These are the most recent submissions to the site.

11+ failure

July 2, 2024

I was unlucky enough to be in the final cohort of those taking the test for determining schools. I failed. I still feel the utter humiliation even at 60! All the children I knew had passed so I joined a new school with no friends and low self-esteem from which I never recovered. I was taunted by the neighbours (my father was a teacher but my parents had just divorced). My mother remained convinced that I was thick or stupid and hadn’t tried hard enough.

My sister took the exam the following year and of course passed ( even though the test had already been phased out in Leicester and she ended up at the same Comprehensive School as me). The fact that she passed the 11+ which I had failed was insurmountable and gave my narcissistic mother the ammunition she needed to differentiate us! My sister was the Golden Child whilst I was earmarked as low achieving, dim, no hoper and worst of all ….I simply hadn’t tried hard enough in her eyes !!

Ironically I have outperformed my sister on many fronts and did manage to get a degree, masters and professional qualifications and had a high flying career. But even now stigma remains from that terrible test! My sister is still lauded by the family for her intelligence whereas I was thick but just got lucky!!!

As a child in Leicester 1960’s-70’s

11-plus Failure from 1960s

July 2, 2024

I took the 11-plus exam, alongside my classmates, as a matter of course. I remember opening my results letter and feeling upset that I hadn’t passed. Another girl in my class had also just opened her results letter and was kissing the envelope, ecstatically, having just discovered that she had passed. She went off to the grammar school and I went to the local secondary modern school. I didn’t see her again until years later, after I got my ‘O’ level results. She had failed all of hers and I had passed all of mine! I went on to do my nurse training and, at the ripe old age of 53, successfully gained a BA Honours in English Literature. My initial feelings of failure took some time to change into feelings of self worth, but I got there in the end. I must admit that, looking back, it does seem to be a flawed and unfair system for choosing who should go to grammar school and who is not worthy!

Grandparent, Wiltshire

Sibling problems

May 13, 2024

If you have siblings and you all pass the 11 Plus great for all concerned. If you and your siblings all fail the 11 Plus sad but manageable, how ever if a sibling passes the 11 Plus and the other does not you and your siblings no longer have shared experiences. An emotional fault line develops parents and successful siblings have no idea of the massive long term emotional and psychological damage done to the developing child, in my case life long severe clinical depression and at times when at school contemplating suicide.

Retired one time School Governor Wiltshire

I would have failed had I done it

February 13, 2024

I am an immigrant and a Pharmacist. When I decided to I enter my daughter for 11 plus, not knowing exactly what it entailed, I bought books to try and help her thinking as I was academic it was going to be easy. I soon realised that non-verbal reasoning was something I couldn’;t do.

I came to the Uk as a late teen, did my A levels and got an ABB in maths, chemistry and biology and even after a 2:1 in Master of Pharmacy I can’t pass a non-verbal reasoning paper. Had I been raised in this country and sat for the 11 plus, I would have failed and gone through all my life thinking I wasn’t clever enough.

I put my daughter through it and she failed and I blame myself to this day! If I had known better, I wouldn’t have let her sit for this test.

Mum kent

Never good enough

February 13, 2024

I took my test in 1998, the only support my Mother offered was making me sit at the dinner table writing lines “I want to go to grammar school like my cousins” she wanted me to go to the best grammar school in the area, just so that she could brag about it. The school is notoriously hard to get into.

I knew nothing about the school, nothing about what the 11+ would be like, and most of all, I had no support, just pressure. The pressure I felt from my school teacher “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” and from my abusive Mother was horrendous. The summer prior to this I had been given revision work to complete over the summer and I hid it, because I knew what my Mother was like. I knew I would inevitably end up being beaten because I had answered things incorrectly etc.

I failed my test by a few marks and ended up going into a grammar stream at the closest secondary to our house instead. After that though, I felt like a write-off. Not just to my Mother, but to the relatives who were also pushing me and to the school too. The few kids that passed were treated like Olympians at my junior school and had special privileges etc.

