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11+ or not? Do I let dd have final say?

(31 Posts)
MagnoliatheMagnificent Tue 09-Jun-20 21:37:52

My dd (year 5) is capable education -wise but not as confident as she could be. She feels that she should not do the 11+ as if she passes she won't be able to cope with the work at a grammar school.
I have explained that her teachers feel she is able enough and ultimately she might or might not pass but if she does it potentially opens up more options for secondary schools, not that she has to go to a grammar school.
We do some prep work at home, although not that much lately as she is struggling (mental health wise) a little with not being at school anyway, but still have 3 months to look at the work.
So, should we give up on the idea? Should I continue to gently push her towards the tests or?? Any advice please?

OP’s posts: |
Zodlebud Tue 09-Jun-20 22:41:13

If she passes without heaps of tuition then she will be absolutely fine at grammar. We specifically didn’t tutor my daughter other than doing some workbooks at home to familiarise her with the question types for that reason. She passed with an extremely high mark and I therefore felt confident that a grammar was the right place for her.

It was totally the right decision as we had none of the pressures some of her friends had. Some were doing three hours a day, six days a week through the summer holidays. We did a couple of 10 minute tests every couple of days.

There could be a number of reasons for her reluctance:

1) She has heard about the tutoring her friends are having and she feels it’s too much and not how she wants to spend her summer

2) She is scared of failing the exam and it feels better to just not sit it. Many girls are scared of failure in general

3) She is just scared about sitting an exam full stop

4) She lacks confidence in her abilities

5) Her best friends aren’t sitting it so she doesn’t want to

Or a whole raft of other things that might only make sense to a child. But you do need to listen to her before making any decision. If it’s going to stress her out and you have a great non- grammar option you are all happy with then reconsider.

Just explain to her that it gives her options though. If she passes then she has more schools to chose from. If she passes without lots of tuition then she will be just fine.

We had one child in our class that was so highly tutored she totally flunked on the day, and then the parents blamed the amount of pressure she was under (but then who put that pressure on her in the first place?). Then another child deliberately failed it as they only wanted to go to the non- selective school with their friends. Apparently he marked answer A for every single question......

Neither were great scenarios.

YinuCeatleAyru Tue 09-Jun-20 22:51:00

like @Zodlebud says, limit preparation to be just low-intensity familiarisation with exam format and technique but nothing too arduous. the exam will then test her on her own merits and if she gets a place then you can be sure she has the potential to thrive at a grammar. make sure she knows that if she doesn't get a place that's not any proof of the opposite though, as a good grammar will have many times more applicants than places and hundreds of bright and capable children won't get a place. its important to ensure that you don't create a situation where she defines herself badly if she doesn't get a place.

SE13Mummy Wed 10-Jun-20 00:13:05

Do you know when the cut off date is for the test in your area? It might be that you need to register her for the test to keep your options open. If your DD really isn't interested in sitting the test, then it's not something I'd recommend you try to persuade her to do.

MagnoliatheMagnificent Wed 10-Jun-20 01:01:47

Thanks. I have registered her. Lots of her friends are talking about it now so hopefully she'll come round to the idea. I think it's partly fear and partly she's a bit cheesed off with the no school/friends/normality thing at the moment. I'm trying not to pressure her but I would like her to do it and take it from there.

OP’s posts: |
ittakes2 Tue 23-Jun-20 22:26:02

My daughter passed her 11 plus and went to grammar - we pulled her out after a year. It totally damaged her confidence and one year later things are much better but not resolved. It depends very much the type of grammar you want her to go to. My son goes to a lovely village grammar - my daughter’s grammar as an exam sweat shop. Academically your daughter might cope - but it concerns me you are already say she has mental health issues. I personally think she might be better to be under less pressure at a comprehensive or private school rather than a competitive grammar environment.

