Should schools/ teachers advise on suitability for 11+

(103 Posts)
PastSellByDate Thu 27-Jun-13 10:46:09

Hi I'm bringing a conversation (so I'm not interrupting another thread) over here:

I raised the point on another feed that for many parents, we are highly uncertain of whether their child is or is not 11+ material and worry that taking the 11+ is setting them up for disappointment/ teasing. We do turn to the school for advice and find it frustrating that teachers will not comment.

A teacher 'WellThen' - has written in response:

When I said they're not allowed to get involved in the tests, I meant it. Teachers should not be discussing it with parents and certainly suggesting it.

You also dont seem to consider the fact that maybe the teacher doesnt WANT to mention it to the parents of bright children because

a) It isnt anything to do with them - I dont know any school where teachers get involved in secondary school choices. Hugely inappropriate
b) They dont like grammar schools
c) They may not live in the area and therefore may not actually know much about the schools
d) I dont know how to stress this enough: They are not allowed.

Now I'm not trying to start a parent vs. teacher battle here (and respect that as staff if the HT is saying NEVER talk about this you are in a difficult situation) but what do people think? I'm also saying that this is seeking an opinion not a hard and fast verdict - the teacher could say 'it's borderline' or 'based on their performance I don't think they have the core skills' etc... and a parent can chose to listen or not as they like - but this is about seeking a second opinion from a professional in daily contact with that child, on their child's academic potential.

Should teachers/ schools encourage their best and brightest to sit the 11+ (especially in cities like ours where state grammars are free, as is sitting the exam)?

[I stress - not speaking about preparing for exam/ just about suggesting to a family that this is an option they should be considering for their child].

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 11:11:18

Personally (I'm a parent, not a teacher), I wouldn't want our teachers encouraging anyone with regard to secondary school choices. Not at all.

Support them yes, once they have made their own decision, but not encourage.

dd1's class teacher, Y4, when I asked her (in a private meeting) outright if she thought dd was capable of working towards applying to a particular school, did give her opinion. But I would not have wanted her suggesting it, or giving it unasked.

Our Head will meet with parents who are worried about secondary choices and discuss their choices with them - in terms of knowing the child well, and thinking about their happiness. But he would never make a suggestion or encourage a child, or parent, in any one particular direction.

curlew Thu 27-Jun-13 11:17:32

If the primary school is in an 11+ area, I would have though it would be vital for teachers to talk to parents-otherwise the only children taking the test will be the ones whose families are switched on educationally and understand the system.

Bit like now.........

Moominmammacat Thu 27-Jun-13 11:31:05

I asked my DS's Y6 state school teacher if he thought it worth us applying to selectives and he said he didn't have a clue ...

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 11:34:00

We're not in a grammar school area.

I'd have no problem with teachers letting parents know what the options were, and giving some guidance on how to make the decision with your child....but 'encourage their best and brightest'? No.

Brideandgloom Thu 27-Jun-13 11:39:23

Hmm, not sure! <helpful>

DSD's primary was in a grammar school area and they pushed her to try the 11+ BUT they advised tutoring as she was "borderline".

DH was livid about this as she struggles academically and always has done, she was never going to pass at a high enough mark to get a place even with tutoring and once there she would have had an awful time trying to keep up. Her mum fell for it hook line and sinker and entered her after taking this tutoring.
She got a very low mark and was incredibly upset about it as it was such a big thing in her local area.

Turned out the tutoring they recommended had an agreement with the school that they could advertise there, ie posters and leaflets home to parents.

DD's school on the other hand was fairly anti even though she was on the G&T programme as they didn't agree with grammar schools in general.

I genuinely think that the decision should lie with the parents who should be taking into account the child's attainment, personality and whether or not they actually like the prospective school.

Relying on a school's recommendation whether or not to sit is far too subject to personal opinion and I don't think it is always helpful.

tiggytape Thu 27-Jun-13 11:41:50

I suppose it depends whether you are in an all-grammar part of the country or whether you are in a part of the country where some children opt-in and choose to take the test but most don't.

In many areas teachers simply do not know a lot about the admission arrangments for the grammars or even the high schools eg how bright is bright enough, are any catchments in operation and if so how far they extend, how many children from other schools compete for the places. They could advise you a child is 5b in maths and level 6 in English but might not be able to tell you if that is generally good enough to get a place or if even higher scores are required.

In areas where all children sit the 11+ test making it part of the primary process, I would expect they know much more about it and are willing / able to advise.

PastSellByDate Thu 27-Jun-13 11:42:58


I see your point.

Our context. Grammar school system in area is state run & free.

There are parents from non-highly educated, non-white collar backgrounds with amazingly bright kids here, but no confidence that this grammar school thing is for them.

When a teacher refuses to comment, as one parent said 'Isn't that code for my child isn't bright enough? or it's not for people like us?'

I recognise having an opinion can open all sorts of cans of worms and maybe that's why nothing can be said by a teacher - but saying nothing does seriously advantage more 'clued up' parents doesn't it?

GrimmaTheNome Thu 27-Jun-13 12:23:54

>but saying nothing does seriously advantage more 'clued up' parents doesn't it?

yes. Especially when there are also private schools which see one of their main responsibilities as guiding parents towards the appropriate secondary school for their child. State schools are too often failing their pupils by comparison. Its a shame.

'They dont like grammar schools ' should have absolutely nothing to do with it for sure.

Blu Thu 27-Jun-13 12:24:17

It isn't in a state school primary teacher's job description to advise on secondary schools.

