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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:04 am 
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Posts: 8
Hi :)
Thank you to everyone who has posted on this forum - I've been popping on here for a nose around for a while and I'm astonished at the wealth of information out there!

When I took the 11 plus twenty years ago, coaching was definitely discouraged, maybe even disallowed (though we all knew the private schools were at it). Nowadays it seems to be de rigeur. It just seems such a shame that it's come to this. I know of many past and current pupils at the grammars who've struggled dreadfully academically - and as a result- socially- all because they were forced through coaching to get them in then found themselves signing up to seven more years of intense pressure, all too often resulting in nervous breakdowns, depression and extreme stress. The competition and potential for rejection of the 11+ is just the tip of the iceberg - once you get into these schools, every day is a fierce competition with peers to be the best - you either join in or find yourself on the outside, struggling with self esteem for the rest of your life.

I would really strongly urge parents to consider each of your children separately on their own merit when deciding whether to sit the 11+. Most teachers will tell you they can tell from a very young age whether a child is likely to make it or not. Coaching can do a lot to improve marks but can't give that extra depth of understanding that separates those who will succeed in life ultimately and those who will end up regarding themselves as failures by comparison to their schoolmates. The grammars really are brilliant schools for those who are truly gifted with exceptional academic ability but from years of experience, I would say that bright children who would not pass the 11+ without intensive coaching would in general end up as happier adults by starting as the top of the class in a different school.

I realise I will be a voice in the wilderness on this issue but I feel very strongly about it as I've seen first hand over and over, the impact of pushing children too much at this age. We all want our kids to be happy so it's important to really consider where they spend this vital and formative years of their lives.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:20 am 
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Yes - I agree with you. And it is a worry. But when the options are NOT very good schools, where the cleverer children are ostracised because wanting to learn is not considered cool, what then?

Is it better they struggle in an academic environment or simply stop bothering?

It is not really a choice, is it?

If you have an above average child, there need to be more options which do not necessarily involve independent schools. Of course some areas have excellent comprehensives. And some don't. Luck of the draw perhaps?


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 9:37 am 
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Would not disagree with the points you make and it is essential you inform and make sure your DC know what they are committing to when they start. It is our job to ensure that balance is maintained throughout the journey.

Unfortunatley this is not a perfect world and for many the the fear of the local comp and the effect it has on your DC is greater.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 10:16 am 
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baconsandwich wrote:
I know of many past and current pupils at the grammars who've struggled dreadfully academically - and as a result- socially- all because they were forced through coaching to get them in then found themselves signing up to seven more years of intense pressure, all too often resulting in nervous breakdowns, depression and extreme stress. The competition and potential for rejection of the 11+ is just the tip of the iceberg - once you get into these schools, every day is a fierce competition with peers to be the best - you either join in or find yourself on the outside, struggling with self esteem for the rest of your life.

I don't think grammar is for everyone and it certainly isn't the be all and end all. However, if you are going to go down that route, I think is it important to carefully select the grammar you send your children to and try to find one that suits your child's personality. Not all are as fiercely competitive as you describe. The school we chose for our sons aims to get the best from all the pupils and will seek to find something they are good at, whatever that might be. There is a great sense of community and camaraderie at the school, it is full of characters and they have an awful lot of laughs. We also looked carefully at the amount of homework that is set. The school sets less homework than the other grammars in the area but still does very well at GCSEs and A levels.

I know several parents who started to have their children tutored for the 11+ and decided to opt out as they didn't think their children were enjoying the process. Maybe I am being naive, but I can't imagine there are many parents who would put their children through the process if they didn't think they were up to it.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:18 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:47 pm
Posts: 698
Location: Essex
Of course it's important to consider if GS is right for your DC. Sometimes getting the best school is confused with getting the best school for your particular child.

I don't recognise a culture of "compete or be ostracised" from my DS's school. I really don't. His school sees academic achievement as a natural by-product of nurturing rounded individuals while promoting community spirit.

I don't believe most teachers can spot a successful GS candidate from a young age, either. I know lots of DC whose primary school teachers wrote them off. Sometimes because they were unfamiliar with the requirements of the exam and sometimes because they themselves had been unable to inspire the pupil in question. A bright child will not necessarily be a great performer in school. Sometimes they are lazy little so-and-sos whose only efforts are spent finding bushels to hide their lights under! Sometimes the child just hasn't blossomed yet. I know more about the 11+ now than I ever did as a teacher.

