These are the most recent submissions to the site.

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

Low self-esteem and the 11+

July 15, 2022

I am a 63-year-old grandmother. I was talking with my husband today about academics. I was being, as usual, self-effacing on the topic. He asked why I have such low low-self-esteem in that regard? I looked directly at him, feeling the swell of a 53-year-old frustration, and without hesitation I said it began with the 11+ exam I ‘failed’ at school.

This event had such a negative impact on me that all these years later I clearly remember walking into Miss Hitchcock’s class of 42 students, late, and having had no warning that the 11+ exam was to be taken that day. Had I passed it, my life would have been dramatically different. Not only did it create self-esteem issues that persist to this day, and split me from friends who went to Bromley Grammar school, it also divided me from my siblings.

My three sisters all went to the grammar school. I know, and have proven, that I am their equal in intellect. It also threw me, suddenly, into sub-culture that was very different from my home culture in Bromley’s “stock broker belt”. At my secondary school, Aylesbury in the London Borough of Bromley, there was a girl gang (at that school known as the South London Agro Girls or SLAGs), violence and daily class disruptions from “troubled” girls. I was not accepted at first. I consciously had to adopt a cockney accent, as spoken by most of the girls at that South London school. When I was able to speak in cockney and had adopted the required mannerisms, I was told “you’re one of us now”, indicating acceptance. But I had to drop cockney mannerisms and switch back to what would then be called “BBC English” at home.

Of course, this is not about accentism, and I am not suggesting there is anything wrong with South London cultures, it was just really hard for a child to have to live in two worlds, to appear a natural fit in an unfamiliar sub-culture. Sometimes even now, when I am upset about something, the cockney tones come out in my voice, which amuses Americans.

I have lived in the USA since 1980. I now live close to Philadelphia. I am a BSN RNC-NIC which means I have a Bachelor’s Degree (an easy summa cum laude) in Nursing (Registered Nurse) and national (US) certification in high-risk neonatal intensive care. I am also well studied in paleoanthropology and read quantum and theoretical physics for fun. I am not stupid. But I have had issues with low self-esteem regarding my intellect and worth since I “failed” that blasted awful test back in 1969.


Self esteem

June 13, 2022

It impacts the majority of children’s self esteem in a very bad way when they fail the

11+. This is reflected in poorer behaviour and lack of ambition.

Primary Head, Kent

It would be great to live close to school and go to school with people who live by you

June 1, 2022

I passed my test and went to a Grammar, but most of my friends didn’t. I felt really bad because my sister failed the 11 plus, although she had been predicted to get a Grammar place. She actually got a higher score than me in the 11 plus but missed out because she was in a clever year. So she is cleverer than me but goes to a high school, and I go the Grammar School. That seems crazy and makes me feel bad.

My mum says that she wishes we’d never sat the 11 plus so we were both at the same school. It would make everything so much easier for our family – and I do miss being at the same school as my sister after going through primary school together.

I like Grammar and my sister likes her school. But it would be great to live close to school and go to school with your brother or sister, and people who live by you.

I hope the 11 plus and selecting people for different schools stops very soon, as there doesn’t seem to be a good reason to do it.

Grammar boy

From 11-plus failure to Cambridge

June 1, 2022

It was 2007: I vividly remember being ten years old, in Year 6, and standing in my primary school’s IT suite by the printer. It was a bright, white and long room with no natural sunlight, but it must have been the morning. Two friends in my class came up to me, excitedly asking for the outcome of my grammar school entrance exam results. To this day, the pit of heartache and embarrassment that radiated across my stomach and cheeks resonates so clearly with me. The girls expressed their sadness when I had to admit to them that I hadn’t passed and wouldn’t be joining them in the next journey of their lives. I can’t remember much after that painful moment’s worth of memory, but I probably remained my upbeat self to congratulate them for their success. Deep inside I would never really be the same.

I spent the Summer between primary and secondary school filled with dread, embarrassment and shame, which are emotions that a child should never have to feel so profoundly. Even the etymology of the word ‘grammar’ resonated with me at the time: those children in attendance were the intelligent and studious, and I would not have the same opportunities to learn as them. It was us and them. I had convinced myself that I was going to the ‘failure’ school away from my friends, in another catchment area which housed my last choice of school, and I felt that my life was over before I knew it. The gossip which had pervaded the classroom for months between the exam results and our final day of school had provided a platform of perpetuating self-doubt: I strongly believed that I had something to prove and that I had already begun life behind everyone else.

No child should feel the need to take their blazer off when they are walking around the next town after school, but I did. The purpose of education is to foster feelings of pride, belonging and hope, but these opportunities and memories are snatched from many children who live under the selective regime. This is by no fault of my secondary school, and at the age of twenty I could not be prouder to have attended there: my school taught me how to think independently, learn ambitiously and most importantly, to recognise that everyone is valuable in the classroom and beyond. And yet, the ugly, invisible barricade was cemented under my feet, and for the next five years I treated my education as an extrinsic activity to escape.