I say that not to be jobsworthy on behalf of a teacher, but unless they are qualified in some way to give actual advice on school admissions, the exact details of the schools involved, the content and levels of the 11+ or other admissions tests in relation to SATS etc, how can they do anything than a subjective opinion based on what they might or might not know? Which could be very misleading and cause all sorts of problems. Teachers, like doctors, need to be very careful how they communicate facts and opinions.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 27-Jun-13 12:29:02

Maybe it should be. Perhaps not each teacher, maybe the HT or someone trained - its somewhat analogous to careers/ tertiary education advice in secondary schools.

takeaway2 Thu 27-Jun-13 12:29:11

I'm speaking as a parent - and I think I'm pretty switched on (together with my DH) about the education system etc. I would definitely value the teacher's thoughts about my children's ability to pass an 11+ or not (we live in an 11+ area where the grammar pass rates for GCSE seems to hover around 90%++ and those that are non-grammar seem to be about 35% tops). Of course, I may not accept/agree with their opinion but I would still want it given that they are in the education sector and know in general what the cohort is like, or what the tests may be like.

xylem8 Thu 27-Jun-13 12:29:41

We live in a GS area. Y6 children attending a state school are automatically entered for the 11+ unless their parenst right to the LEA by a certain date to opt out.

takeaway2 Thu 27-Jun-13 12:30:06

agree with Grimma - it may not be the teacher, but it should be someone who is trained specifically for this sort of discussion. It may be the year head, the HT, or careers person....

xylem8 Thu 27-Jun-13 12:30:14

doh 'write'

youcouldnevermakeitup Thu 27-Jun-13 12:32:37

Yes, I would expect a caring teacher to give sufficient information, in meaningful terms, to Parents to enable them to make the right choices for their child.

Many schools do administer NFER/GL tests of verbal and non verbal reasoning tests to children which form the basis of many 11+ tests, but the results of such tests are not always shared with parents even if you ask for them! I've been shocked to see children who are in the bottom sets at school tutored for the 11+ in this area (which is superselective taking top 3% of children) in the mistaken belief that any child can do well at verbal and non verbal reasoning if they are tutored. Yet other parents of bright children have never even heard of the 11+ and find out too late to give their children the level playing field with other tutored children.

I cannot see how this is helping the bright child, from a less advantaged background, to do as well as a less able child from a MC background who outperforms the bright child due to attending high achieving Private Schools.

My siblings and I attended a small village primary school; there was never any question of going elsewhere. The school was very much at the heart of village life and social events and the Head was very respected, as they were in those days. I am sure part of this was the interest that she took in EVERY child reaching their full potential. She did advise on schools and shared the results of all school testing that had been completed. I know my parents very much respected her view on our academic abilities.

In contrast, we got our third choice school, a huge school where the most you could get from teachers is 'your child is doing very well', but everyone was told the same and in this area only the top 3% will go to GS.

We moved our DS to a prep school where the difference has been like between night and day. We know that DS tests at 99.9 percentile in some areas and we have had at least 3 meetings about DS with the Headmaster to discuss provision for him and regarding future schools. The Headmaster immediately discussed some schools (which we were not aware of) that specialise in DS's extra curricular interests. He knows that we do not want to put DS through lots of entrance exams and he will help us refine our choices nearer the time, once he has carried out more testing. He is able to tell us quite accurately about chances at particular schools based on the success of previous pupils. We really respect his views and his interest in the right school for DS.

xylem8 Thu 27-Jun-13 12:34:15

also meant to say that in this area teachers are not allowed to advise on whether children are likely to pass the 11+ or not.For one thing reasoning tests are utterly different to normal school work.They test innate intelligence , not attainment which is affected by how hard working students are and how well they are taught.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 27-Jun-13 12:35:49

Its not impossible to get an objective assessment of whether a child is likely to pass the 11+. Do CAT tests in year 5, and collect statistics on what range of CAT scores yield pass marks and actual places. Its the sort of thing the private schools do, and guess what, parents seem to then only put their kids in for exams they can pass.

Pyrrah Thu 27-Jun-13 12:46:52

Yes, I think teachers should advise - and I think they should appraise themselves of information about the schools in their surrounding areas and their entry requirements.

Private schools pride themselves on advising parents of the best school for their child in terms of that child's potential and achievements.

In an area like mine in London with very few MC parents, at least one of the local primaries does have a word with those parents whose children could be in with a shot at the GS or indy super-selectives (with generous bursary schemes). They also arrange out-of-school prep sessions for children who are sitting the exams. Their results speak for themselves.

When selective schools are legally available, teachers should not let their political views allow them to fail children who could benefit.

youcouldnevermakeitup Thu 27-Jun-13 12:48:41

well said GrimmaTheNome (much more succinctly than me!)

The point is xylem8 many schools administer cognitive tests but do not share them with parents. I agree attainment testing is something entire different.

xylem8 Thu 27-Jun-13 13:29:40

I can understand why LEAs prohibit advising on suitability for the 11+.It surely opens a minefield as far as appeals go.'Well Jemima would have taken the 11+ but was advised not to by her teacher, but we find now that Jocasta has taken it and passed but Jemima got far higher SATS results than her'

jeee Thu 27-Jun-13 13:34:36

And if Jocasta fails, her parents will be saying to the school, "But you said she'd definitely pass."

If I was a teacher, I'd be grateful that I'm not supposed to comment on 11+ suitability.

DeWe Thu 27-Jun-13 13:44:04

We don't have grammar schools in our area. But the teachers are very up for discussing several state schools in the area in relation to your child. They don't make the choice for you, but they can talk about similar children at the schools and how they've found it, and other issues that you don't find out by looking round the school.
I don't see why that is considered inapporopriate.

Galena Thu 27-Jun-13 13:47:30

I notice you didn't copy and paste my post on that thread about the parents who tried suing my old school because they were told their DC wouldn't cope in grammar school and tutored her hugely to get her to scrape through the test.

Within 2 years she was struggling and moved to a non-selective independent school.

PastSellByDate Thu 27-Jun-13 13:49:35

Thanks all for comments & lots of food for thought.

I think the only comment I can make (as I have to dash off in a second) is that jeee - I don't exactly see how suggesting to a family of a bright child that they might want to consider trying for a grammar school place necessarily means you are 'guaranteeing' success.

Surely a 'professional' could put in the usual caveats (obviously one can't guarantee they'll pass, but in my opinion your DC is consistently performing at NC Level 5 or better, is in all the top groups and appears to have the depth of knowledge and facility in core skills to make a good account of his/ herself on the exam).

A doctor will discuss whether surgery or physiotherapy will help an injury and what the various options are, even his/ her opinion on the best option knowing you as a patient and the facilities - why can't a teacher do similar for the next phase of educational development?

youcouldnevermakeitup Thu 27-Jun-13 13:52:20

State schools do not have to say X will definately pass. They just have to say 'cognitive scores suggest X. In our experience, children in the past have got into grammars with 125+, or whatever'. That is what private schools do. Parents then make the decision whether to try or not.

