Hello Halifaxmum! Lots of sound advice here already, but just thought I'd add my two penn'orth while I'm online.
Like you, I heard others talking about the whole high school business when my son was in Y4. Some pupils even moved house, moved school - pretty drastic measures - in order to get into better high schools. We decided just to make the best of what was available, thus the 11+ presented itself as an opportunity to be taken, with nothing to lose.
when we attempted some extra work and sample questions at home with him, he was clearly not emotionally ready for the pressure of timed tests (basically, he cried!!). So we left it for a while, helped him with his schoolwork and encouraged him to do his best. Then he really started to take off at school in Y5, which reassured us that he might still be capable of the 11+. We got sample VR papers (Lett's) during the summer hols before he went into Y6 and used BBC Bitesize for Maths revision, especially the KS3 aspects like algebra. We used some Bond Maths papers too, but he personally found these really hard and a bit demoralising, so in the end we concentrated on VR, which he really enjoyed. You have to play to your child's strengths.
Also try to protect them from the stress of it all. There were children in tears at both the pretest and the real thing, which I found heartbreaking and did make me think 'what are we putting them through?' In the end I coached my son to stay calm, telling him that the clever bit of his brain would stop working if he got upset (I believe the basic premise of this is actually true) and that all we were asking was that he try his very best. You can't ask for more than that!
We built up his speed very gradually - eg by doing 25 questions in 50 mins, then in 40 mins etc until we got to the actual time allowed in the test itself. And his dad made a throwaway remark about a 'cash reward'
, which of course our son didn't forget, and in the end I hate to admit that that was probably his main motivation! All our principles out of the window, but, hey, it worked. Or at least I'm hoping it worked. He came in top 310, just, so I'm hopeful of a place. Will know on Monday - and then you will know whether my advice is any good or not!
I'll be doing this again in about 2 years' time and am planning to do pretty much the same again with second son.