It would be great if no-one prepped their DC for the 11+. It's just not a realistic prospect. The places are prizes worth having. As most GS pupils have had some form of tutoring, I really don't see how it can be argued that a tutored child will struggle compared to his peers. With very few exceptions, they've all been through it.

Sometimes the choice is not so much about gaining a GS place but avoiding an extremely undesirable alternative. Yes, the nature of this forum is such that most posters will be pro GS. Please don't assume that that means we blindly chase school places without considering our DC's abilities and personalities as well as a whole host of other personal and geographical circumstances.


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 11:35 am 
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Joined: Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:22 pm
Posts: 710
baconsandwich wrote:
Hi :)
Thank you to everyone who has posted on this forum - I've been popping on here for a nose around for a while and I'm astonished at the wealth of information out there!

When I took the 11 plus twenty years ago, coaching was definitely discouraged, maybe even disallowed (though we all knew the private schools were at it). Nowadays it seems to be de rigeur. It just seems such a shame that it's come to this. I know of many past and current pupils at the grammars who've struggled dreadfully academically - and as a result- socially- all because they were forced through coaching to get them in then found themselves signing up to seven more years of intense pressure, all too often resulting in nervous breakdowns, depression and extreme stress. The competition and potential for rejection of the 11+ is just the tip of the iceberg - once you get into these schools, every day is a fierce competition with peers to be the best - you either join in or find yourself on the outside, struggling with self esteem for the rest of your life.

I would really strongly urge parents to consider each of your children separately on their own merit when deciding whether to sit the 11+. Most teachers will tell you they can tell from a very young age whether a child is likely to make it or not. Coaching can do a lot to improve marks but can't give that extra depth of understanding that separates those who will succeed in life ultimately and those who will end up regarding themselves as failures by comparison to their schoolmates. The grammars really are brilliant schools for those who are truly gifted with exceptional academic ability but from years of experience, I would say that bright children who would not pass the 11+ without intensive coaching would in general end up as happier adults by starting as the top of the class in a different school.

I realise I will be a voice in the wilderness on this issue but I feel very strongly about it as I've seen first hand over and over, the impact of pushing children too much at this age. We all want our kids to be happy so it's important to really consider where they spend this vital and formative years of their lives.


I agree with you in theory. I also passed my 11+ some years ago (25y) and went to one of the Southend grammar schools. In my year, there were a large number of girls all from a local, so called 'grammar crammar,' junior school which shall not be named! Many of these girls struggled and were unhappy. I always thought that tutoring/coaching children would lead to this.

However, fast forward to your own children... you have a bright child and a dire local catchment school. You KNOW they would cope with the work and would thrive at WH or SH. Do you just leave it to chance that their talent will be recognised, or do you give them every possible chance to succeed. I don't have a tutor for DS, but am DIYing at home as I personally feel that I don't want my child to be like one of these girls I went to school with who when they got to grammar, struggled without the tutor. Any help and support I am giving DS-I would continue to give him as a parent (albeit one who is also a teacher) when he is at secondary school.

If it were a level playing field where nobody was tutored, that would be ideal, but it isn't and when it comes down to your own child (can I ask how old your child is?), your opinions do alter because you want what is best for them. If my alternative catchment were one of these 'excellent comprehensives' I see so many people on here console themselves with when times get tough, maybe I would worry less, but it isn't!


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:13 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:47 pm
Posts: 89
Hi Baconsandwich

I do agree with some of what you are saying here, and, like you, I took the 11+ years ago without any tutoring at all (although I did it in 1981 - yikes), did it at school and don't even remember taking it which proves how little fuss there was surrounding it.

To be honest, before we embarked on the whole journey, I was of the "well, if she's smart enough she won't need tutoring to get through" crowd. However, once we got started and I realised just how hard some of the work was, and the fact that it is way above and beyond what they were learning at school, I felt that I'd be doing her a disservice if I didn't get her at least a little bit of help. My daughter had one hour per week with a private tutor for 10 months - it helped with her confidence and she definitely learnt from it as her tutor was excellent. She also had extra homework from her teacher, which was hard-going, but she proved she could cope with it all at the tender age of 10. Even if she doesn't pass the 11+, I am truly proud of all her efforts.

I'm not so sure about your "truly gifted with exceptional academic ability" comment. I certainly wasn't either of those things, but I did very well at GS school and, although there were girls far cleverer girls than me, I never once felt like I was unable to cope and was certainly not ostracised by anyone for not being as smart as them. I think that GS certainly have their quota of children with exceptional ability, but to say that all the kids that go there are gifted is a little far-fetched. I suppose that would depend on your definition of gifted.

