There’s money to be made out of parental anxieties especially if these are fuelled by propaganda against comprehensive schools

Janet Downs's picture
Walk into any bookshop and parents will be swamped by racks of books offering 11+ practice papers, SAT revision and verbal reasoning. Goggle 11+ and parents will find websites dedicated to the test (offering books, tuition etc) as well as free advice (although they’re not going to say that the 11+ is an abhorrent system likely to reject any child that doesn't score over a certain amount).

One of these offers a survey. Parents submit answers individually and are rewarded with a breakdown of results for each question. There’s no need for parents to answer all the questions - many of them are more to do with marketing than with education (eg asking respondents to name the type of tablet computer that they own). The answers are not representative, of course, because respondents are self-selected and wouldn’t be on the site if they weren’t interested in the 11+. However, here are some of the results:

47.7% said they choose schools based on league table position.

68.8% wanted the same 11+ taken across England.

76.8% did not want grammar schools abolished (I wonder if answers would be different if the child failed or if the question asked if more secondary modern schools should be established)

44.5% employed private tutors. 16.8% intended to.

62.7% though private tuition enhance pupil’s chances of passing.

38.9% paid between £20 and £30 per hour on tuition, 35.3% paid between £10 and £20 per hour.

24.4% started preparation more than 1 year in advance. 24.1% between 9 months and a year. 12.7% more than two years in advance.

46% would be prepared to send their child on a 1 week intensive revision course.

72.5% thought that going to a private prep school increased the chances of getting a grammar school place.

These results will be encouraging to those who tutor children for the 11+, publish 11+ practice books, offer intensive courses, run private schools and so on. They’ve got a vested interest in playing on parental anxiety fuelled by propaganda against comprehensive schools.

WARNING: The above poll is not representative and no conclusions should be drawn from the results.  Useful advice about how to judge the validity of opinion polls and media reporting of them is given at FullFact.  FullFact would describe the poll above as an open access poll, a type pejoratively described as "voodoo polls".

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Rosie Fergusson's picture
Thu, 12/07/2012 - 20:24

Quick point is that most LEAS operating selection at 11 advise on their websites that the 11 plus should not be studied and actively prevent their own LEA primaries from anything other than a notional " getting used to " practice e.g North Yorkshire. This policy must serve the area's prep schools and savvy parents exceptionally well and presumably explains why 60% of the places at the Grammer schools in Skipton got to out of catchment kids.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 13/07/2012 - 08:17

Rosie - Lincolnshire is another county that advises parents that no special preparation is needed, too much pressure is counter-productive and although commercially-produced practice test papers can be purchased the NFER (which produces the 11+ tests for Lincolnshire) says "additional preparation is unnecessary and may be unhelpful."

Nevertheless, most parents do at the very least purchase test papers. A private school near Bourne Grammar says it offers "comprehensive preparation" for the 11+. One local state school also offers preparation from year 5. This emphasis makes parents of children in other schools feel they, too, must embark on "comprehensive preparation".

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