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  • Maria Moyles

Who is running a marathon in 2019?

Many people this year will be setting their New Year’s goals, some big, some small, some life changing, others not. But the key to whether they will be successful or not ultimately lies in the goal, the plan and the action taken throughout the course.

If you google training for a marathon, you will find a wealth of predictable advice; no one sets that goal with the expectation of attempting a marathon itself on day one. That would be silly. Yet, in education, it can often seem that children’s preparations for attempting their marathon, metaphorically speaking, largely involve or consist of being expected to run that marathon and then run it again and again, hoping that this will make them better. I am fairly certain that that sort of preparation never worked for any marathon runner (although not being one myself I am open to being contradicted), likewise, the same can be said with academic success.

Imagine running a marathon tomorrow, failing, spending all week aching, sore, feeling defeated, then next week repeating it all over again; it’s a sure-fire way to pick up an injury, crush your spirit, leave you feeling defeated and ultimately fail to actually work on the things you need to be doing in order to eventually enable you to complete the marathon with some success.

Marathon training would be expected to take place over a period of time, depending on the starting point of the runner. It would be progressive and tailored to their abilities; a complete beginner would start and progress at a different pace to a seasoned park runner. The best training will prepare the body physically; eating the right foods, stretching, taking care of the muscles, investing in a good pair of trainers and the training would gradually increase in frequency and difficulty towards the end goal. Not forgetting the mental training that is required to build the resolve, determination and strength to see through the challenging times. Too much too soon risks injury, neglecting to look after your body risks injury, failing to eat or hydrate properly risks injury, fatigue or worse.

Preparing for a test is not dissimilar. Understanding your starting points, breaking down the goal and working in manageable, achievable chunks towards the end goal are key not only to success but confidence and spirit too. Children are natural learners, they have a natural intuitive drive to learn and teaching should foster that, not break it.

We have a large number of students working with us towards the 11 plus Entrance Exams. Like the marathon, it’s a huge, ambitious goal. One that has been carefully considered by parents, carers and children who have decided that they would like to have a go and good for them.

Unlike some 11 plus preparation courses, our courses:

  • Do not begin with an exam or “pre-test”; our teachers informally assess children in every lesson and our teaching is responsive to children’s starting points and progression. If they “pick up an injury” we are there to diagnose, back track where necessary and work forwards with them in a supportive way;

  • •Are not pre-written programmes, computer programmes or otherwise; all our lessons are bespoke, they are planned specifically in response to the children’s individual needs, we get to know our children really well and tailor our teaching for them;

  • Are not led by unqualified ‘instructors’ or staff; our lessons are taught by highly experienced, qualified teachers;

  • Are not strictly speaking a year long; some children join us in Y3 and Y4, some join us at the start of Y5, some join us later in Y5 – we work with children as individuals and make adjustments to suit them;

  • Are not lessons where children attempt test question after test question after test question; marathon runners don’t just run, they strengthen and condition their muscles and mind, work on their breathing, improve their diet – we do the same with our learners;

  • Are not promising that in the end your child will pass, no one could promise that, anyone who does is not being truthful; we do promise that children will learn and progress, be more able to compete in the exam, be equipped with skills and strategies that they can apply in the exam as well as in school, be more confident with their learning and their own abilities as a result of our supportive, individualised approach.

If you would like to know more then please get in touch, we will be delighted to help your child work towards their goals whether that be the 11 plus or something altogether different.

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Thank you to Zarina Ali, Principal at Co-op Academy Swinton for taking the time to write this testimony about or work within her school supporting the students and staff in the Maths Faculty.


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