However, I think that most parents are sensible enough to know whether their children are (honestly) GS material and whether they should get them tutored or not. Perhaps the exceedingly bright ones don't need it, however, my daughter doesn't fall into that category. She is most certainly a bright child with a very good brain and huge potential, it's just a shame that the appalling local comps where we live would most certainly be of no benefit to her - so the 11+ and tutoring route it was...


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 12:20 pm 
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Joined: Mon Feb 06, 2012 12:16 pm
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And there's no perfect answer is there? Things may have changed by the time I'm considering secondaries for my own children- they are still v.young- but at the moment I agree with Teachermum76, who seems to be advocating parental help and support in preference to crammer coaching.

I certainly wasn't making any assumptions that parents are blindly making school choices. Goodness me, there is no way that anyone on here could be accused of that!! My points were from a newcomers perspective - naive, I know - but I was genuinely putting my thoughts out there to attract comment as I know I am out of touch! My own experience of grammar school was and is extremely competitive. I do have friends whose self confidence and esteem are still very affected by their experiences in the middle and bottom echelons of the class. And I do know of recent sixth-formers with major emotional difficulties at present directly attributable to their school experiences. That's all I'm saying. But that's just me and my school. I didn't mean to infer it as a blanket rule.


I see what you mean about the alternative not really offering an attractive choice. Depressing for society though.

So just for the sake of a conversation, do you think local comps would be better in general if they were truly 'comprehensive' and served only their local area and included kids of all abilities (ie. if there were no grammars?). Or is it purely a question of self-interest whether you are pro- or anti- selectives? If you have a very able child, you want a grammar place. If you don't have a very able child, it's tough luck- you have to resign yourself to less than the best? Personally I'm torn on this one. I'm very uncomfortable with grammars for this reason, but if they are going to exist, I would like any children of mine to go to one. That's not a very easy thing for me to admit!

(BTW sorry if I'm covering stuff that's discussed here regularly. I am in the process of getting hooked- bear with me!)


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:04 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:47 pm
Posts: 89
Bacon...I know of some people who are not necessarily in favour of grammars, some because they don't like the 'elitist' nature of them, others for reasons of their own. Some of my friends think they are great and wouldn't have their children go anywhere else. Of course, it's all largely based on personal experience like most things, so if their children are happy there...they are totally in favour of them.

It's quite a difficult one - because to have any child's best interests at heart is of course the ultimate aim. However, I do personally feel that it is a fact of life that some children are just naturally brighter than others and wouldn't necessarily thrive in an environment which doesn't cater for their ability. I'm referring to a comp school of course - I'm sure there are some excellent ones out there, but again, do the pupils that are at these schools who just missed out on a GS place truly reach their full potential? I'm sure some of them do and go on to flourish academically, after all, there are thousands of very successful people out there and not all of them attended a GS. Still, I just feel that a more able child is better suited to a place where it is far more likely for their potential to be realised.

I suppose I'm also in favour of GS because I went to one and my personal experience was very good with very few traumas. However, of course that isn't always the case and GS's are certainly not free from bullies or inappropriate behaviour. It's the luck of the draw as to whether your classmates for the next 5 years will be lovely or not.

Anyway...as your children are so young still, it will be interesting to see how much the 11+ has changed if you choose that route in years to come... :)


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2012 1:07 pm 
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Joined: Wed Sep 23, 2009 12:47 pm
Posts: 698
Location: Essex
I could probably be better described as pro streaming rather than pro GS. Pupils should be delivered a curriculum appropriate to their needs and at a pace which is suitable for them. Obviously some form of flexibility needs to be factored in to allow movement between streams. At the moment, some counties offer this tailored education by way of GS but the rest of the ability range are just lumped together.

Comprehensives are a bit like Communism. Nice in theory but failing to take into account that one size doesn't fit all and the human propensity to try to get ahead of everyone else. Many Comprehensives simply aren't comprehensive. There is selection by way of house prices.

I attended a Comprehensive in a county which had no GS. The first two years were a complete waste of time. Disruptive behaviour was a constant. Later years were better once subjects had been selected for external exams - effectively when we had been separated according to ability. Many bright pupils went the way of the lowest common denominator. Some people will tell you a bright child will do well no matter which school they attend. It's not true. It takes a certain strength of character to withstand the peer pressure that dictates it is uncool to be clever. I don't even think that the less academic children were properly catered for at my school.

Is there an ideal solution? I don't know.


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