You may or may not have recently read that a number of leading girls’ schools were planning to scrap their entrance exams, with the changes to come into effect in 2019 . The story, reported by the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, explained that the North London Girls’ School Consortium, which is made up of 12 independent day schools, was going to do away with the traditional exam papers. In their place would be a ‘bespoke cognitive ability’ test, which would be much more difficult to prepare for.
The reason for the change is to reduce the pressure currently put on young children, which it is feared could put their mental health at risk. Lucy Elphinstone, the headmistress of Francis Holland, Sloane Square, explained that the move was being made in response to concerns about the wellbeing of children, as she puts it, “arising from over-tutoring and the dreadful prepping towards the tests”.
The focus of tuition will change
We absolutely agree that children are under a considerable amount of pressure at a young age. This is a consequence of the pressure applied at GCSE and A-Level and the unprecedented amount of competition for top jobs in the global economy. The pressure is coming from the top down.
However, we disagree with Ms Elphinstone in her view that the “verbal reasoning tests are not tutorable for”. Rather than focusing on English and Maths, the focus of the tuition will simply switch to critical thinking skills, which can be taught.
A move we welcome in theory
Although we don’t agree that the move will reduce the amount of tuition children receive, we do support the intent behind the change. Ms Elphinstone explained that she felt the tests would be “much fairer to children who come from primary schools and who don’t have access, for financial reasons, to expensive preparatory school fees”.
It’s true that the tests will do a better job of identifying the child’s baseline potential and assess what their ability is. However, unless there is a systematic change, it is difficult to see how the tests will make any difference to the amount of pressure placed on the child.
A step in the right direction
As we move further into the digital age, these ‘meta-skills’ i.e. learning how to learn, thinking critically and the ability to continuously learn, will become the essential skills intellectual ability is judged by.
At Tortoise Tuition, it has long been our policy to start tuition as earlier rather than simply providing an 11+ cramming session (although we do that too!). This gives tutors the chance to teach the subject rather than just the exam. The advantage of this approach is that it reduces the pressure on the student and allows them to enjoy the lessons, rather than having the constant spectre of a looming exam.
Want to know more about the new tests? Perhaps you’d like to find a private tutor for the current 11 Plus exam? Whatever your requirements, please get in touch with our team.