When education expert Elvire Hairy came to see me before Christmas to tell me about the horrors and stress of the exams for children in London I must say I was pretty shocked.  Why do we put our children under so much pressure?  I’ve spoken to many parents at length on the subject both in town and the countryside and in other countries and it seems that in London we’re particularly hard on our little ones.

In this article, Elvire shares some helpful tips on the subject and it’s a very interesting read.

As the Christmas Marathon just came to an end with its multitude of nativity plays, carol services, quiz nights, parents teachers evenings and festive parties, the new year now kicks off with the Test Month. Children, mostly in London will sit for the competitive entry points at 4+, 7+, 8+ and 11+ in the most academic London Day schools, top of the league tables.

Girls will try to get a place in the most prestigious Girls Schools at 4+ (Falkner House, Kensington Prep, Queen’s Gate, Glendower), or later at 11+ (Francis Holland, Godolphyn and Latymer, Putney High, St Paul’s for Girls); while the boys will compete for Colet Court, St Philip’s, Westminster Under, King’s College Wimbledon or Sussex House at 7 and 8+.

Places are highly limited, few will succeed, competition is fierce – also among parents – the pressure is on !

Here is our Top 10 to survive the Test Season!

  1. Breathe and Brace

It is key to manage your stress and to avoid to pass it on to your children. I remember a mother so anxious about the interview for her daughter at 4+ that the little girl was obsessed with success and failure. Try to put things into perspective and most importantly be supportive!

  1. Trust you – trust them: don’t loose sight of your own confidence.

Children who have been prepared in their nursery, prep-prep and prep will remember the key methods to sit for those exams. Encourage them in their knowledge and the trust they must have in themselves, then remember to trust you as well!

  1. Be realistic about your expectations

Children needs to be intensively prepared for those tests – some parents even chose to daily tutor their children, as young as 2 years old. Don’t send your children if you think they aren’t ready – yet. Take advise months before the exams from teachers and educational professional to be realistic and to keep your sanity – and your child’s one – through the pressure

  1. Avoid last minute preparation: it is too much stress for everyone !

The tests dates are given months in advance, which gives plenty of time to prepare academically and emotionally! Don’t over the test children at the very last moment or the day before with mock exams. Don’t forget that their brain – and yours – need to relax and soothe before the important day.

  1. Sharing is caring: share your thoughts and doubts if you have some.

Your child’s teachers / headmasters / tutors can help as they also know your child very well. Schools and parents work as a team for the child’s success. Privilege the dialogue in those key weeks prior to the exam, ask as many questions as you need, they will reassure you and guide you. At any cost, avoid stressful discussion with the super competitive parents at the school gates, this is not the time for you to doubt!

  1. Don’t obsess about it!

Some parents think that the Earth stands still during those intense weeks of stress and exams. Don’t! Go out, read a new book, enjoy activities and / work, anything that could help to retrieve the tension … and the obsession! Children feel everything they clearly don’t need that on top of what is expected from them.

  1. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy !

This is also an exciting time for you and your children, no matter what. The intense preparation will teach them opportunities that they will keep for the rest of her / his life: efficiency, performance, hard-work. Enjoy seeing your child learning through it and growing from it. No matter what, this is an exciting parenting reward.

  1. Highlight the big picture

Speak to them about the wonderful school they will go to sit those exams for – and that you have already visited at least 4 times -, dialogue about the wonderful opportunities the school can offer to them, and what they will gain to be part of it. In other words, demystify the exams! It is not just about being first at the Essay if they don’t like the school at all!

  1. Apprehend a Plan B.

As much as we would like as parents to avoid that situation, and get our children in THE school we want and have chosen, reality sometimes strikes differently and we need to set up a Plan B. A real Plan B, not something that will ring as “the end of the world if you don’t get into THE school we want!”. Prepare and enjoy Plan B as well! Failure for Plan A is definitively not the end of the world.

  1. Above all, remember that they need – and you – to be happy.

Try to put the whole experience into perspective – easier to tell than to do, agreed – after all, this is also a wonderful bonding experience with your children. They need to feel that no matter what happens, they – and you – will be in a strong and dynamic mood, cheerful and supportive. Surely the pressure is on, but we will all breathe at the end of the month, so enjoy and best of luck!

By Elvire Hairy

Chelsea Marketing Consultant offers its expertise in the Education Sector in Branding, Marketing, Communication and PR, with more than 18 years of first-hand experience in Strategy and Marketing within the London Education sector (Marketing Director for a leading London Prep School, marketing advices for after-schools clubs, camps) and previously for international brands (L’Oreal, Louis Vuitton, Chanel).

We have also been researching and studying the London Education Market for the last 10 years, and have been regular contributors to the leading magazines such as Families, Little London, The Resident.