The 11-plus divides us all

Alan Gurbutt's picture
It's taken me the best part of a decade to realise the pro selection lobby dominate Lincolnshire's education system. Parents have no voice in the policy of education for a multitude of reasons and there is no overt opposition.
Share on Twitter Share on Facebook

Be notified by email of each new post.


mistemina's picture
Fri, 18/09/2015 - 16:23

Alan, Sympathies for you and Lincs, from fellow suffers in 'Opt Out Only' Buckinghamshire. The 11-plus is Inequality In Practice. Last November, at County Select Committee a Bucks Local Grammar School Head clearly said 'Selection was Unequal' - that blatant! The 11+ divides all, in fully Selective Authorities like Lincs & Bucks.
Our Grammars are kept in place by our Right Wing Tory Local Politicians - not a political statement just a matter of fact which must be recognised. Tories have been in control for 200 years. These local Councillors live in a perpetual state of fear. They know Selection is morally repugnant and we have the biggest Gap in Education Attainment in the UK. They are fully aware.
However, they believe in their DNA that opposing Selection is a Vote Loser!
This, despite the fact the the Labour Parliamentary Candidate (Anti-Selection) David Williams raised his vote count by 5%, and so did the Labour Town Councillors. This is a handsome achieve in Bucks.
Also, the local LA, scrutiny and Parents voice has been rendered impotent by various maneuverings.
There is chink of light though - the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn MP.

Barry Wise's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 13:10


The thing about Buckinghamshire though is that the usual critiques of selection don't apply.

So, in Bucks the Grammar Schools are better than the national average for Grammars. And the schools with a modern intake perform at a level higher than the national average for moderns. Overall, the LA exceeds the national average at KS4 by something close to 13 percentage points.

This means that in Bucks they are no 'losers' attributable to selection. Every category does better than they would elsewhere.

Also, I think it's a bit much to complain that local politicians vote in ways they think the electorate will like. That's democracy. isn't it?

Although I do not myself support selection at 11, I think calling it 'morally repugnant' is a bit strong..... particularly in a context where the standards are high for all.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 15:13

Barry - I have tried to find the 'national average for moderns' (ie schools with intakes creamed of previously high-attaining pupils and with intakes skewed to the bottom end) but can't find it. Ditto the national average for grammars. Can you provide a link?

I think you'll find that many of Buckinghamshire so-called 'modern' schools don't fit the description above. You would expect the 2014 GCSE cohort in modern schools to be bottom heavy. Not so in Buckinghamshire. Here's a few examples:

Beaconsfield 28% previously high-attainers, 16% low
Amersham School 31% previously high-attainers, 17% low.
Chalfonts Community 29% previously high-attainers, 14% low.
Great Marlow 32% previously high-attainers, 7% low
Princes Riseborough 28% previously high-attainers, 11% low.
Waddesdon, 30% previously high attainers, 8% low.

It may be that Buckinghamshire is a county where the proportion of children who are low attainers is lower than in other counties. The 'success' of these moderns and Buckinghamshire's overall score would be more due to the intake than Buckinghamshire's selective system.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 07:25

One of the biggest problems is that the 11-plus divides opinions across political parties and communities so we can never have a fearless debate.

Given the evidence ( that children's outcomes cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty at 11 years old there should be more flexibility in school admissions.

To be clear, I do not want good schools to close, as a Lincolnshire parent I want fair school admissions with balanced intakes - an end to the 11-plus.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 15:23

Alan - Lincolnshire's grammars take very few FSM children. Take Skegness as an example. Skegness Grammar (2014 figures) had 11.8% of pupils eligible for FSM at any time in the last 6 years (FSM6) while Skegness Academy had 48.2%, the largest proportion in Lincolnshire. The Lincolnshire FSM6 average was 21%. 24 non-selective schools had more than 25% FSM6. Not a single grammar had more than 11.8%. The Lincs data is here.

