Numerous books have been written about the 11-plus and there are now consultants who dispense advice on grammar school entrance for a hefty fee. The continuing popularity of selective schools has undoubtedly spurned a lucrative advice industry in the UK.
But increasingly parents are taking to social networks to seek reliable real-time advice which has the added benefit of being free.
These groups – most of which have been set up on Facebook by parents with children who have sat the 11-plus – have tens of thousands of members between them and are growing.
Some of them are so successful they are able to command advertising revenue in the hundreds of pounds from the 11-plus sector’s ever-mounting number of suppliers.
The 11 plus Journey Facebook group founded in 2015 is now in its sixth year and has 7,000-plus members. About 100 new members find their way to the group every week.
“I founded the group because I had lots of questions when I was preparing my son for the 11 plus tests,” says founder Sabah Hadi.
“Noting that [Facebook] groups are far more engaging and active, I started using them to ask questions. However, the focus of those groups was not education and schooling and I got very few responses. It was then that I decided to start the 11 plus Journey group which was a massive success from the very start,” she adds.
Hadi has a team of administrators who post English, maths and non-verbal reasoning exercises and videos. There are regular live sessions tackling members’ specific questions.
“We ask our members to verify all information and do due diligence as information around tutors, test criteria, admissions can vary or change regularly,” she says.
Hadi has had to ban a few members in the past, although she says rude or disrespectful behaviour is “very rare and almost non-existent now.”
Tutors and businesses can advertise for free on weekends while there is a charge for exclusive advertising on weekdays. Hadi plans to collate all the group’s valuable information into a blog.
Agness O’Brien founded the 11+, ISEB, SATs, GCSE and A-Level Resource Group on Facebook in 2016 along with some other mothers.
“When I was preparing both my daughters (now aged 16 and 14) for the 11-plus exams, I was struggling to find all the information on what the candidates needed to know about the exams and I was really confused as to which resources I should get for them,” she says.
“This is when I decided to create a Facebook group and added a handful of friends who, like me, had plenty of questions about the exam and what it entailed.”
The group now boasts 8,000-plus members and even has its own newsletter. The group receives 200 posts each week which are all approved by administrators. Advertisers are charged a nominal fee to advertise.
“We receive over 100-150 membership requests on average every week,” continues O’Brien, a development officer at a school in Essex.
“Running this group takes up 80 percent of my time.”
Grammar School Entrance (11plus) info, also on Facebook, was set up by investment banker Rajesh Toleti in 2017 and now has 7,000 members.
Toleti does not sell advertising but says he is “thinking about it,” adding that moderating the comments takes “a considerable amount of time.”
Author of the 11-plus vocabulary novel series The Cadwaladr Quests, S.L. Ager set up the Facebook group The Cadwaladrquests Chat three months ago and already has 1,200 members.
The group focuses on reading and writing as opposed to some of the more general 11-plus topics fiercely debated in the other groups.
“I wished to create a friendly, non-critical group where parents might feel comfortable to share their children’s work,” explains Ager.
“Often, tutors will comment on the children’s work, but it’s not a critique group per se as tutors are so busy. They generously give their time for free.”
Ager reads every piece of work that parents send in and pins every child’s post to the top of the group.
“I share information about new book launches, or if parents ask me questions about my books, I can answer them directly in the group, but I don’t want to make the group all about me and my books. That would be so dull,” she says.
Ager doesn’t sell advertising, and has no plans at present to monetise the group. Tutors and businesses can advertise for free every weekend so long as it is one post per weekend.
She notes that 90 percent of her members are women who mostly live around the London area, followed by Birmingham, Reading and Manchester.
Taking it more local, Lan Leder set up 11+ for the Sutton Schools Facebook page two years ago which has getting on 1,000 members.
“After speaking to friends and members on the other 11-plus Facebook group, I realised there’s not a 11-plus group for Sutton so I decided to set up a Facebook group to help people like me going through the 11-plus process for the Sutton Schools,” says Leder.
The group is open for everyone – parents, teachers, tuition centres. Businesses are able to post on the weekends.
Away from Facebook, Shweta Mittal set up an 11-plus advice group on Whatsapp last October which at 250 members has reached the network’s capacity limit.
The group is extremely active with 40 to 50 posts a day.
“We had to ban members for posting advertisements as this group is all about helping each other and not an advertisement group,” says Mittal.
“There is no way to moderate comments in Whatsapp. Members directly post in the group. If we find anything unsuitable, we have to ask that member to remove the post,” she adds.
The group has migrated to the messaging app Telegram and is equally as lively.
At 11.46 am Payal asks: “Does anyone know about different types of creative writing kids should do?”
By 11.58 am, a mere 12 minutes later, D L has supplied a list of topics, although one of the topics is horror.
At 12.24 pm Tariq Iftikhar warns to stay away from horror/sci-fi for the 11-plus.
Whether this is true or not we will never know but one thing is for sure with so much parent-to-parent and expert advice around the 11-plus will be less of a parent horror show.