Many of my Year 5 students try out for Merewether Selective High School in the first term of Year 6. The assessment is based on their marks at school in English and Maths during Year 5, and the actual exam results. In the first term of Year 6, before the exam day all aspects of the General Ability section and the English Comprehension (Language) are covered. Research shows that you can improve the results in these two areas by rehearsing parallel examples and by students becoming competent in the strategies and skills involved in assessment areas. For the written assessment, the students undertake writing exercises, using both narrative and expository styles to prepare for whatever they are asked to write about.

Ultimately their exam performance reflects their personal speed, confidence and emotional state on the day, and carefulness in checking their answers. Their speed is directly tied to the volume of reading they have done, particularly during Year 5. Many students read 3-10 books a week during this year, and are consequently highly literate. Students who read less have nowhere near the speed, skills or accuracy. Highly read students are also superior writers.

All the children who come to me to prepare for the Merewether exam are intelligent children. The tutoring for the Merewether exam will extend their skills in various areas and this will support them to secure a place in top classes at whatever school they attend. These skills and their increased confidence will benefit them for the rest of their lives.

My background as a trained secondary English teacher and also primary trained, gives me a real passion for teaching at this level and my students do extremely well. Each year many of my students are accepted into Merewether. Often it is between 25-40 children, which is one sixth of the total Year 7 intake.

Some of my students sit the scholarship exams for the private schools such as Newcastle Grammar, St Phillips or Macquarie College, so the work is also preparation for these tests. Many schools also assess their new Year 7 intake to organise class placement.

When the Merewether assessment is over, I return to developing their English ability in the other areas that they need for future success in their schooling. I want them to have a solid basis for their schoolwork in Year 7, particularly with the increased writing demands of secondary school. Those of you who have older children will know how demanding the expectations are for Year 7
students, especially in their assignments.

The way English is taught is very also different from your own experience of the subject. The terminology in English is new to most parents and children. For example, from the beginning of Year 7, students are beginning to analyse texts and using the language of text, composer, audience, language techniques and creating meaning. A student’s English ability determines their success in all subject areas in Years 7-12, except in their Maths, so their tutoring with me will be very important to their ongoing success at school, and later at university.

Arrendell students develop their writing skills to a higher level in all genres and in content areas that they will need. They further increase their research, report and essay writing skills. Many children entering high school have not developed these skills, and absolutely flounder. I am convinced that my students will be independent and confident in coping with whatever is given to them.

I continue to develop students’ narrative writing skills as this links in with their understanding of how texts work, and provide an increased range of authors and books that they can access for their personal enjoyment. The writing that comes from studying a piece of narrative is a vehicle for getting children to get the words and ideas down onto the page. Most children see narrative writing as being easier than report writing.

I also do a unit of work on study habits for high school and how to study for exams. It gets the students thinking about future expectations and enthused about setting in place effective strategies in these areas.

So there is much to be covered. I push to get in as much as possible of all the areas that I have mentioned and I put a significant time into my programming and planning. I prepare fresh work every week based on new books and materials that I find that I think the children will enjoy or find useful.

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