Pozzled Thu 27-Jun-13 14:01:21

I'm a year 6 teacher and work in an area where there are two grammar schools that could just about be close enough for our pupils to apply to. A handful of past pupils have gone there, but it's very rare.

I wouldn't even consider discussing this with parents because I don't know anything about their admissions. And while I could spend time finding put, that's time that I could be spending on lesson planning etc, to help the other 99% of my class.

I can see an argument though for the g&t coordinator to advise on this. It would certainly help open up opportunities for those families who wouldn't otherwise think of it.

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 14:17:19

Yes, G&T as an advisory person might work.

PastSellBy, I see your point too. And as we are not in a grammar school area, I don't really know much about grammars as distinct from selective indies.

But would still prefer the idea of informing ALL parents by, eg, holding meeting where parents are informed of all choices, and given some indicators of how to assess whether they want to explore selective schools for their own children. A guide, if you like.

I just don't like the idea of individual teachers advising parents on this route or that route for a given child. And if they do that for 'the brightest' then they must do that for all the children, as they all have an equal right to advice. Too many worms in that particular can for me smile

Ladymuck Thu 27-Jun-13 14:23:06

My parents were immigrants and fairly clueless about the education system having both left school by 14. I was certainly destined to make my way through the linked RC schools in my area, until a teacher at my primary school suggested I sit for the local independent schools. Looking back, we were still totally clueless about how the system worked - I remember walking into one of the schools with my form and £10 cash registration fee. Those were the days where you could get 100% scholarships. Life certainly would have been very different had my primary school teachers not intervened (although the nuns were very upset at my subsequent non-catholic education).

The dcs have been through (different) prep schools. I have to say that I have almost had too much information from their preps as to which exams they should sit, in which order, at what age etc. I'm longing for the day when dinner party conversation can safely revert to house prices! I guess I'll get a 2 or 3 year break before discussions turn to 6th form options, then uni.

MadeOfStarDust Thu 27-Jun-13 14:31:12

Trouble is the teachers do not know who will pass and who will fail 11+ - at our school about 1/3 take the test - this time round, the top 6 or 7 (as defined by my DD as "the cleverest" so highly subjective grin ) did not pass,

but a group of "middlingly bright" (again DD's definition - she, herself, is "middlingly bright" but did not take the test) kids did pass... so how could their teacher have made that call....

Elibean Thu 27-Jun-13 14:34:33


I remember, a hundred years ago, my entire class took the 11+. Only a few were offered places at the local High School, but the whole class took it automatically.

Bit like xylem8's system, where kids are in unless they opt out. Does seem fairer.

Taffeta Thu 27-Jun-13 15:15:17

MadeofStardust - exactly. My DS (Y4) is in top groups and his teacher assessed levels are great. Sit him in front of a test, however, and he goes to pieces. Sadly we are in Kent so test ability is important.

You can't expect teachers to call this kind of thing.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 27-Jun-13 16:06:21

>You can't expect teachers to call this kind of thing.
they could get a reasonable idea from a CAT test. And as others have said, if you have this sort of data, the teacher doesn't have to make the call at all.

Claudiecat Thu 27-Jun-13 16:25:00

Haven't had time to read the whole thread but as a teacher I would say its quite difficult to make the judgement call.
Out of my class one took the 11+ (we don't live in an 11+ area) and passed despite her not at that point being a Level 5 in English. Three others took the test for selective private - two passed and again these were not children who were level 5 when the parents would have perhaps been considering putting them in for it. If the parents had asked my opinion at that stage I would have said go for it but would have pointed out what level they were currently at. Not sure exactly what teachers can add to it.

PastSellByDate Thu 27-Jun-13 16:28:11

Again, I am in no way suggesting a teacher can provide a guarantee of passing. Nobody realistically will insist a teacher make that call at any point.

I'm querying why a teacher can't point out to parents of brighter children this is an option worth considering (especially in areas like ours where state funded grammars cream off the top 5-6% of students).

Now I do take the point that someone has made above - that perhaps all parents should have a meeting (at start Y5?) about the grammar option (in areas where state grammars are still running by selective exam) and explain the system, what kind of performance is typical of the students who pass the tests and have feedback at parent/ teacher meetings which helps parents make an informed choice.

No discussion of NC Levels
No opinion one way or the other on grammar schools
Endless visits to local comprehensives

all seems to be about suggesting that in this part of town grammar school isn't really for you lot. I'm very aware that in nicer areas of this town with a tendency to call themselves 'village' - they very much do discuss grammar entrance suitability and some schools host (although don't run it themselves) 11+ prep clubs.

And it is that inequality which gets me steamed....

I don't begrudge anyone the opportunity but I'd like it to be a level playing field. Perhaps as someone suggested it should be that everyone sits the exam, but my understanding was the universal 11+ exam system was abandoned years ago beause the vast majority found it was a negative experience - thus my querying why schools can't at least identify their high performing pupils and ensure they understand this is an option for them to consider.

It is odd that senior schools are absolutely o.k. with advising about applying to UCAS for University places and even prepping for interviews at Cambridge/ Oxford. What exactly is the difference for doing the same in primary for grammar schools (especially when part of the state system in a particular LEA)?

curlew Thu 27-Jun-13 16:35:17

Lots of schools do CATs tests in the summer term of year 5. They are a pretty good indicator.

But I agree that the system favours the clued up education savvy parent.

Which is why it is a seriously crap system and should be abolished

prettydaisies Thu 27-Jun-13 17:01:47

I don't teach in a grammar school area, but often get parents asking me about high schools. Until my own children went to high school, I really didn't have much knowledge at all. Even now, I only know about 4 high schools really well. I don't feel at all knowledgeable enough to give advice. The head wouldn't be any use either as she is quite new to the school and doesn't live in the local area.

Galena Thu 27-Jun-13 17:19:31

Thing is, how do parents choose preschools or primary schools? They find out about the ones close by then visit them and make their choice, looking at the admission criteria to decide whether they think their child is likely to get in.

Why should moving to secondary be any different? You look at the local schools and visit them to see which you like. You also look at the admission criteria and decide whether or not you want your child to try for that particular school. Parents of bright, grammar school material, children will know that they have bright children without the teacher telling them to apply.

