These are the most recent submissions to the site.

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

The negative impact in Kent

August 21, 2022

Grammar schools mean the most able students are creamed off and this immediately gives an ‘us and them’ culture. The arrogance of those attending a grammar school as opposed to a non-selective school is staggering – students and teachers. It is much harder to recruit staff in a non-selective school as teachers want to work in what they consider to be an easier environment. This creates under performance in grammar schools – certainly non-selective schools can teach grammar school staff a thing or two about pushing students to achieve the best grades they can possibly get. I despair at the segregation caused by the whole system in Kent and the culture of some being better than others at the age of 11 is horrific. It damages the students and we spend the first 3 years building back up their self esteem. It damages communities with ‘us and them’ and it damages the profession – teachers want to work with all abilities – or at least great teachers do.

Kent non-selective head

Selective education in Kent

August 15, 2022

I feel strongly that it is not the best thing for all of our children. It is completely against the growth mindset that we try to establish in primary that anyone can achieve anything. Children do reach academic maturity at different times and the comprehensive system allows for those developments without children feeling as though they have missed out if they don’t pass their 11+.

Primary head

The difference in schools is stark

August 10, 2022

Having experienced both non-selective schools and grammars in Kent I fully understood why parents feel the need to play the game and try for grammars – even if they hate the 11+ system. My daughter went to a high school that did it best, but there were behaviour problems, constant teacher shortages, lots of children from difficult backgrounds. The grammars avoid all this by mostly accepting middle class kids with motivated parents. The problems the high schools face is caused by the grammars! Grammars find it easy to recruit teachers, they admit no difficult kids. This whole system breeds inequality. I was lucky enough to go to a comprehensive school which was a whole lot better as a school system.


Non-selective schools in grammar areas

August 10, 2022

The existence of grammar schools hugely restrict the ability of a non selective to be rated good or outstanding. This has a significant impact on teacher recruitment to non-selective schools and to job security and job satisfaction for senior staff, especially head teachers.

Head in Kent

No child should be put through this to get a good education

August 10, 2022

As the exam day drew closer, nerves amongst the parents of other children were contagious and I had many sleepless nights worrying about the exam. On the day of the first exam, I felt physically sick. My daughter sat three exams and was so exhausted after the third that she looked ill. I felt horribly guilty for putting her through it but felt I had no other option due to Trafford being wholly selective. Luckily she passed but most of her friends did not, so her friendship circles were broken up, adding to her worries about leaving primary school.

Trafford Mum

For many children of a broadly similar ability the exam becomes little more than a lottery of luck rather than a test of ability

August 10, 2022

In my time tutoring for the 11-plus I have encountered many situations and outcomes that have led me to conclude that the selective system we have in Trafford is unfair. I’ve seen many very bright children not pass due to exam nerves and less able children hit lucky on the day and pass. You either pass or you don’t – having a bad day or panicking is just seen as an excuse. For many children of a broadly similar ability the exam becomes little more than a lottery of luck rather than a test of ability.

11+ tutor, Trafford

My daughter believed she wouldn't go to university

August 10, 2022

My daughter failed Kent’s 11+ and for years thought she wasn’t smart enough to go to university. She told me this year’s later when she got a first in Computer Science from a Russell Group university. No one should trust this test. I know people will say her outcome was good so none of this matters, but what is the point of dividing children and making them doubt themselves, if the test can’t even do a good job of selecting children who deserve to be in grammar schools?

kent mum

My daughter couldn't start school with her friends

August 10, 2022

My daughter is shy but has a small, close, group of friends. Her friends all passed the Kent Test but she didn’t. She lost her confidence, and it was so hard starting school when all her friends were going to grammar school.

She ended up needing to move to a grammar school at sixth form, because her secondary school had hardly any A level options. This isn’t the school’s fault, it’s just what happens when grammar schools take all the bright kids! She made next to no friends at sixth form and felt out of place. She told me one teacher had a habit of saying, “remember you’re grammar school pupils” as a way to encourage them. She said that statement made no sense to her because she wasn’t a grammar school kid, she failed the Kent Test.

Kent Mother

Grammar school confusion

August 8, 2022

The two-tiered system confuses excellent teaching and education with high attainment/ outcomes. Grammar schools select the easiest type of children to teach; this has no relation as to whether they provide high-quality teaching and education.

Head in selective area

A flawed system

August 8, 2022

This not simply about attainment. There is enough research evidence to show that children from more affluent families (who have been tutored to pass the 11+ test) are better fed, better rested and better prepared for school, so they will also be better placed to make good progress. Grammar schools attract high quality staff (which teacher would not rather work with able and amenable students?) leaving non-selective schools with a poorer quality of candidate for teaching posts. Ofsted also fails to recognise how much harder it is for non-selective schools in a selective area to make the necessary progress and attainment with the remaining 80% of students who did not pass the test.


