We are all aware of the impact of the ongoing pandemic on our mental health. As we learn to live alongside “The Virus That Shall Not Be Named” (like Voldemort, just saying the name out loud might alert the dreaded virus to our location), we are also acutely aware of the fact that the inescapable 11+ exams, once a distant dream are, in fact, just around the corner.
There will be no Harry Potter coming to magically help our children blitz those exams, nor for that matter, will he help us defeat “The Virus That Shall Not Be Named”. As the exams dates quickly approach, the anxiety levels are no doubt at an all time high.
Speaking to my fellow year 5 parents, it is clear that this pandemic has seen a worrying trend of children seemingly slipping in their academics, particularly in English and Maths. Homeschooling may have benefitted the few children who perhaps, shy away from a group environment or maybe are unhappy at school. It would’ve also benefitted those children whose schools provided top notch live video classes and who are happy to work independently or, for the really lucky ones, with the help of their parent/s.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that the majority of the children struggled intensely with homeschooling. Not everyone was lucky enough to have had access to live video lessons, some had none at all. As parents juggled working from home with answering the barrage of questions from their child, having to help them with that maths problem, the microphone or even the printer, the children were slowly turning into shadows of their former selves.
Lack of motivation coupled with extended use of digitals has had a detrimental effect on our children. It is easy to see how we could have allowed this to happen. If we, as adults, found it difficult to cope during lockdown, how could we expect our children to? It was easy as we worked from home to allow the children to entertain themselves however they liked. Many of us are guilty of that. As a result, Year 5 has been a trying one for many.
The repercussions, not only on the mental health of our children, but also on their academic standards, have been great. Many parents are complaining about their child struggling to get back into the swing of Year 5 and slipping with their schoolwork. The once academically confident child is now struggling to keep up in Maths.
By the end of this academic year, it was clear that the children hadn’t covered the same Year 5 curriculum, that my eldest had covered 3 years ago. There were topics that should’ve been covered which they simply did not have time to work on due to the amount of catching up they have had to do.
Parents are now desperately trying to utilise the summer holidays to fill in the gaps left by their school, whether it be resources such as Exam Insider, Bonds books, private tutors or other online Pretest Apps. It is tremendously overwhelming for the parents but even more so for our youngsters.
Our ten year olds are feeling the pressure and know that they are not as prepared as they should be. At that young age, they know where they sit on the academic scale, compared to their peers. They hear their parents discussing the importance of doing well in the 11+ exams or else they won’t get into their school of choice. They know that they are being compared to their older sibling/s who did so well in their exams that they received offers to all their top choice schools. Above all, they know that the Pandemic has set them back so far that some have given up even trying.
I have come to the realisation that pre exam panic will help no one. Not only is it not productive but it will cause the child to go into panic mode and consequently, have a total mental block. Little and often is what I intend to do over the summer. I have agreed with my child to do 20 mins 4 times a day which covers each subject (English, Maths, VR and NVR). He spreads them out throughout the day in his own time. He says that 20 minutes is a good amount of time where he can focus 100%. After that, he starts losing focus. This structure means that the time he is working is productive and also fits into his own schedule. He takes ownership of his work whilst at the same time, avoiding an endless battle with Mum.
Every child will have his/her own methods of studying and it is worth taking the time to help your child figure out what works for them. There is no “One Size Fits All” recipe for success but having that dialogue is certainly a vital starting point. Your child will pick up on your anxiety and in turn, will panic. It is only then that the implementation of good study structure that works for your child can be put in place, paving the way for a smooth and healthy 11+exam prep. Wouldn’t we all like to have Hogwart’s “Sorting Hat” to tell us which type of learner our child is?
Hope you have a balanced and anxiety free summer!