With the exam’s fiasco fresh in mind, it is easy to forget that the 11-plus grammar school entry test is still going ahead. Most were due to be held this month, but the DfE advised a push-back into October, November, or December. Thousands of 10-year-olds have returned from six months of limited education and now face an exam to determine their secondary school future.
One man has come up with a way of helping them. Baljeet Dogra, CEO and founder of KidSmart, has developed an app that provides pupils with past papers and support from tutors – and he has made this available free of charge to parents of children who are due to sit their exams at the end of this year. The service – which usually costs up to £480 – will be available to COVID-affected parents who are struggling to teach their children or cannot afford to hire a tutor.
Baljeet has vast experience of developing apps, teaches coding and robotics to children as a hobby, and has worked for more than 15 years as an IT consultant in the City. The idea of KidSmart came from his own experience of preparing his daughter for the 11-plus exam.
“After a parent-teacher meeting at my daughter’s school, I realised that I needed to spend more time with my daughter to help her with her studies,” remembers Baljeet, who also has a son. “This quickly became a daunting task with my work and personal life commitments. I sought help in tech but my daughter failed to engage with the apps and websites that were around at that time. After eight months of struggle, I decided to make an app myself. My daughter was also starting year five and parents started talking about 11-plus exams, a new term that I had no clue about. Following discussions with a few parents, it was clear that we were too late in the game as many parents started 11-plus exam preparation as early as year three, which I had thought was manic. So, I decided to switch the focus of my app to 11-plus preparation. Getting into a grammar school was not top of our priority list but kudos to my daughter, who worked hard and secured a place in the top school in Hertfordshire.”
Baljeet is hopeful that KidSmart can become a go-to resource for parents travelling the same journey, but right now, he appreciates how desperate many parents will be to help their children prepare in difficult circumstances.
“COVID has disrupted almost every aspect of our life and has created a massive gap in the development of children, especially for the parents who struggled with homeschooling or who could not afford private tutoring,” he says. “The government launched a Bounce Back loan scheme, which sparked an idea for a Bounce Back programme to help children prepare for 11-plus exams.”
The three-month free programme includes eight online tutor group lessons, access to the 11-plus practice app and past papers, with solutions, and unlimited tutor chat support.
“I hope that it will improve the chances for children, and strengthen the skills they need to sit the upcoming exams, hopefully securing places in the schools they want.”
Experienced tutors are already employed to offer help through the KidSmart app, but extras will be hired if necessary.
More details on the Covid scheme, and the ongoing use of the app and service, can be found at www.kidsmartapp.co.uk.