And if a teacher says it might be an idea to apply for grammar, when you and your child were happy to apply for the local comp, and then your DC fails the 11+, the child will be disappointed and not be as happy with going to the comp as they might have been had they not had their hopes raised.

Pyrrah Thu 27-Jun-13 17:45:59

The nursery that DD went to (now attends as after-school club) were a huge source of information to me when I was looking at which primary school to send her to.

They look after children who attend 5 local primaries and do drop off and pick ups and many attended the nursery before going to school, so they know the kids and how they are doing at the schools.

They advised me which school would best fit her personality and would push her as she is very bright but naturally inclined to coast.

I would like her primary to give me just as much advice on the local secondary schools - whether she would be best looking at single sex or co-ed, if she should look at schools with ML specialism or Science or whatever - just as much as I would be grateful if they said why not let her have a bash at the selectives, or even to let her have a bash but keep it low key as her results are at a level where it's a bit 50/50.

I wouldn't hold a teacher responsible if DD was miserable at the co-ed they thought she'd be happy at or if she flunked the 11+ even though they'd advised me to sit her for it.

clam Thu 27-Jun-13 18:29:51

Well, pyrrah, round here, and in many other places, it doesn't make a jot of difference which school "best fits a child's personality" as they're all so over-subscribed it's purely down to where you live as to where you're allocated. No real choice at all.

steppemum Thu 27-Jun-13 18:34:17

The trouble is, leaving Grammar schools aside, that it is really hard to know which school is which.

I have a Y5 ds and I would really value some objective advice about the local secondary.
I have researched and researched and have come to the conclusion, that if your dc is academic, go to x, y or z, but definitely not a or b. And on the other hand, a more practical school better lining up for vocational type courses is school c, but it has had an issue with bullying over the last year. School d has an amazing facility with engineering workshop, textile workshop etc. And finally school e is an absolute dump which I wouldn't touch with a barge pole

I am a teacher and has taken a lot of research to get here. When I talk to other parents on the door, they mostly say we are going to the closest as his friends are.

Different expectations, some not interested in advice, some are but don't have the skills to find it. I wish there was more available, as each schools prospectus would make you think they are the best school in the world.

Pyrrah Thu 27-Jun-13 18:41:14

I can see an issue if there aren't actually physical schools available, but if you live in London where there are lots of schools, even if they are oversubscribed, you can always have a shot at the waiting list or of appealing based on a specialism, so it's still helpful.

We didn't get the school we want, but are prepared to sit out the waiting list for as long as it takes to potentially get a place there.

It also means that parents could even think about possibly moving house if they feel that a certain school would be better/over their dead body. If all you can use to base a decision is what you read in the prospectus and the Ofsted report then having some advice from a teacher who knows your child and knows children who have gone there in the past is an extra source of information.

Wellthen Thu 27-Jun-13 19:05:57

I think there is a big difference between 'Would my child pass the test, yes or no?' and asking schools to advise on which secondary would be 'appropriate'.

I do see you point OP that inequality is frustrating and many parents get their children in because they just know the right things to do. This information does not seem to be available to everyone. I guess to this I would say that snobs will always have ways of keeping out the plebs. Make the tests easier to access and they will simply make the tests themselves more diffcult or very idosyncratic so you pretty much have to get a tutor. (Which pretty much seems to be the case already)

I dont think primaries encouraging children in to grammar schools would hep level the playing field. I spose this is why I made the point about 'they may not like grammar schools'. I do not think grammars are good for children or the education system so therefore I wouldnt be singing their praises and rushing round getting parents to sign up. If a parent wants to send their child there I will be supportive and proffesional. But I will never say 'I think Jimmy should go to the grammar' because I just dont feel this way.

Disclaimer: I didn't grow up in an 11+ area and dont live in one now. I thought they were something you did in the 'old days' until my cousins did them. I realise many posters here will have had great experiences with them and I am sure they are great schools. Im against them in principal.

GrimmaTheNome Thu 27-Jun-13 19:08:47

>Parents of bright, grammar school material, children will know that they have bright children without the teacher telling them to apply.

Not according to the OP:
>for many parents, we are highly uncertain of whether their child is or is not 11+ material
...the parents who live in 'the village' are clued up but others are given the impression its not for them.

wordfactory Thu 27-Jun-13 19:13:59

I don't see why parents shouldn't be having that conversation with the school.

In prep schools, you meet with the school to discuss where to send them next and how academic they are in part and parcel of those discussions.

Obviously, a canny school will make no promises, but they can advise.

Galena Thu 27-Jun-13 19:23:07

Have they had no NC levels ever? Have they never been told that the child is doing well? Don't they see how confidently their children read/do homework? I can't believe parents have absolutely no idea that their child might be bright.

Pozzled Thu 27-Jun-13 19:24:26

The idea of having a meeting about the alternatives simply won't work if the aim is to reach parents who wouldn't otherwise consider grammar schools. The reason is that the vast majority of parents don't attend such meetings, and the ones that do attend are the ones that are prepared to do their research anyway.

MaybeBentley Thu 27-Jun-13 20:20:02

My children's school won't even recommend secondary schools (we have four within easy travelling distance) since a parent caused huge aggro after a teacher suggested a parent "go and have a look at X school when making their school choices". The parent went, looked and sent their child there; less than a year later it had gone horribly wrong (don't know why) but there was little leeway for immediate moves and they blamed the primary school for telling them to send their child to such an "awful" school. Funnily enough I know the teacher's children are there and thriving!

pickledsiblings Fri 28-Jun-13 10:57:21

Estate agents are more likely to give you pertinent information/advice about secondary schools than primary school HTs. It makes me cross that they don't get involved - totally wrong given their insider knowledge of your child and their options.

PastSellByDate Fri 28-Jun-13 11:39:06


I think there is some truth in what you're saying. Around here at least, house prices are inflated in areas with better state senior schools.

I think people have raised all sorts of valid points:

school doesn't want to make the wrong call
it's a political decision
it's a personal decision
it's up to parents to research & decide

It's an imperfect system...


In terms of NC Levels (our school does) but two friends with children at next school (1 mile away) are at a school where they only report NC Level 4+ (and this could mean 4c and beyond). They won't go further than DC is doing well (applied regardless of level) against his/ her targets.

mrsbaffled Fri 28-Jun-13 11:50:30

I also live in an area where everyone takes the test unless you actively opt out. It is much better as everyone is in the same boat.

