These are the most recent submissions to the site.

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

11+ exam

September 23, 2022

Sat exam in 1968,and had no idea of what anything was about,could not understand any of the questions at the time,and the results made my mum and dad think I was thick.The school exaggerated that feeling by putting all the pupils in a line as per the results.I was almost at the end of this line….and was made out to be obviously unintellegent.

After,I stood in the stock room with shaking legs,knowing my parents would be even more cross with me….They called me “Low brow”,they were that disappointed…and then moved heaven and earth to get me into a school that they believed had a better reputation than the one I was due to be sent to.

…Net result…a secretive boy,scared of his own shadow…prone to intense violence

Dad from wales


September 23, 2022

I am now 69 but can still remember sitting in my grandmothers garden weeping on the day that I discovered I had been rejected by our local direct grant school. I had been borderline in the 11 plus test and had been invited for interview at the school where it was soon obvious I was not going to fit in. Questions included how high Glastonbury tor level was above sea level (I had no idea)! The local system meant that the choice for girls was secondary modern or a direct grant school that took a few ‘council pupils’ every year.

I went to the local secondary modern school and loved every minute of my time there. Teachers were aspirational and treated us with respect. I eventually went on to be a teacher and a headteacher and am passionate about educational opportunities for all. I am appalled at the latest idea that grammar schools will be promoted and just wish the government would base their decisions on facts and not ideology.

Although with supportive and ambitious parents, I did well out I the system, many of my contemporaries despite being extremely capable, never recovered from the feeling of failure and did not achieve what they were surely capable of.

Parent, teacher, headteacher, governor

Pupil, student and teacher

September 23, 2022

I sat the 11-plus in Somerset in 1958. I and my friend were the only two to pass from our village school. I had an advantage as my parents, by no means well off, had sent me for two years to prep school. After my first year at Yeovil Grammar, we moved to Bath. I was placed in the Y form. The City of Bath Boys’ School had four streamed classes: A, B, X and Y. The lettering speaks volumes. I performed modestly in most subjects, except in French, where I was consistently top. After some pressure from my parents, I was allowed (being born in September ) to repeat a year with promotion to the A stream. Lo and behold, I was at or near the top of the class in French, German, Geography, Chemistry and English. I passed Maths, French and English O levels a year early. I went to gain my A levels, a BA, a graduate teaching certificate and later an MEd.

As a teacher, I spent most of my career in comprehensive schools, but spent two years in a Hampshire grammar, two years in a German ‘Gymnasium’ and several placements in the period 2005 to 2011 in a large Lincolnshire grammar.

In my experience, the teaching is of the same overall quality in grammars and comprehensives. Differences become apparent when you take school leadership into account. Selective education excludes and labels young people, when we should encourage them to believe they can change and develop (and have the right to do so). I came across many in the selective sector who had been coached to pass the entrance exam and were unhappy and, sometimes, rebellious in the grammar school.

From my own experience as a student (we used to be called pupils) and as a teacher, I am persuaded that selection and streaming create labels which cause suffering and often inhibit the development of talent.

Former grammar school pupil and teacher in both sectors.

1980s 11 Plus and Grammar School Experience

September 23, 2022

I grew in the London Borough of Bexley and took the 11 plus in 1987. Bexley had grammar schools; the neighbouring borough of Greenwich did not. I went to Primary School in Greenwich, and everyone got to take the 11 Plus – but only the children who lived in Bexley would be guaranteed a grammar school place if we passed. Even back then there was talk of families who had two houses, or kids who would move boroughs for a year. I had classmates who were tutored for the 11 plus and friends who were determined to fail so that they wouldn’t be separated from their friends in secondary school.

My Mum had failed her 11 Plus but had passed the 13 Plus and gotten into a grammar school. She was determined that we would get a better education and whilst we weren’t tutored, we had verbal reasoning workbooks as extra homework to do.

I passed the 11 plus – I was told that my best friend and I got the highest scores in the borough. But only I got to go to grammar school as she lived in Greenwich. I was the only child from my primary school to go to my secondary school, which was incredibly isolating.

