These are the most recent submissions to the site.

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

Detrimental effect on local education system

September 22, 2022

I worked closely with parents, pupils and school staff who had to manage failure due to the impact of having selective schools in their locality. Those who could pay subjected their children to excessive pressure through the tutoring process. They weren’t bad parents: they were victims of a system where non grammar schools appeared to do less well. But the reality was that 19% of the most able children in the city had been admitted to just three of 19 secondary schools.

Unknown numbers of these children were subsequently ‘moved’ to comprehensive schools when it became apparent that they couldn’t actually perform to expected levels.

Children whose parents couldn’t play the game went to comprehensive schools where from day one expectations were lower: they didn’t get into a grammar school after all…

Look at the facts: in the city I’m referencing around 2% of the children on roll at grammar schools are in receipt of Free School Meals. It doesn’t increase social mobility to have grammar schools. It suppresses aspiration amongst more disadvantaged families as they believe that their child can’t attend a grammar and consequently isn’t ‘ academic’.

Look too at the post 16 options: there’s little parity of esteem between vocational subjects & A level.

Recently retired Director of Education, SW.

“Failure” no I won’t be!

September 22, 2022

At 10 years old I failed the 11+. My birthday is at the end of the summer. My parents were going through a traumatic divorce. I got in serious trouble with my Primary school as they were running “secret” 11+ lessons for a “select few”. I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone, so I told my cousin, who I walked home with. The experience was awful and traumatised me for years.

Now a mum

The rejection stays with them

September 22, 2022

I taught in an upper school in Bucks for 16 years so was constantly dealing with the fallout of the 11 plus. One year a primary contacted us to help some of their high achieving Year 6 students who were over achieving in Maths. At the time we had a couple of excellent Year 12 students, one of whom wanted to be a primary teacher, so we agreed to set up a weekly session where the two Year 12s would tutor these Year 6 kids. It worked really well but after a half term we decided that we needed to change it. The Year 6s were all going to grammar so we asked the primary if we could swap them out for a group of students who would be coming to us in September. They agreed, so it fell to me to tell the Year 12s of the swap.

Bearing in mind that these two were high achieving (both got A in Maths A Level and both were self studying AS Further Maths in their own time …. with a little bit of help from me). When I told them of the change of plan the instant reaction was that “they won’t be that clever if they’re coming to us”.

I was horrified, and reminded them of how amazingly well they were doing despite failing the 11 plus, but it was only at that point that I realised that this over achieving, straight A student was still holding on to the 11 plus rejection from 7 years earlier. It’s so damaging.

I now teach in Oxfordshire and am so glad we don’t have to contend with the handicap of this arbitrary test destroying young people’s self esteem at such a young age.

Teacher in Buckinghamshire

Grammar school made my son feel that he was a failure

September 22, 2022

My son sat the 11plus 7 years ago after I was informed by other parents that I should encourage him to sit the test because the comprehensive schools in Bexley were ‘rubbish’ schools due to a higher rate of supply teachers and that all the best teachers gravitated towards teaching in grammar schools.

I had moved only recently to a selective area, and had never really heard of the 11plus having been educated in a comprehensive non-selective borough. It quickly became common knowledge that entrance into an ‘outstanding grammar school’ would be competitive, and that tutoring was the only way a child would stand a chance of passing, largely because there were parts of the test that are not taught in primary school, plus the high percentage of children being tutored.

I was lucky that I could put money aside for tutoring. He started his tutoring in yr5. Lots of children started in years 3 & 4. The tutor said that a child was only likely to pass if they were achieving 75% or more in their mock tests (a lot of pressure). Hence the ensuing months involved lots of scores, percentages which unbeknown to me was already severely affecting my sons confidence and esteem. Interestingly, a lot of the parents encouraging tutoring had been grammar educated themselves, or already had older children attending grammar schools.

