PASSING AND FAILING
Comments on the theme of passing or failing the 11+.
A soul destroying experience
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.
11+ and the legacy of failure
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.
I "didn't get" my transfer test and still feel it
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.
Transfer test results
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
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.
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.
My 11+ 'failure' is thriving at comprehensive school
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.”
Naturally intelligent isn't enough to pass 11 + for this flawed system
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
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?
Too much pressure?
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.
Why is education turned into a competition?
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’…
My DS didn’t pass his 11+
My son is devastated, started tutoring him at home. He lost by 12 marks on maths, all his friends passed. How do you console a 10 year in this kind of situation? How do you make it better? The whole system is broken, children are discouraged at a very early age.How do l make it better?
“A dumb ass who couldn’t even pass the 11+ plus”
This was the insult thrown at my Grandson by his privately educated football captain who had himself achieved just the ‘pass’ mark for entry to a grammar school. Too little attention is paid to the damaging affect that ‘passing’ has on the attitudes of those who do, towards those who don’t. My Grandson went on to gain four A Level A* results. His contemporaries who went to grammar school commented ,”How come you’re so clever when you failed your 11+?” Parents and children are being fooled into believing the exam is a necessary, accurate measurement. (Another of my Grandchildren ‘failed’ and went on to achieve a Warwick University First Class Hons degree.) To inflict this divisive, inaccurate nonsense on other areas would be appalling.
Kent's terrible system
We had tears before bedtime last night. My daughter missed a Kent Test pass by 5 points on the reasoning and now feels like she’s failed dreadfully even though I couldn’t give a care in the world. It was her decision to do it as she somehow felt pressure as her friends were. We really like a non grammar which was number 1 anyway but that I’m crossing my fingers she’ll get into due to geography. It’s a terrible system in Kent. I told her it is a minute moment in time and she must focus on the exciting future ahead. My hope is it will all be forgotten by time she starts school and it hasn’t made her lose her confidence for future exams.
1 point off passing!
My daughter has just missed out by 1 point! I did not pay for a tutor, I struggled to find the time to help her as my life is hectic with work/caring responsibilities. I’m heartbroken. She hasn’t got a care in the world! That shows me that I’ve done a great job as a mum!! She will be fine.
A sad day
As an ex grammar school grandad, a sad day as we saw our grand daughter just fail passing her 11+, her older sister passed a few years ago. I hate this division of little children at such a young age, so wrong. She tried so hard, 9 points short, and never a failure.
Naively, I had no idea of the impact of living in a selective county (Kent) would have on my twin children when we moved to the county. One of my children had known SEND, so sitting the 11+ was never going to be an option. When it transpired that my other child was the brightest girl in her year in her primary school, and desperate to go to Grammar School (some older girls who she looked up to went), sitting the 11+ seemed to be the most obvious step. How wrong we were.
Having grown up in a fully comprehensive system, as a parent, I knew nothing about the 11+ and the lengths parents go to to get their child into grammar school, some tutoring for years. I will never forget the day my daughter sat the test, she was terrified and felt her whole future hung in the balance despite continual reassurance from us that it doesn’t matter. But it did, to her.
My daughter, an incredibly bright, ambitious girl who dreamt of going of Oxford from the age of 8, failed the maths element of the test by one mark. It was horrendous, having to tell your child that she was not going to her dream school, to avoid using the word ‘fail’ and to see a little girl, aged only 10 so utterly destroyed. We saw every single one of my daughters’ friends from other schools (and some who’s parents admitted were far less able) pass the test was devastating.
In one afternoon, my daughter lost all of her confidence, self-belief, ambition (she thought Oxford would be impossible) and fell into a depression. She was exhausted. What should have been one of her best years (Year 6) she has since told me was her worst. My daughter started year 7 in a local non-selective school, which ironically had a Grammar Plus stream and went on to win a full scholarship at a top public school. She has won numerous academic awards and is well on her way to do very very well at A level.
We have had to work very hard rebuilding my child’s confidence, she still doesn’t believe she’s ‘good enough’ despite being selected for the Oxbridge pathway in 6th form next year! The 11+ plays russian roulette with a child’s future and is not to be trusted. Conversely, I have seen children get into grammar school who simply should not be there and others who thrive post age 11. How as system exists where the academic outcome of children is determined aged 11 is simply baffling, totally unfair and must be abolished. Attending a grammar school makes no difference to the educational outcome of a child – results in non-selective counties such as Hertfordshire and Hampshire are prime examples of areas where children comprehensive schools flourish.
Mum was sitting in the garden, Dad was at work, it was a warm spring Saturday in Torquay, and I had mown the grass for the first time that year. My twin brother came from the front door with the post for mum. Two letters in brown envelopes from Devon Local Authority telling Mum where her boys would be going to secondary school. At that time all children in Torbay sat the 11+. Mum and Dad had chosen selective schools for my brother and me.
My brother’s letter was the first to be opened- he had done it! He had got my parents’ first choice of school; he was going to be a grammar-school boy. Mum was overjoyed, she told him how proud she was of him and how delighted Daddy would be when he got home from work. I felt the tension build as Mum tore open the second envelope, mum looked at it for a long while, then she re read it, tilting it away so I could not see what it said. I think she regretted opening the envelopes in front of us, and regretted the praise poured on my twin, she was trying to find the words to let me down gently. She did not have to, my tears welled up, and all I could manage was “sorry, mum”, and she put her arms around me and said that it did not matter. She cried as well.
Forty-five years have passed since that spring morning. Mum, was of course right, it certainly wasn’t the end of anything. But still, I feel sad for that boy of 10 and angry about the system that still causes such pain.
Being underestimated and doubting my abilities
I cried when my maths teacher decided to put me in the lower set at school for GCSE’s because he thought I’d struggle. Two years later I won the senior maths prize at A-level. The A-level was run by the same teacher.
But still the first bit is hard to erase from my head. Being underestimated has been a core theme in education and work. As has been a doubt in my own abilities. And that is the product of being a working class kid who failed the Kent Test and was told from age 11 they weren’t really good enough to succeed.
I passed the Kent Test but my friend did not. When it happened he told me ‘I am stupid.’ I don’t think he is stupid. We are both in top sets at our schools (we go to different schools) but he thinks he isn’t good at school because of the test.
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