These are the most recent submissions to the site.

Getting a place was more about income than ability

October 8, 2022

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.

For grammar school student/teacher from Kent

Kent Test

October 5, 2022

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.

Margate dad

Being underestimated and doubting my abilities

October 5, 2022

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.

A working class kid who failed the Kent Test

The 11 plus took away aspiration

October 5, 2022

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

October 3, 2022

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.

Teacher and head teacher

A divisive test

October 3, 2022

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

October 2, 2022

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

October 1, 2022

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!

Former technical school pupil

A village split in 2

September 28, 2022

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.

Parent from Wimbledon

Still sensitive about the result decades later

September 28, 2022

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.


Written off

September 28, 2022

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!

not a failure

Different attitudes

September 27, 2022

I passed the Kent Test but my friend did not. When it happened he told me ‘I am stupid.’ I don’t think he is stupid. We are both in top sets at our schools (we go to different schools) but he thinks he isn’t good at school because of the test.

pupil in Kent

55 years on

September 26, 2022

I’ve felt an inadequacy in many situations all my life knowing the education my older brother and sister had and the things I didn’t learn at school. No school trips or languages , low job expectations, parental disappointment and brother just assuming I’m stupid. Done moderately alright but never went for promotions for feeling other people were better.


Eleven-plus rejection to grammar sixth form

September 25, 2022

My family was posted to Lincolnshire late in the summer before I entered year six, and I had no idea that I was to be taking the eleven-plus shortly. Nevertheless, I was signed up to take it as the reputation of the non-selective schools was subpar at best, which I failed and my newfound friends passed after they received weeks of private tutoring. As we left primary to go to our respective secondary schools, I certainly felt inferior (at age 11!) and social divisions were evident between the two schools.

I went on to regain my confidence, with the help of my incredible non-selective school and achieved the grades to get into the only sixth form within reasonable distance… the grammar school I’d been rejected from.

The seven of us who joined the sixth form from my secondary school often felt different to the crowd at both a socio-economic class and intellectual level. After getting C’s and B’s at first, I reached a point where I was doing well and applied to Cambridge. A group of grammar students felt jealous of this success (they admit this now, telling me I was a ‘threat’ to their academic status), and I felt a lot of the teachers were condescending. Now at Cambridge, I still feel a tinge of imposter syndrome and a lack of confidence that the grammar school students have, but I would never have wanted to be a part of the grammar school culture from year seven.

Student from Lincolnshire, now at Cambridge University

My single mum cleaner was working four hours for just an hour of a Kent Test tutor's time

September 25, 2022

My cleaner couldn’t read. It took me too long to realise it. Notes ignored, phone calls but never texts. Of course, I was sympathetic when I understood her problem. She told me how difficult it was to even get a job as a care worker, there were written tests and she struggled to hold down most low-paid jobs. She got by much easier with cleaning houses.

So what has this to do with grammar school tests? Well one day she told me that her daughter was bright. Her daughter wasn’t like her, she was ‘clever.’ So being in Kent, she did what every caring parent does, she paid for a Kent Test tutor. I was paying her £10 an hour at the time, and she was paying £40 an hour for the tutor.

This hard working single mum wanted the best for her daughter, so she was working four hours to gain nothing but an hour for her daughter with a tutor.

I feel awful writing this next bit. Her daughter failed the test. So all that much needed cash was wasted. Her mum was adamant that this was some mistake, her daughter was smart, so she deserved to go to grammar school. I could see that this poor woman just wanted her daughter to have a different life to her.

She told me that she went to see her daughter’s teacher, she wanted help with an appeal to win a grammar school place. She said the teacher dismissed her, told her daughter wasn’t up to it. The poor girl had two setbacks, the test told her she wasn’t good enough and then so did the school. My cleaner was angry, but she couldn’t manage an appeal herself, there was nothing she could do.

My cleaner was with me for many years, and I sometimes asked after her daughter. She didn’t do well at school, she truanted, she eventually left with unimpressive exam results. She had a baby very young and moved to Wales.