However, I know of a family who have moved to our area based on a teacher in a non grammar area suggesting their DC should aim for grammar. So they have moved wholesale at great expense and inconvenience to the family. The poor child is under great great pressure. There is no back up plan if they don't get in. What if they don't pass?!

Smithlings Fri 28-Jun-13 15:10:30

My DDs will be in Year 5 next term and I fully expect the school to offer some advice on potential secondary schools. After all, they've been sending kids to he local schools for years and know more about them than we do. And they must know more about their academic ability - all I have to go on are all the reports saying 'DD has made good progress this year...' I bet every child gets those!

eddiemairswife Fri 28-Jun-13 16:53:04

my area still has a Choice Advisor [introduced by the last government] .I don't know how effective she has been. Most teachers are not familiar with the Admissions process, and some have given misleading or even wrong advice.

Wellthen Fri 28-Jun-13 18:35:18

they've been sending kids to he local schools for years and know more about them than we do

Why do you assume this? We know about their transition arrangements, what some of the staff are like and what kids have gone previously. Children with younger siblings sometimes keep in touch with the school as well. But otherwise we know the same as anyone else from ofsted reports and word of mouth. I wouldn't consider this a proffessional opinion.

Feenie Fri 28-Jun-13 19:10:05

I'm with Wellthen - I can tell you who has the best transition arrangements imo, but that's all; otherwise, it's just word of mouth, same as any parent. Also, stuff changes - what was regarded via gossip as the best school in the area 15 years ago is now in special measures, whereas one I wouldn't have sent my dog to in the past is on the up.

You know as much as we do.

I have had a parent in my class who teaches at a local secondary school come in all guns blazing because her perception was that I had referred to her school in a negative manner - I had commented on transition arrangements in the briefest of terms, but her school was struggling and she was very cross. I was in the clear because that's all I had commented on - but she would have had grounds for a formal complaint had I said any more. It's a minefield.

Yes, I would expect a caring teacher to give sufficient information, in meaningful terms, to Parents to enable them to make the right choices for their child

That really pissed me off. As if a caring teacher can only be one who gives information re grammar schools, fgs.

LatteLady Fri 28-Jun-13 19:18:45

I took my 11+ 45 years ago at a time when everyone did the 11+ and there were 43 children in my class of whom 12 passed. This was back in the time when tutors were unheard of, although we did have 30 min lunchtime lessons three days a week which you could opt in to.

We took the exam in February and during January the HT went to visit every parent at home in the evening to talk to them about how he thought their child might do... my mother was somewhat non-plussed to find him walking up our garden path. He told my mum he was honestly not sure if I would get through... she told him she knew that not everyone could breed a genius and she was quite happy with me!

I did pass but I often think that I was really lucky to have Mr Webster as my Head, a man who cared enough to talk to parents in their own comfort zones whilst setting their expectations.

Feenie Fri 28-Jun-13 19:25:54

Again, it is nothing to do with a 'caring' barometer - we are not allowed to do this.

Not sure why some posters can't understand this, and instead choose to equate this as teachers/Heads being caring/uncaring. confused

pickledsiblings Fri 28-Jun-13 19:34:28

Feenie, not everyone is aware that you are not allowed, perhaps make that clear before accusing posters of not understanding.

pickledsiblings Fri 28-Jun-13 19:35:07

You are allowed to think it's wrong though. Do you?

cluttered Fri 28-Jun-13 19:42:36

Well I will be forever grateful to the Year 4 and 5 teachers of my DS1 who advised us to consider sending him to a super selective in another borough. I wasn't educated in this country and had no idea there were any London grammars! None of our friends had older DC and I wasn't familiar with the secondary system at all. Even if I had known of the super selective I would have been put off at the open evening when the Head said that the vast majority of children would not gain a place. However the fact that his Y5 teacher had recently said that she really hoped he was going to apply encouraged us and DS1 is thriving there, in the top third of his year for everything. Have the rules changed recently or have teachers always been supposed to refrain from giving such advice?

Feenie Fri 28-Jun-13 19:43:20

Not really, for the reasons I have specified.

If the posters concerned genuinely did have an understanding, then they wouldn't refer to 'caring' teachers giving out this information.

pickledsiblings Fri 28-Jun-13 19:52:26

Yes Feenie but if you were allowed to guide parents in their choice of schools (for the children that YOU teach) then you would be expected to be informed, so your reasons alone don't answer the question. If you would see it as just another job to do and you're glad that you don't have to do it then that's pretty uncaring given the valuable insight that you could contribute.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 28-Jun-13 20:14:02

Private schools seem to manage to give this sort of advice without too much problem. Its part of the education package the parents are paying for. Because its important.

We have plenty of threads with people - quite reasonably - bemoaning the over-representation of children privately educated at primary schools getting grammar school places. The issues aired on this thread are contributors to this. I am not in any way blaming the teachers - its the way the whole system has developed. The state system is letting children down by this gap in joined-up thinking.

Feenie Fri 28-Jun-13 20:15:52

And just how do you suppose I should appraise myself of said choices - over and above any other parent? It's subjective, and very much a parent's call. And one parent's valued choice, for whatever reason, is another parent's living nightmare.

But you can choose to use it as a stick to beat caring/uncaring teachers with if you wish. But you will risk making yourself look like total knob.

Pyrrah Fri 28-Jun-13 21:04:40

I'm sure there are some parents who could gather more information about local schools than you could, but there are many parents who won't have a clue and thus you will know more than them.

Primarily, a teacher will know about the child and how that child performs against their peers and against targets.

If you have a pupil who appears to be really good at science and maths, surely it is a good thing if the teacher suggests to the parent that they might wish to look at the local school that has a specialism in that - especially now that some schools can partially select on that basis.

This is particularly important in areas where a large proportion of parents are unfamiliar with the UK education system or perhaps don't even speak English.

These things are vitally important if people want to narrow the gap between who does and doesn't get desirable places at schools by playing the game.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 28-Jun-13 21:45:43

>And just how do you suppose I should appraise myself of said choices

I don't think you should. I think there should be someone within a school (or an area) whose responsibility it is, in the same way that secondary schools have careers/tertiary ed advisers. (I said something like this earlier).

