These are the most recent submissions to the site.

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.

Grammar school did not work for me

September 23, 2022

I was selected for Weymouth Grammar School in 1966, it was a large, newly built school with excellent facilities. But in retrospect it was clear that the academic approach did not work for me. I used to daydream at the back of the class about rocket-packs and other inventions. I got four poor ‘;O’ levels, and was allowed to continue to ‘A’ levels because they could see i had some useful skills. The recommendation was that i should study Pure Maths, Applied Maths, and Physics, the idea probably being that total saturation would cure my problem with academic learning. It didn’t work, and i remember the maths teacher handing out the results of the Pure Maths ‘mock exam’; “Brooks, at least you got your name right”. I left school without an A level necessary to proceed to some sort of engineering course, and in the ‘three day week’ of 1973 i found work making motorcycle fairings out if glassfibre. I have since discovered that the teaching style that works for me is ‘project based’ learning, that if you need to use pure maths to solve a problem in an engaging project then you will work at it. The key is current relevance, not jumping through hoops to notch up qualifications. I am from a relatively privileged middle class family, and i wonder if that influenced my selection for Grammar School. I can see now that it is both unjust, and potentially damaging, to select children at the age of 11 for Grammar School education. Comprehensive Schools allow skills and aptitudes to develop as the child develops in maturity and agency.

Grammar School student from Weymouth, Dorset

Social exclusion

September 23, 2022

I remember, at the age of 10, being asked by a supply teacher whether I were sitting the 11+, meant as a compliment I think, but sounding rather snobby at the same time. That was the first time I’d heard of it.

I never did sit the 11+ nor study it’s material, and the only ‘pressures’ I faced at that age was sitting the advanced SAT paper for Maths. The headteacher suggested to me to approach the paper out of curiosity rather than expecting to attain a higher grade and I remember whilst sitting it being really stretched and figuring things out during the paper which led to me running out of time. The paper itself showed me there was much more to the subject, it wasn’t about the grade for the headmaster, nor the preparation for the paper, he knew I could have been trained to pass it, for him, and me it was about discovery, an experiment, which led to a persistent pursuit of mathematical concepts that remained with me into adulthood.

Coming from a working class background, my dad was of the belief that I go to the local school and if I do well, it’s mostly down to my own gifts of memory, creativity and logic, enhanced by teacher stimulating any desire to learn as most teachers tend to do.

So that’s exactly what happened, the school I attended was in the bottom percentiles in league tables for the area, but I did well in terms of grade attainment. I’m socially more aware of the difficulties that peers face, but those issues never hampered my own ability to learn. What I’ve found later in life though is that it is the middle classes’ attitudes to comprehensives that prejudice decisions about me and my abilities and there are simply ideological disagreements on these matters and I’m usually outnumbered. For me social mobility has come at a cost, it’s one of a certain kind of loneliness being surrounded by people who know nothing of the struggles and distractions that poorer people face.

There are some that wish to solve this by preventing people like me climb the social ladder, to retain a justification for why some ‘deserve’ things others do not.

This is just a mask for not wanting to accept that talents and skills permeate all social stratas and aren’t distributed just to the rich. What is siphoned off by the rich are the resources and this leads to a segregation that ultimately harms the collective shared capital of education.

Pupil from Wirral

My failure to pass

September 23, 2022

Despite, gaining a 2:1 in my thirties and a post grad qualification, I still feel deep down I’m not good enough. The secondary modern school I went to in the seventies never mentioned university and we were taken on tours of local factories for our careers advice. The emphasis was on preparing us for work, these factories all closed in the eighties. Thankfully, at that time, adult education was still funded and I worked hard at evening classes to leave behind the ‘certificates of secondary education’ I was awarded in 1976, (worthless and stigmatising). As long as the grammar school system exists