My son sat the Bexley and Kent tests and passed both. He received his results and informed me that the other children had discussed their scores and my son had the lowest score. He told me he felt he hadn’t done well despite passing. On his first day at grammar school, again he told me that everyone was talking about the 11plus scores they had achieved. Again, this reinforced a sense of failure in my son. Yet he’d passed by 6 points. Hence this pattern continued and inevitably, he really believed he was stupid and struggled to apply himself in an environment where ‘failure’ isn’t an option. He was placed in the bottom set in maths and felt humiliated by his teacher when he asked him ‘Do you know what two plus two equals, because your results reflect otherwise!” The bottom set had four different maths teachers over a short space of time. The higher sets had the same consistent teaching.

My son was never included in activities that encouraged him to develop his confidence or esteem. It was all about high attainment and gaining a 6 or above. Even a 6 was frowned upon by some teachers, whilst I continually battled and encouraged my son to find his own path and to remind him that he was in an environment where high grades aren’t necessarily realistic. Rewards and invitations to celebratory events went largely to the high attaining academic students. My son ‘scraped’ his A-levels (in grammar school terms). Actually, he did really well, but not to grammar standards and expectations. His form teacher told him to only consider a Russell Group University because the ‘thickos’ go elsewhere despite the teacher knowing my son wasn’t predicted to achieve the grades required to get into a RG uni.

He is now taking a gap year having left grammar school this year, to reset his thinking, to recover and have some space from an institutionalised system that is, I believe, elitist, only offering opportunities to those families with money and time behind them. I’m hoping that his eventual experience at uni will be more rounded and he’ll be mixing with students from diverse educational backgrounds.

Hence, despite my second son passing the Kent test (he wanted to give it a try) I encouraged him to attend his local Bexley comprehensive which he loves. They encourage a growth mind-set and have a healthy approach to failure. Unsurprisingly, this has enhanced my sons confidence, and he is sitting comfortably in top sets because he has been supported by the school to believe in himself. He is given roles and responsibilities that again encourage him. And this is given to every child, not just those children ‘at the top’. This good school which I was told would be a hinderance to his education, has been really positive so far. Some parents were aghast that I’d sent him to a secondary school despite him passing his test.

In hindsight, I wish my eldest son had experienced the same, and I honestly feel that his level of confidence and self-belief would have been very different in a comprehensive school. The reason I know this is because he told me so. Plus a lot of his friends who didn’t pass went on to do well in their secondary schools. I also blame myself for not having done more research at the time, rather than being swayed by other people’s opinions. I wish I’d listened to the teachers at my sons primary school who didn’t support a selective education. They knew what they were talking about.

I believe it’s time to challenge what grammar schools represent in this country, because it has radically changed over time. It was devised to give every child a chance, but it’s now excluding families from lower-income households. They don’t necessarily encourage equality and inclusion or an opportunity for all, because it comes at a price both emotionally and financially! Plus Bexley Grammar schools take a percentage of privately educated students. Only a minority I feel truly benefit. We need to learn from our International Schools what an equal inclusive education system looks like. Finland is a great example.

The government need to focus on supporting a non selective education where every child matters, whatever their background or educational needs and where a Comprehensive school can be an ‘outstanding school’.

Parent from Bexley

Kent Test

September 12, 2022

The Kent test was held last Thursday and the scene outside my granddaughter’s school gate were terrible with 10 and 11 year olds crying and holding into parents. It’s a wicked thing to do to children who are being hammered with the importance of the test.


Selective education through the eyes of a Junior School headteacher

September 1, 2022

Working in a county which continues to perpetuate a system which is not only based on discredited science but is damaging and actually, unnecessary in the 21st Century has been quite an experience! It is also denying local children the chance to go to their local schools. I was a headteacher in Bucks for 11 years seeing the effects that the system had on young people.

1. Discredited science:

We all should be aware of the fact that modern teaching embraces a growth mindset attitude. That the brain should be treated like a muscle; the more you challenge it, stretch it. make it work; the better it gets. This of course is in complete contradiction to the fixed mind set attitude of the creators of selective education; that a young child’s intelligence is fixed and we can predict outcomes from the result of a test sat when some of them are barely ten years old.

Yes, most who ‘pass’ go on to do well academically but so do many who don’t. How this hasn’t been noticed is beyond me! One of my sons went to grammar school and one didn’t. The one who didn’t got far better exam results because he was a motivated self starter. He failed the 11 plus and went on to get a degree in civil engineering and is currently studying for a master’s.