Can I ask something please? Is this prohibition on advice just in relation to GS or to secondaries in general? It strikes me that while this thread was about advice on schools for possible 11+ candidates, there is at least - probably far more - of a necessity for advice for children with SENs. Is that allowed?

Galena Fri 28-Jun-13 22:00:49

But having one person responsible in the school means it is unlikely that person knows about each child in detail.

And children with SNs often have input from people like ed psychs and advisory teachers, who are more able to advise, as they have far more contact with similar children in most of the secondary schools.

Wellthen Fri 28-Jun-13 22:11:32

We appear to have moved from suggesting grammars to advising on secondary schools generally and I think this is where the problem lies. What Feenie and I are trying to get across is that suggesting specific children go to specific schools flies in the face of what primaries and state comprehensives stand for.

I think most primary teachers would baulk at the idea of saying that children are 'definitely St Joseph's material' or 'oh no, the High school isnt for his type'. It happens, definitely from parents and staff but to do it at an official level I think would be wrong. How can you say where a child should go at the age of 11? Is this not the kind of 'life route mapping' that was the whole problem with the triparte system?

Schools will be better or worse in terms of results but state comprehensives SHOULD all offer roughly the same and therefore attract the same children. There certainly are schools that are more sporty, academic, inclusive, but the fact is that actually this shouldnt be the case. At least not at a level to mean that teachers should be pointing children towards schools.

Parents and children should look round, get a feel, think about which friends are going, how far it is etc. If a PARENT is thinking 'my likes maths, this school has good maths scores lets go there' then that is completely different because we can assume the parent has the childs best interests at heart. A teacher knows the child well but they don't love them. Unfortunately teachers are known to use phrases like 'kids like that' or 'well its the X family isnt it, what do you expect?' This is the reason they shold not be allowed to comment. People lable and pigeon hole. The idea of children being described as 'appropriate' for certain schools is exactly what I dislike about the private and grammar system.

I completely disagree that this will narrow the gap. It is already the case that those who can afford tutors get in and those who dont, dont. Being the most informed person on the planet does not buy you a tutor.

Schools giving out FACTUAL information such as 'your child is academically able to have a good shot at the 11+' or 'these are the schools in the area and how you apply for them. Some have exams or requirements which you need to look into' I think is fine. Telling people where to send their kid is wrong.

Wellthen Fri 28-Jun-13 22:15:01

Grimma - yes, Feenie is talking specifically about Grammars. We are obviously allowed to talk about other secondaries but as Feenie says, most dont as they are simply not qualified.

For children with SEN however the situation is quite different. In my LA at least, the transition process begins in Year 5 and the parents are very well informed about which schools (specials included) would offer the best for their child.

I am not completely opposed to the idea of a unbiased kind of 'careers' advisor giving out info and agree it would very useful for parents new to the area or those who just feel out of their depth. But I think they need to work in facts only and actually, not knowing the child would be preferable.

GrimmaTheNome Fri 28-Jun-13 23:21:40

>flies in the face of what primaries and state comprehensives stand for.

But the OP wasn't talking about comprehensives.... if you're in an area with a significant number of GSs then - for better or worse - the other schools are not properly comprehensive. The situation she describes is that some kids who would probably benefit from the GS are by default going to what is in effect a secondary modern. Is that really right?

teachers are allowed to talk about other secondaries but not GSs...confused - this makes no sense at all, they are all part of the state system. Whether they fit in with political/educational ideology or not.

>Schools giving out FACTUAL information such as 'your child is academically able to have a good shot at the 11+' or 'these are the schools in the area and how you apply for them. Some have exams or requirements which you need to look into' I think is fine. Telling people where to send their kid is wrong.

yes, absolutely.

PastSellByDate Sat 29-Jun-13 15:35:49

Feenie/ WellThen:

I think you raise some really important points and I personally hadn't realised your predicament in terms of advising on schools (Guessing your London? I'm in a large city in the Midlands with State Grammars) - especially in terms of other schools taking offence/ reacting negatively to it.

Now my question is this:

Our state primary is having whole day visits (often more than one) to local secondary comprehensive schools (sports days/ arts days/ see what it's like to be Y7 student days etc...) as field trips during school day for entire class to attend.

For grammar schools - they put up a poster regarding open evenings & exam sign up information with hand written come talk to Mr. X or Mrs. Y about this. When parents do they say they don't (can't or won't - not sure) talk about it, but provide flyer.

That is what leads me to question what is going on (after all here at least grammars are part of state system and also offer free education to pupils but entry is selective by performance on exam).

I do understand Feenie/ WellThen the whole caring/ uncaring thing was upsetting - and unfair - I'm more interested in equality of information.

Why is it o.k. for a school lay on visit, information packs, freebies (rubbers, bracelets, pencils, etc...) from local comprehensives but do nothing with grammars. Now of course it could be that local comprehensives realise they have to attract students (reputations are not good - typically 40% achieve A-C at GCSE so parents are wary generally) but why support communicating information on one type of school and not all?

Feenie Sat 29-Jun-13 15:49:21

Taster days/sessions/free rubbers are entirely down to the secondaries/grammar schools concerned, ime - some make an effort with primary schools and some don't bother.

spanieleyes Sat 29-Jun-13 15:53:28

Because, certainly in my area, the grammar schools don't have to and the other schools do. We have one grammar for each sex and 6 other secondary schools that the children can go to, each grammar school has an open evening and the secondary schools all lay on taster days, open evenings, visits to schools, the lot! These are arranged by the secondary schools and, in our case, the grammar schools do sod all!

Elibean Sat 29-Jun-13 15:56:07

Excellent point.

Why don't the grammar schools invite more discussion/visits? Shouldn't it be up to them to disseminate information to primary school children and their parents?

The comps seem to work pretty hard around here (London) to attract students, and make transitions smooth. I don't see why there shouldn't be equality from secondary down, as opposed to primary up.

Elibean Sat 29-Jun-13 15:56:48

I mean, I know they don't have to - but they damn well should. In the interests of equality.

spanieleyes Sat 29-Jun-13 15:57:39

Grammar schools aren't equal!

Elibean Sat 29-Jun-13 16:14:36

No, they're not. But they are free. I think they should be required to disseminate information about entrance requirements/possibilities in an encouraging way to local primary schools.