You’d think the story ended there, wouldn’t you? But in her mid-twenties my cleaner’s daughter decided to go back to college determined to sit her exams and then train as a lawyer or legal assistant. She’s set to succeed at that goal. She’s proved the system wrong. Her mum is now so very proud. My cleaner’s daughter encouraged her mum to go back to school too and get help for her reading. They’re both back in education.

It seems very clear to me that Kent’s education system did nothing to encourage this girl. It did the opposite, it gave her only discouragement. People think grammar schools are good for social mobility, but how often does this system let working class families down? How often do poor families waste money they can’t afford on tuition? This is all because they care about education, even when they’re not well educated themselves. The selective education system will take their hard earned cash and knock them back. It’s a terrible system, and to talk of expanding it is crazy.

Kent citizen

I failed the 11+

September 25, 2022

I felt useless and it took years to overcome the failures. Like my cohort in secondary modern I have gone on to get professional qualifications a degree and a masters degree. Within the cohort there are head teachers, civil engineers and airline pilots….all deemed to be failures at 11. To divide children at such a young age does not seem sensible or just.

Ex pupil Sussex

Failed 11+ Took years to recover

September 24, 2022

I failed the 11+ in about 1972. We lived in Kent at the time, although that made little difference at that time it is interesting later. When I say I failed what I actually mean is that I did not get a place in the local grammar because of course there is no passing grade. There are a number, n, of places , and the top n students get to go. So at age 11 I went to a very well equipped secondary modern where it was made quite clear to us that we had failed, were not academic and would be manual workers. I left with 3 O levels. My sister went to the grammar and achieved 10 O and 3 A levels. I joined the forces rather than stay home and there I was taught to be a computer technician which involved being able to programme mainframe computers and repair them to component level. I was lucky that my practical aptitudes were spotted and used. I worked low level technician jobs for 15 years while also studying for my degree in computer science. I now teach computer science at A level while having not a single one myself. The grammar school system set me up for a failure at 11 and only my own efforts put me back where I should have been but of course 30 years behind my peers who passed. My sister gained a degree in English but has never had a job. The last time I looked at the results from my old school, alma mater maybe , I noted 2% of students gained 5 GCSEs at C and above. In the grammar it was 98%. We’ll done Kent, you managed an average of 50%. The failing inner city comprehensive I was working in at the time achieved 53% the same year. Grammar schools are an abomination that labels kids as a failure nice and early so we can push them into the crap jobs that the middle classes don’t want.


A Lincolnshire Town - two grammars and one comp

September 24, 2022

I was Exec Head of a comprehensive school in a town in Lincolnshire. The Town had large communities of Poles, Lithuanians and Latvians working in food processing industry. Our school was 40% EAL and had 20% FSM. The two grammar schools had almost 0 EAL and about 4% FSM. We had a teacher recruitment crisis and struggled to get any new teachers. Complete lack of fairness and equity.

Executive Head - now retired and based in London

Exam nerves

September 24, 2022

A friend’s daughter had to be withdrawn from the test because her nerves were so bad that she was actually sick. It is a test that is supposed to judge brain power but how many little children have exam nerves and don’t do themselves justice? This is not a system that works for ten year olds unless they are resilient.

Worried mum

"Failure' best thing that ever happened

September 24, 2022

My son was expected to walk through the 11+ and get entry to the local King Edward school. In the end he didn’t do well enough but was offered a place as a fee paying pupil. Although he had been to a private school since infants, the fees were beyond my reach….so I had to tell him I couldn’t afford it . Luckily he had liked what he saw of the local comprehensive so he was not unhappy. Although that school then went through problems and ended in special measures, he got good results …the only ‘failure’ being that the school wanted him to try for Oxford…he was rejected at the first hurdle….Oxford don’t take pupils from schools like that! He ( and I) both feel what he lost in terms on academic rigor his time at the comprehensive gave him a much better education for life than a private school would have. ..something that I know will stand him in good stead as her pursues a possible career in politics. But that is only because I did not talk in terms of ‘success’ or ‘failure.’ Parents attitudes can cause many problems for the children. Although I am a successful product of the grammar school system, I feel it is too elitist, and adds division in an ordinary divided society.

Parent Birmingham

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