A Parent’s Guide to Coping with the 11 Plus

As the parent of a child taking the 11+ exam you will probably find the process stressful. Here are some very important points that can help you and your child survive your 11+ journey with as little stress as possible.

Seek Information

It is critical that you know exactly how the admissions process for grammar schools works in your area. Information really is power during the 11 Plus process, and these are the three key steps you need to take to be fully informed:

  • Find out what the Admission Rules are for your preferred schools to check if you will have any chance of gaining a place. You will find more information to help you do this in our 11+ Schools section. Places may be allocated by 11+ score, by distance or by another criterion such as religious commitment, sibling priority or priority feeder schools.
  • Admission Rules can change from year to year, so do not check them three years before your child is due to take the test and assume that the same rules are still in force when the time comes around.
  • Find out about the testing process for your preferred schools – what the tests consist of and when they take place. Again, look out for changes to the tests, because the content can vary considerably.

Manage your stress

Although both you and your child may feel that their future schooling is at best uncertain and at worst, almost dependent on a “lottery” (now a reality in some non-selective areas, of course), you must face both the best and worst possible outcomes with as much calm and equanimity as you can muster. It may help to put the testing process in context within your family. Compared with the blessings of good health, financial security and a roof over your heads, the outcome of the 11+ is relatively low on the scale of family crisis. Try to retain a sense of perspective at all times.

Manage your child’s stress

Most children taking the 11 Plus will experience some stress during the process. Even if you are the most laid-back parent for miles around, they will hear playground chatter about the 11+ and hear friends expressing their anxieties about their future schooling. Unfortunately you cannot assume that simply because you are staying calm, your child feels the same way.

  • Reassure them of their future, regardless of the outcome of the 11 Plus – your “Plan B” for their future schooling. It may be difficult to convince them that your failing catchment school will be a good alternative to your/their preferred grammar school, but convince them you must! Your child needs to know that you are in control of the situation and that you have their future securely mapped out for them
  • Reassure them you will be proud of them no matter what happens, because of their hard work at school, for their work in preparing for the test and for their courage in taking it. A positive result – should your child qualify – is a bonus, and not validation of your relationship with your child.
  • It is often the case that parents promise some expensive gift for the child at the end of the process. It is a personal decision for each family of course, but please consider very carefully the terms you set for the child to receive the gift. If the gift is offered in return for passing the 11 Plus, how will you deal with the situation if your child does not qualify in the test and then faces the additional upset of not receiving the promised gift as well? It is the view of many of our Forum members (and the strongly held belief of the editor of this site, an 11+ “survivor” herself) that such presents should reward effort, not achievement.

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