Surviving the AQE

Thoughts & Rantings

**not photography related, read at your own risk !!**
Hello, im a proud surviver of the AQE.

For those of you that have not had the joy of the AQE. Its an external exam in Northern Ireland that P7 children can take, to allow them entrance into a Grammar School. A few years back it was known as the 11+. But the Northern Ireland government decided it didn’t want to stream pupils and abolished the 11+.  In typical Northern Ireland style an independent body took its place in the form of the AQE.  Long ago in my day it was the 11+ and i had no more interest than the man in the moon. I remember the actual day of sitting the test thinking who needs to know where Jane sits, if Henry is opposite James.

Needless to say i didn’t pass…and my life wasn’t over, the world didn’t stop spinning and i didn’t crash & burn. In fact i did rather well for myself, im a qualified Accountant….zzz. I completed a First Class Honours Degree in Cultural Management, yippee, and i can also cook a chicken!!!

The link below is some funny creative ways kids have answered exam questions, these make me giggle! I remember answering question to an exam with, I have no idea, but i can tell you all about x and i wrote 4 paragraphs on my own topic. I got 10 marks for showing initiative 🙂

We hear time and time again, exams dont define you. Facebook is littered with feel good quotes about how the measure of a person is in their soul. All very valid points. However those points disappear the minute you hit the school gates. You overhear conversations about tutors, removing children from clubs so they can focus their efforts. We just want the best for Cyril. Honestly if i hear that comment one more time i think my head will implode. Cyril doesn’t need 6 hours tutoring a week, Cyril needs you to back off and chill your beans!  I have come to realise the snobbery around the AQE is lethal. Some parents aren’t choosing schools based on the which one suits their child’s personality the best. They are choosing them because they want to say their kid is at a grammar school.


Who knows i certainly i have idea. Boy 1 & i spent hours looking at schools with me quizzing teachers on ethical matters rather than test scores. Much to Boy 1’s embarrassment, which i delighted in! Sweet revenge for Boy 1’s temper tantrum in Tescos when he was 2 because he couldn’t have a new Thomas the Tank train.  We looked at schools far away and close by. Each one had its quirks. However the Grammar Schools certainly don’t merit the prestige that was pushed upon them.

So Boy 1 & i decided to take a very chilled approach to the AQE. NO tutors, NO extra AQE work, NO thank you to the weekend tests sent home. NO to it all, it was an uphill battle to say NO. When he brought his practice papers home that had been completed in school, he was asked, how did you feel about this one. He would say OK, then he would add it to the pile growing in the kitchen corner. Always lurking a constant reminder.

The night before his first test he came home and said “the test is tomorrow, maybe i should do some work for it”. To which i replied “alright we can do it after dinner if you like”. After dinner came and he had built a huge marble run all over the house with his siblings. It was on the stairs, down the hall, into the kitchen. When i offered to do the extra work, he said “sorry im busy”.

My heart soared!!

He was living his best life.

Which is certainly not sweating about sitting an exam that tests your memory skills.

So we survived 3 exams, we survived the opening of the envelope when it came. It was sitting on the kitchen table for about an hour before he had any interest in opening it. We survived the AQE and we have picked a school that suits Boy 1’s personality. I have every confidence he will do great there because it suits him.

So if i had any advice to parents that are out there and about to embark on the AQE ride. It would be this, do nothing. If you pick the tutor route you are inflating your kids abilities, risking a crash & burn when they reach secondary school. Look at your little humans personality. Will they like travelling to big school? Do they thrive in a super competitive environment? Are they going to be academically challenged in the school you pick? These types the questions aren’t answered by having a tutor. Deep breath and avoid the school gates at all costs. You do these things and you will sail through it.

I get to join the AQE ride again next year with Boy 2, joy of joy. Although he’s so laid back i can’t see him fretting, which is exactly the right way to approach it!

(not my image, but he’s soo cute daydreaming here, isn’t he)


If you enjoy my soapbox rantings….then you may like my other blogs click here to read them.

Ive attached a link below if you would like to read up on whats ahead. Its great for dates for the calendar.




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