It's time Lincolnshire grammars, many of which are indeed outstanding schools, opened their doors to all pupils not just those they choose to accept. This applies to all grammars.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 22:19

Thanks for the FSM data Janet. Agreed these excellent schools need to open their doors to all children - lead by example.

mistemina's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 16:05

If i may suggest, there is a stunningly unacceptable explanation for Bucks LA exceeding the national average at KS4.
Two years ago, an average of 48% of Bucks Grammars intake was from out-of-county. This year it is 28%. This has the triple whammy of discriminating against perfectly bright Bucks children, stealing bright pushy parents/children from other authorities and eliminating social mobility in Bucks. A judgement call on morality is called for.
Despite all this, Bucks Grammars are much lower in the Grammar school tables than they rightly should be, given they have a full County from which to select. I am willing to bet the same is true for Lincs.
In Bucks the losers attributable to selection are children from the poorer families. In 2014 The Gap in Attainment between children from rich and poorer families was 41%. The Highest in the UK. This figure is from Buck LA's own Standards Report. We have far fewer areas of deprivation in Bucks than anywhere in UK. Yet far less affluent LAs like Tower Hamlet, Brent, Coventry, Manchester have half or less Gaps. Last figure from Brent was 13% (from memory, so forgive if not exact) but you get the picture. A lot us argue, in the main there can be no other explanation for this this inequality and injustice, apart from the effects of 11+ Selection.

Lastly, half the Secondary Moderns in Bucks are either in Special Measure or Requires Improvement. Been so for past 2/3 years, have not improved even when one of these was taken under the sponsorship of a Grammar school. One can argue this and that about Ofsted inspections, but we must agree 50% in not acceptable.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 17:42

Hi Alan, as a Lics student put into the grammar (my brother into the modern as he 'failed' the silly 11+) I never thought to question it openly as a student. It seemed daft but, you're right, there's no real conversation or opposition by the adults or teachers and they are the ones I took the lead from. Luckily I've woken up now and do believe that selection like this is at best unnecessary, at worse demeaning and essentially retards true education. I'm no longer living in Lincs (actually based in Germany now) but I'm over the the UK now and then - next in November for some conferences in London and Swindon. If you're moving some local action/debates feel free to hook me up. I'm happy to write or speak for this. You're welcome to find out more on me and what I'm doing now from my website

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Sat, 19/09/2015 - 23:22

Hi Leah. Sorry for the belated reply. Good to meet you.

One can never have a conversation about ending the 11-plus in Lincs without being accused of bashing grammar schools. Secondary moderns are tied by league tables into competition with grammar schools so won't get involved.

I have lived all of my life in Lincolnshire and know selection goes right to the heart of local politics - this is where the influence lies, not with local parents who object to their children being rejected. We have no say.

Comprehensive Future is hosting a conference about ending selection on November 21 in London. Please do come along to talk about your experience in Lincs. This is the link for booking If you can't make it I am happy to arrange something else.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Mon, 21/09/2015 - 18:48

Comprehensive Future is hosting a conference about ending selection. These are the details - please share:

mistemina's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 16:17
Conference about ending selection.
At least two of us in Bucks have already booked.

FJM's picture
Mon, 21/09/2015 - 21:12

County councils have not existed for more than about 120 years, so the comment about 'Tories in control for 200 years' is incorrect. They have ben elected time after time to run the county, hence the schools, so that's just too bad. It's called democracy. As for JC being a 'chink of light', don't raise your hopes too much.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 13:30

Janet (in reply to 12.49pm no reply button)

Perhaps the reason for Buckinghamshire's KS1 to KS2 progress disappoints you by being "only slightly higher than the national average for reading" etc. is because the KS1 start point is so high, with (from memory) KS1 high attainers being some 7 points above the national average?

Whether that is because Bucks schools put lots of effort into the EYFS or because little boys and girls in Buckinghamshire are born smarter than little boys and girls elsewhere (unlikely), I do not know for sure.

As you know, many teachers and heads feel they just can't win. No wonder, given that someone can always find one indicator to damn a school with. Ofsted have been doing that for ages, so when you tell me that previously middle-attaining secondary students in Bucks are progressing slightly below average on Thursdays with a full moon, then I'm not really either surprised or alarmed. On the wider range of sensible indicators Bucks schools are doing okay.

