11+ or 13+ - The Freedom to Choose

Helen McClure, Headmistress

9th October 2020

‘Our son had the freedom to try so much and discover himself’. Parent

At Solefield, we give our pupils the confidence and determination to believe that they can achieve anything they want in life. We support parents and boys following the route that best works for them whether it is leaving us at end of Year 6 for grammar, secondary or independent school or staying with us until the end of Year 8 to join an independent senior school. Boys are nurtured and their ability to reason and question are developed, as are their talents and values.

Solefield is a non-selective school and so our exam results at both 11 and 13 are particularly impressive. We have exceptional pass rates for the Kent Test and ISEB pre-test to first choice schools, over 95% average over the past few years. 70+% of our Year 8 boys gained As and A*s in their Common Entrance exams to senior school this summer, an excellent springboard for future GCSE studies.

Pupils have targeted prep for English, Maths, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning for exams at 11 and 13. This begins in Year 3 with coding and reasoning quizzes and puzzles and then builds as children work towards the exams. We subscribe all children to the Baines Online Formative Assessment (BOFA) programme which allows them to work both at home and school with immediate feedback and an inexhaustible supply of adaptive questions. There is a familiarisation afternoon for boys taking the 11+ and several mock test and feedback sessions for boys taking the ISEB and Common Entrance exams. We try to ensure that out mock tests are as close to the actual exams in structure as possible to better help boys to prepare mentally. We also help all boys to manage stress through our reading initiative, Mindful Mondays, Wellbeing Hubs, counselling and attentive pastoral care. Pupils all have a Study Skills session ahead of exams where they discuss revision techniques and a healthy working, eating and sleeping programme.

Our individual tracking and regular discussion of each boy’s progress mean that no boy is ever overlooked. Small class sizes mean that we know each pupil very well and can make informed decisions about the best senior school route for each. Parents meet with the Headmistress and Deputy Head at any stage in their child’s learning journey to discuss future schools, as many times as required and there are regular talks for parents about future schools and entrance procedures.

In the Autumn Term of Year 5, the Headmistress and Deputy Head discuss individual cases with all parents to give clear and honest feedback about the best way forward. Many boys who take the Kent Test 11+ to grammar decide to stay at Solefield until they are 13 and join independent schools at this age, making the most of our tailor-made education until 13 and our all-inclusive Scholarship Path Programme. At Solefield, parents have the chance to see how their sons develop and the freedom and guidance to choose the best future school for him.

We ensure that all pupils develop both soft and “sharp” skills and prepare pupils for their future lives, not just to pass exams. Solefield pupils collaborate, listen, take turns and speak in public from a very young age. They learn to think critically and question. Thinking skills and Philosophy, Politics and Ethics lessons run throughout our curriculum for children as young as 7. Our Scholarship Path Programme, Solefield Diploma and excellent debating provision also ensure that children hone their ability to reason, enquire and deduce.

We also aim to extend and enrich our lessons on a daily basis. Whether it is enjoying a Sikh lunch in our own Langar, reading a book to younger pupils written just for them or coming to school dressed as an Egyptian or endangered animal, learning at Solefield is exciting and adventurous.

All boys who stay on for Year 7 and 8 follow a scholarship programme of their choosing: Art, Drama, Music, Sport and Academic. This opportunity enables boys to gain a greater depth of knowledge in their particular field of interest and provides a platform to explore their discipline outside of the classroom. Specialist teachers curate a programme of activities and events, which include visiting galleries, theatre productions and recitals. Small class sizes in vertical groups allow for the programme to be refined dependent on the boy’s own skill set and interest. This allows for them to demonstrate and develop their own individual strengths.

Boys invariably leave us confident, independent young men full of integrity and a love for learning. One of the things that has given me greatest pleasure in my 11 years so far at Solefield is seeing the development of our boys from sometimes shy and uncertain 4 year olds to confident, world-ready young men. It is wonderful that many of them stay in touch after leaving Solefield and Old Boys often come back to work as gaps, to visit and have also delivered our “Thinking Allowed” talks. A former student is representing Durham in the current series of University Challenge and I will be following his progress with enormous pride. However, I’m also proud of all the Solefield boys I have seen thrive in my time at the school – and excited to see what talented, kind and dependable young men we will produce in the future.

‘Solefield’s greatest strength is to help the children to believe in themselves, helping them to discover what their strengths are’. Parent

Helen McClure
Headmistress