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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].

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.

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.

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 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)

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

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).

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.")

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"

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!

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?

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

FiveHoursSleep Sat 29-Jun-13 19:45:06

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 19:43:38

(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....)

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 19:15:07


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!

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

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.

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!

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.

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.

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)

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