By Sian Goodspeed, Founder of Flying Start Tuition

For thousands of students across the Chilterns, the Secondary Transfer test (more commonly referred to as the Eleven Plus) results came out last week. For some, this will have been a cause for celebration; for others, disappointment and for a fair few, indifference.

The Eleven Plus (11+) test is a selective entrance exam taken by children in their final year of primary school. The outcome of the test determines whether or not they are offered a place at one of Buckinghamshire’s thirteen grammar schools.

For many, the Eleven Plus is a controversial exam, often prompting heated debates around the fairness of a two-tiered education system and the morality of testing ten year-olds. But, whatever our views, it is currently here to stay and, in Buckinghamshire, one of the few remaining grammar school counties in the country, it is an automatic opt-in for all year 6 children. So, unless their parent withdraws them from the process, they will sit the test.

An accidental 11+ tutor

As the founder of a tuition company specialising in 11+ tuition, you may be surprised to learn that I am not a fan of the selective system. In fact, my views around education as a whole are more radical than most (but that’s the subject of another article!)

Perhaps, therefore, you may be wondering why I own a company that helps prepare children for the 11+? Well, when I started Flying Start Tuition in 2009, I hadn’t intended to become an 11+ tutor – it came about entirely by accident! Prior to setting up the business, I’d been a teacher for twelve years. I loved my job and found it incredibly rewarding, however, after the birth of my first daughter in 2007, I was struggling to find the elusive balance between work and motherhood so I decided to quit my job and set up as a private tutor.

It just so happened that I had recently moved to Buckinghamshire and, perhaps inevitably, when I began to advertise my tuition services, it was 11+ support that parents were mostly asking for. After speaking with a number of new enquiries, I soon realised that the 11+ process was causing a great deal of stress, not only for the children but also for the parents. As a school teacher, I had always done my best to prioritise my students’ wellbeing and I understood the significant impact of mindset on learning. I wanted to help these families to have a stress-free, positive 11+ experience and so the journey began.

The key to a stress-free 11+ journey

Shortly after starting Flying Start Tuition, I discovered Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) during a business networking event. I was compelled to find out more and so I embarked on a course to become a qualified NLP practitioner. During my training, I was astounded by the potential of NLP for enhancing children’s learning and I remember thinking, ‘If only I’d known all this when I was a teacher!’

In fact, I wished I’d known about NLP when I was a student myself. At school, I found exams highly stressful and would get incredibly nervous beforehand. No matter how much I prepared, more often than not I would get into the exam room and my mind would go blank. Inevitably, I used to flunk a lot of exams! What’s worse, when it came to results time, our teachers would read out our scores in front of the class – in order, from highest to lowest. I’ll never forget the feeling of sitting there, waiting for my score to be read out and the humiliation of being ‘bottom of the class’ yet again. This was one of the key reasons I became a teacher: I wanted to help children to have a more positive learning experience than mine had been – and to help them to maintain their self-esteem and confidence at all costs.

This is so crucial, not only for that moment in time but also for their future.  Over the years, I have spoken to many adults who say they were ‘scarred for life’ by experiences from their schooldays – including some who still see themselves as failures because they didn’t get into grammar school. This just goes to show how we handle challenges in childhood can have a far-reaching impact on the rest of our lives.  

That’s not to say that we can’t turn things around if we have a difficult childhood experience – far from it. Without my childhood school struggles I wouldn’t have ended up doing a job that I love. However, if we can help our children to acquire skills and techniques that will mean they cope well with challenging situations and become the best versions of themselves then why wouldn’t we?

11+ Superpowers

So, back to 2009 and, following on from my NLP course, I decided to incorporate a series of NLP tools and techniques into the programmes we deliver at Flying Start Tuition. Since then, the company has grown and we now have a team of tutors teaching at our tuition centres and online – all trained the Flying Start way! We have continued to develop and refine our courses and have created what we affectionately refer to as our 11+ Superpowers toolkit. We are proud to have won a number of awards for our unique approach to tuition and we feel particularly honoured to have been finalists in the NLP Award for Education the last two years running.

The use of NLP has had a big impact on our students – enabling them and their parents to navigate the 11+ process unscathed! Better still, it helps them turn what can be a stressful time for many into a positive one. This doesn’t necessarily mean attaining a qualifying score or a grammar school place. It means learning the skills they need to tackle the questions with ease and confidence and building the resilience and sense of self-worth to know that, whatever the outcome of the test, they will be fine.

I am so passionate about the value of these tools and techniques that I wanted to get them out to more children – irrespective of whether or not they are Flying Start students. So, in August this year, we launched our online 11+ Superpowers course which brings the toolkit to children in a fun, interactive way and can be done at home in their own time, with the support of a parent or 11+ Superpowers Buddy.

With the aid of my trusty sidekick, Ava (my nine-year-old daughter) I guide my budding Superpowers heroes through a series of five interactive video workshops designed to help them increase their motivation, deal calmly with stressful situations, boost focus and improve performance. It’s not necessarily about ‘qualifying’ for grammar school but about doing the best they can and maintaining balance and perspective. And the beauty of these techniques is that they are simple to learn, easy to use and have the potential to make a big impact in many areas of their lives: at school, when doing their hobbies or leisure activities, in further education, in the workplace and beyond.

What are your 11+ options?

Whatever you think of the 11+ system, it is currently here to stay and, if your child is at a Buckinghamshire primary school you have a number of options:

  • Withdraw your child from the test
  • Let your child sit the test with no preparation
  • Prepare your child with the support of a tutor
  • Prepare your child using the DIY approach
  • Prepare your child with a combination of tutor and DIY

Whichever option you choose, talk to your child about it first. Think carefully about the outcome you’re hoping for and the impact this may have on your family, both in the short and longer term. Ask your child what they would like to do, explain the process, the time commitment required and consider the benefits of preparation even if ultimately they don’t qualify.

And there are many benefits to tuition, such as improving English, maths and reasoning levels, boosting confidence and learning exam techniques – all invaluable skills whichever school your child moves on to. What’s more, if you choose Flying Start Tuition, your child will also acquire a powerful toolkit of Superpowers that they can apply to almost any area of their lives.

Want to find out more?

11+ Superpowers:
To find out more about the 11+ Superpowers course, visit our website:

Special Offer for Chiltern Chatter readers: only £47 (usual price £97), click here

11+ Bucks Advice for Parents:

If you’re interested in knowing more about the Bucks 11+ process, join our Facebook Group: 11+ Bucks Advice for Parents:

Flying Start Tuition:

We offer maths, English and exam support for children aged five to sixteen. For more information on our courses and availability, visit our website:  

Email:     Tel: 01494 772898