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Selective secondary school from bog standard state school

(2 Posts)
tiptabletops Fri 14-Mar-14 13:43:59

That's it, really.

My child is eight, in Y4. He is interested in the world and reads all the time. He has a large vocabulary and a wide general knowledge. He is doing well in writing and reading (4B/4A) and is average in Maths (4C). He is an enthusiastic learner. The school he is at aims for the middle and doesn't cater for the more able children. It is also poor at Maths (these are the opinions of OFSTED and I agree).

My son loves to learn and wants to learn. I would like him to go to a selective secondary school. We could try for the two (highly competitive) local grammar schools or for two private schools. In all cases, he would need to compete against his better prepared contemporaries.

Is it possible to tutor a child to pass these exams, or to get up to the required standard (by possible, I mean 'realistic')? What would it involve? Or would I be better off sending him to a private prep school/a tutorial school for two years? He has a secure base but many gaps. He can think creatively, and argue well, but he has poor handwriting and spelling and, in my opinion, low confidence in maths.

Ferguson Fri 14-Mar-14 23:08:43

An above average standard of reading, writing and numeracy are the main requirements to aim for when taking the 11+. However, most areas also do 'verbal and non-verbal reasoning' tests, and these WILL need to be prepared for, as it's not something covered in most primary schools.

His handwriting is something you can work on, and spelling can be helped by a book reviewed in MN 'Children's educational books and courses', the Oxford Phonics Spelling Dictionary. Encourage him to look CLOSELY at how words are spelt, finding patterns, exceptions etc, and he could compile his own 'dictionary' of new words he has learnt. Also, a junior Thesaurus and a Rhyming Dictionary appropriate to his age would be useful, to extend vocabulary as much as possible.

Find out as much as you can from your local grammar schools, as to standards required, and how best to reach those standards. Our DS was only 7 or 8 when we looked at our local grammar, and the Head said this was the youngest he had received for an enquiry. DS got in, had a successful school and Uni career, and good progression in jobs.

I'll give below my standard maths info, though it is aimed at younger less able kids originally. It might fill in gaps or help consolidate his numeracy understanding however, so take from it what you need:


Practical things are best for grasping number concepts - bricks, Lego, beads, counters, money, shapes, weights, measuring, cooking.

Do adding, taking away, multiplication (repeated addition), division (sharing), using REAL OBJECTS as just 'numbers' can be too abstract for some children.

Number Bonds of Ten forms the basis of much maths work, so try to learn them. Using Lego or something similar, use a LOT of bricks (of just TWO colours, if you have enough) lay them out so the pattern can be seen of one colour INCREASING while the other colour DECREASES. Lay them down, or build up like steps.


ten of one colour none of other
nine of one colour one of other
eight of one colour two of other
seven of one colour three of other

etc, etc

then of course, the sides are equal at 5 and 5; after which the colours 'swap over' as to increasing/decreasing.

To learn TABLES, do them in groups that have a relationship, thus:

x2, x4, x8

x3, x6, x12

5 and 10 are easy

7 and 9 are rather harder.

Starting with TWO times TABLE, I always say: "Imagine the class is lining up in pairs; each child will have a partner, if there is an EVEN number in the class. If one child is left without a partner, then the number is ODD, because an odd one is left out."

Use Lego bricks again, lay them out in a column of 2 wide to learn 2x table. Go half way down the column, and move half the bricks up, so that now the column is 4 bricks wide. That gives the start of 4x table.

Then do similar things with 3x and 6x.

With 5x, try and count in 'fives', and notice the relationship with 'ten' - they will alternate, ending in 5 then 10.

It is important to try and UNDERSTAND the relationships between numbers, and not just learn them 'by rote'.

I am sorry it seems complicated trying to explain these concepts, but using Lego or counters should make understanding easier.

An inexpensive solar powered calculator (no battery to run out!) can help learn tables by 'repeated addition'. So: enter 2+2 and press = to give 4. KEEP PRESSING = and it should add on 2 each time, giving 2 times table.

There are good web sites, which can be fun to use :


PS: make 'number cards' with a large numeral on one side, equal number of dots/pics on the other. Give him the random numerals: can he place the correct number of bricks/beads on it? Make a 'washing line' and using the same number cards in random order, give him clothes pegs to peg up the numbers in the correct order. (Change 'gender' as appropriate; this was written for someone else originally)

Year 2 will probably be starting 'data handling'. You can tackle that by counting and 'tallying' things that interest you: traffic (cars, trucks, bikes etc); animals, pets, plants, birds seen on a walk; types of shop in a street, colours of front doors. Then draw bar charts or pictorial representations.

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