To eleven plus or not to 11+?

Posted on 17th August 2010 in 11+/ child/ CRGS/ eleven plus/ grammar school/ son

What do you think about the 11+?

My oldest son is quite a clever old sausage and always does very well at school.

We had to move schools recently (1/4 of way through year 5) for 2 reasons, 1 because we weren’t happy with the head teacher at the old school (long story, more of a politician than a caring head teacher), and 2 because we wanted to move nearer to a better comprehensive school. The one we were near was getting around 46% in the league tables which we didn’t feel offered the boys a good enough chance.

The subject of the eleven plus had come up at the old school and the head had said #quote “he hasn’t got a hope in hell”. So, much as I disliked the man I did accept that he probably had a better idea about that sort of thing than me and we forgot all about the 11+.

Fast forward to new school – after 2 weeks the class teacher asked to speak to me and asked me how he was getting on with his eleven plus tuition. I explained that he wasn’t sitting the eleven plus (and why). She was horrified. She said that she was very sure he would have a really good chance of getting into the grammar school and literally said that she begged me to reconsider.

Extra dilemma here is that the grammar school near us is Colchester Royal Grammar school – one of the best grammar school’s in the country. That should be a good thing, BUT, it means that the curriculum is massive and very intense.

From a pressure point of view, it is only acceptable to get As.

Oldest stepson lives in Kent, near him there are 3 grammar schools all of varying degrees of excellence. If we lived in Kent I would be very happy for oldest son to do the 11+ as he would almost certainly pass (nearly 500 boys get in there as opposed to 96 here) and the 2nd/3rd grammars aren’t as intense.

We discussed this with oldest son who said he DOES NOT want to go the the grammar school. He did do 11+ tuition for a while but was incredibly unhappy so after a lot of conversations we agreed to stop the tuition and let him go to the comprehensive.

505 boys sat the exam last year, only 96 got in.

This is a quote from the local gazette (by James Calnan):

TOP selective schools in Colchester are attracting parents who cannot afford to go private.

A “Migration Monitor” used by home move website finds the town, which has two of the country’s top five grammar schools, is the third most attractive destination for people looking for a new home.

Chelmsford, with two more grammar schools in the top ten, heads the list and experts believe one reason is that parents who cannot afford to send their children to a fee-paying school are instead paying for private tuition in a bid to get them into a grammar school.

Colchester Royal Grammar School (CRGS) saw the numbers of youngsters hoping to gain entry in September this year increase by nearly ten per cent.

Last November, 505 children hoping to join CRGS sat the 11-plus exam, compared to 464 the previous year, while Colchester County High School has seen a smaller rise, from 485 to 499.

Roseanne Bullen, sales and marketing manager for Linden Homes Eastern, predicted this trend could become more marked in the next few years.

“As a growing number of families shun private schools and their expensive fees in favour of some of the UK’s top grammar schools, Colchester is set to benefit from a surge of families moving into the area,” she added. Read more in the Gazette

I discussed this recently with a lovely lady on twitter – who suggested that I was insane for not putting him in for the 11+ as passing it would mean that he would be educated at one of the best state schools in the country.

Since this conversation, and because I am the queen of indecision, I have discussed this again with oldest son. I also shared with him the aforementioned lovely lady from twitter’s opinion. “No” he said “I don’t want to go”. His reasons are pressure, losing friends, too many languages to learn (he prefers maths and science stuff).


Next day, at bedtime, oldest son says “Ok, I’ll go, but can I do the tuition at home?”


So, with just 3 months to go we are now planning an emergency 11+ tuition programme…. fingers crossed!

But what do YOU think about the eleven plus and about grammar schools? Let me know?

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  • Reply Holly at KSOL 17th August 2010 at 12:28 pm

    Hi Lisa,

    Seems like it’s been a really tough decision, but it’s good that he has made the decision now. So has he decided to go to Colchester or Kent? The Kent test is on 14th and 15th September and the deadline has passed for applications, you may be able to make a late application though. The Essex deadlines are in October, and test not till November, so you do have a bit more time. Have you considered any of the other grammar schools in Essex, or are they too far?

