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Preparing for 11+

(47 Posts)
judetheobscure Thu 27-Feb-03 22:56:13

We live in an area which has 1 grammar school (heavily over-subscribed) and several so-called comprehensives of varying reputation. Further afield are other grammar schools and independent schools. We have been told our daughter is very bright and should apply for a place at the grammar. Entrance is by an 11+ type exam. Should we try and prepare her in some way for this? And if she doesn't get in to the local grammar, how far would be reasonable to travel to another school?

janh Thu 27-Feb-03 23:39:46

Does your daughter's school do exam practices? If not, do you know of anybody who does coaching toward the local grammar school entrance exam, or for the entrance exams of the further afield schools, or both? In all these cases it's generally down to familiarity with the questions, so practice is crucial. Good luck!

(Would not like to give you a specific acceptable distance. Depends on local transport services really.)

robinw Fri 28-Feb-03 07:42:30

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SoupDragon Fri 28-Feb-03 07:56:41

When I sat my 11+ we had practise exams and my mum bought some practise papers for home - I actually enjoyed doing them!

I went to a school just over 3 miles away (in town distances that's quite a way) and it took, I guess, about an hour on a walk-bus-walk journey. It didn't seem to be a problem although most of my friends lived closer to the school.


hmb Fri 28-Feb-03 08:17:55

I have no experience of the 11 plus, but it might be helpful to have a look at the national curriculum website which will at least let you know what your child should have studied at KS2 and what they will go on to study at KS3 and GCSE. The website is,

It is quite a useful site and lets you know what the grading system is, and gives examples of pupils work at different levels.

Copper Sat 01-Mar-03 16:07:01

Round this way, people trying to get into Kingston's various grammar schools get private tutors from at latest early Year 5. Couple of hours every Saturday, big bucks paid out. Lots of practice needed for these papers - can't do them on just intelligence alone. You can get 11+ sample papers from Smiths etc, so you could try doing it with her if you don't fancy a tutor.

Thank god for Richmond's excellent comprehensives: transition is easy as pie (at least until they actually start secondary school and find it all a bit scary)

SueW Sat 01-Mar-03 17:20:08

It's really scary that people cram for 11+.

I sat an entrance exam for a private school 20 years ago and got in with no cramming. I don't think it occurred to either my parents or my school (state primary).

There's a rumour going around at the moment that one of the private schools locally is 'blackballing' pupils from a particular private junior school which I sincerely hope is not true. To me, that destroys the integrity of the senior school.

judetheobscure Sun 02-Mar-03 00:05:07

Thanks for the advice - will get down to Smiths and the ncc website etc. I do find it very disturbing that I feel the need to do this but the schools round here are so variable. I hate the idea of paying for a tutor to get her into a good school, but if that is what everyone else is doing then do I want to reduce her chances by not doing? And from year 5 too!!! - 2 years of coaching ... I'm appalled.

janh Sun 02-Mar-03 12:00:59

It's only a year really - the entrance exam here is taken in December of Y6 so at most it's 4 terms from the start of Y5. FWIW, it's my understanding that their performance on the English paper is the most important, so if your daughter is strong in English she has a better chance than average.

Have never had mine tutored, partly from principle, partly from finances! This is a small country town with a grammar school, a very good secondary modern in town and another in one of the villages. They are all good schools but there tends to be a significant anti-swot element among the children at the town sec. mod., and an academic child has to have a strong character (or be in a group of like-minded friends) to overcome that.

Some of them get excellent GCSE results. However, when they move into the grammar school's 6th form, the ones that *don't* come from its lower school are slower to get going with the more independent form of study required at A level, even if they got sparkling GCSEs...the grammar school ones seem to be taught more than just how to pass exams.

On the other hand, the non-grammar schools here provide far better non-academic facilities - art, drama, mport, music, IT, tech, etc. (And good independent schools tend to have the best facilities of all!)

Good luck, anyway, whichever way you go.

janh Sun 02-Mar-03 12:03:00


(I think that was meant to be sport!)

robinw Sun 02-Mar-03 15:05:19

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suedonim Sun 02-Mar-03 17:35:39

OTOH, if this report is true, maybe going to a grammar school won't be worth it. What a minefield education has become.

judetheobscure Sun 02-Mar-03 23:26:24

Yes, it is a minefield. But at the end of the day I want my daughter to have an education that allows her to achieve her potential. Whether or not she then goes on to university is her decision. I too woryy about the peer group pressure which is why I don't want her to go to our nearest school.

suedonim Mon 03-Mar-03 06:06:52

Oh, yes, I would too, Judetheobscure. I was just pondering out loud in general about all these obstacles and feeling very sad about it. My dd goes to one of the top 3 state schools in our country. It's a comprehensive (there are no grammars in our country) and also the only school available in our rural area and now we find that it might count against her when she applies to uni, which is her plan atm. I get so depressed about these things.

Good luck to your dd.

robinw Mon 03-Mar-03 07:42:28

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Bumblelion Tue 04-Mar-03 13:59:05

I personsally don't think a tutor would be much help in passing the 11+ and I can't really see the benefits. Before everyone rallys back to me, let me explain.

