In the middle of January 2021, the Calderdale schools quietly announced major changes to their 11 plus admissions test for September 2021. Instead of having two of the papers produced in-house, the three tests (maths, English and verbal reasoning) were moving to GL Assessment.
The implications for children preparing for the test in 2021 are significant. The extremely challenging English paper of the past has now become entirely multiple choice. The new paper involves comprehension; the children are required to read a passage and answer around 25 questions that test their understanding, vocabulary and grammar. There are also separate sections (around 8 questions each) on spelling, grammar and completing a passage with the correct choice of words. There is no writing involved in the new English test.
Moving the maths paper to GL Assessment is likely to mean the test increasing to 50 questions in 50 minutes (the old test was 40 questions in 30 minutes). The verbal reasoning paper was already produced by GL Assessment, and is set to remain at 50 questions in 30 minutes.
Although it is unfortunate that the Calderdale schools have decided to change their admissions test halfway through a school year (many children have already spend months preparing for the old test format), at Satchel we think there are many advantages to the new process:
The old English comprehension was, for many children, excessively difficult.
There were always concerns about the ability of the schools to mark their English paper accurately and consistently across the 1000 plus children who sat the test.
The new English test is still challenging, and it will reward children who are strong readers and accurate writers.
It is easier to prepare for the new maths papers as there are many GL Assessment practice papers available. The old maths test was always a bit of a mystery (there was one example on the schools’ websites) and it sometimes contained errors / typos.
There is less time pressure for the maths paper and less emphasis on exam technique.
It makes it easier for children to prepare for both the Calderdale schools and Heckmondwike, as the English tests are relatively similar.
At Satchel we have made a number of changes to our 11 plus preparation to reflect the new GL Assessment tests. These include:
Greater emphasis on grammar, vocabulary and spelling booklets.
More comprehension work to develop understanding.
Working on comprehension booklets other than fiction.
Practice English tests.
A greater emphasis on algebra for the more able students.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like discuss any aspect of the new Calderdale 11 plus test.
North Halifax and Crossley Heath Grammar Schools have recently announced the admission test dates for children currently in year 5 who are looking for entry in September 2022.
The exam this year will be on Saturday 25th September.
The schools have yet to announce whether they will be hold open evenings this year. They are normally in June.
Further dates and details on the registration process can be found at the Crossley Heath school website:
We have received a number of enquiries from parents with children in year 4 and earlier asking us about when they should start 11 plus preparation.
Our general advice is that the sooner you start, the greater the chance you will have of success. We have had examples of very able children joining us just months before the test who were able to secure a grammar school place. However this can place unnecessary pressure on children and their parents.
Starting earlier allows children to develop a work ethic and to gradually elevate their maths and English skills to a high standard. This can take some of the pressure off they when they enter year 5. Although it sounds like a long time, the months of year 5 always seems to go very quickly. Children will generally not start on practice papers later in the preparation process. Beginning exam specific preparation too early can result in them become bored and can be counter-productive.
Ultimately the more preparation you do, the more you reduce the element of chance in the 11 plus exam. It doesn’t matter if you score 1 or 300 in the grammar school rankings as you will still win a place at your preferred school. However a child who is capable of scoring nearer to 1 can have a bad day on the test and obtain a place. A child around the 300 level cannot afford to underperform or they are likely to miss out.
Please get in touch if you would like to discuss any aspect of 11 plus preparation.
At Satchel we believe it is vital that we work in partnership with parents and their children. A key part of that is the regular feedback we provide. This can take the form of a quick chat at class, a text message or phonecall. We also hold Parent and Children meetings twice a year in June and November.
However to better formalise the process, children now regularly receive a progress card outlining their work in each subject, every month. Parents are encouraged to read the progress card, initial them to say they have read the comments and then return them at the next class. If you are unsure about any comment, or would like to ask further questions, please get in touch with your tutor via text message or email.
The progress cards are designed to show you where your child currently sits in each level, as well as outlining topics to come.
Many parents with young children ask us when is the best time to start in Satchel.
The answer depends very much on the concentration levels of the children and the commitment of their parents. The First level in Satchel maths and English uses special comic-style booklets that are designed to be completed with an adult helper. Children on these levels will not be expected to read instructions or have the concentration to work independently. You cannot learn to read by staring at a page; it is important that words are sounded out loud.
Younger children place unique demands on teachers and their parents. One day they may concentrate superbly, at other times all they want to do is play. At a Satchel class they will receive one to one support from an assistant. At home they will need to work with a parent or adult helper. It is important to be flexible in the approach. If they are not in the mood to concentrate, do not force them to work. Try to find a time of day when they are receptive to learning. Don’t try to ask them to complete a booklet if they didn’t sleep well the night before. Always try to make they learning relaxed and fun.
A pre-school child may be able to start Satchel if they are regularly able to concentrate and their parents have the time (and patience) to work with them at home. Alternatively a child in reception or year 1 may struggle to complete their work if they are tired from school or other activities. Please contact us if you would like to discuss any aspect of starting young children in Satchel.