Social inequality

August 8, 2022

Come to Bucks and see the effects. Parents talk all through Primary school about the 11+. The pressure on children is immense and seeing the tears/ stress of these children shows how bad the system is. This system only benefits the few and the majority fail. Middle class parents coach their children from Year 3 onwards. Most children at our local grammar come from outside of the area so it is not even catering for local children. It is a morally wrong system that turns the majority of children into second class citizens at 11. There is no social equality in Bucks!

Bucks Primary Head

Selective education problems

August 8, 2022

Grammar schools clearly take fewer children from vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. They encourage tutoring to “pass” a selection test which more wealthy parents can afford. They therefore discriminate against lower income families regardless of ability. Children at 11 are branded “failures” by the test which has a detrimental effect on their self esteem and confidence. Grammar schools teach a minority of the school population and have a negative effect on the majority of pupils in the areas in which they are situated.

Primary Head

“We only have the best of the best here.”

August 5, 2022

The selective system is divisive. This was demonstrated to me when we attended the open evening at our local grammar school, and the headteacher announced in his welcome speech that, “We only have the best of the best here.” I was appalled. What sort of message is this? If this is the message given in that school, the kids who go there can only end up thinking they are ‘better’ than others like my boy. How is this good for either set of children or for society?

I have a son, currently in Year Five, who is dyslexic. I know that there is simply no point even considering entering him for the grammar school entrance exam as I know he would fail, despite being above average intelligence. It is my understanding that the grammar school makes no allowances for dyslexic children, such as extra time etc. This sends out a rather strong message that these children are not welcome. In Trafford children with SEN seem to be forgotten about, in favour of lauding our grammar school system.

It feels very much like there is an ‘us and them’ situation in Trafford. Those parents whose children pass can feel somewhat superior, while those whose children don’t make it often feel resentful towards those who do. People won’t admit it, but that is the truth of the situation.

It would be so much better if our children could attend an outstanding comprehensive school where they could all receive the best standard of education, but without all the stress and division created by the selective system we experience in Trafford.

Trafford Mum

Crippled by a sense of inferiority

July 31, 2022

In 1965 I failed my 11+ (actually I was 10). I experienced difficulties in Maths (probably due to a learning difficulty). This was never resolved and I have no formal qualifications in Maths.

I was so annoyed by the lack of understanding of my educational needs that I became an angry teenager determined to correct this stupid, inaccurate assessment of ability. I am a visual spatial person! Unfortunately this was only picked up once in primary school when the whole class was given repeated IQ tests (age about 7/8). My scores for verbal reasoning, number were average but when I took visual spatial test my score was so high the headteacher took me out of the stream I was in and placed me in the top (what was then referred to as the grammar school stream). What I then experienced was appalling – bottom of the class in everything! I then became the naughty child – because they kept telling me I was capable – not realising that some children are intelligent in visual spatial. I hated my entire schooling experience – always feeling like an outsider. The 11+ compounded this earlier experience.

I refused to finish my schooling at 16, despite being told that my best hope was to get married! I insisted on going to a comprehensive sixth form where I studied English Lit, Art and Sociology. I gained 2 A levels and went to study a BSc in Sociology at London University in 1972, graduating with a 2.2 class honours degree. Determined to improve ( I taught myself how to write essays whilst studying for my degree). I completed a PGCE (grade A). In 1978 I completed a masters degree in Sociology (Education). Determined to research children’s conceptual development through non-verbal communication, but refused by the course leader, I was talked into researching gender and education. Bad decision. Although I gained a place to study for a PhD and getting work published by the British Sociological Association, I was not happy with my choice of subject. 3 years studying for a PhD but didn’t complete.

After several years I gave up my academic career (teaching at London University) – by my early 30’s I finally realised that for years I had been trying to prove everyone wrong about my educational ability – why was I bothering when my natural ability was in art! For the next 7 years I attended art classes part time and completed a BA honours in Fine Art Painting in 2000. I have taught fine art since 2001 at degree and postgraduate levels. I have written and course managed degree courses for 3 universities. I am now retired and a practising artist.

My schooling was entirely blind to my actual abilities. I have taught myself how to write to PhD level. But I wish I had started my art training at 17 rather than at 34.

The 11+ couldn’t have been less appropriate for a student whose abilities are visually based and who has a form of dyslexia with number. Thankyou to those few teachers who recognised my talents. I wasted years trying to undo the sense of failure that the 11+ had bestowed upon me.

Anon, South London

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