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☰ The Five Ps - Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!

Head's Blog

The Five Ps - Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance!

Posted on March 03 2017

So, the wait is finally over! No, not the final placings of the FA cup quarter finals being confirmed this week (well done to Manchester City by the way, for finally overcoming the might of Huddersfield town!).  This week, the Year 6 children at Forest Park received their secondary school places from Trafford.  Once again, the children have been rewarded with an array of first choice school places and we have maintained an excellent record of success with the local grammar schools - 84% having accepted a state or independent grammar school place this year!

The hard work, preparation, blood, sweat and tears have paid off.  I am extremely proud of the Year 6 children’s efforts and hard work this year.  However, the cycle continues again with the Year 5 pupils at Forest Park beginning to gather momentum with their examination preparation.  Whether you are frantically preparing for the examination process of 2017, or starting a more leisurely journey towards exams in 2018 or 2019, here is some helpful advice from us at Forest Park.

1. When to start 11-plus preparations?

If your child is sitting 11-plus in 2017, the best time to start preparing for these exams at home depends entirely on their current attainment levels.  He or she may only need a few hours of exam practice a week, but to ensure the best possible performance levels they are likely to benefit from several months of regular weekly focused teaching.  The good news is that we, at Forest Park, ensure that this takes place by starting exam preparation at the end of Year 4 and continues into Year 5.

2. Work on verbal dexterity 

Parts of the new CEM style 11-plus English paper can be extremely challenging for 10-year-olds (yes, most are only ten years of age when they take the 11-plus in September). They involve spelling, punctuation and grammar and comprehension that requires them to be confident about their literacy skills.  An excellent way to improve verbal dexterity is to tell, or read, your child a story and then talk about it afterwards.  Get them to describe to you what happened and explain how it made them feel.  As well as helping them to unlock their emotions, effective story-telling brings a satisfying increase in marks.  In my experience, analysing the accuracy, creativity and consistency with punctuation within a text also allows them to achieve better grades on composition papers.

3. Ensure complete understanding of maths operations

You need to make sure that your child understands the core concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – and can apply this knowledge under pressure, particularly in problem- solving-type questions.  Go over times tables regularly using games, cards and posters to assist with this.

4. Revise verbal and non-verbal reasoning papers

Many think these exams test innate ability and, therefore, cannot be coached for.  But I believe it is vital to provide opportunities for practice – easily done as there are plenty of resources available on the market and that we can provide in school.  There is no magic to it, but every child at Forest Park is familiarised with the different types of reasoning questions expected.  This is one of the most important components of 11-plus preparation as these subjects are not part of the National Curriculum in England and Wales.

5. Keep calm

Preparation for the 11-plus can be an anxious time for all concerned but it is essential that you do not convey this to your child (easier said than done).  A few words of gentle encouragement, frequent praise and an explanation that exams are not the be all and end all will go a long way to improve your child’s confidence and their results.  Help your child to unwind by making sure they take regular breaks; tired children can easily get frustrated and find it harder to concentrate.  Try to protect them from the stresses and strains of the real world as much as you can.

6. Limit the use of technology

An iPad in the room while your child is trying to work can prove an unhelpful distraction.  It is not good to switch from making ‘brain and pen’ connections to computer games because both activities stimulate different parts of the brain.  Your child will need to perfect the management of calm retrieval of data.  They also need time to absorb information – some downtime to process the work they have completed and to let the information sink in.  This is best done if breaks involve a walk or some other exercise.

7. Organise mock exams

Anything you can do to help your child reduce the natural anxiety they may feel around the 11-plus will be a good thing.  One of the best ways to do this is with a mock exam.  Forest Park ensure that the children experience these formal exam conditions in the school hall on a number of occasions.  We try to keep things formal, give timings and ensure everyone works quickly and in silence.  We also throw in a couple of unexpected questions – the aim being to help children prepare for what happens when things look unusual, or when problems arise.  We always go through the papers afterwards to identify strengths and weaknesses.

8. And if your child doesn’t pass the 11-plus?

Stay calm; my advice is to accept the result and praise your child for all their hard work.  It was not meant to be and the right school will always turn up in the end.  There are plenty of other good schools that will be a perfect fit for your child and with a bit of help you can make a plan to get them back on the road to academic success and emotional well-being.

You can find further information about how we prepare children for the 11-plus at Forest Park on our website

Nick Tucker

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