Nogoodatnames Tue 23-Jun-20 22:31:41

What became clear with my daughter is she thrives on knowing she is doing well. If she had got into grammar she would most likely be lower sets ( as I would want her to have a life outside study) and she would perceive that as being stupid - doesn't matter bottom stream there is top stream elsewhere., she went to a comp that selects 20% and it's the best place for her.

If she struggles mental health wise already I would be wary.

SJaneS48 Wed 24-Jun-20 07:23:33

I’d agree about giving it a miss if she’s struggling mentally. She very well might be capable but is five years in a highly targeted and competitive environment going to be the best place for her?

BostonCheers Wed 24-Jun-20 11:42:57

To be frank, unless your DD is remarkably mature and intelligent for her age (in which case she should be in the grammar school anyway!), 10 year olds are not mature enough to make decisions which will have long-term implications potentially for the rest of her life.

The main benefit of grammar schools in my opinion is not actually the superior teaching, it is the environment where everyone wants to work hard and do well. You will rarely get that on a comp- for DC who are easily led, their futures will quite possibly be damaged by going to a comp. DS1 was quite reluctant to sit the exam but passed and went on to thrive at grammar school. He is just about to graduate from a top university.

Not only would I insist that DD does the 11+, but I would also ensure that she did some study. She's doesn't need to be hot housed, but I would start going through some papers with her over the summer with a view to building a study routine for year 6.

SJaneS48 Wed 24-Jun-20 12:08:49

Sorry at @BostonCheers, going to disagree with you! Most comps are streamed for a variety of key subjects. At DDs comp, she is in either set one or two and they are pushed - certainly in the subjects she is in stream one for, grade expectations and effort expectations are very high. Yes there are subjects for which they aren’t streamed but firm discipline maintains order and limits distractions. There are comps and comps obviously..but then that goes for grammars too.

In Kent (where I live), we do have an unfortunate grammar aspirational culture, certainly within the middle classes. Of the children I know at grammars (and I know many) not one hasn’t been coached either privately or by graduate level parents. The myth that the most able are going to grammars is exactly that, a myth. By and large they are the children who have had private coaching since Year 4.

Having got into the grammars, not all fly. Scraping through the 11+ after 2 years worth of coaching doesn’t stand them all in good stead or make then ‘grammar worthy’.I do believe that children really need to buy into and thrive in a pressured environment. I know of numerous who haven’t, particularly those more talented in arts subjects. If the OP’s DC hasn’t really bought into the grammar ethos and is worried about being a failure, I’d really question whether putting her into this environment was going to be good for her longer term mental health and whether being a star in stream one in a comp might not be the better (and kinder option)

ChristopherTracy Wed 24-Jun-20 12:35:05

It really depends where you live and what school(s) you are aiming for.

Would I let me child choose whether to try or not at that age? No. Would I let them choose between schools if they passed? Yes within sensible limits of distance etc.

Randomnessembraced Wed 24-Jun-20 12:50:58

Gently push your DD towards the tests and maybe promise her something nice as a reward for working hard? Explain it just gives additional options come October if she were to get in. Some children are really clever but just lack confidence and are scared of exams. Regarding coping in a grammar school environment, they really do differ quite a bit. Does your DD like to work hard and please the teacher and give it her all more than half of the time?

MattBerrysHair Wed 24-Jun-20 12:53:08

If she is struggling with her MH and feels she won't cope with the grammar workload I'd be really reluctant to send her. Ds is at a grammar and the workload is overwhelming. He gets hours and hours more than the kids at the local comps. He's very intelligent and can do the work with no problems, but there's so much of it! Plus the pressure to 'perform' (self-imposed) to a certain level Is causing him huge stress.

BostonCheers Wed 24-Jun-20 14:15:29


The person best placed to judge whether she could cope with the workload is her teacher, who will have experience of going through the process before. It is certainly not a 10 year old child.

In my experience "I won't cope with the workload" tends to mean "I can't be bothered." That is certainly not an attitude that should be encouraged or facilitated.

