It’s hard to believe it, but my daughter will sit the grammar school entrance exam this year. Hard to believe because her big brother only started at grammar school in September. But it’s really going to happen and we need to help her prepare for it.
I know people have very mixed views on grammar schools, but my view is this. They are available in this area and they suit two of my kids. (We took the decision when my eldest was in year 3 not to push for grammar school. He’s bright, but doesn’t like working.) Everyone does what’s right for their own kids.
Grammar school suits my younger son down to the ground. He is thriving there. He’s learning so much and taking part in things we never thought he would, like a school musical, as well as things we knew he would – playing for the year 7 A team rugby.
My daughter isn’t quite as bright as my son, who is crazily intelligent, but she’s still top of her class at primary school. Most importantly, she has the personality for grammar school. She is hard working and determined. She wants to take part in everything – sport, drama, music – and will give it all 100%. She will be an absolute credit to whichever school she goes to.
My son is desperate for her to go to his school and really believes she will make it. I would love that more than anything, but suspect she will end up at one of the other grammar schools locally.
I don’t believe in tutoring kids to within an inch of their lives to get to grammar school. They’ve either got it or they haven’t. But tutoring and online resources are useful for understanding exactly what they will face in the test. Because state primary schools don’t teach the sorts of things they will come across in the test.
So we’re not pushing my daughter hard, but she is going to a very nice tutor for an hour a week and doing some work online.
And I’ve realised something scary. She’s not that good at maths.
My younger son can look at numbers and sums and he seems to know everything about those numbers. He has five techniques for solving every sum. Although I’m no mathematician, I have the same ability when it comes to arithmetic. I can see patterns instantly and just add and multiply three figure numbers in my head.
My daughter isn’t like that. I was surprised that she struggles with place value and fractions. It’s pretty basic stuff.
I mentioned it to her teacher at parents’ evening, who said she would give her a maths sheet for homework every week. My daughter is top of the class at maths, so my discovery surprised her teacher as much as me.
And then I saw the maths sheet from school and I know why she can’t do the harder sums. It’s so easy!
The difference between what they are taught in year 5 at a state primary school and what they need to do to pass a grammar school test is HUGE. My daughter did the maths sheets (fractions and place value) in about five minutes – and got it all right.
I’m not sure if it’s the new national curriculum or if it’s something our school is doing, but they now teach everyone the same maths. In a class of year 5s, you will have kids who are only at year 2 standard and you will have kids who are at year 7 or even year 8 standard. It makes no sense to teach them all the same.
For a second I wondered to myself whether she should have some extra maths tuition. And then I had a word with myself. What will be will be. We will carry on working a little bit at home and her maths skills will gradually improve.
If she’s got what it takes on the day, she will make it to grammar school. And if she hasn’t, she will be an absolute credit to whichever comprehensive school she ends up at.