Some thoughts on school admissions and the Eleven Plus examination

Alan's picture
by Alan
Concerns over school admissions could have been pre-empted by scrutinising pre-existing education inequalities in surrounding political and social context that have formed the fabric of subliminal acceptance of discrimination by Eleven Plus examination. Current issues can be viewed as a legacy left over from the 1944 Education Act that tried to establish a tripartite education system based on the work of psychologist, Cyril Burt. In our county of Lincolnshire, a tripartite system was fully implemented. We do actually have grammar schools for the academic, technical colleges for the more technically minded and secondary modern schools that were initially intended, post WWII, to train manual workers for factories.

The generic argument over academies and school admissions fails to make a comparison between comprehensive education and selective and secondary modern education. The point is, in selective counties, admissions have been unfair for quite some time. Only now with the proposed expansion of outstanding academies is there concern that deprived schools will fail to meet the needs of a larger demographic. The time should now be right to re-examine the efficacy of selection at such a young age, whilst bearing in mind that England is the only nation in the UK to continue this draconian practice.

Recent Parliamentary Questions tabled by Bill Esterson MP ( have established that rather than providing ladders up for young people from less well-off families and the vulnerable, selective education now entrenches disadvantage. In summary: While around 4 per cent of the Year 7 population attended a grammar school in 2010, only 0.6 per cent of pupils eligible for Free School Meals and with statements of SEN were admitted, 0.4 per cent of looked after 11 year olds and 2.3 % of pupils from a black ethnic group. Nationally, grammar schools admitted only 70 pupils with statements. This under-representation of young people in these groups show that selection as young as 10, accompanied by private coaching, is discriminatory, yet selection by Eleven Plus bears no reference in equality legislation.

In our county, selection by Eleven Plus remains, therefore, the local authority does not inspire confidence in school admissions. I was hoping that free markets would encourage a level playing field by removing the grip of vested interests that appear to support grammar schools over and above all other schools in promoting our county’s success. It now appears as though our local authority is merely protecting selection by shifting power to an Academy Trust, a school improvement service. This service argues that selection works, that children are where they need to be due to Year 6 SATs. There are no second chances for late bloomers.

The removal of bureaucracy will be viewed as serendipitous by grammar schools converting to academies that are now able to retain selection. And the abolition by the Coalition Government of the Contextual Value Added removes scrutiny in areas where secondary modern schools are operating along side grammar schools. Not only does selection at 10 warp the curriculum in both primary and secondary schools it places an increasing burden on secondary modern schools to meet the needs of an increasing roll of rejected students with SEN.

Equality of opportunity, schools of excellence, should be available to all children. Academies or not, it is high time allegiance to a privileged education was set aside to consider ‘minority children’ who year on year are left the legacy of feeling like failures.

The argument should be fair admissions, but fair admissions do not come in the form of a quiz that was always meant to exclude due to limited school places.

Academies, free schools and grammar schools should abolish high stakes entrance tests that do not chime with child development.
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Nigel Ford's picture
Wed, 07/09/2011 - 20:01

I'm not sure how academy status impinges on grammar schools except for financial gains.

My brother and his wife (who had a mixture of private and state education) live in Tonbridge and are parents to twin girls at Primary school who's birthdate falls at the end of August!

I don't think these girls have a hope in hell of making it into the local grammar, as 25% of their pupil intake are allowed to live outside the catchment area, even in other counties. The situation is compounded because nearby Sevenoaks has no grammar school. Even many of those pre secondary pupils who go to prep schools which are marketed for the 11+ exam and others who have private tuition in preparation, all at exhorbitant cost, are going to be disappointed.

Fortunately as a safety net, the girls secondary modern in Tonbridge has excellent GCSE and A'level exam results which beat several of the county's public schools on various academic criteria. Hardly surprising considering the amount of excellent pupils TGS will reject, but that doesn't stop the fact that pupils are stigmatised through failing the 11+.

I can recall attending a job interview at Folkestone back in the mid 90s around the time that league tables were first being published when my son was 11 and seeing the disparity in raw results between the boy's grammar and the 2 sec mods. Fortunately I didn't get the job so was able to avoid the cut throat pressures of exhorting my kids to do well to wear the right blazer.

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