2. Damaging

For years I witnessed the frenzy that the 11 plus engenders. Many parents in Bucks believe that the only decent schools are grammar schools ( a huge insult to the hard working and successful others). They have their children coached FOR YEARS in order to get them in. These children are often denied the normal channels of socialising. I knew families where the children’s first sleep overs weren’t until the 11 plus exams were over. Families who sent their children to week long 11 plus summer camps. In some areas it is a mark of social success if your child gets into a grammar school.

The pressure on some pupils is relentless. I witnessed nine and ten year olds breaking down because they knew they were going to let their parents down if they ‘failed’.

Despite my annual meeting for Year 5 parents in which I urged them not to do things like promise new bicycles for passing , one family ACTUALLY told their son that they would love him even more if he passed. (He was never going pass, I could have saved them a lot of grief if they had asked my opinion first)

The children know if they are going to a grammar school in the second term of Year 6. Some then switch off as they know that the end of Year SATs tests aren’t going to affect their choice of secondary school. This in turn can damage the school if the SATs results don’t then show acceptable progress from KS1.

Parents too are traumatised by the process. I have had meetings with parents who almost threw themselves at my feet trying to persuade me to support an appeal for their child. They think that the world has ended because they had pinned all hopes on success, on an exam that is a tiny snapshot, on two sessions, of a particular type of ‘intelligence’.

3. Unnecessary

When the 11 plus was introduced after the 1944 Education Act, Secondary Modern schools didn’t offer O levels so it mattered greatly, if you wanted to go on and do A levels then go to university, that you passed.

Today all schools do GCSE’s and university is accessible from all types of school. Therefore we don’t even need the selection process! Simples!

4. Local Schools for local children

In Bucks over a third of pupils at the grammar schools are from outside the county. A large proportion of them didn’t go to a state primary school but to independent schools where they are allowed to be coached for the 11 plus.

The fact that the out of county pupils are self selecting candidates, i.e. those with a possibility of passing, rather than those in the opt out system in Bucks. means that the pass mark is inflated and Bucks’ children are actually less likely to pass. This results in extra pressure on the remaining secondary schools.

I could go on…

Ex Headteacher from Buckinghamshire

Mum's incompetence means daughter failed

August 31, 2022

I had a new baby when I moved to Kent. I had no idea the 11+ was still a thing. My daughter was 9 and told me all her friends had Kent Test tutors. I said I’d look into it, but somehow kept putting it off. I knew nothing about Kent’s system and how the test worked. Someone recommended a tutor and I kept chasing her, but when she finally got back to me she had no availability. I had no idea how to do the test questions myself, so I felt lost, but finally found a tutor to help. It was about a month before the test date, and the tutor said she’d do her best but a few weeks wasn’t enough preperation.

Well you can guess what happened. My poor daughter failed narrowly. Her primary head said she’d considered putting her in for an appeal panel but her handwriting was messy so her school books weren’t good enough for the appeal stage. Like smart people have to have neat handwriting?!

I felt bad because I’m pretty sure she’d have passed if I’d got my act together. It seems like Kent’s system is all about paying for tutors. What an utter crock of shit that this should still pass for a valid way to sort entry to secondary school.

pissed off mum

Going to a Reading grammar school means no local friends

August 31, 2022

A local student told me that she had the opportunity to go Kendrick grammar school but was put off by the fact that so many students live far away, she said maintaining friendships would have been extraordinarily difficult. Her mother and aunt had both attended the school but supported her decision to go to the local comprehensive. Most who go to this grammar live an hour and a half journey away from Reading, making it difficult to socialise with friends. Going to the grammar school would have made her social life difficult. She wasn’t the only local girl who didn’t attend the grammar school for this reason and though lots of those who did had pushy parents who had their children tutored to pass the exam and are now struggling to maintain grades as they are not as naturally bright. She was at a local comprehensive secondary and predicted to achieve A & A* A-level grades that some at the grammar would struggle to do. The population of the school changed over time and it’s not necessarily healthy for the students there. Education is about much more than just your grades, it’s about socialising and learning the skills needed to function as an adult in later life.

