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To think that in London at least, the 11 plus system is a bit of a joke

(37 Posts)
Notcontent Mon 30-May-16 13:58:54

I live in an inner London borough that has some great primary schools - in fact, most are pretty good - but the secondary schools are not so great. The reasons for this are quite complicated I think... We also don't have any selective schools in our borough.

What this all means is that we have a very large number of children competing for a small number of places at a handful of selective schools outside of our borough, that we are eligible to apply for.

I should say at this point that I am not in favour of selective schools. I went to a good, normal state school, but that was not in the uk. The schools closest to us have poor results, so we decided that dd should try out for one of the selective schools. I knew that there would be some preparation involved, but a few months in, I have come to the conclusion that the whole system is completely crazy.

Basically, having studied past exam papers, it is apparent that a lot of it relates to material that they have not covered at school. So it is nothing to do with how "able" a child is, because they don't stand a chance if they have not had extra maths tuition at home. Of course they have to be reasonably able or clever children - but a clever child cannot do well in the exam if they have not been tought all this stuff. Basically, the only way a child can do well is if they have a reasonably able parent who can spend a few hours a week with the child teaching them all this stuff.

Surely this is a crazy system? I know someone will come along and say that their child passed the 11 plus having just done a few bond papers, etc. And someone else will say that children who are tutored are obviously not able and will not do well Ina selective school, but trust me - these papers cover very advanced material...

doozie90 Mon 30-May-16 14:01:33

Isn't it general knowledge, logical thinking and reasoning? Which can't be taught per se?

VestalVirgin Mon 30-May-16 14:06:04

Basically, having studied past exam papers, it is apparent that a lot of it relates to material that they have not covered at school. So it is nothing to do with how "able" a child is, because they don't stand a chance if they have not had extra maths tuition at home.

I suspect that is the point - selecting children whose parents can afford to tutor them, or pay someone to do it.

What doozie writes is how it should be, but I totally believe you that it is the way you describe it - wouldn't surprise me in the least.

annandale Mon 30-May-16 14:07:03

Yes, the London education system is usually in a state of insanity, from the outside. London is an economic, population and philosophical hothouse and educational ideas can be forced to grow unnaturally fast there, or kept alive when otherwise they would have faded away.

My only question would be, how much time have you spent in the local state secondaries? How much is their added value score - are those poor results due to the school, or are they in fact good results for the children who got them?

Notcontent Mon 30-May-16 14:11:28

Doozie - no, there is no logical thinking or general knowledge.

PlymouthMaid1 Mon 30-May-16 14:18:36

I agree that a state schooled child who receives no tutoring is unlikely to pass as the maths topics are not fully covered in time. The chilkd also needs to be bright and motivated.Private schools will have prepped their pupils. Unfair system but I still like selective education but all should have a fair chance.

CarrieLouise25 Mon 30-May-16 14:18:54

I spent about a year with my DS working on getting his maths and English skills up and then teaching him VR and non VR. Then we worked on exam technique and how to work quickly.

He passed. He's now at the selective school doing well.

I don't understand how anyone would tackle an exam without studying. I didn't go take my accounting exams without studying just because I'm naturally good at maths.

You can be naturally bright but not fast enough and that you have to practice for.

Is the system fair? Probably not. But our secondary schools are shit and so were our primary schools. So I tutored as we were broke and it paid off.

Grammar schools are not full of posh over turtored pupils. They are mainly normal kids with parents who want them in a better school.

However I think London is much much harder. Too many pupils and not enough places. Really hard for those who pass and don't get in.