Move over Gove, I'm taking over grin

Feenie Sat 29-Jun-13 16:28:13

Obviously the majority think they don't need to recruit.

Wellthen Sat 29-Jun-13 16:49:02

Well absolutely, why don't they? Its just like the whole 'You have to be on an organised school visit to go to an Oxbridge open day' crap. Yes because thats available to everyone. (Disclaimer: this is how it was when I applied for uni, not to oxbridge I hasten to add, it may have changed since then)

teacherwith2kids Sat 29-Jun-13 16:51:57

In our area, a 'Choice advisor' gives a presentation at EVERY primary school at the beginning of Year 6, which includes factual information about the admissions process and over-subscription criteria for all [semi] comprehensives and the localish grammars (partially selective county with residual grammar schools). Year 5 parents are also told about the meeting, so they can attend a year in advance if they wish to. They also publicise the open days for all local schools

What they don't do, in any way, is make any link between a specific child (or group of children).

IME as a parent and recently as a teacher in the area, CAT tests are taken in Year 5, and the scores are shared with parents who are interested to know about grammar schools, along with a rough indication of the types of scores that might indicate likelihood of suitability for superselective or selective grammar options. This is never given in a 'your child has 90, they are therefore not grammar material' way, more in a 'your child's score is an average of x over the different elements on the CAT. As a rough guide, 100 is 'average' in these tests, and historically children going to grammar school may have had a score of 120+, for superselective 130+, though slightly lower scores can be improved through practics / familiarisation if you are particularly keen on a grammar school education. Even the highest CAT score is no guarantee of success on the day. Specific information on the tests to be taken is on the grammar school websites and sample papers are available in WHSmith' - a standard script that gives information but does not guide.

piprabbit Sat 29-Jun-13 17:01:58

We were approached by our DDs teacher at the start of Y4 (she also taught her in Y3 so knows her pretty well), to say that in her opinion DD has the potential to pass the 11+ and that she recommends we find out more about the local grammar schools and the 11+ test as the school doesn't do any teaching or preparation towards 11+.

I was grateful she approached us as I have since been doing some research and we've been making some plans to see schools, get hold of some practise papers etc. We know that it is a very slim chance and we do not hold the school or teacher responsible for our choices (whatever they maybe). However it was very reassuring to find that I wasn't being ridiculously PFB in even thinking DD might have a chance.

spanieleyes Sat 29-Jun-13 17:20:14

I advise all my year 5 parents that the 11+ is an option available for any child to sit ( as our tests are held in the September of Year 6) and that there are practice booklets available if they wish to try. I will also advise that some parents do employ tutors ( although not many as we are not in a super selective area) but the majority do not. If asked outright whether a child might pass, I am quite honest and say I have no idea-my brightest L6 child this year failed, a child working at level 3 passed a couple of years ago! If I am asked whether I think a particular child will cope with the level of work expected I might say that they might find it hard work to keep up but I will never say that they wont be able to. I f asked whether I think their child should go to the grammar school I will say that such a decision is for the child and the parents to make.
If a local secondary school found that I was steering children towards/away from them they could, quite rightly complain about unprofessional behaviour!

AlienAttack Sat 29-Jun-13 17:45:29

I think the onus should be placed on all secondary schools (including Grammar) to come to local primary schools for one evening per year to talk to yr5 (thinking yr 6 might be too late) and say "actually, you know what, if your child is doing well, loving learning, and is demonstrating this through ks1 SATS and likely to do so in KS2, then please apply to us." At the moment, I feel the super-selective GS where I live feel that there is so much demand for places that they don't need to drum up custom. That is self-evidently true from the absurd number of applications per place ... but does nothing to encourage any broadening of applications and given these schools are state-funded, they should ensure they are "approachable" to any potential pupil. I would much rather put the onus on the secondary school to be required to come and inform all primary school parents of the benefits it may offer their children than I would put the onus on primary school teachers to suggest certain schools to parents, which, in my opinion, just risks setting up these teachers for aggrieved parents and lawsuits.

eddiemairswife Sat 29-Jun-13 18:48:07

Yes, the info needs to be given in Y5, because in our area parents have to register in July to sit the Grammar School test. I love The Choice Advisor who visits each primary school. Ours seems to be a shy, retiring creature rarely spotted who only emerges to chase up late CAF forms after the deadline has passed

teacherwith2kids Sat 29-Jun-13 19:15:07


Ours at least seems to be entirely visible, and to hold an evening information meeting in every school and several in other public places (e.g. library). I can see entirely that their usefulness depends on a certain amount of presence!

maresedotes Sat 29-Jun-13 19:37:01

Interesting points. DD1's teacher did tell parents at an 11+ meeting that any child who achieved at least a 5C in maths at the end of year 5 should pass (also mentioned CAT scores but I can't remember what he said). He also said it was up to the parents whether to put their child in for it. 18 children went for it but only the ones who had achieved 5C passed. So the teachers can advise, parents can decide but there shouldn't be any comeback.

Re: the grammar schools in our area. They don't have to 'sell' themselves to prospective pupils (and the super selective ones make no effort!)

teacherwith2kids Sat 29-Jun-13 19:43:38

(As a teacher, I cannot go to school open days - because I can't leave my own class. So, earlier this school year when I had a different half term from the GS, I rang up to ask if I could visit them. I explained that I cannot attend open days, and why. Their reply was an absolute, categorical 'No'. I explained again, ponting out that they must encounter this problem with their own staff who are also parents, and got an even ruder 'No'. I explained again, also saying that I particularly wanted to see the school in the daytime, rather than coming to their (one, annual) Open Evening when no students are there, as I thought it was important to see any school 'in session', and adding some soft soap about how it is always the students who really 'sell' a school. Incredulous 'No'.

To my shame, I did then ask the what they were so ashamed about in a normal school day that they didn't want me to see....)

