The 11+ process in Hertfordshire
The 11+ is a hot topic in Hertfordshire both at the school gates, on various online parent forums and in the local media. Debates are centred around educational political topics such as to what extent the 11+ system is elitist and contributes to social disparity and more practical ones such as the different exam formats, what parents can best do to prepare their child for the test and whether or not an exam can be made “tutor-proof”, like many of the selective schools would have us believe. These types of debates, and the 11+ exam itself, is often associated with the grammar school system. In Hertfordshire however, there are no grammar schools. This makes the 11+ process here unique and school places secured through the 11+ route are like gold dust.
While grammar schools are fully selective, the schools in Hertfordshire only select part of their intake by setting entrance examinations. The remaining part of the school’s intake is based on the usual criteria such as catchment area and sibling policy. The selective schools in the area have an outstanding reputation and competition for the few places that are up for grabs is fierce.
As with the standard 11+ exam, children will take the test in September of year 6. However parents need to register their child early to be able to take the exam, usually in June. Parents will receive their child’s test results sometime in October and can then make an informed decision of whether to apply and if so, which selective schools to apply for. There is usually no official pass mark, instead schools will publish previous years’ intake results which act as a guideline. For many of the selective schools in the area such as the South West Herts Consortium schools (http://www.swhertsschools.org.uk/) other admissions criteria like priority postcodes will also come into play, even for places allocated through the 11+. This means that places are offered to students with the highest test scores who also live in one of the listed postcodes. Each school has different admission requirements and it is crucial to familiarise yourself with these before applying.
Some of the most academic and popular selective schools in Hertfordshire are outlined below:
Hockerill Anglo-European College, Bishop’s Stortford
Parmiter’s School, Garston
Rickmansworth School, Rickmansworth
Queens’ School, Bushey
Bushey Meads School, Bushey
Watford Grammar School for Boys, Watford
7.The Broxbourne School, Broxbourne
Watford Grammar School for Girls, Watford
Dame Alice Owen’s School, Potters Bar
St Clement Danes School, Chorleywood
The Chancellor’s School, Hatfield
The John Warner School, Hoddesdon
Bishop’s Stortford High School, Bishop’s Stortford (Boys)
Goffs School, Cheshunt
The Hertfordshire & Essex High School and Science College (Girls) Bishop’s Stortford
Competition for places for these schools, under the aptitude test criteria, range from 12 to 4 applicants per place offered and the number of applicants is constantly on the rise. With this level of competition, what can parents do to help their child and what role do tuition centres play?
As previously mentioned, in recent years schools have changed the test format and style to try and ensure that it is “tutor-proof”. In Hertfordshire this meant moving to CEM Durham style papers for many of the tests, which are more closely aligned with the national curriculum and have less of an emphasis on Verbal Reasoning. The papers are notoriously difficult to come by. This move is thought to help establish a student’s natural aptitude and intelligence and help even out the performance gap between those who can afford tuition and those who cannot. As a result, the examination process has become very opaque and many think that no amount of preparation can help a child do well in the test.
Despite this recent change in testing, the role of private tutors and tuition centres is still as important as ever. It is estimated that in Hertfordshire around half of all the students taking the 11+ exam have been tutored in preparation. Evidence (such as the surveys conducted by the Local Equal Excellent group in Buckinghamshire) also shows that the introduction of so called “tutor-proof” tests have done little to help disadvantaged students pass the test. Students from private schools or those who have received some form of coaching still seem to come out on top. At the Bright Young Things tuition centre in St Albans we offer small group tuition for year 4 and year 5 students preparing for the 11+. Our experienced teachers cover Maths, English and Verbal Reasoning in a fun and relaxed environment, with the aim of boosting a pupil’s skills and confidence. The work students do with us not only helps them stand in good stead for the 11+ exam, but for secondary school in general.
There is plenty of work parents can do with children at home as well:
Read with your child to help boost vocabulary. The CEM Durham test used by many Hertfordshire schools places a lot of emphasis on vocabulary.
Practice a wide range of 11+ questions so that students become familiar with the type of questions that may come up and the pace they need to follow in the exam. There are plenty of good online resources as well as books such as Bond Books, Schofield and Sims and the Bright Young Things (http://www.the11pluswebsite.co.uk/buy-papers/)
Make learning fun! Use quizzes, games and competitions. E.g. Education Quizzes
Finally, try and take the pressure off your child and build their confidence. Reassure them that passing the exam is not the be all and end all. They can only try their best.
Bright Young Things St Albans offer weekly 11+ classes. Free assessment for new students. Prices start from £11.20/hour. Childcare vouchers accepted.