How to Support Children With Their 11+ Results

11+ results day can be an exciting, nerve-wracking and sometimes distressing day for those that don’t pass and for those that do. The arrival of results gives children the chance to think about their future in real terms. Those that pass they will be ecstatic, however, often then suffer nervousness and anxiety at the prospect of leaving primary school, leaving their friends and having to become more grown up. For many the move to secondary school is still so far away these results can bring that future a lot closer then they are willing to accept. There is also the upset from those children who unfortunately do not pass despite all of their hard work. This can be a difficult time for these children as they see their friends around them passing and can begin to doubt themselves and their academic abilities. This can be an emotional time for children and whether you are their teacher or parent it is good to know how to respond and deal with these emotions appropriately. 

It is important to remember that although many children may score highly and achieve excellent grades it may not be enough to get into their chosen school. Children will be feeling anxious and nervous on this day especially when opening and awaiting for their results, their feelings before opening their results will impact how they respond. Make sure when they are getting their results they are in a calm environment, remind them that no matter what they achieve you are proud of them and are there to figure out the next steps whatever direction they take. 

For those that pass: 

A huge congratulations! They’ve done it! All of that hard work and worry has paid off. Celebrate their efforts, let them choose what you’re having for dinner or get a celebration cake – who says they’re just for birthdays?! This is a huge achievement and deserves to be celebrated in a way your child will appreciate. Although celebrating is an important part of results day, also ensure you leave time to have a private chat with your child later on in the day or even the next when those initial feelings of excitement have died down and reality has begun to set in. Talk to them about how they feel, the thought of leaving primary school and most of their friends can be daunting to children. Discuss their feelings with them and let them know you are there for support. Talk to your child on how to be supportive of their friends that didn’t pass as this is often a huge cause of friendship fallouts in schools between those who did and didn’t pass. Ensure your child understands that passing is often just the first step and this does not necessarily mean they are automatically in their first choice of school. 

As a teacher or member of staff in school take the time to congratulate the children on their achievement but also offer that ear if they have any concerns or worries about moving schools or leaving their friends. If you notice any animosity between friends who have and haven’t passed give them time and a space (with an adult present) to talk through their feelings with each other rather then letting feelings of jealousy build up. 

For those that don’t pass: 

Unfortunately, there will be children that despite their best efforts will not obtain the grades required to get into the school they want. All of the extra revision, practice and pressure of taking an exam makes it natural for them to be upset. Allow your child to be disappointed and let them know that these feelings are ok. It is important to remind children that you are proud of them for trying as hard as they did but to not overload them with next steps until you’re both ready. Feeling sad, frustrated or angry is a natural response and you should give your child time to process this emotion, no matter how bad you are feeling your child will be feeling worse. Make sure you regulate your own emotions before attempting to support your child. If your child is having a high intensity of emotions and is struggling to control them attempt to regulate them using some of these grounding techniques:

Deep breathing: Encourage your child to take deep breaths in and out for a count of ten. Get them to focus on regulating these breaths so each one is symmetrical. You could do this for a count of ten or until the breathing has become symmetrical. 

Count to calm down: Ask you child to count something, such ad ceiling tiles or the amount of letters in your address – focussing their brain on something else will cause them to begin to calm as their attention shifts.

Take a break: Explain that it’s ok if your child wants to go to a private area (their bedroom or safe space) while they allow themselves to feel and gain control of these emotions.

Once the initial upset is out of the way speak with your child, have an open discussion of how they are feeling and why? Is it just sadness from not passing? Is it that their friends have passed and they haven’t? Is it because they are now unsure about their future? It may be all of the above but pinpointing where the biggest distress is coming from will make it easier to talk through and process it. 

Explain to your child they have not ‘failed’ many children begin feeling like a failure – if they are resilient they will often bounce back but for others this can knock their confidence. Celebrate their efforts not their achievements. Similarly to the children who are celebrating passing give your child a well deserved celebration for their efforts, don’t let this experience be a negative one. Cake all round?! 

When you are both ready talk through next steps with your child, considering alternative schools and even the appeal process if you find the results to be an untrue reflection of your child. Although many appeals do not make it through, if you feel strongly about the results your child got it is worth considering. 

Discuss with your child how to deal with successful peers, jealously is a normal emotion however it is important to not let this feeling turn into hatred for our peers. Explaining to your child a simple phrase of, ‘congratulations I’m really happy for you.’ And then changing to a different topic is polite and acceptable. Also prepare your child on how to tell their peers if they ask, phrases like ‘ I failed’ need to be steered away from instead encourage your child to say, ‘I tried my best but unfortunately I didn’t get the result I needed.’ 

It is important for school staff to be aware of children who haven’t passed, many of these will be bright children whose confidence will be knocked. I have seen in the past some children in the following weeks begin to neglect their school work questioning their own abilities and the point of it all. Make sure these children are receiving a lot of praise for the work they are doing in order to bring their confidence back up. Sometimes these children when they later struggle in class can then find this incredibly difficult and triggering. If this is happening there is no harm in giving them some slightly easier questions before harder ones in order to build their confidence and make them feel as though they do still know what they are doing. By doing this, when they then come to a question where they do struggle, they will have increased resilience to it due to achieving in the previous ones. 

Often schools do not have much to do with the 11+ in class time, however we deal with the fall out. It is important to recognise as educators that these children’s wellbeing may be suffering and therefore, we may need to adapt our class style accordingly. Offer these children some talk time whether it be with you, a class TA or other trusted adult. Some children may have concerns about their future or need to express their emotions. Unfortunately, some children will not have this available to them at home and therefore it is vital you find time for the children that need help processing these emotions. 

Children will have many more tests within their life and their experience of handling these results can shape how they mentally prepare, perform and deal with exams and results in the future. It is vital to give our children whether we be school staff, parents or guardians the correct support no matter their result. 

To all the amazing children who undertook the 11+ we here at Kent-Teach are proud of you all. 

We hope you have a well deserved rest but also pack in some fun during this half term. Here is our things to do in Kent during half term blog to give you some ideas.

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