As some of you will be all too aware it was the all important Results Day for the Kent 11 Plus yesterday.
Like it or loathe it, Kent has many Grammar schools and they certainly attract their fair share of people to the area to take advantage of these. However what we don’t all realise in the early days is the stress and strain this focus is likely to have on our families from at least the beginning of Year 5. Some will choose not to put their children through the process for a whole variety of reasons, but for those who do, so the marathon begins – weekly timetables are drawn up, tutors employed, practice books purchased……
The light at the end of the tunnel is meant to be 11 Plus Results Day. In Kent this was yesterday and hopefully for many for whom Grammar School is suited, it brought that all important pass which will enable them to apply for a Grammar School place in a couple of weeks time. But for some yesterday, they will be unexpectedly or not as the case may be, be far from the end of their journey…..
The emotional turmoil for all children to see classmates pass something when they did not quite achieve this time, is always difficult, but never more so than in Year 6 where everybody is planning for their next onward journey and the result of that one test can mean so much at that particular point in time. Those who did not take part in the process will very likely already be very clear about where the next part of their academic life will lead them, as state non Grammar Schools in this area are generally not selective. Those children who will be continuing in, or entering the Independent System will very likely have their examinations and interviews or pre tests for age 13 in the next few weeks already planned. Still a period of uncertainty for them lies ahead, but less so in my opinion than those families whose life feels slightly in turmoil today.
Let’s face it, the 11 plus is a multiple choice test on one day and there will be children out there who have missed the pass mark. So, what now? I am not an educational specialist, but I have been through the 11 plus process with my children and trust me I considered all the options!
Firstly, even though you may feel disappointed and worried about where you go from here, try to stay strong for your child.
Secondly put in place a plan of action if you haven’t already. You may have a back up option clearly at the forefront of your mind and if that is the case you are in the best place and can stop reading here! If not read on…..
The Secondary School Application Form is due in imminently. If you are not already aware of your other options and you have missed the State open days, then ask around, look at OFSTED’s, check online information about the school and check their admission criteria area wise and religion wise. In our vicinity there is Bennett ( mainly church related criteria for consideration of applicants can be found online), St Gregory’s, Skinners Kent Academy, all in Tunbridge Wells and then Beacon in Crowbrough and Uplands Community College in Wadhurst. Call them before half term to see if, for example, their catchment has extended to your area before or whether you could fit their Church criteria if relevant. Shortlist these in order so you are in a position to complete the form.
Consider and research whether your child scored marks that put you in a position to appeal. Discuss this with your school for more information and have other back ups. From what I understand this is a long process and outside help is probably a good idea.
Alongside this, there may be some of you considering whether to apply for a private school place. Similarly I would advise you to do your research quickly if you haven’t already. Some independent schools only take pupils from 13, some from 11 and 13. Some applications will need to go in urgently. What are your options?
Applying for a place for Year 7 Entry
Application deadlines will be rapidly approaching (some may have gone but still worth a phone call.) Interviews and exams will be taking place in the Autumn Term and after Christmas 2017. My advice is to try to narrow to two or three. Don’t over burden your child in your panic to sit too many entrance exams and interviews. Plus you will regularly be paying an Application Fee per school!
Of course you are not limited to being in a certain catchment area for independent schools, but rather the ease of getting to the school by bus, car or train. Most private schools have their own bus system so check areas and be realistic. Their school days tend to be longer, their extra curricular is often after school as well, sport fixtures post 4 pm and sometimes on Saturdays – how much time can your child give up travelling? Is boarding an option?
There are of course any number of independent schools depending how far you wish to travel. The ones that are on my radar for our area that it may be helpful for you to consider for entry at Year 7 are:
Notre Dame School in Lingfield
Beechwood School in Tunbridge Wells
Caterham School in Caterham
Sutton Valence School in Maidstone
Sevenoaks School in Sevenoaks
Bethany School in Goudhurst
Radnor House in Sevenoaks
Kent College in Pembury
Walthamstow Hall in Sevenoaks
Without stating the obvious, ask around to ensure your child is suited academically at these schools before applying, but do not write schools off just because your child did not pass the 11 plus so you think they may not succeed at the next application stage. Independent exams are often different from the 11 plus. There is often a written paper for English, less reliance on multiple choice, a chance to show your workings in maths and of course the all important interview. There is a chance to apply for scholarships if your child is gifted in a particular area for eg sport or drama and your current school will write a report. There is a more rounded picture being taken. They are searching for children who will flourish in their school and that includes the co curricular. A happy child means a child who learns well too as we all know. Class sizes are generally smaller and if your child needs that little more help this can be provided. Don’t forget to consider Bursaries if financially, independent schools are not for you. It’s worth making that call or checking out their websites.
Applying for a Year 9 Entry
If you are currently in a state school you will need to consider moving your child to a prep school where they have a Year 7 and 8 and will prepare your child for entry to a independent school in Year 9. This may be to one of the schools above for Year 9 entry which most private schools have, or to a school which only starts at 13 for eg Tonbridge School ( all boys) or Eastbourne College (mixed). Rose Hill -Tunbridge Wells, Hilden Grange – Tonbridge and Holmewood House – Langton Green all offer Years 7-9 but you are likely to have to sit entrance exams and should contact them as soon as possible.
For some this may be an attractive option as it may give your child a chance to mature in a smaller environment. Consider whether this may help them apply for their secondary place at 13 where they may not have been able to gain a place at at 11, but may have more success in another year or two. *NOTE ( 13 plus schools like Tonbridge often have pre-tests that are set at 11. This application process may have already closed, but it is worth giving them a ring to find out more.)
For some, this blog may be teaching you how to suck eggs, but for others who are feeling in a muddle today as they hadn’t considered another path, I hope you find this useful. For others it may help give you an idea of your options in advance.
Before becoming a photographer I was a teacher and I have brought two children up in Kent and battled my way through the 11 plus and experienced both Grammar School and independent schools and the minefield that is the application process for secondary schools in Kent. *The information above must of course be checked for reliability with the schools themselves etc to confirm the current advice, dates and other relevant issues. It is by no means meant to be the only advice or reference all the possible options or schools open to you.*
You will get there in the end. Things will work out, they generally always do. Stay strong for your child; that’s the most important thing and good luck.
Nic Bisseker Photography, Tunbridge Wells.
Nic is a portrait photographer in Kent. She photographs families, babies, children and dogs both in her home studio and in the great outdoors.