The Merits of the Eleven Plus

After some unsavoury school children vandalised our local allotment, I've started to wonder if sending my daughter to the neighbourhood state school is best for her, or if grammar school would be a better option



I'm in no way a pushy parent (honest) but even I have to admit to wanting my daughter to get through the eleven plus exam.

This eagerness showed itself only yesterday whilst I was discussing with a neighbour an incident of vandalism at our local allotments.

Keeping away from 'undesirables'

A fairly well known bunch of local trouble-makers had rampaged through the place, burning down sheds and smashing up greenhouses. My neighbour, himself an allotment owner, also happens to be a retired school teacher and had taught two of the culprits at our local secondary school. He told me that things had got so bad at the school he had been forced to resign.

Luckily, he successfully gained a new teaching role at a nearby grammar school and the difference, according to him, was nothing short of astonishing. The kids were fully engaged in learning, far more polite and the majority of the time, a pleasure to teach.


I'm afraid this is where my 'non-pushy' self decided to morph very slightly into 'mum-zilla'. I tried not to let it happen, but my neighbour's enticing description of grammar school was so convincing I couldn't help it. Before I could stop myself, I heard these actual words spill out of my mouth: "So, would you advise getting a private tutor to get through the exam? Do you know any good ones?"

Yes, seriously, I really said that. I saw his eyes slightly glaze over.

Good advice

After he had discreetly rearranged his expression into one of mild interest, his delivered response wasn't quite as straightforward as I'd hoped, but it was incredibly thought provoking all the same.

In his experience, the 'tutored' kids would come in with a good score, but more often than not didn't possess the work ethic of those kids who had got in through sheer merit and talent. The outcome often meant that, although they had got in to the school, they ended up hovering at the bottom of their year group whereas they could have been at the top in a state comprehensive.

This really made me think about my initial aspirations in getting my daughter through. Surely she should be there because she found it easy to get through the entrance exam, not because she was honed by a tutor and because I don't want her mixing with the local hoodlums? There's little doubt she's bright (unbiased opinion, I promise), but whether she would be capable enough of sustaining a more intense learning environment remains to be seen.

When opportunity knocks

What grammar school will do is offer an incredible opportunity for success in a chosen field. Based on a similar principle and model of independent education, if a child possesses a particular talent for music, sport or maths, for example, it will be spotted and the resources will be available to hone that skill.

It's still too early to even think of getting a tutor for my daughter, but when the time comes, I'd really like to think that, if I feel she isn't suitable, I won't push her too hard. What I will do is make sure she's prepared either way.

After all, as one saying goes: 'Sometimes opportunity knocks, but most of the time it sneaks up and then quietly steals away.'

Jayne, Working Mum and Freelance Editor

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