Good luck. We can only do our best and work with the system that exists whether fair or not x

Gizlotsmum Mon 30-May-16 14:21:06

11+ here includes verbal and non verbal reasoning. It is meant to be a skill, not necessarily taught but can be practised. It is logic, as in it is recognising and applying patterns, there is also a requirement for a wider general knowledge. None of the primary schools up here teach for the 11+ but there are lots of papers and guides available

retrorobot2 Mon 30-May-16 14:21:24

The OP is completely correct. In London there are 7 boroughs (all in outer London) that have grammar schools, compared with 25 boroughs that do not. In addition to the grammar schools, there are a handful of partially selective schools, such as Graveney in Wandsworth. Then there are the Catholic secondary schools which are all comprehensive but because they admit based on church attendance get a significantly more able cohort than the average London comp. There are some Church of England secondary schools that are in the same category, e.g. Grey Coat School in Westminster where David Cameron's daughter goes. There are also comprehensive schools that have an affluent catchment area, e.g. Camden School for Girls.

RedHelenB Mon 30-May-16 14:21:47

Doesn't really matter what the GCSE pass rate is as long as your child is in that percentage and has enjoyed their school expereience.

goodbyestranger Mon 30-May-16 14:28:27

OP is not right in that she appears to be looking at outdated papers and the majority of grammars have moved to the CEM tests for precisely the reasons she mentions. There are no papers available for the proper CEM tests, despite some commercial organisations attempting (inadequately) to replicate them. I have to say I'm not sure exactly which London grammars are using which papers for entry 2017 (presumably it's on each of their websites) but nationwide the direction of travel is firmly towards CEM.

cosmicglittergirl Mon 30-May-16 14:29:15

Have you looked round the schools? A supported child might well do very well in your local schools.

Notcontent Mon 30-May-16 14:40:04

Goodbyestranger - of course I am looking at the right papers!! Most of the schools we are looking at have 3: maths, English, and CEM verbal reasoning.

The Maths, as I said before, requires a lot of preparation, because it's no think like what they do at school. Dd is in the top ability group for maths, but has not covered a lot of the topics at school.

The English requires very high level comprehension and writing skills. Even for that, there is still some teaching required because the paper is looking for some specific things which are not tought at school.

The CEM verbal reasoning papers are supposed to be tutor proof but actually, they are all about high level spelling, grammar, etc.

thecatfromjapan Mon 30-May-16 14:40:46

The real basis of your complaint seems to be that you don't like the local 'distance criteria' secondaries and are annoyed that your ds won't pass the exams for 'selective criteria' schools without tutoring.

Well, the selective entry schools just ARE very competitive. Some children do get in without tutoring; most children WILL be tutored - even if that tutoring only amounts to famisrisation.

That's just the reality. You are one of a couple of thousand parents faced with the same situation. That's the reality.

IF your child doesn't get into a selective school, he won't be the only one. Statistically, he'll be one of the majority. Some of those will end up at the local distance-criteria school. Can it really be that bad? Or is it just not as good, results-wise, as a selective school ( which has an intake drawn - necessarily - from high-achieving children with supportive parents)?

I suspect the latter, personally. Which makes me think you need to calm down and stop comparing the local, non-selective school with a London grammar. It's not realistic.

Lastly, if the local schools ARE so awful, why did you wIt until now to start wimbling about this? London is large. You could move/rent in the are of a good non-selective school.

I know I sound a bit harsh but I think thst you will find the local school just isn't as bad as you think.

The London grammars are skewing your perception. London sectives are insanely competitive and the results they get are based on their intake of bright children (who are often the progeny of some of the most focused parents in the capital wink). They necessarily make the non-selective schools look a bit crap. But I'm not sure I think the non-selective schools ARE crap. They just have a far more normal intake. And 'normal' can be good, you know.

SE13Mummy Mon 30-May-16 14:42:48

I don't which London borough you are in but you can probably work out mine from my name...

The expectations of the updated National Curriculum have been raised significantly and, for my DD, this meant that everything in the Bexley selection tests in September 2015, was something she'd covered at school. I'm one of those people whose DC attends a state school, wasn't tutored etc. but passed the 11+. She's a bright, motivated child who enjoys learning and picks up new concepts quickly but isn't a child genius who can do high level maths that she hasn't encountered previously. Her maths isn't as strong as her literacy but would have been level 6 according to the old NC levels which may account for why she (and lots of her peers) had covered '11+ topics'.