Being working class at grammar school: more divisive than supportive

September 23, 2022

Being one of a handful of genuinely ‘working class’ pupils at grammar school made me feel like I didn’t ‘belong’ and wasn’t good enough, from age 11. The middle class and wealthy kids had confidence, life experiences (such as regular holidays and activities), and supportive parents who knew and understood many social expectations of which my parents had no view. I could tell there was a ‘two-tier’ approach from the teachers; it was as if they could sense those of us who were ‘imposters’ and I never received the encouragement or pastoral support from my grammar school that I needed. The system worked only for those who were already primed with middle class norms and expectations. I started year 7 a confident and capable child and within months felt inferior, leaving school at age 18 with no real ambitions or plan because I believed that university wasn’t really for girls like me. It took me 20 years to win back the confidence and sense of belonging that my 11-year-old self had. I am a member of Mensa and have managed a decent career, but since grammar school I had always felt ‘averagely’ smart and overly self-conscious about my background and my accent. This absolutely came from spending seven formative years being the odd one out for having no money, cheap clothes, no hobbies, no day trips or holidays, and having to work almost full time from age 16 to contribute at home. I moved out of a grammar area after my son was born so he could avoid the whole damaging system.

Pupil, Wirral

11+ is discriminatory for dyslexic kids.

September 22, 2022

My son is August born, so had turned 10 about 6 weeks before he took the 11+. He had received tuition for around 18 months prior as is the norm for most kids in our area (Trafford). It was a topic of discussion in the playground amongst parents since they were in Reception class with everyone saying how you ‘need’ to get a tutor from Year 4/5.

My son was considered really bright by his junior school and was more or less expected to pass. He didn’t. He failed by around 5 marks and went to the local ‘High School’. Some of his friends passed and others also failed narrowly. This led to some parents seeking private fee paying schools because the ‘High School’ was either not considered good enough or they thought their child would not be a good fit.

A few years later it turned out my son is actually dyslexic, with slow processing speed being the main feature for him and entitling him to extra time in exams. Now, imagine if he’d got that in the 11+, but apparently even if he had a diagnosis that would not have allowed him any reasonable adjustments in 11+ which would be considered discriminatory in any other exam or assessment.

Grammar schools are considered ‘better’ because they get better results, but this is largely because they cream off the most academically able students, take fewer SEN and deprived kids, and hot-house them through exams. The teachers at my son’s high school are just as good if not better and I find I pretty insulting that my son would be labelled by some as ‘not academic’ and therefore belongs in a non-academic school. He got great GCSEs and is starting at University next week.

Parent in Trafford.

There is nothing good about grammar schools

September 22, 2022

I was forced to take the 11+ 40 years ago, both my sisters had gone to the grammar school and the pressure for me to get a place there was overwhelming and really stressful. I passed and went to a school where I received a very average education and always felt like the stupid kid there – It’s a myth that grammar schools offer a better education for bright kids – they will always look good on the league tables because they cream off the most academically able. My children go to the local comprehensive and receive an exceptional education with dedicated teachers who are able to teach to all abilities, we should be focusing on these schools rather than diverting attention and funding to grammar schools that are wholly unnecessary

ex grammar school student

Impact of 11+ on long-term family relationships

September 22, 2022

The 11+ exam puts an inordinate amount of pressure on families with multiple children. As parents who prepared our children for the 11+ independently, we found ourselves in the simply awful position of having three children pass the exam and one not. Despite all our efforts to boost the ‘comprehensive’ child’s confidence and self-esteem, she spent her entire high school years feeling inferior to her siblings. Had I known this would be the outcome, I never would have gone near the grammar school system, even though it has been positive for our attending children. This country should abolish grammar and private schools and divert investment into creating schools that are well-resourced and truly comprehensive, so that children don’t end up with lifelong low self esteem and damaged family relationships for the sake of one inane exam that fundamentally doesn’t prove anything.

Parent from Uxbridge

Siblings, one passed, one scraped through.

September 22, 2022

This is a story from nearly 60 years ago, I hope it is acceptable here. My brother and I both took the 11+, two years apart. My brother passed after an interview. I later flew through my exam. I fared pretty well at grammar school, although not an intellectual I enjoyed most of the subjects and did reasonably well at O and A level. I was however, owing to the expectations placed on grammar school students, guided into a degree course to which I really was not suited. My brother however was never suited to the more academic approach of the grammar school. He has always been more practically minded. He struggled and came out with poor results. I do believe that if there had not been selection, had we been allowed to explore and improve our talents we would both have benefitted in our different ways.

Student. Somerset

Why do we put our children through this?

