The Big 11 + Debate

It divides opinions at the school gates , it’s more important in some areas than others and it leaves our children shaking in their shoes.

I am of course talking about the 11+ exam.

The 11+ exam was first brought in circulation in 1944 by the Butler Education Act and was the deciding factor as to which school a child would attend after leaving Primary School.The results from this test would decide which children would be offered Grammar School Education. This resulted in a Tripartite system of Education.

The exam consists of Verbal Reasoning , Non Verbal Reasoning , Maths and English. The test is also non compulsory and therefore your child can opt in or opt out.

The test itself causes some controversy especially in those areas where a Grammar School education is still available ( only 164 available in the UK and Ireland). Some see it as a class act with those that can afford additional tutoring for their child being at a strong advantage to those that could not afford this luxury. And that is why this year the test is subject to change once again with the papers guarded with more secrecy than seen within MI5 so that tutors cannot get their grubby hands on it.

It does annoy me slightly when you face criticism from others for employing the help of a tutor. Nobody bats an eye when it is a football academy , music tutor, acting class etc. So why get all angsty about this ? I just don’t understand it.

Personally I welcome this change if this means it offers a fairer system then I am all for it. Will my son be taking the test ? Yes he will ? Will I be getting him tutoring ? Yes I will. Not because I want him to have an advantage but because I want him to enter into the exam prepared with the right skills to ENHANCE what he already has.If the tutor came to me and said he wasn’t getting it or of he didn’t want to do this. I would stop it in a heartbeat.

I am sure his school will carry out an amazing job preparing them all for this moment, and my decision to get a tutor will take nothing away from the great work the school do or have done over previous years leading to this point.

I see it as helping lay a few bricks on their solid foundation. As for the cost involved , well I don’t smoke but if I did it would be no more than feeding that habit.

We have also adopted a healthy attitude towards the test and my son sees this as another step to realising HIS personal goals. We have not hyped it up to be the be all end all of his school life or indeed ramped it up to the importance of studying for a degree. He has always been raised that if you want something you work hard for it and that goals can only be realised by doing so.Only recently I have studied and passed for more qualifications which I needed to progress further. Of course it’s my choice to do this but is has been healthy for him to realise that even adults have to go through exams still to chase their dreams

I applaud parents whom opt out of the exam for making that choice with their child , after all we all want what is best for them and not what’s best for us.

I will limit his tutoring to once a week my strategy being that regular practice is better than none and that practice will be with somebody with the right level of patience and enthusiasm , which come on isn’t going to be a tired mum at the end of a the day and to be honest I have zero common reason and the least logical mind ever. Plus there is the timed section and I can see myself now stopwatch in hand pacing the room shouting at him like a deranged personal fitness coach !!

I do however abhor the fact that it has become part of a competitive framework for children at such an early age and it is important that it isn’t marketed to your child as that, but more about a stepping stone towards goals.

It is such a sensitive subject to address and one that is personal to you so whatever decision you make this year for your child don’t make it alone….. make it TOGETHER !!!


4 thoughts on “The Big 11 + Debate

  1. You tutor because you believe it gives your child more chance of success. Many parents can’t afford to do so, and here in Kent the schools are forbidden from giving more than familiarity with the papers.

    Everyone who tutors is paying for a better chance of a grammar school place, and in doing so giving depriving childre whose parents can’t afford this method less chance of a place.

    It should be socially unacceptable to pay for tutors for this reason. The number of disadvantaged children in grammar schools is extremely low, because competitive parents tutor to give their child a leg up. The school places are limited so of course ambitious parents pay for tutors and take the places. Around 16 % of grammar school kids come from independent prep schools. These schools spend great efforts preparing pupils to pass, so parents can avoid school fees.

    Please consider the children who will fail because you pay for a place.

    1. Hi Jo ,

      Many thanks for your thoughts , I am by no means a competitive parent and do not believe any child will fail because I pay for a tutor…. I am not paying for a place. You provide an interesting viewpoint and I thank you for taking the time to comment and share this with my readers.

  2. I live in Kent and have twice been through the hell that is the whole 11+ process – honestly you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.

    In both cases I paid for my children to have a tutor – not because I wanted to hot-house them to pass but because I wouldn’t them to stick in the test on the day and not panic at what was in front of them, nor worry about the speed that they have to do it.

    Whilst I appreciate the previous commentators point, it is natural for a parent to want to do as much as you can for your children and to that end I do not feel guilty by doing what I consider was the best for my children at the time.

    By the way I wanted them to go to grammar school not because I wanted to avoid school fees – we couldn’t afford to have two in the senior school private system at one time, but because I wanted them to avoid the generally not-so-good high schools.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story Charlotte .What you say about the speed is quite right, worrying about that on the day clouds a childs ability to concentrate. my son has now started his tutoring and is loving it . The tutor has far more patience that me and she has such enthusiasm it’s so refreshing. I hope your children are both doing well. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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