I don't think anyone is trying to argue that Buckinghamshire's system is particularly 'superior'. What is at issue is whether the fact of selection necessarily impacts adversely on those not selected. I think a plausible case can be made for that in some LAs. But in Bucks there is no obvious downside.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 14:29

Except that in Buckinghamshire the previously low-attaining pupils made less progress than the national average.

That said, I take your point about being able to find indicators which will damn a particular county or school. The Government does it all the time when it names-and-shames 'failing' LAs even when, like Peterborough, where Ofsted gave school improvement services the thumbs-up). There are, I'm sure, particular circumstances in which some LAs (usually ones with a high proportion of disadvantaged children, or, like Peterborough, having to cope with a constant influx of children what speak little or no English) which do less well than the national average. Conversely, there are other circumstances in which LAs (usually more advantaged ones) do better than the national average.

FJM's picture
Mon, 21/09/2015 - 21:13

You have a say when the local elections to LCC take place.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 09:01

Thanks for the tip Alan. There's a chance I'll make it - will let you know if I can be there. Cheers! L

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 18:08

Good! Please circulate.

Melissa Benn's picture
Sat, 26/09/2015 - 19:20

Leah - please do come to our conference on November 21st. We need the voices of experience there - talking directly of the human impact of selection.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 09:09


The statements about exceeding the average for grammars and moderns was sourced from the Buckinghamshire Education Standards Report 2014-15 at

Buckinghamshire's secondaries (2014 GCSE cohort) had 49% previously high attainers as opposed to a 32% national average. This very high figure is probably in part explained by the fact of selection: i.e. a pull-effect where grammar schools attract high attainers from other LAs.

There are huge variations between the moderns ranging from the Cottesloe School with 34% prior high attainers (ie higher than the national average for all state schools) to Cressex Community School with only 13%.

At KS2 (2014) 80% of Bucks students achieved Level 4 or above, with 72% achieving 4b or higher. Whichever way you cut it, folks in Bucks have little to complain about when it comes to education standards.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 12:07

John Bajina

..there is a stunningly unacceptable explanation for Bucks LA exceeding the national average at KS4. Two years ago, an average of 48% of Bucks Grammars intake was from out-of-county

As I said above, this may have contributed to the county’s success, but Bucks primaries outperform the national average at KS2 too.

Anyway, I’m not convinced that drawing in high attainers from neighbouring counties is “stunningly unacceptable”.

………stealing bright pushy parents/children from other authorities …

These families are not the chattels of their local authorities! There is no rule compelling a child to attend school within local council boundaries. Many children cross LA boundaries to attend school in areas without selection.

discriminating against perfectly bright Bucks children

They are not discriminated against as they can enter the exam on equal terms.

Bucks Grammars are much lower in the Grammar school tables than they rightly should be ..

Not so. In 2014, every grammar school in Bucks was within the 98%-100% range for 5 X GCSEM&E. I think a system where the lowest school got 98% can’t be that bad! Actually, when compared with 54 similar schools (see Performance Tables) the Bucks grammars do very well indeed against grammars in other areas. All but one are in the top half of their comparison group, with quite a few in the top ten. The one that does fall into the bottom half of the comparison is Royal Latin, which ‘only’ got 98% on the GCSEM&E measure. (It’s hard to do a straight comparison with Lincs as the DfE position on not recognising IGCEs distorts the picture, as Janet has pointed out.)

The losers attributable to selection are children from the poorer families. In 2014 The Gap in Attainment between children from rich and poorer families was 41%.

You should not judge by totally relative measures like ‘gaps’. That’s like saying a banker earning half a million per annum is ‘poor’ because all his mates earn a million. Of course there will be a bigger gap than usual with all the high ability middle class children coming in from other boroughs to the grammar schools.

But children from Bucks poorer families will only be ‘losers’ if their outcomes are significantly worse than equivalent children in other areas.

The schools in Bucks with highest proportions of disadvantaged children are Cressex Community School and Highcrest Academy. Disadvantaged children attending these schools achieved HIGHER Best 8 Value Added scores than disadvantaged children do nationally.