Our DC will be competing for jobs in the future with people from all over the world. Many cultures, particularly those in the Far East, simply do not tolerate lack of effort from DC. That is why even in the U.K., DC from a Chinese background are far more likely to perform well in GCSEs than white students.

My DC know that I don't care what they want to do, so long as they work hard and try their best. Privileges such as screen time have to be earned through study in my house.

SJaneS48 Wed 24-Jun-20 15:14:32

Hmm! That approach doesn’t always come without a cost! Battle hymn of the Tiger Mother anyone?!

Too big a workload might mean either a disinclined child or a genuinely over large workload from a teacher who hasn’t thought it through. My DD doesn’t get back in till 5pm and homework ranges from the ridiculously simple through the other end of the spectrum - either which way under our roof she has to do it, properly! Homeschooling has been similar - for example, finding 5 instances of the Sublime in Shelleys Mont Blanc and detailing what Shelley meant by them for Year 7 children was a definite overload!

My0My Wed 24-Jun-20 15:37:59

Some children simply don’t work quickly enough to cope with a fast moving workload. Some grammars push more than others. Some recognise the over tutored amongst their pupils and teach a bit more slowly for them. However in this circumstance I think super selective would be a mistake. I admire you are not in a grammar county where everyone takes the test eg Bucks.

10 years of age is a bit young to put world competition on their shoulders! It’s what suits DD. Not everyone is a world beating go getter. Nor should they be.

I think she does know it isn’t for her. 6th form might be entirely different. My DDs definitely knew what suited them at 10.

BostonCheers Wed 24-Jun-20 15:50:08


I'm not a tiger mum- but I do believe it is our duty as parents to help our DC reach their potential. That potential will be different for every DC- it may be a good apprenticeship, being a professional footballer or Oxbridge.

Not every DC is academic- but education brings choices. I believe that the majority of DC could be doing much better in school with extra effort and hard work. Doing better in education will result in more choices and a better life in the future.

Clearly a 10 year old is not able to thing long-term like that, so as parents I think we have to step in. All of my DC have a set amount of study that they have to do each day before being allowed fun time. This changes with age and applies regardless of ability or intelligence.

crazycrofter Wed 24-Jun-20 16:51:55

Having experienced a grammar school and a selective independent with my two, I'm sure there's no difference in teaching/teacher quality compared to comprehensives. What I have noticed is there's much more stability in terms of teaching staff and far fewer supply teachers. With both schools, there's usually a handful of teachers leaving each year, often less than 5.

There's also the general environment of aiming high (more so with girls than boys!) which can be helpful for the naturally lazy, but it's also a bit stressful. With our daughter, we've needed to constantly remind her that she's with the top 5-10% of the ability range, so struggling in that environment from time to time isn't really struggling, if you see what I mean. She's found the other girls incredibly supportive though.

I think, given the general issues in education - underfunding etc- on top of covid, that a grammar is a generally safe bet, educationally. That's one of the reasons dd is moving to a grammar school for sixth form and not a college or comprehensive.

We didn't get tutors for either of ours (and we're in a super selective area) but we did do a bit of work with them at home - about 3 months worth with ds, less for dd. When they got in, they were able to cope with the pace.

We didn't let them choose whether to take the exams. They're too young at 10 to understand the options and the implications of each.

iamthankful Wed 24-Jun-20 18:54:42


To be frank, unless your DD is remarkably mature and intelligent for her age (in which case she should be in the grammar school anyway!), 10 year olds are not mature enough to make decisions which will have long-term implications potentially for the rest of her life.

The main benefit of grammar schools in my opinion is not actually the superior teaching, it is the environment where everyone wants to work hard and do well. You will rarely get that on a comp- for DC who are easily led, their futures will quite possibly be damaged by going to a comp. DS1 was quite reluctant to sit the exam but passed and went on to thrive at grammar school. He is just about to graduate from a top university.

