Comments on the theme of passing or failing the 11+.

11+ failure

July 2, 2024

I was unlucky enough to be in the final cohort of those taking the test for determining schools. I failed. I still feel the utter humiliation even at 60! All the children I knew had passed so I joined a new school with no friends and low self-esteem from which I never recovered. I was taunted by the neighbours (my father was a teacher but my parents had just divorced). My mother remained convinced that I was thick or stupid and hadn’t tried hard enough.

My sister took the exam the following year and of course passed ( even though the test had already been phased out in Leicester and she ended up at the same Comprehensive School as me). The fact that she passed the 11+ which I had failed was insurmountable and gave my narcissistic mother the ammunition she needed to differentiate us! My sister was the Golden Child whilst I was earmarked as low achieving, dim, no hoper and worst of all ….I simply hadn’t tried hard enough in her eyes !!

Ironically I have outperformed my sister on many fronts and did manage to get a degree, masters and professional qualifications and had a high flying career. But even now stigma remains from that terrible test! My sister is still lauded by the family for her intelligence whereas I was thick but just got lucky!!!

As a child in Leicester 1960’s-70’s

Sibling problems

May 13, 2024

If you have siblings and you all pass the 11 Plus great for all concerned. If you and your siblings all fail the 11 Plus sad but manageable, how ever if a sibling passes the 11 Plus and the other does not you and your siblings no longer have shared experiences. An emotional fault line develops parents and successful siblings have no idea of the massive long term emotional and psychological damage done to the developing child, in my case life long severe clinical depression and at times when at school contemplating suicide.

Retired one time School Governor Wiltshire

I would have failed had I done it

February 13, 2024

I am an immigrant and a Pharmacist. When I decided to I enter my daughter for 11 plus, not knowing exactly what it entailed, I bought books to try and help her thinking as I was academic it was going to be easy. I soon realised that non-verbal reasoning was something I couldn’;t do.

I came to the Uk as a late teen, did my A levels and got an ABB in maths, chemistry and biology and even after a 2:1 in Master of Pharmacy I can’t pass a non-verbal reasoning paper. Had I been raised in this country and sat for the 11 plus, I would have failed and gone through all my life thinking I wasn’t clever enough.

I put my daughter through it and she failed and I blame myself to this day! If I had known better, I wouldn’t have let her sit for this test.

Mum kent

Never good enough

February 13, 2024

I took my test in 1998, the only support my Mother offered was making me sit at the dinner table writing lines “I want to go to grammar school like my cousins” she wanted me to go to the best grammar school in the area, just so that she could brag about it. The school is notoriously hard to get into.

I knew nothing about the school, nothing about what the 11+ would be like, and most of all, I had no support, just pressure. The pressure I felt from my school teacher “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” and from my abusive Mother was horrendous. The summer prior to this I had been given revision work to complete over the summer and I hid it, because I knew what my Mother was like. I knew I would inevitably end up being beaten because I had answered things incorrectly etc.

I failed my test by a few marks and ended up going into a grammar stream at the closest secondary to our house instead. After that though, I felt like a write-off. Not just to my Mother, but to the relatives who were also pushing me and to the school too. The few kids that passed were treated like Olympians at my junior school and had special privileges etc.

My child has this year not met the required mark to class as ‘Suitable for Grammar’ on his 11+, he had tuition, support and empathy from us the entire time, and do you know what? I couldn’t give a damn that he didn’t pass. He is a bright, funny, inquisitive, kind and confident boy and he will be amazing wherever he goes. I will not allow an exam to take that away from my child. I cannot deal with the snobbish remarks we are receiving from those who attended Gramma themselves or those whose children did, all I hear is appeal, appeal, appeal, absolutely no regard for my child’s mental health and well-being if he DID by some miracle get in on appeal. I will not allow my child to feel like he isn’t good enough, you can do amazing things in life, no matter what school you go to.

Student and Parent

Worst thing I did to my child

November 13, 2023

My daughter failed the 11+ by 5 points in Maths. She had high scores for verbal and non-verbal. I remember buying her a card to and flowers to say well done still. I left her room and when I came back the card had been shredded and the flowers destroyed. She was angry at herself for failing and I blame myself to this day for putting her through it. She is doing well at the local comprehensive but 11+ is still on her mind.

