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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].

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.

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