Some thoughts on the new 11+ proposals

Much has been made in the press over the last few months about a proposed shake up of how the 11+ examinations are structured and a new assessment style that focuses on ‘what if’ questions rather than a more traditional approach.

The North London Girls’ School Consortium, which is made up of twelve independent day schools, are replacing their more traditional exam papers with a one-hour ‘bespoke cognitive ability’ test with ‘what if’ style questions that will be much harder to prepare for.

This will come as a shock to many tuition agencies and tutors who rigorously work through past papers and practice assessment books.

At the moment we see a parenting culture consumed by double standards; we’re bombarded by messages about adolescent mental health and want to avoid, at all costs, the negative impact of piling the pressure onto our kids. However, at the same time, in an ever-changing and increasingly competitive world, we need to ensure our kids are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for a smooth transition into the world of work.

Currently, the 11+ season is fraught with anxiety for all those involved. With consortium schools in our area assessing at the start of the academic year and offers for the rest out in the spring, not to mention private school assessments in between, this horror can endure for up to 6 months. And that’s a pretty formative 6 months in the life of a pre-teen.

Not only should there be, as part of the curriculum, an increased and concerted focus in years 4-5 on teaching resilience and adaptability, but ultimately a move towards assessment focusing more broadly on ‘cognitive ability’ will hopefully avoid the emotional pitfalls of over-prepping.

And while of course Watling Tutors endorses the use of private tuition where necessary, both to plug gaps in knowledge and boost confidence, we welcome any changes that acknowledge the enormous pressure families face at this time of year and any positive steps towards brighter, happier Year 6 and 7 students.

Hopefully the changes will be a great success and more schools will follow suit.