Not only would I insist that DD does the 11+, but I would also ensure that she did some study. She's doesn't need to be hot housed, but I would start going through some papers with her over the summer with a view to building a study routine for year 6.


GrasswillbeGreener Wed 24-Jun-20 19:50:05

I think what I would do in your situation is say, that's fine, your teacher thinks you can handle the exam so I'd like you to sit it. I don't mind what results you get, just give it a go and then we'll focus on choosing the right secondary school for you. So make it non-negotiable but try to keep the whole thing low-key. Enough preparation to allow her to feel comfortable with the test format but then reassure her with "give it a go and do your best".

By the way, an anxious but perfectionist child can worry about "keeping up with the workload" because they feel they have to do everything 110%. In an environment where higher achievement is the norm the work may be a better balance for such a child if it matches their ability. (coi have an anxious high achiever whose most recent crisis related to her predicted A level grades for next year being raised, not unreasonably, to 3 A*s … She is at a non-selective independent school - chosen after much thought - but this particular aspect might have been more easily managed in a context with a larger high achieving cohort. We are focussing on "A* prediction really means that we are confident you will get A or A*")

My equally academic son, at 10, couldn't envisage senior school, couldn't handle the concept of a bigger school or "later" in general. Luckily he was doing pretests for 13+ at that age rather than 11+ entrances … he ended up going somewhere that initially turned him down.

Good luck, I hope your daughter can find 11+ a positive experience that can help you find the right match for her, for secondary.

Lucinda76 Wed 24-Jun-20 20:11:27

Is she at an Independent school??
If so - don't worry they will get her through it !
If not - think its too late..... exams start in October for some schools

vintageyoda Wed 24-Jun-20 21:45:27

It's not too late for anything OP. Both my kids passed the 11+ and we did nothing more than familiarise them with the types of questions over the summer holiday ( and their tests were in early September).
If the child has the ability they don't need tuition.
My children both chose to do the test, I told them I felt confident they were able but it was their choice. A child should not go to a grammar school unless they embrace studying, they'll be miserable otherwise. I strongly believe is giving my children ownership over choices for their secondary schooling ( within a range of schools we both agree on).
A child who is happy at a comp will do better than a child who is miserable at a grammar. Grammars are not 'just better'. Let your daughter choose. Give her the best of your advice, answer her questions, search for info together and allow her to make her decision.

BostonCheers Wed 24-Jun-20 22:54:04

A 10 year old may well be 'happy' at a comp @vintageyoda, but that does not mean it is the best option for them or that it will allow the to reach their potential.

DS1 was desperate to attend the local comp with his mates at that age. Even better would have been to sit at home on his Xbox all day! Meanwhile said mates are in dead-end, minimum wage jobs (both were reasonably bright) while DS is just about to graduate from a top university.

DS was absolutely fine when he started at the grammar- he made lots of like-minded friends, all of whom were hardworking and ambitious. He is absolutely positive that he would not have achieved the same results had he gone to the comp with his mates.

10 year olds are not mature enough to think ahead to next week, never mind make a decision that will have lifelong implications and limit their future prospects.

My0My Thu 25-Jun-20 01:39:02

I suspect the job options and choices made by his friends were not down to the education on offer. Most likely they didn’t aspire to going to university or getting a great job. Perhaps parents had something to do with it? Your DS doesn’t know what he might have achieved elsewhere. He didn’t go!

Graduating from a top university isn’t the same as getting a fantastic career off the ground. There are very many decent comp schools that have aspirational DC and parents. These people are not purely in grammar schools. Neither do comp educated dc fail to get well paid jobs.

SJaneS48 Thu 25-Jun-20 06:25:59

Well exactly! For a start, grammars/non religious Selective’s aren’t an option in many counties. Some children will achieve better & feel more motivated in a State environment they are shining in than a grammar where they are middle/bottom. Agree with @My0My that your DS’ friends choices are not a reflection of the local school - there are plenty of slackers out there from all backgrounds!

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