Parent from Kent

I am not a failure

June 21, 2023

I took the 11+ in 1972 and didn’t pass. I am 63 now and can still remember my mother shouting up the stairs to me telling me that I was ‘no good’. Can you imagine what that does to an 11 year old. I was sent to a comprehensive school miles away from home because the local secondary modern wasn’t very good. The education at my secondary school was good. If you were clever you could excel. We had quite a few go to University from there. My mother always treated me as though I was rather thick after not passing my 11+. I just thank goodness my children didn’t gave to sit this awful exam. Good education should be for all not just those that go to grammar school.


My lifelong resentment

May 11, 2023

I took the ll plus in 1963 and like many others I had no preparation – it was essentially arriving at school at being told the test would be taking place – I failed as did every other pupil in my class. As a consequence all careers of any substance and my dreams of being a Doctor were barred to me and I spent many years doing dead end jobs which I didn’t stay in very long because I hated them. I decided to take an OU degree which I did successfully but I found this was always seem to be regarded by employers as something educational failures took and it didn’t help me at all. I then took evening class at London University in software programming and eventually got me foot in door with an IT company and eventually became self employed. But it is something I think of often when I see the opportunities young people have today and the resentment I feel towards the government that made that decision about my life is with me to this day.

Pupil London

Easy mistakes with big implications ...

April 5, 2023

My daughter would have passed the 11+, except for one easy mistake – in multiple choice section she filled in the answer boxes in the wrong section. Just shows what a silly, arbitrary test the 11+ is. We shouldn’t be making decisions about where children spend 7 years of their life on this basis!

Parent from Kent

The 11 plus

April 3, 2023

I was stopped in my tracks when I failed this IQ test : it changed the course of my life. The observations here throw a new light on something that was a damaging failure for me at the time. My siblings all passed.

Early years teacher

A soul destroying experience

March 6, 2023

My daughter scored over well over 332 but just under the required 109 in one of the papers. She was therefore deemed ‘not suitable for grammar school.’ Being relatively new to Kent, we had no idea what the 11+ entailed and the enormous disadvantage she faced by attending a small state primary school who do not support the Kent Test. It’s been a soul destroying experience for my daughter and one I wish we never had the misfortune of experiencing. The appeal was a joke, and the response my subsequent complaint to ESFA which ended up straight back into the arms of KCC is laughable. The system clearly is not fit for purpose and I cannot understand how it has survived in Kent for so long.

Kent Mum

11+ and the legacy of failure

February 7, 2023

No one wants to discredit children passing the 11+ BUT and IT’S A BIG BUT, the advantage of receiving preparation for it in educational and cultural terms is well documented. There are thousands and thousands of people who didn’t pass but who have had successful and meaningful careers/jobs and lives in many different fields. The 11+ plus is an anachronism and should not categorise children at such an early age. While it is perceived as being taken at ten or eleven, the actual starting date is much earlier in primary and junior school through streaming and knowing parents. It has been haunting for many children as a misguided example of their potential. It is also a single test of one type of ability which has been and is more highly valued than other talents, skills etc. Shame on those who advocate it as the only pathway for children and in not passing have made them feel failures, sometimes well into adulthood like many recorded here. If you listen to ‘The Life Scientific’ you will find examples of people who didn’t find their way until they left school, in particular Prof. Chris Elliott who developed his interest in Food Safety and Microbiology after leaving school at 16 and getting a job where he developed his interests. The eleven plus should not have now or in the future define you.

DIANE ROBY researching the consequences of failing the eleven plus following the 1944 Education Act. Previously a School Counsellor.

I "didn't get" my transfer test and still feel it

February 4, 2023

26 years ago I opened up a letter that shattered my confidence. I spent the whole weekend in tears. I “didn’t get” my transfer test. There were many reasons why, but that’s not the point, kids or adults, shouldn’t be defined by a letter or numbers on a page at any point in life.