So, no way are those children ‘losers’ because of selection. Taken across all schools in the borough, the attainment of disadvantaged children in Buckinghamshire compares well with those in nearby authorities without selection. GCSE achievement of children qualifying for FSM in Bucks was higher than in Oxfordshire and West Berkshire and slightly above the South East regional average.

As you acknowledge, there isn’t all that much economic disadvantage in Bucks anyway (only 329 children from the 2013/4 KS4 cohort qualified for free school meals). This does not suggest that selection has any significantly adverse effect on the performance of children from poorer backgrounds.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 12:44

Barry - thanks for the link. The seemingly high performance of Buckinghamshire schools overall could be accounted for by their intake: a higher than average proportion of previously high attaining pupils at secondary level together with a lower proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals any time in the last six year (FSM6) (14% against a national secondary average of 28.6%). At primary school, the proportion of FSM6 pupils is 12.5% against a national primary average of 26.5%.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 12:49

Barry - when progress is measured (an inexact measure, I admit, though the Gov't stand by it), Buckinghamshire's primary schools don't do much better than the national average. The expected progress is only slightly higher than the national average for reading (93% v 91%), slightly lower in writing (92% v 93%) and the same for maths (90%).

At secondary level, the expected progress is higher than the national average for previously high-attaining pupils in English and Maths but lower than the national average for previously low-attaining pupils. Previously middle-attaining pupils make slightly less progress than the national average in English and more in maths (67.6% v 65.3%). For data see here.

If Buckinghamshire's selective system were superior to non-selective systems, then it should be expected that all children would thrive 'whichever way to cut it'. But they don't.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 12:55

Barry - see my comment above at 12.49 re progress made by primary and secondary pupils in Buckinghamshire. Primary schools not much different to the national average; secondary previously-high attainers making better progress, previously middle-attainers making slightly less progress in English but more in maths, and previously low-attainers making less progress than the national average.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 13:37


The same sort of variations in progress between groups of students and subjects can be seen in schools in different local authorities all over the country. Where is the particular effect of selection? Is it large, significant or discernible at all? Clearly not.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 14:20

Barry - perhaps if we move from the parochial (ie Buckinghamshire) to the global, we can find evidence about the effects of selection. The OECD found school systems which did not segregate children according to ability tended to do better in PISA tests. Recent research from Europe found early segregation (by selection and/or by private schools) worsened the effect of socio-economic background.

It appears, then, that the effects of selection are discernible at a global level.

Now I'll swing the other way to the personal (something I rarely do). I taught in a non-selective school with a secondary modern intake in a selective county for my entire teaching career. I saw at first hand the negative effects of the 11+. Our school was creamed of previously high-attaining pupils. It's not difficult to guess the ability range of our pupils especially as we had facilities for area-wide SEN children.

Our school did the best it could. But in the local league table stakes we were at the bottom. We were, therefore, branded a 'failing' school locally. That was despite our previously high-attaining pupils doing as well as their equally-qualified peers at the grammar. It's very dispiriting for teachers, pupils and their parents to be constantly told their school was 'poor' while the selective school was marvellous.

At the same time, many pupils took the view they were 'thick'. This meant either they had little confidence in their ability or they used failing the 11+ as an excuse to do little (that excuse didn't wash with me).

I've seen, therefore, how selection impacted on my pupils. Grammars were (still are) considered the 'elite' local schools. It follows, then, that the non-grammars were (still are) regarded as not 'elite' but second tier catering for second grade children. That is an appalling thing to tell children at age 11 and then reinforce it throughout their secondary schooling.

Barry Wise's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 15:45


I'm not sure the global or OECD picture helps much at this stage of the discussion. So what if the OECD finds selection causes problems in Karlovy Vari or Linz? If we already know (and I'd argue that we do) that it doesn't do any harm in Buckinghamshire, then so far as parents in Bucks are concerned, the experiences of Karlovy Vari and Linz are not at all relevant.

As for the personal...... Yes, I have said elsewhere there are some good arguments against selection at 11 - and that is another reason we don't need some of these bad ones!