My breach in the barrier arrived in 2013 when my hard work had paid off and I had gained places to most of the local grammar schools for sixth form. I arrived at my chosen school and I rapidly developed, falling back in love with learning again. My teachers saw signs of potential in me and convinced me to consider applying to Cambridge University, a place which in the cartography of my life I would never have dared to map, let alone pursue.

However, it would be idealistic to say that the consequences of failing the selective system had been suspended for me: I had significantly lower GCSE results which affected my eligibility on certain Higher Education access trips, was consistently assumed to have taken exams from ‘easier exam boards’ and my A-level target grades were comparatively low. I had arrived at a school brimming with opportunities which I quickly realised my old school never had: we had few school productions and sports teams, no official music lessons or exams and were given no choice of language to study, to name a few. The paradox is that comprehensive schools provide a home for the rich variety of individuals that form the tapestry of our area and country, and to not have such varied opportunities in recognition of this is a monumental injustice.

To reach my dream of reading English at Cambridge, I had to become one who benefitted from the grammar school as opposed to being broken by it: my secondary school could not offer an English Literature A-Level course for me to study and I had to move on. Again, my intention is not to blame the schools themselves but rather the government which dictates the existence of a needlessly brutal, damaging system, whilst widening the chasm by severing comprehensive school funding.

A comprehensive education opens both doors and minds: it produces the well-rounded and compassionate individuals that the world so desperately needs. After starting at Cambridge in 2015, I will graduate with a pride of my background that I will take with me for the rest of my life, and I can truly say that I have channelled my experiences into passion and success. However, I have always wanted to dynamically use my success to help cultivate the same for others as opposed to dwelling in it, which I now realise is the result of my education’s ability to teach the fundamental truth that everyone has something to offer in life. I am both determined and excited to see more comprehensively educated students achieve what they are so capable of, but more progress and pressure is urgently necessary if we are to ensure that all students are aspiring towards what they deserve.

However, a decade has passed and sadly nothing has changed: my little sister is now another victim of another cycle of school admissions, who is already suffering after a year of preparation for a morning’s worth of exams. Unlike myself, I vow to ensure that her own self-worth transcends beyond the badge of her blazer, which she and every child should be able to wear with true pride.

Cambridge graduate

To feel at 11 that you are stupid

June 1, 2022

The 11 plus exam, it has to be accepted, creates many more failures than successes. I was one of them. To feel at 11 that you are stupid, that you have disappointed your school, your family, is a heavy load. It has set back the self esteem and prospects of hundreds of thousands, millions of us, and many have not recovered from it. And just as important, it has created the us and them, the have and have-not society that still persists today.

11 plus failure

I still remember failing my eleven plus in the 60s

June 1, 2022

I grew up and was educated in the 1960’s when selection in education was the norm. I was from a middle class family and failed my eleven plus. I remember, to this day, the feeling that I had when the head teacher told me it would be better to be at the top end of the secondary modern school than the bottom of a grammar school. I had failed to get in by a very few marks. This feeling of failure has stayed with me all my life. I can tell you that at this time families and communities were divided as children were separated from siblings and friends at the age of 11 by this exam.

On arriving at the secondary modern school (which turned comprehensive when I was in the third year) I always felt that the expectations for myself and my peers were low. University was not mentioned and ‘high flyers’ were expected to go to teacher’s training college or to polytechnics. Many who attended grammar schools in this era felt as though they were ‘out of their depth’ and ‘alien’ to the culture of the school and did not have a happy experience of education.

Few people talk about those that fail to get into grammar schools when they hail grammar schools as the way to ensure social mobility. When 20% are creamed off and the other 80% are written off – that is what we are talking about. Thousands of those who are rejected at 11 take the hard route to Higher Education qualifications as adults. This is what I did, finally achieving my Master’s degree at the age of 48!

I live in Gloucestershire which is a partially selective area and am a governor at a very successful comprehensive school. In Gloucestershire our comprehensive schools are by and large excellent but many parents still insist on putting their children in for the selective exams. If a child is entered for the selective examination and fails, the same sense of failure that I felt will live with them for a long time and possibly for ever. Some pass but do they necessarily get a better education than they would at their local school? Although the Gloucestershire comprehensive schools are very good there is inevitably an impact of the grammar schools ‘creaming off’ students that have been given the opportunity to pass the selective examination. Many of these latter students have been taught to pass the test by extra classes and special tuition – it is not innate intelligence that has ensured their success.

Children are often bussed from a wide distance to the grammar schools which means that many of our local children cannot attend these schools. It is not good for youngsters to spend a long time each day travelling and to be educated at a geographical distance from their peers. Some young people, who failed to gain entry to the grammar schools at 11 attend them for their sixth form education. Where is the logic in this? Surely if they are good enough at 16 they should have been good enough at 11?

What is wrong with comprehensive schools that give all children parity? Why are we not arguing for the best schools for all young people not just the privileged few?

School governor

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