MOST RECENT 11+ ANONYMOUS COMMENTS
These are the most recent submissions to the site.
We have grammar schools where I live. It is *insanely* competitive. Thousands of pounds spent and hours invested in tutoring in order to have a chance to get a place. The kids in my daughter’s class are largely the children of professionals and very rarely working class.
I wasn’t aware of the grammar system when I chose to move to Kent 20 years ago, long before marriage and starting a family, I hadn’t even considered the educational challenges posed. It’s been a whole year of stress and angst in our household trying to prep for a test aged 10.
Retired Headteacher who failed the 11+
I am a newly retired headteacher of over seventeen years of headship in Hampshire. I have also served as a primary school educational consultant and an Ofsted Inspector. My wife is an ex-grammar school pupil whilst I, on the other hand, spectacularly failed the 11 plus. We have two daughters one would have passed the 11 plus and the other, like her father, would probably have not. Fortunately, Hampshire Education Authority does not run a selective secondary system so both daughters attended the same excellent comprehensive school and both did very well and now have successful careers. I am 64 years old now, yet I can still remember as a child, sitting alone on the stairs in the hall listening to my parents’ kitchen conversation and their heart-felt concerns after finding out that I had blotted my copy-book and failed the 11 plus.
A sad day
As an ex grammar school grandad, a sad day as we saw our grand daughter just fail passing her 11+, her older sister passed a few years ago. I hate this division of little children at such a young age, so wrong. She tried so hard, 9 points short, and never a failure.
I was under 11 when tested.
2 weeks after my 11th birthday during the summer holidays (b. 1939 )in mid August 1950 , saw me entering sec mod school. My younger sister ( b .late Nov 1941 ) previously shared the same jun and infant and junior schools with me but we hardly met as she was in the scholarship class most of the time 1/4 -mile away.
One thing that people never talk about is the subtle inequality between grammar schools and the schools that surround them. Grammar school selection is social selection. The kids that pass the Kent Test are mostly tutored and middle class, or have great parental support. This goes without saying because to try for a grammar school you need to care about education and have a certain confidence.
The schools surrounding grammars are not only lacking the bright kids, they contain more than typical SEND kids, more than typical disadvantaged kids, more than typical kids with parents who don’t prioritise education. It drives me mad that our new PM talks about creating new grammar schools, without seeing that she will be creating more schools that are placed in a tough spot with a harder than average balance of pupils.
I’m a governor in a Kent non-selective and I know that the most dedicated teachers and school leaders are in schools like mine. I send my own children to a non-selective, because the teachers and leaders work super hard to get great outcomes for the children. The grammar schools select pupils who will get top grades, they rest on their laurels, they can get away with being lazy. The non-selective schools work to sort great behaviour policies, the best safeguarding systems, the best learning structures, and do a fantastic job. There is a certain passion and commitment to the teachers in schools like mine, its more likely to be a vocation not a job. Our non-selective school in a deprived coastal town has sent kids to Oxbridge most years, proving that grammars are unnecessary.
Non-selective schools are regularly fantastic, but none of this excuses the councils and governments who let our children be divided at the tender age of ten. All for no real purpose, and in a manner that creates a horrendous social divide. The 11+ is a bad system that mostly seems to continue to give middle class parents an easy life.
Children with undiagnosed SEND have no chance
My very bright daughter (many teachers described her as ‘gifted’), ‘failed’ the Kent Test despite scoring above the overall pass mark, but came a point under in Maths. She had very little tutoring, her primary school (who were very much against the test which I now understand why) said it was highly likely she would pass with ease. Opening the email to say she was ‘suitable for high school’ was horrific – how was I going to tell her? My daughter had dreamt of going to grammar school for years, although neither myself nor her father attended one coming from outside of Kent. The ambition was hers.
On receiving the result, my daughter sobbed uncontrollably for hours, I had to sleep with her that night and was so exhausted, she couldn’t go into school, which she loved, the following day.
Ours is a long story but in short, my daughter has subsequently been diagnosed as having the processing speed of a child with dyslexia. She should have been given extra time, with one expert telling us that it would have been near impossible for her to pass the test without access arrangements, and it was incredible that she achieved as highly as she did. This test did not measure her intelligence at all. It’s nothing more than an exercise in how quickly children can mark the paper with some getting ‘lucky’ on the day. How many other children like her are there?
It’s a cruel, outdated system which clearly does not work. My daughter went to the local school which ‘nobody wants to go to’ who were in fact wonderful. It’s a nurturing school with opportunities for everyone – as it should be and has arguably more opportunity than the grammar school which I hear is resting on its laurels and is more concerned with getting A* out of it’s students at whatever cost.