I do wonder though why we all think children need so much protection from the knowledge they are not very academically able, while no one seeks to protect them from the knowledge that they aren't any good at football.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 16:44

Barry - you asked if the effects of selection were 'discernible'. I gave you international evidence. And OECD weren't just discussing whether selection caused problems in a couple of randomly selected towns. It was discussing the global picture.

That said, I'm sure you're correct that the Buckinghamshire parents (and those parents who cross the county border to attend Buck's grammars) don't care about the wider picture. But an education system is for the benefit of all pupils not just a few.

The negative results of selection need to be aired. They cannot be dismissed as 'bad' reasons just because they describe negative effects.

You ask why children should be told they're academically able or not at age 11. The reason is that it's too soon to judge. There will be high-flyers who don't fulfil this early promise; there will be late developers; there will be the over confident who, once told they're clever, rest on their laurels; conversely, there will be the children whose confidence is knocked and don't recover. And remember, it's the majority, the 75%, who are told they are failures.

mistemina's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 16:42

Janet is quite right. Some Bucks sec mods only do well because they serve very well off areas. We can confirm the picture in bad for less well off urban areas in Bucks.
The 'skew' is caused by high levels of coaching pushing up the pass mark, plus the significant number of out of county children taking grammar school places which results in above average % of high attaining children attending some of the rural non selective schools?

Barry, first thank you for as robust debate. Your arguments are superior to those we encounter locally.
You are right ………stealing bright pushy parents/children from other authorities …These families are not the chattels of their local authorities! There is no rule compelling a child to attend school within local council boundaries. However, in Bucks injections combined with Selection has a negative impact on our standards to the tune of 41% Gap (accepted, you are unhappy with the Gap as a concept)
Add the negative effect on children and their whole families for 85%, not 70% as pro-selections would have you beleive, see Facebook - LocalExecellentEqual report, by being told they are failures.
Then somehow magically Sec mods are supposed to make things right, without extra funding?

This is not best education for all, this best education only for the rich.
Alan is right to say The 11-plus divides us all.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Tue, 22/09/2015 - 18:07

Selection is also a coastal issue. The new definition of “coasting schools” as those that don't ensure 60% of pupils get five good GCSEs, will be liable for intervention. But it's unlikely to affect grammar schools.

Inequality, as signposted in "Waiting for a sea change" 2013 (, in combination with rejection at 11-plus, does nothing to support community cohesion and resilience in children and families from the poorest seaside towns.

Two years on from the TES article Mablethorpe Tennyson College, a secondary modern school, that is federated with Monk's Dyke College in Louth, may have to close due to falling numbers and lack of funding (

It beggars belief, that with all these issues Lincolnshire can still afford to set and mark the 11-plus. Surely a better solution would be to end it and for schools/academies to work together?

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Wed, 23/09/2015 - 08:28

Barry, this debate on Buckinghamshire selective education seems to have reappeared with, once more, your quoting of data to show that Bucks children are generally better placed academically as compared with other parts of the UK. I note that, as part of this debate, Janet cites schools such as Waddesdon, Princes Risborough, Beaconsfield and Amersham. These schools serve some of the wealthiest parts of the UK. For example, Waddesdon is a superb and highly sought after school.

I really do feel strongly about the quoting of data which give us an overall rosy picture of Bucks as a county but are poor on detail when it comes to the performance of individual schools. Once again I think you need to look at the Aylesbury schools (Aylesbury being one of the poorest areas economically as compared with the rest of Bucks). I suggest you look at Aylesbury Vale Academy, Mandeville and The Grange School. These are the three schools that serve the majority of families in Aylesbury. You might also look at John Colet down the road in Wendover. It is quite unacceptable, in my view, that these schools provide the only alternative 'choice' for local parents. The fact that Waddesdon is excellent is of no assistance to Aylesbury parents seeking a good education for their children.

Moreover, there are so many aspects to schools not reflected in crude data. Waddesdon is a C of E school which is very well funded as compared with the 3 Aylesbury schools I have cited. When the Labour Party provided funding for building projects, schools, such as Aylesbury High and Aylesbury Grammar, were able to build additional 'nice-to-have resources' whereas, for example, The Grange School was replacing windows, mending leaking ceilings and providing up-to-date labs.