Overall my school experience was good – our school wasn’t as pretentious some of the other grammar schools, teaching was generally good and some teachers were excellent, and I think we took in a lot of students who got kicked out elsewhere – there were rumours always about schools ditching students who they didn’t think would get good GCSE results. We had one teacher who used to tell us that we were the top 25% and I used to wonder what the other 75% were getting in that case as some lessons were really poor.

I’ve never understood why a test at 11 should be allowed to dictate your whole future and create such a divide. Grammar schools need to be abolished.

Former Grammar School Student, Bexley

Neurodivergent Thinkers shut out.

September 23, 2022

I went to a grammar school back in the nineties. I had no issues with it. For the 2 years I was there, before leaving for another school, it was okay. Years later my son, who is vastly more intelligent than I was at his age, had suffered in the state school primaries due to racialized bias from teachers and classwide behavioural issues and unknowledgeable senco’s, but who had flourished for his last 2 years in a private school (for which we remortgaged our house).

Having put hard work and effort in to catch up with his extremely well-educated peers, despite his (late) autism and dyslexia diagnoses, he tried out for the same grammar I had once attended. But this time, wealthy parents who had had their children in the private school system since they were 3 years old, and who forked out thousands on extra tuition a year in addition to private school, and who could afford to continue to send their child to a private school, instead chose to take up grammar school places. Besides this, actual intelligence gets lost in the 11 plus system (I was for a long time an 11 plus tutor) and an outdated testing method which excused brilliant but not neurotypical Thinkers, meant the grammar school lost out on my son’s talent. Their loss.

Parent and 11 plus tutor. Lecturer in colleges and universities. Ex grammar student.

A slice of living with a grammar school system

September 23, 2022

I am a single mum living in Kent who has 2 daughters and who has been a teacher at a grammar school. The 11+ system permeates everything. It starts when your children are around 7 and slowly builds so you can’t escape it. It’s crushing and intense. Constant conversation of tutoring; the best tutors; the costs; the thoughts about what are you going to do if your child doesn’t pass grow bigger and bigger and by the time year 5 arrives the conversation is everywhere.

Being a single mum meant I couldn’t afford tutoring. It meant I had to listen to constant chat, that I was excluded from. The stress it caused me was horrible and sometimes I found myself not socialising with friends, who were all paying for tutoring for their children. Some even from year 2. I couldn’t join this race. I knew my kids were bright and very able and more importantly loved learning. But, still no guarantee they would pass. Anything can happen on the day.

One of the biggest problems is the disparity between the behaviour at grammars and non selective schools. And the impact this has on learning. This for me was the biggest concern. The choices if they don’t pass were poor – really poor, and the thought of my quiet, kind and reserved children been eaten alive and not being able to access learning was a huge concern. Not just for me, but for them too. The conversation is on the playground too. The girls were very aware of what was coming and what their choices were. They were just 10 years old. The pressure on their shoulders is insane. Tears been shed about what would happen. Sleepless nights. It’s inhumane.

Living in Kent and listening to our young people it is apparent that there is segregation. There is an us and them culture. Tribes are formed and there are feelings of difference and a sense of being less than if you don’t pass. You feel a failure.

I didn’t pass. I am a 50 year old woman and it is still with me today. That feeling of having failed has never left me. I didn’t want my girls to carry that feeling.

I enjoyed being a teacher at a grammar school, but I do not agree with it. However, I chose to work in one because I wanted to teach and not spend the majority of my time managing behaviour. However, the elitism is palpable and unhealthy. Grammar schools breed inherent inequality, and non selective schools breed a strong sense of failure. It is backward thinking.

Parent and teacher from Kent.

I went to grammar school and it was awful

September 23, 2022

I passed the test in 1966. Only 9 out of 90 pupils in the school I was in passed. I was bullied afterwards by children at the primary school because I had only moved into the area in October the preceding year, and in their view I had stolen a place from a girl who was expected to pass.

At the grammar later I felt socially excluded – only 2 other pupils from my previous school whom I didn’t know well anyhow as I’d only known them 10 months. A particular school in the “posh” part of town sent 50% of its pupils by intensive coaching – a lot of these girls ended up in the lowest stream in the end, it was quite noticeable.