My child has this year not met the required mark to class as ‘Suitable for Grammar’ on his 11+, he had tuition, support and empathy from us the entire time, and do you know what? I couldn’t give a damn that he didn’t pass. He is a bright, funny, inquisitive, kind and confident boy and he will be amazing wherever he goes. I will not allow an exam to take that away from my child. I cannot deal with the snobbish remarks we are receiving from those who attended Gramma themselves or those whose children did, all I hear is appeal, appeal, appeal, absolutely no regard for my child’s mental health and well-being if he DID by some miracle get in on appeal. I will not allow my child to feel like he isn’t good enough, you can do amazing things in life, no matter what school you go to.

Student and Parent

Wasted years

February 13, 2024

When I was halfway through the first year at my infants’ school I already realised that I was not keeping up with my peer group. (At 35 years of age I discovered that I was dyslexic and had an IQ of 135 – 140. The BMJ gave a report into cognitive word blindness in 1897 What was my local LEA doing? )

When I was seven years of age I heard a radio programme where the speaker said that light bends when it passes massive objects: I was thinking about the cause of light waves being bent when I noticed :-

1. The apparent bent shape of a knife in a glass jug of water.

2. A smear of fat on a piece of grease proof paper.

3. An aircraft leaving vapour trails in the sky.

I wondered if a star could leave some sort of smear in the sky and light was being bent in the same way that the image of the knife in the jug was: not bad considering that as I have stated above I was only seven years of age.

When I was at my junior school I missed several weeks schooling due to pneumonia, when I got back to school a lady who I didn’t know ( I later found she was Mrs. Bradley from Wiltshire County Council Educational Support ) said open your pattern books and get on with your tests, as I didn’t have a clue as to what I was supposed to do I put my hand up seeking help, the Mrs. Bradley repeatedly told me to put my hand down and get on with the test. A few days later I was told that I had failed the test, at the age of eight I was told that .I had to leave that class immediately and make my way to the main school premises about two thirds of a mile away. I had only a vague idea where the main school buildings were and after an hour of knocking on house doors I was eventually spotted by a teacher.

The school had two remedial classes and I ended up in one of them: shortly afterwards the newly appointed headmaster changed the remedial classes into a B stream and made the remainder into an A stream; at the same time he stopped educational trips for the remedial classes and diverted educational support funds for the remedial classes into buying mock 11 Plus study books for the A stream

In the final year when we should be cramming for the 11 Plus:-

A. My class was visiting old age pensioners and putting on plays for their entertainment.

B. The headmaster told the boys in our class to come to school in dungarees or other old clothes, we expected something interesting, oh yes it was, he wanted us boys to shovel the best part of a ton and a half of coke down into the boiler room, we told him what he could do with his coke.

In due course I failed the 11 Plus, when the head master came into my class he said he would place his hand on the shoulder of the one boy or girl who had passed part 1 of the 11 Plus, he came up to each pupil, some more than once until he eventually placed his hand on the shoulder of the one pupil out of about 45 to pass part 1. ( for the record, my elder brother had earlier passed his 11 Plus and my twin sister sailed through her 11 Plus.)

Long after I failed the 11 Plus I discovered my headmaster should have informed my parents that they had the right of appeal over the result leading to a possible resit but with my class putting on plays for the old age pensioners we were on a hiding for nothing.

When I entered the local secondary modern, being separated from my brother and sister and school chums that I knew from the junior school I felt devastated, after some 64 years later the acute feeling of loss is still very apparent in my life.

At my secondary school I remember a physics book which stated that radio waves travelled through the ether at 186,000 miles per second, it then went on to say that the ether was an invisible colourless gas pervading all the universe and was the medium that light etc. was transmitted by; a theory discounted by Michelson & Morley et. al.

Another book on optics showed a Zeppelin caught in the beam of a searchlight; both books were printed before 1920 but we were using them post 1957.

My secondary modern had a school allotment, us boys used to double dig the clay soil & dig in fresh manure and grow vegetables which went into the school kitchen where they were used for school dinners, we still paid the same amount for our school dinners that Grammar School pupils paid and bearing in mind that we had helped grow the vegetables whereas the grammar school pupils did nothing to produce their meals. We often used herbicides and insecticides which were probably poisonous. What else do you expect from Wiltshire County Council?

Another grievance was that in our school the cloak rooms were unlit, unheated outside with the boys’ urinals out in the open whereas the grammar school had warm lit indoor facilities.