Naively, I had no idea of the impact of living in a selective county (Kent) would have on my twin children when we moved to the county. One of my children had known SEND, so sitting the 11+ was never going to be an option. When it transpired that my other child was the brightest girl in her year in her primary school, and desperate to go to Grammar School (some older girls who she looked up to went), sitting the 11+ seemed to be the most obvious step. How wrong we were.
Having grown up in a fully comprehensive system, as a parent, I knew nothing about the 11+ and the lengths parents go to to get their child into grammar school, some tutoring for years. I will never forget the day my daughter sat the test, she was terrified and felt her whole future hung in the balance despite continual reassurance from us that it doesn’t matter. But it did, to her.
My daughter, an incredibly bright, ambitious girl who dreamt of going of Oxford from the age of 8, failed the maths element of the test by one mark. It was horrendous, having to tell your child that she was not going to her dream school, to avoid using the word ‘fail’ and to see a little girl, aged only 10 so utterly destroyed. We saw every single one of my daughters’ friends from other schools (and some who’s parents admitted were far less able) pass the test was devastating.
In one afternoon, my daughter lost all of her confidence, self-belief, ambition (she thought Oxford would be impossible) and fell into a depression. She was exhausted. What should have been one of her best years (Year 6) she has since told me was her worst. My daughter started year 7 in a local non-selective school, which ironically had a Grammar Plus stream and went on to win a full scholarship at a top public school. She has won numerous academic awards and is well on her way to do very very well at A level.
We have had to work very hard rebuilding my child’s confidence, she still doesn’t believe she’s ‘good enough’ despite being selected for the Oxbridge pathway in 6th form next year! The 11+ plays russian roulette with a child’s future and is not to be trusted. Conversely, I have seen children get into grammar school who simply should not be there and others who thrive post age 11. How as system exists where the academic outcome of children is determined aged 11 is simply baffling, totally unfair and must be abolished. Attending a grammar school makes no difference to the educational outcome of a child – results in non-selective counties such as Hertfordshire and Hampshire are prime examples of areas where children comprehensive schools flourish.
Mum was sitting in the garden, Dad was at work, it was a warm spring Saturday in Torquay, and I had mown the grass for the first time that year. My twin brother came from the front door with the post for mum. Two letters in brown envelopes from Devon Local Authority telling Mum where her boys would be going to secondary school. At that time all children in Torbay sat the 11+. Mum and Dad had chosen selective schools for my brother and me.
My brother’s letter was the first to be opened- he had done it! He had got my parents’ first choice of school; he was going to be a grammar-school boy. Mum was overjoyed, she told him how proud she was of him and how delighted Daddy would be when he got home from work. I felt the tension build as Mum tore open the second envelope, mum looked at it for a long while, then she re read it, tilting it away so I could not see what it said. I think she regretted opening the envelopes in front of us, and regretted the praise poured on my twin, she was trying to find the words to let me down gently. She did not have to, my tears welled up, and all I could manage was “sorry, mum”, and she put her arms around me and said that it did not matter. She cried as well.
Forty-five years have passed since that spring morning. Mum, was of course right, it certainly wasn’t the end of anything. But still, I feel sad for that boy of 10 and angry about the system that still causes such pain.
Getting a place was more about income than ability
I was always absolutely average when it comes to academic achievement- not bottom of the class but definitely not gifted or brilliant. I was lucky enough to get into the local girls’ grammar school probably based on a mixture of luck and my parents being able to afford tuition for me when I asked for it. Everyone from our primary who got a place had a tutor (many for several years) and there were a few very able students- certainly more capable than I was- who did not pass. I remember being terrified of the local comprehensive, which was in special measures and had a reputation for being full of bullies. I don’t think the grammar school offered any kind of social mobility for working class kids at all. It just kept the ‘nice’ middle class kids away from the ‘riff-raff ‘.
Having worked as a teacher in a number of tough comprehensive schools over the years, I am so grateful for my education. I got to learn in a calm environment, I had teachers who expected me to get the best grades and taught me exactly how to do that without having to waste time dealing with poor behaviour, I did not have to worry much about bullying or attend alongside peers whose challenging and resulting mental health challenges had a serious impact on their behaviour at school. There was a good atmosphere because the students I attended with valued their education and wanted to succeed. We very rarely had teachers leave or were taught by supply teachers.
In the comprehensive school where I used to work, I often saw students of a similar profile as me- shy, anxious, middle ability, parents who do not necessarily push them- disengaging with their education or dropping out of school entirely out of anxiety. I think the most able tend to find a way to succeed anyway, it’s the middle and lower ability that need the best teachers, the extra academic support and opportunities on offer at a grammar school.
