Anastasia Hatvany and Catherine Kelsey are among the team of specialist Gabbitas education consultants answering many questions for parents wishing to obtain the best guidance and advice for educating their children at state and independent schools. Here are two examples covering common entrance exams and tutoring. Don’t forget to contact us for free and impartial advice.
Many schools require common entrance exams to get in; how can I help my child prepare?
First and foremost, all good prep schools are focused on helping all their students prepare for the common entrance exam and will be very aware of the work required to help their students sit this important exam. Schools start the process from year 7 to ensure that their pupils have a thorough understanding of the academic requirements across all the key subjects. They are fully aware of their students potential and will in most cases have had a major role to play in helping choose the right senior school for each student taking the exam.
Parents however also have an important role to play in helping prepare their child for any exam in minimising stress and anxiety and to ensure their child is calm, confident and ready. Some of the best advice from Prep School Heads, with whom we work closely, is to encourage families to keep their child engaged in some form of learning outside the classroom, especially during the long summer and winter holidays. Reading is key and most schools offer a list of books they encourage their students to read during this time away. It is also a good idea to read to your child so that the process is two way giving them the opportunity to ask questions and debate the issues covered in the text.
Comprehension is key. Watching films together as a family and then discussing the storyline and the emotional content is another positive fun way parents can help their child develop important skills. Going to exhibitions is another good way of engaging your child in important dialogue – ask then what the exhibits mean to them, what do they feel when looking at a specific painting or sculpture or artefact. Practising creative writing is another good option for the holidays. Take on a project as family that involves active discovery and research – helping broaden minds is always useful no matter what the subject. It does not have to be curriculum based.
It is also advisable to obtain past papers for the exam to get a clear idea of the possible questions that might be included and to use these for practice. Prep schools will have access to the papers or can advise how to obtain them from the Independent School Education Board. By completing past papers children can see how much time it takes to answer all the questions and can as result of the practice be better prepared and therefore more relaxed about the exam ahead.
I would like to enlist the help of a tutor for my daughter taking the 11+ next year but I am unsure where to start – what would you recommend?
As you have another year before your child is due to sit the exam be careful not to put them under too much pressure. The School will be preparing your child for the exam and will have a plan of action to ensure she is ready. Discussion with the school to find out if there are areas of concern at this stage is the first port of call. The school will be able to guide you in looking at the subject areas where help might be beneficial.
Is she struggling with Maths or English or is there another subject which she finds difficult?
It is important not to provide your child with too much extra support so that they become overloaded and therefore not able to cope with the pressure. If you feel a tutor could help then it is very important to select a reputable company offering tutoring support who have tutors with the right level of experience.
Choosing the right tutor is paramount as it is important that they understand the current demands for the 11+ and the body of work required to pass the exam and are therefore able to offer the right level of tuition. Finding a tutor who can work with your daughter is also key – it is not just about the academic input it is also important that they are able to relate to your child. Do they share an interest in common such as dance or sport? Personality is just as important as academic qualifications in selecting the right tutor.
Once you have identified the right tutor be careful not to make the sessions too long. 40 minutes for a subject is about the right level and there needs to be a break between subjects if you are looking for help in more than one area. It is important to be realistic in what can be achieved so that your child is not overwhelmed by the process. Plan carefully so that you can get the best from the tutoring relationship and make sure you have some fun activities timetabled to balance out the study time.
This article from the education consultant team at Gabbitas, first appeared in the Spring 2020 edition of Absolutely Education