Good schools, especially in the current climate of performance related pay, attract the best teachers and these teachers stay; whereas many of the children in the Aylesbury sec.mods complain of an endless round of supply teachers, 'poor' uninspiring teachers who use the schools to get promotions and then move on, low-level disruption and a dishearteningly small list of choices in the 6th form.

No parent/ child in such schools is going to feel happy with your thesis that they are 'fortunate' to be in schools that seem to be so much 'better' than similar schools in other parts of the UK.

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 08:35

Aylesbury Vale Academy, Mandeville and The Grange School. These are the three schools that serve the majority of families in Aylesbury. You might also look at John Colet down the road in Wendover. It is quite unacceptable, in my view, that these schools provide the only alternative ‘choice’ for local parents.

Wow, sounds like the blurb for a free school.

But seriously, I think Janet has a point that modern schools are often unfairly branded as failures or useless. Maybe it's the stark juxtaposition with grammars....... but a moment's reflection or a peek at the VA scores often restores perspective.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 12:12

Barry, it is disappointing that you ridicule my comments about the Aylesbury schools, which of course, you choose to take out of context.

You say that 'there are no losers attributable to selection' in Bucks. You state that 'standards are high for all'. Really?

You also wonder why 'children need protection from the knowledge that they are not academically able.' Who says that they are not academically able? The 11+?

There are many forms of 'selection' in education. We tend to focus on selection through the 11+. In fact, selection takes place when parents with the economic capability move to areas with 'better' schools. It also takes place through the free schools' and academies' own admissions systems. Teachers select when they put pupils in sets. And it happens where the government chooses to pay over £7000.00 per pupil in some free schools and only £4000+ per pupil (sorry, I don't have the exact figures to hand) for some community schools.

In all these cases, selection can have very adverse effects on children and their families. In the case of grammar schools, selection is based on narrow criteria that do not begin to evaluate a child's ability or potential in a wide range of subjects - history geography, languages, music, drama, art, sports etc. The criteria do not measure aspiration, motivation, leadership or communication skills and on and on. The 11+ results, for all the reasons that have been widely debated here and elsewhere, favour children/families with more cultural and economic capital than others. This has very little to do with academic ability. Once children lose out in any selection system, I would argue that they continue to lose and this can go on throughout life.

May I suggest that you look for evidence of this by combining stats with stories?

You comment that 'children from poorer families are only losers if their outcomes are significantly worse than equivalent children in other areas.' So, clearly these poorer children should be at peace with low outcomes as long as they are no worse off than other poorer children?! So, know your place then?

mistemina's picture
Wed, 23/09/2015 - 13:01

There is a list of similarly underachieving Sec Mods in the other major town in Bucks i.e. High Wycombe. Results are below Government base line figure.
I also believe there are others in more rural settings.
As I have said, 50% of Sec Mods in Bucks are rated below Good.

N Skipper's picture
Wed, 23/09/2015 - 22:28

Barry Wise: "I do wonder though why we all think children need so much protection from the knowledge they are not very academically able".
I assume you're referring to the "knowledge" of their academic ability that a 10 year old child gets from an 11+ test?

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 08:23

No, Neal I don't mean that. I agree that 10 is a bad age to select and anyway the 11+ isn't so much a test of academic ability as an IQ test, thinly disguised. My point was a broader cultural one. We tend to be more anxious about children being made aware of academic weaknesses than sporting, musical, or artistic ones. If a student says "I'm no good at Maths" they get the full-on Carole Dweck treatment. If she says "I'm no good at football/acting/violin" everyone just shrugs . No one thinks a child will be traumatized by being told the unvarnished truth in these areas. Just sayin'.

Leah K Stewart's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 09:01

Barry, that is such a good point that I think really needs discussing. At 10 years old (I'm summer born so I was 10 when I took the 11+) I found the whole idea that we'd all take a test that would determine our high school kind of... amazing! How can a test be so powerful? That's what I wondered. So I went to the library to look up information on the test and found it's essentially a Verbal reasoning/IQ thing and this lead me to look at what IQ actually is.