Our school gives advice on whether our kids would 'do well' at a selective if asked. We are not in an 11+ area but there are some nearby.

teacherwith2kids Sat 29-Jun-13 19:45:43

And when I rang the local comp, before DS applied, with the same issue, to their credit [given that they are almost as oversubscribed as the GS] they arranged a specific time for me to have an individual tour with an assistant Head, who took me up hill and down dale and particularly sought out students like my DS - sporty, able, musical, ASD tendencies - for me to talk to

MaybeBentley Sat 29-Jun-13 19:47:51

"To my shame, I did then ask the what they were so ashamed about in a normal school day that they didn't want me to see....)"
Well done Teacher! No need to feel shame! But did they answer?

spanieleyes Sat 29-Jun-13 19:48:30

The problem with saying that a " a child who achieved at least a 5c should pass" is that a parent with a child who has "only" a 4A might not apply because of this. If subsequently any child with a 4A DID pass, the original parent could complain that their child too could have passed but they were put off applying! Saying there shouldn't be any comeback doesn't mean there won't be.
The whole area is a minefield and teachers are, quite rightly, cautious about what they say!

teacherwith2kids Sat 29-Jun-13 19:49:14

"We have already run our Open Days for this year and do not intend to show any parents round until the next one"

teacherwith2kids Sat 29-Jun-13 19:51:10

(DD - very bright - won't be going there, or even applying - as I said to them "I would not want to send my child to a school which she and I are not allowed to see.")

maresedotes Sat 29-Jun-13 20:03:21

spanieleyes Yes, it is a minefield (for teachers and parents). Our teacher did stress though that it was the parents' decision. So, 4A pupils did sit it. All we really wanted at the meeting was some help in deciding and the teacher's opinion (he has more knowledge than us about grammar schools).

pickledsiblings Sun 30-Jun-13 09:10:00

teacherwith2kids, that is awful. Did you manage to speak to the Head? I would have been furious and called the LA to check what the policy was. I can sort of see their point in that if they do it for one they would have to do it for everyone which could mean up to 700 individual visits (I doubt that the Comp however popular would be oversubscribed to the tune of 700%). Nevertheless, it was very rude of the person you spoke to not to explain this and help you to understand. Shame to deny your DD the opportunity of going there though, could she not go with someone else (GP, Auntie, friend's parent) at the allotted time? To be fair, the GS near us runs visits en masse but keeps the school in normal session and parents/DC are shown around by current Y7s.

teacherwith2kids Sun 30-Jun-13 10:33:26

Pickled, as a matter of fact, the comp regularly has 5-600 applications for under 200 places, so even for them, the idea of 5-600 individual visits would be completely unrealistic.

What they were prepared to consider, however, was individual circumstances - and we have found exactly the same attitude in their apprach to DS as a pupil (a real interest in, care for, and focus on the needs of the individual). In the same way as this positive experience pre-admission to the comp reflected something 'real' about the school, I wonder whether the 'inflexible / complacent / everyone must do it our way' attitude of the GS reflects something about their underlying values and attitudes as well?

pickledsiblings Sun 30-Jun-13 12:03:25

I completely agree with your reasoning teacher and I'm sure it says something, although not necessarily what you think it says. It could be worth pointing the facts that you mention about the Comp and their flexiblity re: visits to the Head at the Grammar, if you could be bothered. I suppose unlike the Comp, the Grammar won't (at least not in our case) have scheduled visits for prospective Y7s in catchment to help with transition so the number of individual requests is likely to be higher. but still, it is mighty accommodating of your Comp - I wonder how many individual visits they do. It might be the case that the Grammar used to be that flexible but became overwhelmed with requests whereas the Comp has yet to experience being inundated with requests. Surely it wouldn't be practical to allow 600 individual visits.

pickledsiblings Sun 30-Jun-13 12:32:42

teacher, I've never really had strong opinions about selective education until this year. DD has just completed Y7 in a selective school and she is really happy, mostly I think due to it being OK to be 'clever' iykwim. Even in a top set in a Comp I'm not sure it's OK to be clever.

teacherwith2kids Sun 30-Jun-13 12:45:12

DS - cleverer than DD in many ways, though less conventionally 'school shaped - is thriving at this comp. Certainly amongst his immediate friends, they actively compete to 'come top' in everything: and from the friendly encouragement, whoops and cheers that greeted him and his equally geeky friend as they came on stage to perform jazz at a recent concert, they are widely liked. We're lucky.

teacherwith2kids Sun 30-Jun-13 12:46:07

(And they're not set except for Maths in Y7, so this is a value system that seems to prmeate a large enough proportion of the intake for it to be clear even in mixed ability classes IYSWIM)

pickledsiblings Sun 30-Jun-13 13:07:44

It sounds great teacher. It was posts like yours that encouraged me to look at our local Comp for DD. I took a job there and it was only after working there for 6 weeks full time that I realised it was not a school that I wanted to send my children to for a myriad of reasons, not the least of which was the fact that that the 'weaker' students were completely demoralised by the 'stronger' students and their dismay at only getting grade As and not A*s. How does a school make it clear (to everyone) that one student's best may be a grade D at GCSE?

teacherwith2kids Sun 30-Jun-13 13:18:17

Pickled, I think that is an interesting point - because it genuinely does seem to be difficult to celebrate every child's achievement AND make it clear to the top groups that only the best is good enough.

That is possibly why we get polarised posts on MN - those who claim that comps don't push the brightest 'because they praise people who get Cs and Ds' and those who claim that comps push the bright children 'but leave their child in the middle, or with SEN, to struggle along'.

I genuinely don't know how to solve that. I can speak for personal experience to say that I have no worries about sending DS (and probably DD) to our local comp rather than to GS because they are bright kids and the school push such children hard. I genuinely don't know what this particular school is like for children who really struggle, and suspect that it may not be as good as another school might be IYSWIM, despite being a comp in a grammar area and therefore conventionally might be expected to be partiicularly suited to such children.

GrimmaTheNome Mon 01-Jul-13 10:39:06

We saw all the schools we were considering for DD during school time as well as doing their open days. One of the private schools the Head shows parents round himself. The others (GS, comp and another private) either had 6th formers or yr 11s do the tours, which is better in some ways. Didn't seem to be a problem for them to arrange at all. To be fair, the GS visit was after DD had already sat and passed the entrance exam, so I don't know for sure what would have happened if we had asked for a daytime tour before then, but the comp - which is twice the size and very popular - seemed to manage it just fine. In reality, I doubt they will be dealing with anything like hundreds of requests to visit in daytime - most people seem to find the open evenings sufficient.

I think we'd have written off any school which wouldn't do a daytime visit - they give a much better feel for what the school is really like.

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