Many ask themselves whether it is the right decision to take 11+ Examinations in order to access Grammar Schools. This includes children, parents, teachers, school principals and even government officials. A recent documentary by BBC2 which focused on exactly this question explored how all parties perceive this topic on a day by day basis from the very beginning, when the practising begins, through the actual examinations up to the point when the children receive their results.  One aspect to note is that the perception will vary based on a number of factors which can be summarized as follows:

  • Region of School (Encouragement to take 11+ Examinations vary)
  • Local access to Grammar schools (Transport)
  • Home Support (Parents motivating their children to pursue a better life)
  • Self Esteem (Pride in Success)
  • Out of School Support (Tuition targeted at individuals)
  • Internal Moral at school (Friends’ perception of careers, rewards and opportunities)

Taking all of the above into account, it is interesting to note that only 1 in 4 children make it through. The big question therefore arises whether the system is fair. Is it acceptable for children to go through stressful times at such an early stage? What can be certain is that the system is very similar in other countries and that creating a competitive environment at an early stage proves to help them significantly later on in their career, when they have to undergo through much more stressful times. Nevertheless, what is commonly perceived by many as not acceptable is the fact that children from poorer backgrounds are limited to the support they get to prepare for that all important day. It is what distinguishes between the very hard working child not making it through against the child that makes it through with a reduced level of effort, despite being equal in terms of attitude and intelligence. This can be sometimes due to a difference of only a few marks, but what it does show is that moral can be a key factor.

Grammar Schools tend to have much better Ofsted ratings, meaning that the quality of education and hence success tends to be better to a certain extent, but this is not necessarily the only reason. High achieving students are surrounded by other high achievers which naturally increases the drive to achieve, because of the environment they are in. It is for that reason that increasing capacity for students from poorer backgrounds has been recognized in recent months, through a grammar school expansion program, which is intended to allow for increased level of inclusion.

What children have to understand is that ‘being selected or not’ is not the final step they will take in life, and that it is simply a setback that they have to overcome in life. It is therefore the perception of not considering the selection process as pass or fail, but rather as an opportunity to prove to themselves and others that they can pass through all obstacles in life.