    I would say try the training, we do a 3 month intensive online programme, I think I have mentioned this to you before. We do have a very high success rate, however, make your son realise it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t pass. If you think his motivation might be wavering, a good tip is to take him to an open day to a few schools, when he finds one that he likes it’s a great encouragement, as well as focusing on things that he’s good at – i.e. show him the science labs, or try to find out about any successful alumni in that field.

    If you would like to speak to someone about this, you can always ring our office 0121 244 8605.

    Good luck!

    • Reply mrsljhall 17th August 2010 at 12:34 pm

      We live in Essex and within walking distance of CRGS so it is that one or the local comp for us (we live v close to the best comp in the town too so that is an equally good option). I’ve been looking at your online courses and we will be signing up to either the 3 month or 1 month one definitely. Thank you so much for you help and advice x

  • Reply Holly at KSOL 17th August 2010 at 1:20 pm

    That’s excellent, I think they will be really helpful to him!


  • Reply TheMadHouse 17th August 2010 at 1:36 pm

    What a hard decision to make. I think that you can at least sit the exam and then make the decision together. We dont have any Grammers anywhere near us, so we dont have this decision, but…..

    Maxi and Mini are very bright and we are already thinking about senior schools. Maxi is going in to year 1 and is already doing year 3 maths.

    MadDad is also bright and was sent to a boarding school at 11, but he hated it and only stayed one term and went to the local comp – he was put up a year and did pretty well and he was happy, which is the most important issue in my opinion

  • Reply mrsljhall 17th August 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I do wish we lived in an area where there were no grammars – just gives me more to stress over!

    I probably should have made it clear that my biggest concern here is my son’s happiness. That matters more to me than all the league tables in the world. What I don’t want to happen though is that when he is 20/30/40 whatever he asks me why he wasn’t given the chance to go to such a fantastic school.
    At least now that he is sitting the test that won’t be an issue!

  • Reply Kate 17th August 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Gah, this is a toughie. I grew up in Buckinghamshire where they still do the eleven plus unless you opt out. Most kids do. In the town where I grew up, there is the “grammar” school (its official title is High School but it is selective) and one “secondary modern” which is the merger of the two secondaries that were there when I was growing up. Its performance is appalling. If we still lived there, I would have to consider putting my kids through the tests but I would do so with a heavy heart. As a child, I relished tests and exams (yeah, I’m odd. 😉 ) and sailed through but my sisters didn’t even tho I would say they were no less intelligent. As a mother now, I can see it puts huge pressure on the child. We did a few practice tests at school and that were it.

    In Lancashire, I am thankful it’s not the norm to take the tests unless you are near one of the grammars. We are not. All of the schools in the nearest town perform better than the sec modern in my home town. Even the poorest has a growing reputation. Everyone seems to expend their efforts getting their child into the local CofE secondary – which is another story for another day. I look at my two, albeit they are much younger than your boys, and I can’t imagine putting them through the pressure to do the extra work, take the tests and wait for the results.

    I guess you know your boy best. Give him options, I’d say, but also let him know that he can walk away if it all gets too much. There will be no shame in ducking out – they have enough other things to worry about at that age.

  • Reply @MinaCab 17th August 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Doesn’t hurt to do the 11 , then when he passes (which he will) you at least have the option.
    I had to do the 11 in the last 3 weeks of term after moving to Devon and am glad I did – I think it helps for years, esp in immediate post-school period whether job or uni hunting.
    Can’t believe you need tuition for it these days though! I passed from Hare Street! What does that say about education in general?!?!
    Good luck with it all!!

    • Reply mrsljhall 17th August 2010 at 10:42 pm

      christ on a bike, you passed it from Hare Street – wonder if I would have done?! Trouble is now a days people tutor their kids from age 7 so no tutoring isn’t an option! I think you are right about the immediate post school bit, just hope it is right for him and that he passes! 96 out of 400-500 is pretty intense x

  • Reply Back to school – #TheGallery « MrsLJHall 8th September 2010 at 4:57 pm

    […] not because the 11+ is looming and I have mixed feelings about it. I don’t honestly mind if he passes the 11+ or […]

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