These are the most recent submissions to the site.

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

The 11+ permanent chip on the shoulder

September 24, 2022

I’m 51 and still scarred by ‘failing’ the 11+. My family all went to grammar schools having ‘passed’ and the letter sent a deep shock wave through us all but it left me feeling a lifelong imposter in all that I do. One could argue that it was character building, that it drove me to prove the system wrong, that I developed later than others, however the fact remains that the label of failure at 11 is deeply wounding and limiting. I did get to university, one of 2 from my year group at a secondary modern school which, despite the terrible facilities and lack of funding, had some inspirational teachers who supported my ambition to become a teacher. I did, in fact, I became a headteacher of a comprehensive, singing the praises of all but my heart always lay with the underdogs, those children who arrived as deeply scarred from the negative experience of failing Kent selection tests. Our school saw children get to Oxford and Cambridge, achieve fame and riches, and best of all, secure employment in chosen careers where they are as at least successful as their ‘selected’ peers. Give it up, the grammar system is a class system and does not improve standards or make children more happy or successful. It is high time this was acknowledged and we move on, education is so much more than qualifications and grades, and there are many many routes to happiness.

Former headteacher from Kent

Life long shame

September 24, 2022

My wife, is a bright, clever, articulate woman in her seventies. She failed her 11+. Despite the shame and feeling of personal failure, she did well enough at the secondary modern to do A levels at the grammar school sixth form. It was a revelation to her 16 year old self that the kids there were no better or cleverer than she was. She secured A levels and went to teacher training college, where she gained firstly a CertEd and then a BEd (hons). She has been a brilliant mother and grandmother, was a highly successful teacher and then set up and ran a day nursery from scratch.

She has yet to shake the shame of the failure at the 11+, nor the in ground feeling that, somehow, she is not good enough.

Ex-Headteacher in the state comprehensive system

My daughter was inconsolable

September 23, 2022

My daughter worked so hard for the test. She desperately wanted to go to the same grammar school as her sister. When the results came out and she didn’t pass, she literally collapsed onto the floor and sobbed for hours. Her closest friends had passed and she felt totally broken. My confident 10 year old suddenly felt like a failure in the blink of an eye. Two years of unnecessary tutoring and testing. It’s just too much, a flawed system that isn’t supporting our kids, it’s harming them. Three years on and she still brings it up.

Parent Bexley

My son is eight and the 11+ already looms large

September 23, 2022

Every year, as the year 6’s prepare for the 11+ a sense of panic pervades the playground. My son is eight and starting to feel the pressure already. I would love to just opt out if the whole thing and trust that grammar schools don’t actually improve outcomes, as the evidence suggests, but there’s a lot of pressure from the rest of the family not to take this “opportunity” away from him. It’s doing both of our heads in.

Parent, Aylesbury

Education should not be purely based on academic achievements.

September 23, 2022

My daughter went to a local all girls grammar school and after the first couple of years became extremely unhappy. Her confidence plummeted and all her teachers seemed to care about was how she would achieve an A!

Without going into details she left with very few GCSE’s but has over the years found her way and worked hard to achieve a 2:1 in her degree. She ironically now works in an educational child mental health setting and most of the referrals to her work place are from grammar schools.

My son, even though he got into a grammar school refused to go and is very happy and achieving well at the local comprehensive school.

As a teacher myself I believe that creating confidence in young people is paramount and the grammar system is divisive , creates even more inequalities in society not to mention the feelings of failure, the competition from both children and parents etc etc…..I could go on!!

Parent and teacher

Stress Capacity and objective thinking

September 23, 2022

After working as an independent educator for SEN kids for over 20 years, I have come to understand that grammar schools are a place for tough kids. Tough psychologically — these kids aren’t necessarily the brightest ones nor those who work hardest, but when they are forced into cruel competitions, into situations where their future can be significantly affected, they can calmly do what they can and come out doing better than others. They might not have very high EQ or really good socializing skills, but they don’t suddenly lose their ability to perform well and can still objectively think and react — these are good qualities that should be nurtured for the society — though whether grammar schools are the best way to realize the potentials of these young adults, that is something WE now have to decide. Rather than talking about the selectivity of grammar schools, I think we should discuss HOW to raise a future generation that will be seen as more reliable when they work with the future technologies, than AI expert systems alone.

Independent teacher for over 20 years

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