By the time I took the test I'd seen a whole bunch of examples (the idea of hiring a tutor was so far from my parents minds and financial ability - and I'm glad for that, it would have taken power away from me even more than the school system was by making this test compulsory) AND I was vaguely aware of the documented narrowness of this thing. This meant that I could put it in context, though it then confused me even more that we'd all had to take it, no matter what we thought about it... and that there was no conversation about what we thought about it. No one in school knew, for example, that I'd gone and researched the thing - no space on the class timetable for reflecting on what we're made to do as students.

Given full choice as a child I'd have taken the test out of pure curiosity. If I was 10 years old now I wouldn't take the test and, frankly, would be tempted to bunk school that day because I can get my IQ from online tests now that give me results quicker than a formal school test. Formalising this test by making it compulsory for all students in certain parts of the UK is, to me, an odd commitment that (I hope you see from this comment) silences students and quietens our interest in making informed choices about our own lives because, who cares!, they'll make us take the test anyway because they need the statistics.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 10:29

Barry - the type of schooling offered to children in selective areas doesn't hinge on whether they're good at football or not. The 11+ is high stakes for the children who take it (or are forced to take it by their parents). Parents can choose not to enter their children but the implication is they think their child would fail.

There's that word again: fail. A large number of children don't publicly 'fail' (in reality or by implication) at football, acting or violin. They aren't judged by their ability to do these things at age 11 - a judgement which has consequences both in the type of school they attend and the way in which these 'failures' see themselves.

That said, there's a good Cathedral school near me. It selects mostly boys at a young age on their singing ability. Such selection is necessary for the great Cathedral choral tradition to survive. That's because this ability is finite - it's apparent only for a few years until boys reach puberty. These young choristers get an excellent musical education. But we don't say boys without this ability have 'failed'. The same is true for young gifted musicians or ballet dancers - they need to train from a young age in order to fully develop their art.

But this isn't the case with the general education of all children.

N Skipper's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 12:32

The 11+ is more of a vocabulary test in these parts, but to respond to your broader cultural point.. It's one thing if a student says "I'm no good at Maths", but surely it is completely different if the system tells a student "You're no good at Maths", and has different types of schools to back that statement up?
Presumably you and the FA are busy devising a 60 minute football test for 10-year olds, that will be used to decide which children are allowed to play the game and to what level?
You also refer to children "being told the unvarnished truth" which is elevating the 11+ to a level of credibility that it really doesn't deserve.

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 10:33

Leah - your feelings at age 10 were the same as mine (although there's a few decades between us). I thought it was bonkers and was annoyed that adults were so arrogantly confident they could judge my ability at 10 and, therefore, decide my future schooling.

As it was I 'failed' and was allocated to a Technical School. This was because, apparently, I was 'good with my hands'. Rather a stupid thing to tell someone who failed their Cycling Proficiency Test.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 07:59

Neal, spot on!

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 14:16

Having already made it clear ("No" is a pretty unambiguous term, surely?) at 24/09 8.23am) that my 'in passing' remarks about our society's reluctance to communicate negative judgements on academic ability absolutely did NOT refer to the 11+, it is amazing how you and Janet and even Georgina all ignore this and go on as if I had said they did. *shakes head* *sighs in exasperation*

Barry Wise's picture
Thu, 24/09/2015 - 14:48


I did not mean to ridicule your comments.

But as Janet has often said, every school cannot be expected to be 'above average'. Someone has to come at the bottom of any league table.

Some of the schools you name are among the worst performers in the county. John Colet, though has an average point score per pupil (best 8) that is very respectable (8 points above the national average).

All in all, Bucks performs above the national average.

The performance of disadvantaged (FSM) children is better in Bucks than in nearby counties without selection. Minority ethnic children do as well or better in Bucks than nationally.

In some counties you can see selection depressing overall performance. Not in Bucks.

Georgina Emmanuel's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 07:04

No problem Barry. We have to agree to differ on this one. I am of the view that selection depresses aspiration in non-selective schools and that inspiring teachers, who may start out at such schools filled with enthusiasm to make a difference, often just give up because it is such a tough haul. I'm also of the view that it's a lot tougher for pupils in these schools (and other low-performing schools in non-selective counties) to reach their potential in all areas of academic life.

