The grammar school test and the maths

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.

Entrance exam, Son, Secondary school, 365

Author: Sarah Mummy

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  1. That is one of the advantages of our local system – we have middle schools so they move up a school at the end of year 4 and from then on in Maths is streamed so those who need more help and those who need to be challenged more are all taught at an appropriate level. Of course we have no grammars so doesn’t help on that front, but I do think streaming is important for those at both ends of the spectrum.

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    • Streaming is definitely important! We have two classes in each year group and they always had two sets for maths until this year, but for some reason (maybe the new curriculum), they’ve scrapped that, which I don’t think does any favours for anyone apart from the very average children in the middle!

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  2. Surely it was only 5 minutes ago you were posting about your son doing the grammar school exam. Where does the time go. I think sending your daughter to a tutor for an hour a week is a good balance. I know my daughter (also in year 5) is taken out of class each week as she is taught higher maths. There is a group of them that go out, so I guess maths is taught at different levels. As you said she will be a credit to whichever school she goes to in just over 18 months (eek) x

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    • It does only seem five minutes since I posted about my son doing the grammar school exam! I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone from his turn to my daughter’s turn. That’s really good that they do a higher maths group at your daughter’s school. This is something which we could really do with at our school too. x

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  3. That’s exactly the attitude I had with regard to my son, not to say I didn’t question myself every now and again like you. As you know, he didn’t get in and I think that’s very much the right thing for him. He’s clever but not diligent particularly. Good luck to her. X

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    • Thanks very much! I think what will be will be and she will thrive wherever she is. In the meantime, the extra work won’t do her any harm at all! x

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  4. I can’t believe she’s already ready for that big step. She is so hard working and I love your stance on it. If it’s meant to be then it will be and I think she will shine no matter where she goes x

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    • Thanks very much. I know, she still seems like my baby, I’m not sure how that happened! x

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  5. It’s a difficult one isn’t it? It’s certainly not a stage I am looking forward. I am surprised about the maths though, that they teach all at one level. CC’s BFF is far ahead in maths. He has already done 2, 5 and 10 times tables, when the rest of the class are either still on basic addition and subtraction or just learning the concept of multiplication.

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    • I don’t understand the maths teaching. They always used to stream them. I’m sure it’s not doing her any good!

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  6. Oh, I don’t envy you at all! The Grammar School system is so very good for those who it suits, I agree. I’m sure with some extra tuition and her personality (which I’ve gleaned this last yr thru your blog!) your daughter has the determination to study and get what she wants.

    As for the streaming, it must depend on each school. At our school they stream from yr 2 – although of course they don’t call it that any more. So the child are supported according to their needs. Whilst it may have been a surprise to you that maths isn’t your daugther’s strongest subject, at least now you know and can provide her with extra support. I think you’re doing the right thing, supporting but not pushing too hard.
    Best of luck!

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    • Thanks very much! She’s working at her maths, but doing it because she wants to. They were always streamed in maths from year 3, so I’m not sure why they aren’t any more 🙁

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  7. The bit at the end was right. What will be will be. If she passes she will be fantastic. If not she will go and shine using her other skills in the comp. Good luck to her and I hope she gets what ever makes her happy! x

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    • Thanks very much! I know getting into grammar school will make her happy, but if she doesn’t, she will pick herself up, dust herself off and do her best at a comprehensive! x

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  8. Oh wow, I hadn’t even thought about things like this, year five seems so early to be thinking about sitting entrance exams for grammar school, but of course it’s got to be done early so they know who is going to the school. I suppose it’s not necessarily that your daughter isn’t good at maths, because nobody knows things that they haven’t been taught do they? It may well be that once she’s taught these things, she picks them up very easily. And as you quite rightly say, the important thing is that she will be happy wherever she goes.x

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    • Thanks very much, that’s definitely the main thing! Obviously she doesn’t know what she hasn’t been taught, but it’s more the case that she seems to lack the strategies to work things out which surprised me, but she’s getting better all the time! x

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