Transitioning into secondary school can be extremely daunting. Many decisions are required in regard to what type of education, what type of school would best suit a child. One such type of education is enrolment in a grammar school. However, grammar schools typically require an entrance exam in order to evaluate candidates, called the 11 Plus exam. It can be confusing to work out how to proceed when applying to a grammar school, especially when considering the exam process.
To book the exam, parents or carers register the child for the exam, typically online. An online form is usually sent in, and there is a time limit on the registration. The specifics for each grammar school’s time limit can be found on their websites.
While this may have provided some insight as to how the 11 Plus exam is booked, read on to find out more about details regarding the exam and grammar schools.
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When do you apply for the 11 Plus exam?
Grammar schools will typically open their registration applications during April or May, and close them in either June or July, in order to register applicants for the 11 Plus. However, it is important to check on the school’s website, or in person, in order to find out for sure.
For most grammar schools, the test is then sat in the first two weeks of September, of the same year. Once again, this date may vary depending on the school, so double checking is strongly advised. Results are posted in mid-October usually, and then school allocations are confirmed on the 1st of March the following year. This article from Teachers to Your Home can be a helpful guide, as it includes a timeline for this year and a guide for the 11 Plus.
What is the 11 Plus exam?
The 11 Plus exam – also known as 11+ – is a selective examination taken by some primary school students at the beginning of Year 6, typically in September. It is called such because even though the candidates will mostly be ten years of age, the 11 Plus refers to the fact that the schools are for children aged 11 and older. The exam is taken at the grammar school.
The content varies between four disciplines: Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning, Maths and English – the 11 Plus is based on questions surrounding these “disciplines”. Candidates may sit two, or even three examinations on these.
There are two typically used exam boards for the 11 Plus (schools in Devon, Essex, Hertfordshire, Trafford and Yorkshire typically use a combination of both exam boards):
- GL Assessment conduct the 11 Plus exams for most grammar schools in Berkshire, Bexley, Buckinghamshire, Devon, Gloucestershire, Kent, Shropshire, Walsall, Warwickshire, Wirral, Wolverhampton. The GL 11 Plus exams cover English, Maths, Verbal Reasoning and Non-Verbal reasoning. Each school varies the combination of these to complete their selection criteria.
- CEM (developed by the Centre of Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham university) conduct the 11 Plus exams for grammar schools in Birmingham, Cumbria, Dorset, Lancashire, Medway, Northern Ireland and Wiltshire. The CEM 11 Plus exam covers Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Numerical Reasoning. The Verbal Reasoning takes many elements from the GL English exam, and the Numerical Reasoning takes many elements from the GL Maths exam.
If you would like to find out more about what the 11 Plus exam is, check out this article by Think Student on this topic. Also, check out this guide from TeachersToYourHome.co.uk to find out more about the 11 Plus exam boards.
Is the 11 Plus exam worth It?
One of the things to consider when thinking about registering a candidate for the exam is how daunting the experience is; it can be a lot of pressure. Not to mention location issues, and how accessible the school is for the candidate.
However, a grammar school can provide students with an enriched learning experience, and there are better facilities in a grammar school than in a normal secondary school. It is worthwhile to talk to the candidate about going and if they would like to enhance their academic prowess.
Even though the exam may be difficult, it is worthwhile attempting it; the worst that can happen is not passing the exam, and it’s the same as not attempting it at all. However, the best that can happen is the candidate passing and getting into a school with better resources than typical secondary schools. It’s definitely worth at least giving it a shot.
What is a grammar school?
Grammar schools are state-funded schools that focus on academic achievement. The candidates for Year 7 are selected through an examination process known as the 11 Plus exam. A small number of grammar schools also have “12 Plus” and “13 Plus” exams, for students transferring to Year 8 and 9, respectively. However, competition for places is very, very high. These schools do not charge fees, as they are state-funded. To read a more detailed article on what grammar schools are, check out this Think Student article.
In 2016, there were 163 grammar schools in England, with roughly 167,000 pupils according to this BBC article, and 69 in Northern Ireland, though none in Scotland and Wales. Grammar schools can be both single-sex, or mixed, although, most sixth forms in grammar schools accept both boys and girls, even if their lower schools are single-sex.
It isn’t necessary to live close to a grammar school to get the candidate enrolled. Especially as a few grammar schools enrol pupils from outside their area and some offer boarding facilities. However, many grammar schools prefer to enrol pupils within their area and give priority to those who live nearer.
Grammar School vs Secondary School
Grammar schools require an entrance exam in order to attend, and even then, a candidate may not get in if they do not score high enough. In comparison, secondary schools do not require any entrance examinations for a student to apply there, apart from SATs. Applicants can follow an application process, through their local government. This is based on where they live, their education needs and if they have a sibling who already attends the school. Check out this link from the BBC for more information.
Grammar schools also only accept students who prove themselves to be academic in their studies. They are extremely selective, proven by 163 grammar schools out of around 3000 state schools.
Grammar schools often offer a bigger range of GCSEs and A-Levels for their students. For example, King Edward VI Grammar School offers Latin, Electronics and Geology at A-Levels. Look here to learn more about what King Edward VI Grammar School offers. The main point of difference is the diversity of the topics; grammar schools allow students to explore a lot more options with their education.
The main difference between the two is that grammar schools are more demanding of students, as expectations of their academic aptitude is a lot higher than that of students in secondary school. Grammar schools are extremely academically focused. However, secondary schools are more mixed in their academic results, and have a range of expectations, as the students within have mixed abilities.
Grammar School vs Private School
Private schools are another type of school; therefore, it is also important to compare it to grammar schools. Private schools are like grammar schools as both select students based on academic ability. Unsurprisingly, both types of schools have excellent results year and have high expectations of students. Both types of schools tend to have better facilities than a typical secondary school.
Private schools have smaller class sizes than grammar schools, meaning students get more contact time with teachers. It’s easier for a better environment to grow as teachers can tailor their teaching to students’ learning as there are less students to learn about. Private schools also have a lot better facilities, and an even greater range of subjects, such as History of Art, Classics and a larger array of languages.
However, most private schools are 13+, starting in Year 9, meaning it’s awkward to find a filler school. The environment is also more competitive and there can be constant pressure as most students who attend private schools come from wealthy backgrounds, which can create quite an insular environment. Private schools can also be extremely expensive, which makes it a lot less accessible to the wider population.
A positive of grammar schools is the larger diversity as students in grammar schools come from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds. Grammar schools also have the advantage of being more accessible as private school fees can be very steep.
However, there’s not really a choice as to where to go, as it depends on your area and many counties barely have any grammar schools. It’s based on luck and the area of the applicant. Grammar schools are also highly competitive, and many of the grammar schools are single sex (74% in 2015).
This article from Think Academy might be a helpful guide when weighing the pros and cons of private schools vs grammar schools.