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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?

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