If you are keen for your child to attend one of England or Northern Ireland’s selective state grammar schools, it is likely they will need to get through the 11+ test first. The test is usually taken early in the last year of primary school but parents often start pondering over whether to do it and how to prepare much earlier. In this section, we have compiled a number of different frequently asked questions and have aimed to inform you about everything ‘grammar school’.
Should I send my child to a grammar school?
The grammar school debate has been stirring up opinions once again since Prime Minister Teresa May’s announcement that she plans to lift the government ban on new grammar school openings. Sian Goodspeed, founder of Flying Start Tuition, shares her thoughts on the pros and cons of grammar schools.
– Good academic results
Grammar schools get great academic results. This is not only because of the selection of pupils, but also because they can be pushed harder due to a more equal ability level in class
– High Achievers
A large amount of the country’s academics, celebrities, politicians and top business people have been products of grammar school education
– Undermining privilege
One of the strongest arguments for the grammar school system is that it gives an opportunity for low-income families to escape poverty and for children from these families to gain access to high standard of education, which would not otherwise be accessible
– Academic environment
It has been suggested that children and young adults in grammar schools are less likely to be bullied for wanting to work hard and excel at school, because of a more academic environment
A commonly stated argument against grammar school is that wealthy children have a better chance of getting into grammar school as parents can afford tutoring. The schools are therefore seen as perpetuating a more divisive society.
– Unfair Exam
Many people believe the 11 plus exam is an unfair means of selection at the age of 11 – which results in some children perceiving themselves as ‘failures’, causing long term adverse psychological effects.
What is the 11 Plus?
The 11 Plus is an examination taken by some school pupils in their last year of primary school to get into a grammar school of their choice. In reality, most children will only be aged 10 when they sit the exam, however the entry level of the school is aged 11 plus.
The qualification rate for the 11 plus varies considerably around the country. Some schools attract several thousand applicants for as few as 180 places – the four grammar schools in Kingston and Sutton are an example of such over-subscription, with a pass rate of perhaps 3 percent. In areas where the grammar system has been retained in full, the pass rate is considerably higher – in Buckinghamshire it is around 30% each year.
There can be up to four different ‘disciplines’ used for the 11 Plus tests – Verbal reasoning, Non-verbal reasoning, Maths and English. The combination of these four test papers varies considerably across the country. Further information can be found in the 11 Plus Schools section of the 11 Plus website – https://www.elevenplusexams.co.uk/schools/choosing-a-school
Can anyone take the 11 plus?
Many grammars have catchment areas and pupils must live within the area by a set date to be eligible to take the exams and potentially gain a place. A few schools, sometimes known as ‘super-selectives’, have no catchment area at all and anyone living anywhere can apply – selection is solely down to who does best in the exams. Some grammars are faith schools too and for these, proof of observance of a particular religion might be important if the school is oversubscribed (which being a grammar, it inevitably will be).
To find out if you are eligible, visit the National Grammar Schools Association at: http://www.ngsa.org.uk
Should my son or daughter sit the 11 Plus exam?
The decision of whether to register your child to sit the 11 Plus is entirely up to you and your child. If your son or daughter is obviously highly able or highly unable, the decision becomes easier. However, for parents with children anywhere in between, the decision of whether to do the 11+ can be less clear cut.
Your first port of call in making the decision is your child’s teacher. In areas where the eleven plus is common, primary schools will usually offer guidance on all of this. Parents evenings in late year 4 or early year 5 are a good way of getting an indication of your son or daughter’s suitability.
In addition, look at your child’s National Curriculum Levels. Most teachers will be happy to provide these at parents evening. These will give you a better idea of how your son or daughter is doing compared to average for their age. Find out more about this here – https://www.gov.uk/national-curriculum
To find out more about the Eleven Plus and Grammar Schools, visit the following sites:
Grammar School Legislation – https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/SN07070
The 11 Plus Website – http://www.the11pluswebsite.co.uk/
Sample 11 Plus Papers – https://www.sats-papers.co.uk/11-plus-papers
Sian Goodspeed’s Article – http://www.flyingstarttuition.co.uk/blog/article.php/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-grammar-school