:48:29

Year 5 (after Christmas) onwards as PastSellByDate indicated....But, with the increase in numbers of children chasing the same number of grammar places and the greater current emphasis on core numeracy and literacy skills, it may indeed be necessary to start in Year 4...

And are we talking 11+ prep for grammar or super-selective grammars because I think one would find that there's a huge difference in numbers chasing places particularly in areas where secondary education allocation is not entirely determined by sitting the 11+!

shelley72 Tue 22-Oct-13 11:37:51

Do you know I also have a son in year 1 and I too have been asked when I'm starting tutoringshock - actually mentioned to me by friends in reception ! How can you tell at this age if they are suited for grammar school anyway - do teachers tell you that they are? But to answer your question, it seems to be usual round here to start in year 3 - at least that's what my friend did.

I actually feel a bit depressed about the whole thing as even if my ds is able we can't afford tutoring and so I've failed him before he's even turned 7. Just hope he loves school as much as I did and doesn't hate me too much in later lifeconfused.

kilmuir Tue 22-Oct-13 12:01:24


PeppermintScreams Tue 22-Oct-13 12:08:54

We have a choice of 3 grammar schools in my local authority plus 3 outside that are a reasonable commuting distance. One of the outside ones in a super selective - I not too fussed on that one as it is over an hour away but am keeping it in mind.

If he passes the local authority test he will probably get a place at the boy's school (where DP attended) on distance as we are well within the "catchment" area.

My plan until year 3 (when I will re-evaluate) moment is lots of books and vocabulary. (I brought a junior dictionary and thesaurus yesterday which he's loving) He's well on track with his school work (currently) but I'll keep an eye on that. I'm not going to mention grammar schools and tests to him until I have to.

I doubt we'll be using a tutor unless his school starts failing him on the English and Maths side which is possible as the junior school is different to the infants.

Thanks everyone! It's always good to know what we need to be working towards in the future.

Elibean Tue 22-Oct-13 12:15:14

Peppermint, are you sure they're preparing for 11+ and not 7+?

Either way, sounds pathologically bonkers!

We're not in a grammar area, thank goodness, but dd1 had a very experienced tutor in y4 to boost her confidence in maths - tutor said anything between 6-18 months prep for 11+ or selective indies. For dd she said 9-12 months.

I trust her judgement. She's a) excellent tutor and b) sensible woman and mother.

It's hard to find a path between complacency and hysteria, but on the whole I think the current social trend is hysteria - interesting, but unpleasant sad

Willemdefoeismine Tue 22-Oct-13 12:36:37

If you want hysteria look at the 11+ forum hmm. DCs' reported results on there and some seem to have applied for grammar schools here, there and everywhere from Birmingham, to Kent, to Sutton, to Kingston....

PeppermintScreams Tue 22-Oct-13 13:03:06

I'm pretty sure it's the 11+. I don't think any schools around here within sensible commuting distance do the 7+.

babasheep Tue 22-Oct-13 13:23:07

If you re serious about 11+ it is never too early to start prep. It is more about how you prepare them. I know people who start showing flashcards to babies as soon as their babies could seat up. Some of them are aiming for the very selective. We live in a ridiculous grammar school town many mums have 11+ in minds well before their kids start preschools. The 11+ competition will only get worse as the birth rates are increasing every year. I don't know if my 7 yr dc will take the test but she knows all her timestable before 6th birthday and her spelling is about 2 years a head of her actual age. However she is only very average comparing to many of her peers. I feel proud but also sad. I am very confused by the madness of 11+.

Elibean Tue 22-Oct-13 14:58:58

Willem, thanks for the warning, I think I'll stay away from that one then!

Seriously though, I am much a bit older than most of the mums around here, so perhaps its more automatic for me to step back and see the hysteria - herd/fear driven, scarcity-thinking, panic. I know how hard it is to not catch it, and sometimes I get symptoms, but deep down I know it's not a disease I want to have and, thanks to hard learning in the past, I'm probably immune.

