Our Year 6 children are in the midst of their preparation for the Senior School entrance exams. By January the children will be very well prepared for the exams, all down to the hard work they (and parents!) put in along with the excellent support they receive in School.
So as a small non-selective School why are our children able to perform so well? Our philosophy has always been that success will be a by-product of everything we do. From when children start in Nursery, through the pastoral care we give, the wide-range of activities they enjoy and the support all children receive in areas they are having difficulty with, each child’s abilities and interests are extended as far as possible.
We are certainly not an ‘exam hot-house’ School, where exam preparation takes over the whole of the curriculum (part of the reason why we are suited to children of all abilities and to those sitting exams and those who aren’t). We give it due focus, and we practise for the exams just like anyone would if they were to play in a music concert, or a tennis match, but it isn't at the expense of the development of the ‘whole child’.
Direct examples of our preparation include a mock exam away from School, children sitting at individual desks in the autumn term and having a meeting with children who have now left Brabyns, who talk to the children about the entrance process. Once the exams are complete we practice interview techniques and other life skills to equip the children for the final straight of the process.
The children in Years 5 and 6 benefit tremendously from having two teachers for five lessons a week in the year prior to their exams. This enables us to differentiate as necessary and provide increased individual attention to the children. The teachers in Year 5 and 6 are outstanding practitioners who use a lovely balance of traditional and modern teaching strategies, including our Mind Kind technique, to aid the children's learning. The children have the opportunity to learn from any mistakes they make (‘learning events’ as we refer to them) in a safe and secure environment which is such an important process in anyone’s learning.
As a School we are not selective on ability, so by the time the children are in Year 5 and 6, there can be a wide range of abilities, yet the majority (85%) of our children are aiming for selective Independent Senior Schools. This figure has dropped slightly over the last three years with more parents choosing to invest in independent education at the younger age (i.e. choosing a preparatory school such as Brabyns) in order to help their child then have more chance of success when they go to State Senior Schools.
The exams are the most ‘stressful’ part of our children’s life to date, but the emphasis on developing confidence and potential, along with technique, enable the children to achieve the results they are capable of. We also provide guidance to help children and parents choose the most suitable School for them and one at which they will be able to continue to flourish.
The opportunities offered at Brabyns certainly adds to this exam preparation. By taking part in such a breadth of activities our children are excited by learning, meaning they are focused and enthused when it is time for set Literacy, Numeracy and Reasoning lessons, and the core skills these lessons develop. These lessons are made enjoyable, whilst being hard work. It is always a highlight of my day to walk in to a lesson and see the children fully focused (ignoring my presence, which I actively encourage), and then take a break for a minute or two during which the teacher: child rapport is always very evident. This may be shown in a laugh and a joke, a child (or teacher!) stood on the table, the use of mascots, and so on. Just ask the children about the fun they have, the list is endless (though in Year 6 it is secret fun so they may not be able to tell you …!)
So, can academic success and opportunities go hand-in-hand? I think they certainly can, and do, at Brabyns. I love the balance we have and feel that both can go alongside each other providing the children with that most important life skill, a love for learning, something that will always result in success, in whatever way that is quantified.
Results from previous years can be viewed here. You’ll see the range of Schools the children go on to attend and will hopefully be reassuring and pleasing reading for you I am sure.