NI mum

Transfer test results

February 4, 2023

Transfer test results today in our house. Takes me back 35 years ago to when I was 11 and got the lowest grade possible. Wish I could say that it didn’t hurt for years, but it did. It shouldn’t have. You are more than just a grade and it won’t define you, it’ll make you stronger


11+ years later and i'm still traumatised

January 26, 2023

when i took the test, there was so much pressure on me, not only by the school system but by my parents. They could never afford private school and the comp school in my area was grossly underfunded and had a poor quality of education. Growing up i was always told i was bright, so when i gt the results back it was like my whole world came crumbling down. My self esteem plummeted as did peoples confidence in me . once they found that i had failed they treated me completely differently, i went from family prodigy to family dunce, I hated it and would still call those few months after the 11+ the worst part of my life in my nearly forty years of living. There is no need to do this to such young children. Abolish it.

former student from kent

Psychological damage

December 10, 2022

It is no exaggeration to say that the aftermath of the 11 plus exam left me psychologically damaged, and set a chain of events in motion that led me to being diagnosed with depression in my late 20s.

Although I went to university and gained a degree in Computer Science from which I’ve managed to carve a decent career, I am now in my late 40s and this injustice is still one that hangs over me to some extent, even to this day.

My experience of the test and the grammar school system that went with it, was that it was divisive and came with a distasteful attitude of elitism. At the time, I took my failure to pass the test as a body blow, as I felt it was passing judgement on my entire primary school career. I very much felt that “the system” was out to “put me in my place”.

I do believe very much in excellent schools for all, and teaching to the ability of every child so that they can reach their maximum potential, however in my opinion the 11 plus and the grammar school system was never the way to achieve that, and in my lifetime I would like to see it scrapped.

Former pupil in grammar school system

My 11+ 'failure' is thriving at comprehensive school

November 24, 2022

My son has just received three 9s, five 8s and two 6s (in English, his tricky subject) at GCSE, and has been to Oxford Uni for a look around . He could have applied to grammar school for sixth form but chose to stay at the comprehensive that has supported him so well. Here’s what I wrote six years ago just after he’d failed his 11+…

“I’m very much aware that my comfortable middle-class lifestyle owes much to the fact that my parents sat the 11+ in 1951 and passed. In 1979 and 1981 respectively, my brother and I followed suit. What we all had in common was that apart from Granny making Dad wear his best corduroy suit, nobody was prepped in any way for the exam — we just went and did it. Not everyone in our family passed though, and the difference in life outcomes for my aunts and uncles, and their children and grandchildren, was and is dramatic.

“My husband was educated comprehensively in his home country, and he has always wondered whether a grammar-style education would have given him that extra push. Not that he’s done badly, but you can’t help wondering, can you? That’s why I let him persuade me to enter our son for the 11+. One thing we did agree on though was that he wouldn’t be tutored. We felt it was too much pressure at his age, but it does seem to be very difficult to pass without it these days.

“Our son was put on the gifted and talented list (‘G&T’ as my step-mother calls it) for maths in year 1. He is passionate about maths and science and his ambition is to be an astrophysicist. He’s not so passionate about English though. Despite my protestations that people like Brian Cox need to be able present their ideas clearly and convincingly, he still struggles to see the point.

“That’s why it’s so difficult to choose the ‘right’ school for him. Do we send him to a grammar school where he’ll be able to pursue his passion for maths, but where English is always going to be a struggle? Or do we send him to a non-selective school where he’ll get the English support he needs but may not reach his full potential with the maths? (UPDATE: he did)

“Well last Friday, our dilemma was solved because we received his 11+ results. I refuse to use the ‘f’ word, so instead I’ll just say that he didn’t pass. His maths and non-verbal reasoning were good, but the verbal reasoning score was a full 30 points lower. There doesn’t seem any point in appealing — we do feel he’d struggle in a grammar school and we are lucky to have a good comprehensive just around the corner from us (we live in a non-selective authority which borders a selective one). He is a resilient child and we are confident he will do well.

“He is a great example, however, of the kind of child that could slip completely through the gaps in an all-or-nothing grammar / secondary modern system, like my cousin who was brilliant at maths but wasn’t even offered the chance to sit the ‘O’ level — the only option was the CSE.