I'd rather home ed than join in, though dd1 would probably rather pull her teeth out wink

ClayDavis Tue 22-Oct-13 16:36:40

I'm not sure if it's age or something else, Elibean.

I know plenty of people with children at our local 'superselective'. None of them have tutored or done much prep other than familiarising their children with the types of questions that will be asked and a handful of test papers. Search the school on MN and you'll be told that you must tutor and if you haven't started by year 4 you've missed the boat and it's almost impossible to get into. At least one of my work colleagues has had phone calls from people they vaguely know asking which tutor they used to get their children in and who won't believe them when they say they didn't use one.

I suspect what happens is that some parents do lots of prep and their children pass and it's because they did loads of prep, others don't but then put the blame on the lack of prep rather than anything else. That gets passed on by word of mouth to other parents who think X did so much prep and didn't pass so we have to do more, ignoring the fact that other children did much less and did pass.

PastSellByDate's advice about securing the basics in maths and English at KS1 is pretty good for most children, not just those you might want to enter for 11+

BleedinEck Tue 22-Oct-13 17:06:52

At our school most say they start 11+ tutoring in y5 but I reckon half actually started in y4!

Dd2's Yr3 class are fiercely competitive & nearly a third have some form of outside tutoring such as kumon, Kip McGrath (& these are the very able children not those falling behind) . Dd's already 'decided' which grammar she wants to go to & asked for a tutor shock so I dread to think how tough 11+ competition will be between them.

Eta secondary options are great for grammar & religious school but pretty dire otherwise so this level of competitiveness isn't that unusual sadlyhmm

PeppermintScreams Tue 22-Oct-13 18:59:04

Blinking heck!

I've just taken DS to his gym club. They are starting an 11 plus tutoring group there (I assume the tutor is hiring a room) I laughed and said DS was too young, and the receptionist agreed, but said they'd already had interested parents from the KS1 kids....

LaQueenOfTheDamned Tue 22-Oct-13 19:44:01

DD1 has just passed the 11+.

Around here, children typically start preparing at the start of Y5, if they're seeing a professional tutor (as DD1 did) - because this allows a gentle, but steady accumulation of technique, comprehension and practice.

I do know of children who start preparing as early as Yr 4, or even Yr 3 - but IMO these children really, really are not genuine grammar school material - and if they need this sheer intensity of preparing, jusat to scrape a pass, then grammar school is not the right environment for them.

But their parents are hell-bent on getting them in there sad

shelley72 Wed 23-Oct-13 10:08:32

I know one of those parents laqueen, their dc did pass the exam last week and bloody good job too. The child is bright, but had had tutoring since year three. Getting through the exam affected their health and mum told me that they were crying themselves to sleep at night. Still it all paid off confused.

Whilst I want him to do well I honestly don't know if I could put my son through that. He's only yr 1 at the minute so will probably never need to worry about it but I think he is the sort of cheap who would carry a failure around with him forever.

I did notice that a tutor has set up an after school session just opposite the school. No pressure then!

PastSellByDate Wed 23-Oct-13 10:42:57


absolutely agree. As a parent - best bet regardless of going for 11+ or not - is to really ensure core skills (ye olde 3 Rs) are solid before secondary school, so your child can get off to a flying start.

However - for many around here the choice of grammar is avoiding the alternative which frequently is a middling school, often with behaviour problems and many parents worry about drugs/ pressure to grow up too quickly/ bullying/ etc... For us and many like us - going for a grammar school is about getting your children into an environment which as a parent you're comfortable with. That isn't to say that there aren't problems at grammar schools - but so far there haven't been stabbings.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Wed 23-Oct-13 11:36:13

I know people who do have their 5 year old tutored. I cannot even begin to imagine why they do it.

My opinion is that you should help your children with reading, basic maths and any homework the school sets. Then you should try to encourage them to take an interest in the world around them and how things work. The children that do this will be in a good position in life and, if they are bright, then it might be enough to to help them get into grammar school in due course.