Based on my experience, I would dispute your assertion that children will only pass if they've received additional maths tuition or have parents who will spend a few hours each week teaching them maths. I think the biggest challenge is not the content but the speed at which the children need to work through the papers.

karalime Mon 30-May-16 14:48:47

In north London there is no 11+, there are entrance exams for each grammar school. Which only parents who make the effort will know about, smart kids without pushy parents don't even get a look in.

So despite paying your council tax just like everyone else, unless you're in the know about which school has what exam when and how to apply, you have no chance.

thecatfromjapan Mon 30-May-16 14:48:48

I've never seen an entrance paper in Maths that demanded more than whither logic (Latymer) or the subjects that were required for old-style level 6.

VR and NVR is another matter. The days where that was aevel playing field between those familiar with the question style and those unfamiliar are long, long gone. That said, you know that, along with most of the test of london, and it sounds as though you are doi g papers anyway.

There are, of course, huge issues about selection, and I'd be the first to voice them. However, you are taking part in the system, aware of it's shortcomings and you sound more advantaged than most (you write like someone with a good familiarity with English - a huge advantage).

A small thing you could do is to offer to have a tutoring circle at your home for all the children in your child's class. It's obviously a very smLl thing, and won't rectify the imbalances with regard to resources and knowledge generally, but it would go some way to providing a level playing-field for your child's classmates.

doozie90 Mon 30-May-16 14:53:41

I would have thought verbal and non-verbal reasoning abilities are closely related to logical thinking and general ability...

Notcontent Mon 30-May-16 14:56:20

Well, perhaps not all schools are teaching level 6 maths in year 5?

Karalime - you are spot on, I am in North London....

thecatfromjapan Mon 30-May-16 15:06:20

They should be teaching/have taught the outlines of the maths ideas/subject areas, albeit at a lower level (though this might change with Maths Mastery approaches).

That said, a child with a good grasp of Maths would manage. And that's what the grammars are after. Not the average children.

That's why they get such good results - their intake is very different to that of a mixed-ability primary classroom.

I'm guessing you won't be offering to try and level the playing-field amongst your own chd's classmates, though. Which makes me wonder what the exact basis of your annoyance is.

For what it's worth, I DID offer that when my first child went through the process. smile

thecatfromjapan Mon 30-May-16 15:12:30

Seriously, I hear you. Not all primaries are equal; tutoring is income-dependent and hugely advantages some children over others; English as a second language is often a major disadvantage.

But the selective are a tiny number of the schools in London. You're not forced into the selective process. Which means that your real objection lies with you local school.

And I'm afraid I just think you'll find that your local school is fine.

SchnitzelVonKrumm Mon 30-May-16 15:24:50

My kids have been to two London primaries - one gritty, 80 pct plus FSM/ESM, one leafy suburbia. Kids in both who were considered capable of doing L6 maths in Y5 were taught it. Have you spoken to your son's teachers about his abilities? Selectives in N London are insanely competitive.

SchnitzelVonKrumm Mon 30-May-16 15:29:46

And everything CatFromJapan (I love that book!) said.

Notcontent Mon 30-May-16 18:18:18

Sorry, just coming back to this, and feel I need to clarify a couple of things.

Thecatfromjapan - my person circumstances are such that I am far from able to offer group tuition in my home! I am a lone parent who works long hours in a demanding job - which makes trying to help my dd even harder as you migh be able to appreciate.

Schnitzel - my dd is extremely able - she is at the " top table" for both maths and literacy and has glowing reports from her teacher. However, I obviously can't force the school to teach topics that are not part of the current KS2 curriculum...

Thingsthatmakeugoummmm Mon 30-May-16 19:12:32

There is nothing stopping you completing practice papers with your DD! As another poster mentioned, you wouldn't expect any child to enter an exam with out preparing. By completing practice papers regularly, your DD will have a knowledge of what to expect. That's what we did. My children both passed and went to fantastic grammar schools. If your DD is as you say 'extremely able' she will have no problem practicing papers

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