“Every year, our local comprehensive sends a couple of pupils to Oxbridge, and a greater number to other Russell Group universities. We’re not happy that our son has had to face disappointment at such a young age, but we do feel relieved that the dazzling and confusing array of choices we faced has been narrowed down to one good school that will take him as far as he wants to go. Imagine if all families had a school like this on their doorsteps — children could go back to being children again, instead of spending their evenings and weekends being hot-housed for an exam that statistically, they’re more likely to fail than pass.”

Parent from Berkshire

Naturally intelligent isn't enough to pass 11 + for this flawed system

October 27, 2022

My child just sat its SET exam for Sutton 11 plus and failed by a mark in the common entrance test. We went to the grammar open mornings and the heads of the schools insisted that no tuition was required. We felt relieved and assumed there will be a way they will really find the difference between a well, methodically coached child and a spontaneously intelligent child, however with the results, we realized that it’s not the case.

It has changed the way my child looks at her and her confidence level has been severely knocked down. As a parent with two children, I found it extremely hard to spend so much money on tutoring to get in to grammar school. In my personal opinion, we should offer a equal education to everyone and it’s up to the children to make their way up than just segregating based on the tutored knowledge at the age of 10. This system is flawed and should be changed.

This has had a tremendous amount of pressure, grief and sense of failure in all of us and feel like its stripped our happiness for the year to come until the offer day.


The Kent Test

October 21, 2022

It’s that Kent Test time again and parents will be shaking hands and congratulating themselves that their children will not have to mix with the hoi polloi. My daughter failed the Kent Test and attended the local high school.

As a teaching professional, I met many people and some in teaching who told me that the children who went there were sort of well, scum.

My daughter received 13 GCSEs from this ‘failing’ school, went on to get three A levels at QE and then a First Class Degree in Manchester Met. She is now studying for an MA at Manchester Uni.

Her cohort, all deemed to have ‘failed’ this test now all work and have grown up to be lovely engaged and political humans. Selection is bollocks.

Get rid of it ASAP. It’s more about the parents than the children. And if it’s an equitable system, why is there a Private Tutoring Industry in Kent?

Kent parent

Too much pressure?

October 20, 2022

I’m delighted to say that my child found out yesterday that she has passed the Kent Test.

I do think, though, that the system is a bit brutal, in that it sets an important pass or fail milestone at a point during childhood when an eleven year old does not have the emotional intelligence or maturity to deal with the pressure.

Perhaps if state Junior Schools were more engaged with the process of preparation, it would improve; but my experience of them is that they consider it an inconvenience, at least in Kent.

Parent from Kent

Why is education turned into a competition?

October 19, 2022

My parents went to a grammar school. My sister went to a grammar school. I went to a grammar school. Having just passed the Kent Test / 11+ it looks as though my son is now heading to a grammar school. He’ll get the advantages, the additional opportunities, the more academic teachers (let’;s be honest here – I come from a family of teachers and am married to a teacher – this is what happens). Why should he? All based on three exam papers on one day when he was 10.

Education should be about hope and opportunity – but with the 11+ we dash c.80% of children’s hopes. Most don’t even try to shoot for the stars – the very thought of the 11+ terrifies them into submission and segments them into second-class citizens.

So back to my son – he’s capable, able, he passed, so what am I moaning about? I’m ‘moaning’ about the fact that it is not healthy to endure weeks of anxiety, tears, sleepless nights and downright fear. Least of all when that’s related to education – something children should value and celebrate. Education is not a competition with the person next to you – it is about making the most of yourself and that opportunity should be open to everyone. Because its job is to find out what people are best at.

So, my son will head to a grammar school. His best friend will not – a boy who outscored him on maths and reasoning. How exactly did he ‘fail’? Who wants to explain that to a heart-broken 10 year old.

A final thought: my godfather didn’t pass the 11+. He has a PhD from Oxford University and is a leading academic (History). Tell me again how grammar schools are okay because they’re a ‘leg-up for the brightest and most able’…

Parent, Kent

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