Reading dad

Siblings split up by the test

August 31, 2022

A major problem that was not considered when the 11 Plus exam was being developed was where you have siblings, one passes the 11 Plus and the other does not, this puts an ax into family life, siblings no longer have a shared experiences; in my case I failed the 11 Plus and went to the local Secondary Modern where as my twin sister and elder brother both passed and went to the local Grammar School. There was a considerable overlap and my siblings were in the same school for three or four years, inevitably my siblings had in school jokes , events special to their own school that I was unable to share with. I felt excluded , shunned. this was very bad for me. I hid my grief from my family as they could not comprehend my deep feeling of loss, a feeling of loss 66 years later that has not gone away..


Low expectations

August 31, 2022

I moved from a comprehensive area to a selective area, and attended a non-selective school. I had a good education, although fewer subjects, and less diverse subjects, were available than those in the comprehensive area I had left (and than those of peers in grammar schools). Thankfully I had great teachers and did well at school, but it is not about the grades. When you tell children aged 11 that they are no good at education it is a destroyer of confidence and self esteem, and with years of education to go, demotivating.

It lasts too because the failure is associated with the individual and the school. We joked about being the thickos and failures. Years later I introduced myself as a former pupil to a teacher currently working in the school I had attended. The reply was ‘haven’t you done well for yourself!’ with a shocked/surprised expression (this teacher didn’t work at the school when I was there so it wasn’t about a remarkable personal turnaround!) Why wouldn’t someone educated in a secondary modern be able to lead a training session?! I felt cross for the pupils the teacher currently works with if she has such low aspirations for them.

former secondary modern student

The first in my family NOT to go a Grammar School

August 31, 2022

In 1967 I failed the 11+. This was not expected. My two older sisters had passed the 11+. My mother went to the Grammar school, and most of my cousins too. My Dad was an orphan and left school at the age of 14.

One of my great aunts told me I was the ‘dumb dumb’ of the family. My primary school Headmaster told me that I was not as good as my sister, whom he had also taught.

My Dad gave me the news that I had failed the 11+. That was the worst, all I wanted to do was cry and get a big hug, but I was brought up not to cry in front of men, not even your dad.

At the age of 14 I was diagnosed as dyslexic. My Head Teacher told me my intelligence rating, but I had to promise that I was not to tell anybody what that was. I never have, but it gave me no shame.

Schools in those days were segregated, not co-ed. My secondary modern school taught me a lot. Some of the girls were anything but lady like. I learnt to get on with them and even like them. I got on with most of my classmates. I had the privilege of being the Head Girl in my 5th year.

There were holes in my education. History, for example, we learnt about the stone age three times and for the Tudors we were tasked with colouring in pictures of the clothes they wore. We were entered into CSE exams. I got straight A’s, apart from English, for which I got a ‘B’. I have heard it said that if you got an ‘A’ at CSE you should have been entered for an O’Level. I gained entry to the grammar school 6th form, but I was miserable and did not do very well. My number one subject had been mathematics, but the maths teacher at the grammar school would not let me join her 6th form class because the maths I was taught was modern maths (set theory, Ven diagrams etc.).

I found that the pupils at the grammar school were taught how to pass exams. I scraped through my A ‘Levels and was awarded a place at a polytechnic to study for an HND in Computer Studies. I enjoyed that, but my sister told me that an HND was another way of saying “not good enough to do a degree”, so I did not go to the award ceremony. I went on to work as a mainframe computer programmer and climbed the career ladder. I retired as a Principal IT Business Analyst.

A failed 11+ pupil in Kendal

The Kent Test

August 31, 2022

As a primary school teacher with more than 20 years experience in Upper Key Stage 2, I have witnessed numerous episodes of upset children cruelly perceiving themselves as failures having not ‘passed’ the Kent test. It is an appalling system in which only those who have the available cash to pay fot a tutor have the best chance of passing. Comprehensive education does an excellent job up until Year 6, why the need to change the system at 11?

Teacher in Kent

Dissapointing my family

August 23, 2022

I am still haunted by the look of disappointment on my Mothers face when she opened the thin brown envelope informing us I had failed the 11+. Fortunately I used that as motivation to become a teacher, lecturer with two degrees and now Visiting Professor of Education.

Visiting Professor, Lancashire

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