My biggest grievance of all is that the parents of secondary modern school pupils were required by law to pay the same amount of progressive taxation compared to the parents of grammar school pupils, but the secondary modern capitation was on average less than half that of grammar school pupils, thus parents of Secondary Modern pupils are forced to subsidise the education of Grammar school pupils.

I think that it will be many more years before the damage caused by selective education will disappear from England & Wales; in Scotland it is so different, you are an old pupil of the local academy irrespective of whatever job or profession you eventually enter.

Several years ago I found my secondary modern school cap badge. I then picked up the cap badge and I had a deep feeling of revulsion and disgust, I threw it down in the dustbin, it for me was like a black person in post apartheid South Africa throwing away his hated pass card, and I became free!

Thank God for laptops, spell checkers and voice writers.

For twelve years I was a Governor at a local infants’ school where I took a deep interest in children who had learning difficulties.

Funding cuts in education are nothing new, there is a lot of talk about deprived inner city area and stupid TV programmes such as Escape To the County paint a rosy chocolate box image of the country and as soon as they arrive in the country they complain of farming sounds and smells. No if you are cutting from an initially high level that’s one thing but to start off with a grossly underfunded system that is another thing, I remember when we ran out of exercise books and we had to buy our own. Hot on the heels of the news about these spending cuts is the news that the government intends reintroducing grammar schools when many people, myself included thought that selective education was dead and buried.

Selective education 11 Plus et al grew up out of the 1944 Education Act which introduced the 11 Plus Exam, Secondary Grammar, Secondary Technical and Secondary Modern Schools. The problem was that very few technical schools were created, no additional money was pumped into the school system and in the case of secondary Modern Schools the syllabus was more suited to the 1920s and not the 1940s heading into the 1950s, In not recognising technological developments the drafters of the 1944 Education Act have caused an immense amount of damage still being felt today.

Retired one time School Governor

Shame still lingers.

February 13, 2024

I failed the 11+ in 1968. I remember feeling a lot of shame and embarrassment, particularly as my father was a local businessman in a small town. Everyone knew everyone. I went to the local Secondary Modern School which was close to where we lived. My three best friends went to the Grammar School which added to my feelings of separation and failure. Some of the teachers at the Secondary Modern were quite reasonable and some very ordinary.

In 1970 my family migrated to Australia. There were no Secondary Moderns or Grammar Schools but High Schools. I was placed in the Advanced streams for 2 core subjects and Intermediate for the other 2 core subjects. I was able to complete my secondary schooling and became a Primary School Teacher. I felt this path would have been far more difficult to achieve had I stayed at the Secondary Modern.

Years later at teachers college I told some of my friends about the 11+ exam. At my 21st Birthday, one of my ‘friends’ gave me a birthday card. It read, ‘Just think, it’s now 10 years since you failed your 11+.” That comment brought back all the feelings associated with failing.

To add insult to injury I have since learned that each Grammar School child received a greater proportion of the education budget than Secondary Modern students. Although privilege will always be part of society it was never made more apparent by separating children at a crucial point in their education. I don’t think I can ever completely shake off the feelings of failing that exam all those years ago despite the fact that my parents were very understanding but nevertheless disappointed. Well done Scotland, for starting Comprehensive schooling in the early 1970’s.

Australian Primary Teacher

Worst thing I did to my child

November 13, 2023

My daughter failed the 11+ by 5 points in Maths. She had high scores for verbal and non-verbal. I remember buying her a card to and flowers to say well done still. I left her room and when I came back the card had been shredded and the flowers destroyed. She was angry at herself for failing and I blame myself to this day for putting her through it. She is doing well at the local comprehensive but 11+ is still on her mind.

Parent from Kent

Not given the opportunity to sit the 11 plus exam.

November 1, 2023

On the day of the 11 plus exam I was the only person in my class who did not sit the exam, instead I was given a chair to sit on in the play ground and told to sew four buttons on to cards using lengths of wool. I was not given an explanation as to why I was doing this, I only found out after the examination that the other children had taken the test.

Admittingly I was not good at reading or spelling, my maths was pretty good. By not taking the test I was placed in a low grade class at secondary school, this kicked started me into passing my yearly exams at secondary school where I ended up close to the top.( I think the head mistress didn’t like me)

Pupil from Suffolk. 1961.