I think there is something to be said for going though a few past papers to get a feel for the types of questions asked during the later part of year 5 but if more than that is needed then the child will probably do better in a less academically focussed secondary school.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 23-Oct-13 11:49:22

Do some of the appropriate Bond-type books (check which sort - multiple choice or not etc) and if available actual past papers in the summer between yr 5 and 6.

And of course support the normal learning, reading, homework etc throughout primary. Talk to your kids, read to them, play games - do what you can to naturally expand their vocabulary and comprehension.

LaQueenOfTheDamned Wed 23-Oct-13 13:16:15

That's so sad shelley.

DD1's tutor rarely accepts pupils unless they have high Level 4s/Level 5 at the end of Yr 4. And, then he provisionally tutors them for a month, before deciding if he thinks they are suitable grammar school material.

He isn't remotely interested in taking on average/below average ability children and drilling them, in order for them to scrape a pass - and sweat blood and tears in the process.

LaQueenOfTheDamned Wed 23-Oct-13 13:22:43

I do think it rather disingenuous though to think that if a child is already quite clever, then all you need to do as a parent is ensure they do their school homework, take an interest in the world, and maybe just casually peruse a a few past papers in the month before the test...

This is quite a risky approach - but they're going to be up against children (like my DD1) who are already clever, have always been encouraged to complete all their school homework - and they've been on plenty of cultural family trips/holidays...but, and it's a very big but ...

DD1 has also been trained in 11+ technique. She was taught how to time herself properly. She was very, very familiar with the format of 11+ papers. And she could cut through a NVR paper, or a VR paper, like a knife through hot butter, and not even break a sweat.

PastSellByDate Wed 23-Oct-13 13:57:17

Yep - there are LaQueen's out there.

It's a personal choice and can be cultural as well. I think if you're going for the 11+ you do need to be aware it is competitive in some areas (sometimes crazily so - as here) and you have to decide what you're content with doing personally and in terms of your child's personality.

Parents want the best for their children and I don't think we should criticize anyone for their approach to the 11+ (choosing not to take it/ choosing to take it but not go wild studying and/or choosing to take it and study every spare minute) - I suspect all of these decisions are coming from the same place & who's to say who will ultimately be right. Life is full of so many chance opportunities, twists and unexpected events. We're just all trying to do our best by our children.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Wed 23-Oct-13 14:05:41

The 11+ is supposed to be a test of academic potential. Those parents who tutor their kids for months and even years beforehand are skewing the results away from the inherently most able to the most polished. I think that is wrong anyway, especially as only the wealthier families can afford tutors for their children.

But I also think putting lots of extra pressure on children in the run up to the 11 + is wrong from the perspective of that child. If your child is intelligent then it should not take too much for that to shine though. If they are not that intelligent then it is right that they don't take a grammar school place away from another, more academically able child.

Elibean Wed 23-Oct-13 14:40:04

I tend to agree, Ghoul. I wish the schools themselves would take some responsibility - not sure how, but I know some independents actively try and discourage tutoring before selective tests.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Wed 23-Oct-13 16:13:26

That's a good point Elibean. I know in our area they are trying to tutor-proof the exams. Not sure how effective it will be though. The schools want the most academic children, not the most pushed, so it's in their interests too.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 23-Oct-13 16:25:50

>This is quite a risky approach

How risky depends on exact circumstances - whether there is a good Plan B, just how competitive it is in your particular area etc.

>She was very, very familiar with the format of 11+ papers. And she could cut through a NVR paper, or a VR paper, like a knife through hot butter, and not even break a sweat.

yes, mine too - really didn't require doing them for more than a few (not too casual) months ahead.

LaQueenOfTheDamned Wed 23-Oct-13 17:00:12

"Those parents who tutor their kids for months and even years beforehand are skewing the results away from the inherently most able to the most polished. I think that is wrong anyway, especially as only the wealthier families can afford tutors for their children."