I absolutely can't agree with you that pupils in non-selective schools are not seriously disadvantaged as compared with their grammar school peers.

With regard to your comment about the 11+ defining the academically able, yes, I did read your explanation of this comment. Sorry if it sounded as if I'd ignored this. I think that the public at large seriously believes that the 11+ is a measure of academic ability and that grammar schools are for 'able' pupils. This is a myth (but also, sadly, a self-fulfilling prophecy) that I wish someone would challenge loudly in the press.

With regard to Janet's comment that every school cannot be expected to be above average, I don't agree with her. Why should any child have to attend a failing school?

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 08:24

Georgina - re averages. It's mathematically impossible for all schools to get 'above average' results. There will be a national average - some schools will be above and some below. That's how maths works. And it doesn't follow that a school with below average results is 'failing'. If the intake is skewed to the bottom end then it's likely results will be below average. Conversely, if the intake is skewed to the top end and there are very few previously-low attaining pupils (none in grammars), then the results are likely to be above average.

The Education Endowment Fund discovered a few years ago that many 'below floor' schools were in fact good schools doing a good job in difficult circumstances. But remarks such as yours which claim these schools are 'failing' do nothing to raise the morale of teachers working in such schools.

mistemina's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 10:21

Barry, we are grateful that you debate the issues.
One of the many reasons for arguing strongly against it is that we have seen our children in Bucks hurt badly. Children at 10 should not have to sit and fail a life changing exam.
Then there is the sheer immorality and manipulation of the whole selection process.

mistemina's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 10:31

We can all agree with comment by Georgina that teachers in non-selective schools have a mountain to climb, low-level disruption, resulting in ‘poor’ uninspiring teachers.
As a long standing Governor in Bucks, I vouch for the fact that teachers in Sec Mods have to work very hard.

Does anyone have research or data on this Please?

PS. I state firmly this is not an attack on teachers, in fact it is sympathetic to these teacher.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 11:17

But how much of this disruption is due to being told, in some cases before a child reaches puberty, that they have been rejected, that their friends have been accepted into the local grammar school whilst they assume they are inferior? There's no wonder teachers are left to pick up the pieces with children entering year 7 with their self-esteem in their boots in so-called ' coasting schools' - the type that may have to close in Mablethorpe.

Pro selectionists pass the 11+ buck to 'parent choice'. I've heard many excuses for justifying rejection, from families being chaotic, being hard to reach and not having any academic interest at all, to claiming we have unrealistic expectations for our children's learning. When their arguments fail against an overwhelming body of evidence that selection does not work, there's the resilience card. Basically, selection happens everywhere in life so we need to toughen up. What, at 10 years old!

It needs to be said that our secondary modern schools on the Lincolnshire coast and in the surrounding area of Alford do a very good job in raising the attainment and aspirations in children from the poorest families, those who rarely get their voices heard and who are afraid to speak out.

I am a parent and I want an end to the 11+.

mistemina's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 15:43

Disruption is due to Rejection. These may be children but they are not stupid, they understand the establishment has hurt them, labeled them inferior, and they will react, only nature.
Teachers have to pick up the pieces - they have to do this year in year out. How much can a human take?

On another tack, in Bucks we are asking for more funding for Sec Mods to cope with the cohort that has been forced on them and problems arising. Surprisingly, it is not gaining traction with the majority Conservative Councillors.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 17:04

Yes I know, I have two daughters who with their peers have been through the selective system in Lincolnshire, which is not opt-in when one considers the Lincolnshire coast suffers from 40% child poverty. What parent would want to send their child to a 'bad' school? Poverty has become the incentive for doing well.

Alan Gurbutt's picture
Fri, 25/09/2015 - 22:37

I just wanted to say thank you to you all for keeping this thread going, it's so important for our children.

On a positive, it's great to read Lucy Powell, the shadow education secretary, is opposing selection:


Add new comment

Already a member? Click here to log in before you comment. Or register with us.