I’m not English, we don’t speak English at home, we don’t feel confident in the subject, what can we do?

The first thing to recognise is that there are plenty of children from just such a background who get their children into the best Grammar and Independent schools each year.

We’d suggest at least doing the following, we know from feedback that these things are done by just about every successful family in your situation.

1/ Most parents can read English, it might be accented English, their child might make a little fun of their accent but they can still read English. We suggest you have fun with it and read with your children, doing paired reading and encouraging your child to read. It will be difficult at first but easier later on. Your interactions over vocabulary and meaning will be different than with families for whom English is their first language. If you both don’t know the meaning of words then you can look them up. Shared learning in this way does have value if you can get over the idea that you are somehow expected to have all the answers because you are the parent.

2/ Your child still needs to read by themselves as well. Failing on the reading front means that your linguistic weakness will become their linguistic weakness. There are no easy ways out, you just need to encourage reading and make sure it happens.

3/ Buy books which have answers (or suggested answers). English is complicated and sometimes there is more than one answer to a question, for this reason some workbooks do not publish answers. Make sure the ones you choose do.

4/ Don’t try to compensate in a different area. We have seen plenty of families who struggle with English trying to work twice as hard at Maths or Non-Verbal Reasoning or indeed Verbal Reasoning…. Don’t do it, down that road lies failure. Even in cases where children get 100% in their Maths test or Non-Verbal Reasoning test that will not offset a poor English test and equally they will never fulfil their potential in Verbal Reasoning unless they have a strong vocabulary. In some areas like Kent for instance they have to ‘pass’ all tests, in others the mix of tests means that the rewards offered for showing strong vocabulary and literacy skills means you cannot avoid this area and be successful.

5/ Remember while it may be a little daunting to start with, if you treat it as a shared learning exercise then you can have fun with it and be successful.

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