My son didn’t enter the Kent Test. It’s dated, irrelevant and pointless. You shine and progress with the correct attitude, guidance and love. The other children took the test while my son had a free play day at school.
Being underestimated and doubting my abilities
I cried when my maths teacher decided to put me in the lower set at school for GCSE’s because he thought I’d struggle. Two years later I won the senior maths prize at A-level. The A-level was run by the same teacher.
But still the first bit is hard to erase from my head. Being underestimated has been a core theme in education and work. As has been a doubt in my own abilities. And that is the product of being a working class kid who failed the Kent Test and was told from age 11 they weren’t really good enough to succeed.
The 11 plus took away aspiration
At the age of 11 I had the 11 plus exam. It asked me about things I had never heard of at all! So I went home and asked my dad what they were. He didn’t know either he had never heard of it either!! No Wonder we failed it. It was an exam you had no lessons on how to pass.
It took away aspiration. I remember jobs I would have liked but I had no qualifications – there were none to take when I left school. So I went to evening classes and did my GCSEs – they were so easy and I got good marks – so I could apply for better jobs.
So I did A level Law as well and passed that easily after 1 year as they didn’t put on the 2nd year.
My Evening class teacher told me to do an OU degree. I didn’t think I could ever be clever enough to do a degree. I got my degree.
Don’t let them ever bring back the 11 plus – it stymies talent where the best students are denied a brilliant future. What a waste – for all we know scientists of the future who could cure cancer or other medical conditions are emptying dustbins.
Contrary to recognised research on children's development
I know now the grammar school I attended was elitist. The staff were mostly interested in the higher streams, I was in one of those streams and went on to further education. My friends in the lower streams were left to muddle through. It has had a profound effect on my family as my sister failed, and never got over it. My own children had to travel to the next town to attend a comprehensive school, as there was still an 11+ where we lived. I have been a teacher and head teacher. The practice of selecting children at 10 is contrary to recognised research on children’s development. Efforts should be put into ensuring each and every child has a wide and varied curriculum at a well run school with well paid staff.
A divisive test
My child took the 11+ (not tutored but with practice papers) and passed. The non grammar schools where we live are not great, so for me it is better they are in a grammar, but it is a divisive test reflecting tutoring as much as ability.
It doesn't go away
Despite failing the 11+ many years ago I have had a successful and rewarding career in the medical field. However, I still carry with me the shame of having failed the 11+ exam.
Much better than the grammar school
I took the 11+ in 1944 and was selected to attend the South East Essex County Technical School at Barking. The school shared the same building, and facilities, as the adult technical college and was excellent in almost every way – wonderful teaching with a very wide range of activities; although I didn’t appreciate it at the time (I thought all schools were like that.) I later came to see that it was one of the best schools in the country, private schools included, and certainly much better than the local grammar school. However, the down side was that there was no sixth form – everyone left at 16 – and I was cast out into the wide world with only the old school certificate (predecessor to GCE) to my name, with the implication that my days in formal education had ended. To cut a long story short, it was not until I reached the age of 21 that I re-entered education as a student on a 2-year course at a teacher training college, 36 before I graduated with a London University external degree in psychology, and 47 before I took my masters degree. The final 18 years of my working life were occupied as a lecturer in education. Make of this what you will!
A village split in 2
I went to a little village school in Cheshire. There were 4 classes, with 100 children in the whole school. In my final year, I and the other 19 children in my class sat the 11+, as all children in Cheshire did in 1972. 10 of us passed, 10 of us failed. The “failures” were the children of the working class villagers- the school cleaner, petrol garage owner etc. Once September came we were all bussed to our schools, the Secondary Modern in the nearby town, and the Grammar beyond that. We were all picked up outside the village mini-market, but one side was the Secondary Modern kids, the other the Grammar kids, and we never spoke to each other again. We’d been through primary school as friends, but the 11+ completely split that village’s children in two. I’m totally against Grammar schools, and very happy that my 2 sons have been able to go to a local Comprehensive, but even as I write this I am seeing pleas on Nextdoor Neighbourhood from people seeking 11+ tutors for their children.
Still sensitive about the result decades later
I felt I had let my parents down when I failed the 11 plus exam. I am still sensitive about it aged 70, it marks you out at a failure for the rest of your life.
The head teacher of my primary school told my mother there was no point in me doing the 11+ as I wouldn’t amount to anything. I still did it, achieved well and I’m now a Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist!
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