Attending a grammar school

June 21, 2023

I hated preparing for the tests so much but I passed one out of four grammar school exams. Looking back, I think my mum had bragging rights that I was attending one of those schools. They cared about exam results a lot. One of my teachers crushed my spirit about a not so outlandish career aspiration and I lost most of my motivation and passion for anything school related from that point. I was 14. I don’t think attending a grammar school improved my life or prospects.


A cruel and pointless test

June 21, 2023

I live in an area with grammar schools. They only exacerbate social divisions and the only problem they solve is the one about children being too care free. No-one has invented a test that cannot be coached for. The 11+ is cruel and pointless and its’ persistence shows only the level of corruption that persists in this country.


It was different in the past

June 21, 2023

It was different when I sat it. It was only Bucks children eligible so more passed, it wasn’t a factory. It was a couple of tests on unknown days. It was school curriculum and not multiple choice. People didn’t really get tutored. There wasn’t the stress. Even with all that it was heartbreaking that friends got separated and the quality of education at secondary moderns was poor. I had friends who seemed just as bright as me at primary end up with a lot less qualifications.

Bucks citizen

A loss for local schools

June 21, 2023

We live in a grammar school area. It is hugely destructive – each year a few of the more academically able (and more socially advantaged) kids from Year 6 in local primary schools go to the local grammar schools, which will mean little gain for them but is a great loss to the local comprehensives and the children who attend them.

Grammar area parent

Perception of schools being second-rate

June 21, 2023

I work in a ‘comprehensive’ school which has a grammar school across the road. Students at my school achieve excellent exam results and are overwhelmingly well behaved and socially adept. They follow the same curriculum as their peers at the grammar school and sit the same exams at the end of their schooling. However many parents are distraught when their child ‘misses out’ on a grammar school place and is ‘forced to’ attend what many see as a second-rate school. Adults in the area will still discuss their peers by sorting them into those who went to the grammar and those who didn’t.


I am not a failure

June 21, 2023

I took the 11+ in 1972 and didn’t pass. I am 63 now and can still remember my mother shouting up the stairs to me telling me that I was ‘no good’. Can you imagine what that does to an 11 year old. I was sent to a comprehensive school miles away from home because the local secondary modern wasn’t very good. The education at my secondary school was good. If you were clever you could excel. We had quite a few go to University from there. My mother always treated me as though I was rather thick after not passing my 11+. I just thank goodness my children didn’t gave to sit this awful exam. Good education should be for all not just those that go to grammar school.


My lifelong resentment

May 11, 2023

I took the ll plus in 1963 and like many others I had no preparation – it was essentially arriving at school at being told the test would be taking place – I failed as did every other pupil in my class. As a consequence all careers of any substance and my dreams of being a Doctor were barred to me and I spent many years doing dead end jobs which I didn’t stay in very long because I hated them. I decided to take an OU degree which I did successfully but I found this was always seem to be regarded by employers as something educational failures took and it didn’t help me at all. I then took evening class at London University in software programming and eventually got me foot in door with an IT company and eventually became self employed. But it is something I think of often when I see the opportunities young people have today and the resentment I feel towards the government that made that decision about my life is with me to this day.

Pupil London

Easy mistakes with big implications ...

April 5, 2023

My daughter would have passed the 11+, except for one easy mistake – in multiple choice section she filled in the answer boxes in the wrong section. Just shows what a silly, arbitrary test the 11+ is. We shouldn’t be making decisions about where children spend 7 years of their life on this basis!

Parent from Kent

11+ training is 100% essential

April 3, 2023

The 11+ is so hard. It includes basic differential calculus, simultaneous equations and the whole thing under enormous time constraint. By trying to make it untrainable they’ve made training 100% essential. Especially for kids from poor inadequate primary schools. How is this fair?


The 11 plus

April 3, 2023

I was stopped in my tracks when I failed this IQ test : it changed the course of my life. The observations here throw a new light on something that was a damaging failure for me at the time. My siblings all passed.

Early years teacher

Grammar Schools

April 3, 2023

My late mother was not political but she summed it up beautifully: “people support grammar schools because they assume their children will go to them”.

None; Yorkshire

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