September 22, 2022

I have three boys two passed and one failed (the one most likely to pass). EVERYONE pays a fortune in tuition. So many first went to prep school. The wealth of the parents and hence the pupils at grammar schools is frightening. My boys at grammar school felt very poor (they are NOT). The battle to maintain a child’s confidence who fails is soul destroying. We never liked them for the two that passed but I didn’t feel I could pass my ideology onto my children. Grammar schools (at least in Amersham) so not allow social mobility. So much more I could say but even writing this makes me angry. Friendships split at such a young age…

Parent and teacher

My family and the 11+

September 22, 2022

My sister and I with 2 and a half year’s age difference and indifferent primary school records both passed the 11+. My brother, between me and my sister in age and with an excellent and consistent primary school record, failed his 11+. This may well have been because of a change of class teacher just before the exam. My parents appealed, to no avail as the new class teacher did not support this. My brother had no choice but to go to the local secondary modern. This still affects his self-confidence and he has said that I was the clever one in the family. Not so. Having attended a grammar school which later turned comprehensive and later taught in comprehensive schools I am clear that the 11+ is a flawed way of discerning a pupil’s ability and that a good comprehensive school is by far the best way of giving every child a real chance of a real education.

Retired teacher from Worcestershire

I went to grammar it was great but our aspiration should be all pupils have a great education not just a few

September 22, 2022

I went to Grammar school in Sutton and thoroughly enjoyed it got a great education and went on to Oxford. But!!! My oldest friend failed the 11+ even though in primary school we were neck and neck in everything. He went to an local comp. We got nearly exactly the same GCSEs, A levels and were reunited at Oxford in the end.

If nothing else that proved to me grammar schools don’t enhance the education of bright kids and comprehensives don’t hold back bright kids either.

Also even at the time I could see those at the bottom end of attainment in my class suffering, the educational style didn’t always suit them and there were few vocational options for them, these were still very clever kids.. Just getting C’s and Bs not As .

Now a lot older with two kids of my own I can’t imagine putting them through the stress of the 11+ . We were looking at houses in Kent and then I realised doing so would subject my kids to testing at 11. I couldn’t do it and left for Sussex instead.

When I was leaving school the careers/uni advice was all engineering, law, medicine, accountancy, business. I unhappily explored all these options in my twenties and then somehow I fell into being a drugs worker. Now after two decades working in addiction, social care and prison healthcare I really regret not training to be a social worker or nurse. I love my job but I regret I couldn’t spend more of my career in front line work. Sadly these options were never even presented to me by my school.

Children thrive in a supportive environment where there are a range of options for them to develop in the direction that suits them.

I don’t want to do down my school, I had a great experience and my teachers were committed and supportive. I just think all kids need that from their education not just a lucky few.

Patent in Sussex

11+ pupil in 1979

September 22, 2022

I was an incredibly anxious child when I took the 11+ over 40 years ago. I wasn’t coached – none of us were in those days, and God knows, my mum couldn’t have afforded a tutor. I was terrified on the day of the exam and was probably in tears by the end of it. I received a ‘borderline’ result, neither pass nor fail. I remember experiencing a sense of failure – most of my friends had passed, just as my sister had 2 years before. I don’t remember anyone else who got this result in my junior school. I had to be interviewed at school and show and discuss my schoolwork. I was equally nervous in the interview – my abiding memory is backing out of the room at the end and stumbling over a chair. However, I passed the interview and went to the same grammar school as my sister. Fast forward 30 years and my own three daughters all went to comprehensive schools. And they were excellent schools. All parents want for their children are good local schools. These days grammar schools just favour wealthy families who can afford private tutors – the enemy of social mobility.

Former pupil from York

Elitism, pure and simple

September 22, 2022

We live in an area where there are grammar schools. It is standard for parents to employ a tutor from the start of year 5 for the 11+ test. That’s thousands of pounds and hours spent trying to pass this test, just to give us a choice of nearby schools for our children.

We’re lucky, we can afford to do so, but I am very worried about the impact of this test/pass/fail mentality on my children and I absolutely abhor the idea that those who can afford a tutor are the ones who apply and get in. It’s elitist and it’s wrong.

Parent from Dorset

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