Vania - Headteacher & Mock Interviewer
Around this time of year, parents with children reaching the end of Year 5 are often thinking long and hard (and sometimes with trepidation) of the best way of preparing their child for the move to secondary school in September 2021. For some, this may mean focusing on 11+ examinations (whether state or private) and for others it may simply mean thinking about the ways in which they can support their child academically in order to ensure that this transition runs as smoothly and successfully as possible.
This year, adding to the usual concerns over transition and the 11+ examinations in general (a pretty normal response to an overheated and competitive system) is the additional worry over the extent to which the global COVID-19 pandemic has set back the current Year 5s. Apart from closing the doors of all the schools you might have liked to visit, it has cast a question mark over how well “remote education” has done its job for pupils at such a key time.
With the lockdown now easing, and schools re-opening their doors to visitors — at least remotely — it is a good time to start considering your options. If you are lucky, you may have been steered in the right direction already by someone at your child’s school who has a good understanding of their profile. Or you may be an old hand at the game having seen older siblings off to secondary school and beyond. If neither of these apply, an education consultation, particularly in relation to the independent sector, can be useful. Exceptional Academics consultations are based on strong knowledge of the various schools concerned and are then cross-referenced with a good look at individual pupil profile.
This kind of early conversation can save you from unnecessary applications and examinations which can be demoralising — not to mention expensive. Concern over placement can sometimes drive parents to take a scattergun approach to school applications applying to some which are not right for their child at that time. It is important to be aspirational on their behalf, but it can be discouraging for children if they miss the mark too often. No child should feel a failure at the age of ten. Crafting an appropriate and considered schools application list based on a thorough understanding of the child is the best way forward and brings optimal chance of success in the form of offers. There are many wonderful schools out there and with an open-minded approach you can put together a list which is aspirational but with some safer choices too — rather like the UCAS system of application!
Given the various aspects of the transition which are beyond the control of parents, please do remember that there are plenty of things you CAN control. Good academic routines with appropriate levels of challenge, parental encouragement, lots of reading, the chance to develop their own particular passions as well as developing and articulating ideas will get your child to where they need to be. If you are unsure, either about their academic trajectory or in terms of school applications, then do reach out for some professional advice. It can be a very positive start to the process.