You may not have been to grammar school yourself, you may live in an area where selective schools are not on other parents’ radar and your friends may know little about the system. So how do you go about getting good advice on grammar school entrance?
The first port of call should be your child’s primary school – it’s certainly worth a try. In areas where there are only a handful of grammar schools, school advice may be hard to come by. Teachers geared up for preparing pupils for local non-selective schools may have little knowledge of the grammar school process. Some teachers oppose the grammar school system and may have no interest in providing help.
“We don’t prepare children for the 11-plus,” one headmistress of a London primary school said bluntly.
Private primary schools typically have a senior member of staff who is in charge of secondary school transfer – getting children into top senior schools is their bread and butter. They will know whether your child’s academic ability is suited to grammar school entrance but won’t necessarily be on top of the minutiae of the admissions process.
The advice of friends and acquaintances with children who have already been through the system is golden. This guidance can come from many different sources.
One mother described how she tutored her daughter herself for selective schools in London. It was a tale with some sadness. Her husband was controlling and she believed that if her daughter attended an excellent secondary school she would one day be free of him. The daughter got a place at a selective state school and was also offered a bursary by a south London fee paying school.
Another mother from Portugal who works as a hairdresser hired a tutor for her year 2 son because she was concerned he would fall behind in school because English wasn’t her native language. Her son and his younger brother were awarded bursaries at the City of London School further down the line.
But friends with children in the same year as yours might prove tight-lipped if they have the same goals as you, as competition is fierce.
“Parents [can] see knowledge and experience from older siblings as a weapon not to be shared, as doing so would lose advantage over peers, in this truly competitive market,” said The Independent Education Consultants.
“Likewise, the names of good tutors are concealed and whispered in hushed tones at the school gate.”
Forums and websites:
Mumsnet and 11-plus forums can provide valuable insights on entrance, if you are prepared to trawl through the thousands of posts. One of the best forums is on the Eleven Plus Exams website which covers entrance across the UK. There are some longtime posters such as “Stroller,” “tiffinboys,” “streathammum” and “Dagroupie” who are extremely knowledgeable about the 11-plus process.
Kent Advice covers school matters that affect families in Kent and Medway. The website is run by Peter Read, a former secondary school headteacher, who has recently retired from his individual advisory service.
There are many books tackling 11-plus entrance, including some by the examining boards which set the entrance exams. These books (for example, GL Assessment’s The Official Parents’ Guide to the 11+) give a flavour of the process but may not provide the detail required, such as which papers to use for which schools.
There are services around the country which will assess your child’s ability, such as Jacqui Robinson Education in Colchester. A one-to-one student assessment costs £42.
The Good Schools Guide which has been reviewing schools across the country for three decades offers a state school service for parents which includes guidance on grammar school entrance. A 45-minute telephone call with Elizabeth Coatman costs £75 for half an hour and £160 for 60 minutes.
They also offer a scholarships and bursary service.
The Independent Education Consultants which has been in operation since 2011 offers advice on an 11-plus strategy for grammar schools as well as for independent schools.