The short answer is it depends. Every child is so different, that there are some factors you need to consider, and I’ll outline them below.
1. What type of school does your child attend?
If your child attends a state school, they will need some extra support to pass the 11 Plus, whether that’s from a parent or a tutor. This is because state schools have a remit to prepare children to pass the SATS – not the 11 Plus. Since the 11 Plus stopped being mandatory in the 1960s, and with the emergence of the National Curriculum later on, their remit changed. Additionally, topics such as a verbal and non-verbal reasoning is not part of the National Curriculum, so state schools won’t cover those subjects.
Children who go to prepatory schools have a different experience, as their schools are supposed to prepare them for the 11 Plus. I use the term ‘supposed to’ intentionally because, from our experience, it does vary. Schools that have a senior school expect your child to go through the entire school experience – so from reception to sixth form – unless they give notice for your child to leave! Some of them, for this reason, slow down their preparation for the 11 Plus exams, so children may not be ready for 11 Plus exams in September or January because they don’t want your child to leave. Many parents who start to work more closely with their children in year 4 or 5 often call us in a panic when they realise the gaps in their child’s knowledge!
Prep schools that end in year 6 usually prepare children for the 11 Plus because they require children to get good destination secondary schools, at grammar or independent schools. Those that don’t, obviously, face a reduction in applications for subsequent years.
2. Has your child fallen behind in school?
If your child has fallen behind at school (be it a state primary or prep school) he will need targeted support to help them bridge those gaps before they can start focussing on the 11 Plus content. Not all parents have the knowledge or time to make this process effective. You may have to teach yourself verbal and non-verbal reasoning, for example, using what’s available in bookstores and online. A good tutor will have years’ worth of a mixture of papers, which can be like gold dust!
3. Do you have time to devote to working with your child through papers and corrections?
For working parents, the thought of spending an hour a day, after a long day at work, going through papers and teaching their child can be exhausting to think about, let alone actually doing it. It’s for this reason that many parents opt for a private tutor, who can get the job done with minimal stress.
4. Do you have the knowledge in all the topics – especially verbal and non verbal reasoning?
In our experience, maths and English are the subjects that parents tend to enjoy working with their children on the most. Some parents feel daunted by the verbal and non verbal reasoning papers because of the codes, and the fact that they may never have come across them before.
There is basically a choice that parents have to make between learning the verbal and non verbal reasoning codes and them teaching their children, or using the services of an expert 11 Plus tuition provider like Geek School to manage the process and make sure that the correct methods and exposure to a mix of papers is provided. It really isn’t enough to work through just the GL packs, for example, for the majority of children, as there are less than 10 papers all together. It’s much better to use a mix of papers to help children think about what they are doing, rather than getting high scores because they’ve been doing the same style of papers and grow used to the style of the papers.
Whatever your decision, the 11 Plus should be as stress fees for parents and children as possible, so choose the best method of supporting your child and stay consistent!