There was a uniform but it was easy to see who was poor and who was rich – rich girls went to an independent outfitters where the clothes were of better materials and better cut, the average person went to the Co-op where the clothes were distinctly inferior. The poor got hand me downs or tried to make it themselves – 6 gore skirt anyone?

I did get excellent A levels but due to total lack of career advice, and pressure to go to University, I studied biology at a Russell Group university which led nowhere.

(I would have been much better off IMO training as a radiographer or physiotherapist or similar, even nursing, but I was steered away from such practical choices as in those days they did not involve a University course and so I would not garner kudos for the school.

Previous grammar school pupil

Brains are not enough to reduce the class divide

September 23, 2022

I am a 70 years old who passed the 11+ and went to grammar school in a very affluent area. I felt like a fish out of water. I was constantly reminded that my class mates and myself may have had the skills to pass that ridiculous test but in every other aspect of our lives we were so different. I was even told to choose a red brick rather than established university as that was more appropriate for someone from my background. I left that school lacking confidence and constantly feeling I needed to prove myself. I recently revisited the school and was struck by the smug attitude of both staff and pupils. The sense of entitlement to facilities that I have never seen in any comprehensive school was powerful. All the grammar school system does is increase the class divide

Pupil from Bucks

Ideology over reality.

September 23, 2022

I attended a grammar school in the 1970’s having transferred from an area where nearly every child attended the local excellent comprehensive. One of the most unsettling discoveries on joining the grammar was that I was now expected to consider myself ‘above’ the local children who attended the secondary modern school. This faux elitism was profoundly unfair and in reality laughably tenuous. There was little discernible difference in the abilities of the children, since everyone was subjected to a grading anyway.

Any system which grades a child as a failure at the age of 11 is fundamentally flawed. It should have no place in a modern democracy.

I taught for 22 years and witnessed how the system is rigged to favour those children whose parents can afford extra tuition. If a child needs extra support to pass an exam, how can a place at an institution which is supposedly only for the ‘brightest’ be justified?

As to elitism, my family moved abroad and I then attended a public school. It was drummed into us at that particular school that we were never to consider ourselves ‘better’ than anyone else and the emphasis was on contributing to society and an awareness that good fortune is not evenly spread.

Grammar schools are deeply divisive and do nothing to improve the education of the vast majority of children. Funding should be concentrated on improving all schools, not some artificial construct parading as route to social mobility.

Parent from Kent and ex teacher.

Local schools for local kids

September 23, 2022

We spoke to numerous parents when picking up our child after the exam. Not one of the was from the local area with some having travelled many miles. We live in the area but it is highly unlikely our son will pass and get in. The undue stress this causes to a child is absolutely unnecessary. If all the schools were at the same level then this wouldn’t be an issue and all kids would get a great education in their local area. I think the sick on the pavement outside of the school before the exam says it all.


A test of parents - not of children

September 23, 2022

We had two children and we got a tutor, worked with our kids on previous tests, downloaded tests and comments from the Internet – they passed.

Our next door neighbours allowed their children to take their own chances – they failed.

What a nasty, divisive, small-minded test of parenting – I’m not proud of what we did but it was the society we lived in – the sooner the 11+ and Grammar schools are consigned to the same dustbin as putting children up chimneys, rickets and smallpox the better.

Parent from Buckinghamshire

Such a waste.