I have to disagree ghoul. IME, the inherently most able are also being tutored.

My DD1, was already on Level 5s, by the end of Yr 4, before she even met her 11+ tutor. And, she was by no means, the cleverest little girl in her class - yet, every girl in her class had some form of tutoring.

Although the tutoring wasn't necessarily expensive - as many parents tutored themselves, and bought the books. Neither DH, or I, have the patience for this, so we paid a professional tutor.

Though DD1 probably ended up doing less preparation/11+ homework, then many of her friends, who were home tutored. But, our tutor knew exactly what he was doing, and could pin-point specific areas, and stream line her homework, to exactly suit her needs.

However, I agree - it does skew the results when you have inherently clever children, then being given further polish with professional tutoring.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 23-Oct-13 17:12:22

>the inherently most able are also being tutored.

not necessarily. Maybe every child in your DDs school was tutored one way or another - but an inherently able child from various socially deprived backgrounds probably wouldn't be.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Wed 23-Oct-13 17:14:14

LaQueen - That might be true of the primary school that your DD goes to (where tutoring sound endemic) but it won't be true of a lot of schools which have a more disadvantaged intakes. There might be many potentially academic children at those schools who won't be getting any tutoring and may well be only getting minimal support with normal homework. Those children might well deserve a place in grammar school based on academic potential but instead their place goes to a good but not excellent child who's had many hours of tutoring. That simply isn't fair and it isn't what the schools want either.

You DD sounds naturally bright; she probably didn't need the tutoring to get into grammar school. But some of her tutored classmates may well have taken places from more able but less supported children.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Wed 23-Oct-13 17:15:55

X-post with Errol who makes my point far more succinctly!

Hamishbear Wed 23-Oct-13 17:46:28

Most seem to think that NVR, puzzles, VR and brief English and Maths aptitude type tests are good predictors of IQ. Eton have some sort of computerised test apparently which differentiates the bright from the tutored progressively getting harder until children consistently get questions wrong. Why can't Grammars come up with something like this to make things fairer? Not perfect but may be better than now? Something that separates raw ability from current attainment? I thought there was a movement to do this now at some Grammars?

LaQueenOfTheDamned Wed 23-Oct-13 21:33:49

Obviously, I can only speak from my local experience here, where some form of tutoring for most children seems very common.

I don't agree with it, necessarily - and I resent feeling I have to provide some level of tutoring for DD1, when she had Level 5s at the end of Yr 4 FFS hmm

But to not have done so, would have disadvantaged her. She wasn't the cleverest little girl in her class. Girls I would consider more clever, also had tutoring.

I agree it's unfair. But I don't agree that children like my DD1, and her close friends would have lost their grammar places, without tutoring. We are talking very clever little girls here (all Level 5s in Yr 4, exceptionally high reading ability etc), before they even sniff a tutor.

And, that's the silliness of it all - around here, you get already very academic girls, who already have lots of advantages (graduate parents, home filled with books, lots of support) getting even more polish and technique from tutoring hmm

It really annoys me, and I wish it could be stopped but I don't see how? Too many parents are hooked into it.

LaQueenOfTheDamned Wed 23-Oct-13 21:45:07

Sorry, and meant to add - and then even more silly, is that you end up with these girls (don't know about boys), already clever, already academic, but with the extra tutoring - then ace-ing the 11+ and getting scores in the high 270s.

It's just not necessary. I wish it was a far more level playing field a la 25-30 years ago. Then DD1 could have wandered into the exam, and she would have been absolutely fine, only ever having done 3 past papers in school (just like her Daddy did) and easily passed.

The only preparation that needs to be done prior to Y5 is making sure that your child is confident with their multiplication/division facts and that they develop a wide vocabulary through reading a variety of books by different authors.

Notcontent Wed 23-Oct-13 22:03:44

I feel really upset reading this, in fact I feel like crying. Because actually, so many quite bright children don't stand a chance do they? I am not from the UK - I was educated in a system with no ability groups, no exams to go into secondary school. The UK education system really sucks.