I think that if a child cannot get into a grammar school WITHOUT extra tuition, then what is the point of them having that extra tuition as, once they got in (if you are lucky enough to actually get a place, even after passing), they would struggle continuously to keep up with the work.

I would much rather my children went to a school where they could reach their potential and come out feeling confident, worthwhile, etc. rather than go to a "grammar" school where they struggled and came out unconfident. I would rather my eldest (currently year 5) went to a local comprehensive school and did well, rather than to a grammar school and didn't do well ... it does happen - it happened to me!!!

And before anyone says anything, yes, I did actually go to a grammar school myself.

bettys Tue 04-Mar-03 14:51:49

Bumblelion -
I think the purpose of tutoring is mainly to familiarise children with the style of entrance exams as they may not be used to them. Also to cover any gaps in the quality of the school's teaching.

Obviously it isn't a good idea to force a child into an overly academic school if they're not going to be happy or under-achieve, but often those schools have other areas such as sport or music which compensate.

I went to a grammar school for which I sat examinations. My junior school offered tutoring which simply consisted of practising on old exam papers, not cramming or force-feeding information.

Bumblelion Tue 04-Mar-03 17:32:30

My junior school gave us old practice exams but this was not "tutoring". When I think of "tutoring", I imagine a one-to-one (where you pay for someone to come into your house after school) to specifically bring your children up to scratch just to pass the 11+ (or whatever it is called now).

I just think that if a child cannot pass the exam without this extra tutoring, then they won't benefit if they get into a grammar school.

I got into a grammar school without "tutoring" - only having old exam papers to work on - but I was a border line pass (and struggled all the way through to keep up with the work). I know I would have been a lot happier and done a lot better academically if I hadn't passed and gone to my local comprehensive.

bettys Tue 04-Mar-03 18:00:39

Bumblelion - It sounds as if you hated your time at grammar school. Were there no benefits to going there? Did the local comprehensives have better teaching? One tends to assume the grammar school system offers the best help but obviously schools differ, and children's personalities too. Speaking personally I would have been too lazy in the comprehensive system, and needed the high expectations required of you to work.
11 is a very young age to try and decide what system of teaching/type of school will suit a child best.

robinw Tue 04-Mar-03 18:18:07

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janh Tue 04-Mar-03 20:01:03

Bumblelion, I understand your feelings and you are right, grammar school doesn't suit everyone, even the really bright ones. I agree that "cramming" a child to just edge it into grammar school where it then flounders along at the bottom is pretty pointless, but borderline children aren't automatically condemned to that. I know quite a few children who scraped in - sometimes only getting a place, after they were initially turned down, when someone else went elsewhere - who went on to do exceptionally well - classic late developers, in fact.

You can't tell at 10 what a child will be capable of at 14/15/16, and if there is a chance of getting a place at a more academic school it's worth trying - if the parent or the child is concerned about it you always have the option of moving out later. If you don't take the chance you *don't* have the option of moving in later, which only leaves you the choice of an independent school if you guessed wrong and your child is under-achieving.

I have a friend in this position - £6K a year for 3 years from 13 - 16, and they are not well-off, getting help from grandparents. It's well worth it to them, their son's potential is being realised and his life transformed, but it probably wasn't necessary if they had encouraged him to take the exam at 11, and tutored him for it as his primary school didn't give practice papers.

Tutoring is not the same thing as cramming - in this case it is giving the child the tools to do the job. Entrance selection exams are different from the other exams they will have done at school.

judetheobscure Tue 04-Mar-03 21:39:27

I'm following the way this thread has gone with interest. I was educated in a comprehensive school and do feel that I did not achieve my potential - it was on the whole easy to get enough done to keep the teachers happy without putting in too much effort. I had the opportunity to go to a highly regarded independent school but my parents turned it down, partly because my older sister went to the local comprehensive and they didn't want her feeling belittled. That is another issue that is bothering me. Supposing my dd does get into the grammar school, I have three more children and am concerned that they may feel less valued if they end up at the comprehensive. Obviously we would do everything we could to make sure they didn't feel this way - but how much do 11 year olds understand about the education choices we make for them?
Bumblelion - I agree with you that dds/dss shouldn't need tutoring, but if everybody else is hiring tutors then aren't they at a disadvantage if they don't have one. Another instance of money talking?
Also worrying abouth the mere fact of putting dd (and potentially her brothers too) through this process. Why can't we just have one type of school????!!!

Ruth21 Tue 04-Mar-03 23:53:52

Exactly. Wasn't one type of school what the comprehensive idea was meant to be in the first place?

robinw Wed 05-Mar-03 06:44:23

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Copper Wed 05-Mar-03 10:40:09

My dd is taking 12 GCSEs at our local comp. The Comp gets about 68% 5 x A-C grades at GCSE. The next borough has grammar schools which achieve 100% 5 x A-C grades at GCSE - but they concentrate on those 5 GCSE's and don't 'allow' pupils to take more than 8 GCSEs.

Which is the better school? If you want to guarantee 5 GCSEs at A-C, the grammar. If you want to try more, the comp.

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