September 23, 2022

I failed the 11 plus at the interview stage – I was borderline. Being called into a small room to be asked seemingly random questions by strange adults in order to decide if i went to grammar school or not at the age of 10 was humiliating and terrifying. Why doesn’t the train from Haslemere go through Hindhead on the way to Liphook ? I said because it isn’t on the way, but they informed me that it was because Hindhead is on a hill, but OBVIOUSLY you wouldn’t take the train all the way up the hill to Hindhead from Haslemere because the people on the train would be furious if you did that. Idiots! Then I admitted that I didn’t go to the library as often as I would like which obviously marked me down, but I was from an evangelical working class family which only had books on the Bible at home, and who stopped me from reading anything that wasn’t ‘edifying’ so the fact that I went to the library independently at all would have been pretty surprising if they had known anything at all about me. The fact that I can recount these questions, and my answers, and my shame at the realisation of having said the wrong thing 53 years after the event gives you some sense of the enormity of it. I loved primary school: I can still see and smell the papier mache model of Portland, Chesil Beach and Lulworth Cove that we made after the trip to Lyme Regis which changed me forever (I sat on my suitcase when I got home and refused to unpack, and I sit on the cliff above Durdle Door now as I write this); I can remember the story I used to write in creative writing that went on and on (I refused to start a new one) about a hidden world up on Blackdown Common where dinosaurs roamed which was so real I was determined to get all my friends to come down to Haslemere so I could take them to see it; I remember the beauty and wonder of the three dimensional shapes we made in maths and hung in the school hall; and the full size model we made of the lunar landing module in science. Every subject was a treasure store of exciting and wonderful knowledge and experiences. So … then to secondary school. All my friends went to grammar school, and I had none from that moment on until I got to university (up until then I had regularly gone to stay the night at my friends Charles’ and Julian’s houses – I never did that again). I can’t recall a single moment of the joy of education from that moment, until I finally refound my love of English through Miss Blewett in the 4th form, (although the tedium and stupidity of woodwork and metalwork stays with me). I sat English O level a year early, and in the mocks I got a higher mark than anyone in the year above me. Clearly there was no question about me not going to sixth form where I was surrounded by grammar school and private school kids whose self confidence reinforced the sense of my failure and deep shame of having spent five years in what felt like a penitentiary. I got into my first choice: Leeds University, to do English Literature, just, but I suffered deeply from imposter syndrome and when I went back to the campus for the first time about 40 years later I wept and wept for the time I wasted there, too terrified to speak in a seminar, too easily persuaded that getting drunk and stoned was a more fitting culmination to my educational journey. I was very nearly thrown out in the third year, and I did the very least I could to be allowed to take finals – inevitably a 2.2. Failing the 11 plus shaped my whole experience of education, but more significantly it turned the happy, sociable, lover of learning at 10 years old into the stereotypically teengage misfit on steriods, chronically unable to communicate with parents or peers, the perfect prey for the local paedophile to exploit. I have worked for 20 years in widening participation, helping young working class people see the opportunities that higher education can offer. I wonder if it’s a form of working my educational experience out, it is certainly a way of ensuring that others with the potential to benefit from higher education will be able to make the most of it, and a desire that they can have the positive experience of learning that I didn’t have. Above all I tell young people whenever I get the chance that they are unique and special, and that there is a whole world of opportunity out there available to them if they say yes to it. I don’t remember anyone ever saying that to me.

Pupil at Beacon Hill Primary School, Hindhead, Surrey, now living in New Malden.

My children are in Mensa but are dyslexic and dyscalculic. As such they are not supported within mainstream school, let alone put forward for 11+

September 23, 2022

My children are very intelligent, fantastic at science, art, history and can blow you away with their self-learned knowledge. But because they struggle with rote academia and learn differently (can’t remember times tables but then can do incredibly complicated mental maths when they want to) they were seen as failures by their mainstream schools and there is no way they would be put forward for the 11+, despite over approximately half of NASA scientists being dyslexic. Secondary school would not allow them to study the subjects they were interested in. They managed to get into University by a more convoluted route, and University enables them and supports and understands their SEN’s unlike the rest of the education system, which treated them either as difficult, stupid or an effort to provide for. Instead of grammar schools we need a complete rethink of our education system because it is breaking children’s confidence and not recognising their strengths.


My success in the 11 plus and my daughters´ education at Tonbridge Grammar School

September 23, 2022

I passed the 11 plus in 1958 and went on to graduate in economics. I was part of a 5% minority of children from poor families that got to grammar school. 95% of poorer children went to secondary moderns. After my separation from her mother my daughter wanted to come and live with me and I made sure she could go to a grammar school because I lived in Kent. Thanks to my education I was able to follow a career in banking and become socially mobile. I now recognise that I could have achieved all this in a less selective system. So could my daughter who is now a Senior Lecturer at a university. Grammar schools are for upper middle-class kids who go to prep schools so that they can avoid private school fees. Grammar schools are not the future. It´s worth saying that I did not have to pay fees at university, but I did have a means tested grant for living expenses. I believe every young person has the right to an education like mine.

Parent from Kent, MA (Ed), father of a graduate son with special needs.

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