MacaYoniandCheese Wed 23-Oct-13 22:27:24

Sorry to go off-topic but I have a burning question after lurking on this thread. I don't live in the UK so am not familiar with the system...what happens to the kids that live in grammar areas that don't pass the 11+?

MacaYoniandCheese Wed 23-Oct-13 22:40:40

...because it kind of reads like tutoring children for this intelligence/aptitude test is a bit like cheating, or am I misunderstanding? I'm trying to get my head around telling an eleven-year old that they have failed an exam required for entry into the 'intelligent' stream. How does that work, and what are the prospects for kids who (presumably) then must go to a sub-standard secondary school?

PiqueABoo Wed 23-Oct-13 23:01:05

MacaYoniandCheese: "what happens to the kids that live in grammar areas that don't pass the 11+?"
Statistically the grammar kids do better and the non-grammar kids do worse.

MirandaWest Wed 23-Oct-13 23:02:42

I am very glad I don't live in an area where there is the 11 plus. DS is in year 5 and I know I would have been torn between feeling I should get him tutored and feeling I could do it myself. He is pretty clever but not at the level of level 5s at the end of year 4. Should be getting level 5s by the end of year 5 though so generally OK smile

PiqueABoo Wed 23-Oct-13 23:02:44

...AKA robbing Peter to pay Paul.

MacaYoniandCheese Wed 23-Oct-13 23:37:30

Thanks PAB.

This must be incredibly stressful for families. I don't know what I'd do confused.

Norudeshitrequired Thu 24-Oct-13 08:23:56

Does anybody know how a super selective us differentiated from other grammar schools? What scores/ levels are usually required to define it as a super selective?

Retropear Thu 24-Oct-13 09:17:58

In our area the ones that don't go just go to the huge amount of other alternatives(many of which are very good).

The vast majority of parents with bight kids aren't bothered and don't even put their kids in for it.

Not sure how a tiny fraction of kids children have never met going to another school have an impact on their results.

There was research recently saying grammar school areas produce better A level results even in areas with social deprivation.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Thu 24-Oct-13 09:20:56

Maca - Super-selectives take all applicants simply in order of 11+ score, they don't prioritise children that live closer to the school. Normal grammar schools usually apply proximity to the school or other catchment area criteria for all children that have passed the 11+ regardless of how high their score is. Often children commute a long way to get to super-selectives (even from differ LEAs) leaving local children who have passed the 11+ at slightly lower scores without a grammar school places or with a grammar school place a long way away.

In terms of the scores that can depend massively on lots of things. The best thing is to ask any potential super-selectives what their threshold scores have been in the recent past.

GhoulWithADragonTattoo Thu 24-Oct-13 09:22:55

different LEAs - that should be

Norudeshitrequired Thu 24-Oct-13 10:07:56

Thanks all for the info on super selective grammars.
Our nearest grammar requires a combined standardised score of 360 from VR, NVR and maths. I wasn't sure if this meant it was super selective or not. It does take mainly from catchment so I'm guessing it's not super selective. I was just wondering how difficult it will make it to get a place if it had been super selective.

Elibean Thu 24-Oct-13 11:01:17

Miranda - ditto!

Though dd not ds smile

MacaYoniandCheese Thu 24-Oct-13 12:02:49

Thanks for the info smile. What a tricky issue.

Ragusa Fri 25-Oct-13 21:24:39

Oh bleuuuurgh. This sort of stuff makes me feel so sad. Where is the evidence that attendance at a super-selective school truly afvantages children?? As in, leads them to have happier, more fulfilled lives?? I suspect it is the biggest pile of BS going. Unless of course every other school for miles around is really dreadful (and I mean, really bad and not just under achieving owing to intake).

Kids crying themselves to sleep at night over the 11+? Hideous.

There is no way on earth I am putting my kids through that. Ever.We are in an area with a mixed system - some grammar, some comp, some religious.

Books one way flight to Finland

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