When students and parents are looking to pick a secondary school, grammar schools often stand out as a good choice. Grammar schools choose students based on their academic ability, and therefore have high expectations for their pupils’ performance in exams. There are both benefits and drawbacks to sending your child to a grammar school.
The secondary school your child goes to will obviously have an impact on their life and them as a person. Grammar schools can be a great choice for bright and capable children, but all children handle pressure differently. Suitability is often very much down to the individual child and the characteristics of the specific school.
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in this article are those of one writer. Please do your own research before deciding which school is suitable for your child.
There are several factors to consider when making such a tricky decision. Keep reading to find out more about grammar schools and if your child is suitable for one.
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Is grammar school right for your child?
Your child will benefit from a highly academic secondary school if they are performing exceptionally well in primary school. However, even if they get a high enough score in the 11 Plus, going to a grammar school might not be the best choice for your child. You should take their temperament and social behaviour into account.
Even if they are towards the top of their class, a sensitive child might not thrive in a competitive setting. A shy or emotional young person will probably need more time to flourish in a grammar school due to social pressures. Take time to consider how your child is getting on in their current school, and contrast this to the students at the grammar schools you’re looking at.
If your child is headstrong, loves learning and is confident in their abilities, then a grammar school is likely the right fit for them. At a grammar school, the pace of the lessons is often a lot faster than a non-selective school, so they’ll need to be a focused and motivated individual in order to keep up. To learn about what’s studied at a grammar school, read this Think Student article.
Additionally, you should consider your family’s larger needs, such as those of your other children and the demands of the daily school run. If the grammar school you’re considering is further away from you than your local comprehensive school, then you might have to factor this into your decision.
It may also be a good idea to think about whether your child would prefer to be in a single-sex or mixed school. Many grammar schools are single-sex and it’s worth thinking about whether that would suit your child. To learn more about grammar schools, have a look at this Think Student article.
What are the benefits of grammar schools?
The number one thing that draws people to grammar schools is the great academic results. For example, this Guardian article reported that in 2021, the GCSE attainment gap increased to 48% between grammar and comprehensive schools. This is not just due to the selection of students who are more intelligent; grammar schools have encouraging environments that push students to their academic best.
Grammar schools encourage students to get good exam results and put in the necessary amount of effort and time to revise. If you send your child to a grammar school, they will probably end up taking their studies seriously. This encourages students to put in a large amount of effort because they see lots of their peers doing the same.
Grammar schools, like comprehensive schools, are free to attend. This means that they can help children from disadvantaged backgrounds to make the most of their talents. For more information about grammar school fees, read this Think Student article.
What are the drawbacks of grammar schools?
To some extent, grammar schools are going to put more pressure on students. All students will be regarded as intelligent individuals and so there will be a certain level of expectation to do well. In this Guardian article, grammar school students spoke of their struggle with the intensity of grammar schools.
In some cases, this can lead to quite a bit of stress or even mental health issues. Students may find themselves feeling unworthy due to the competitive environment. This can potentially lead to students developing a false image of their own abilities, or a low self-esteem.
Moreover, children from advantaged backgrounds might get private tutoring in order to practice for the 11 Plus exam. The problem is that this means children from wealthier families get a head start over children from poorer families when it comes to securing a place, and this certainly isn’t helping break inequalities.
Should your child take the 11 Plus?
All children who want a place at a grammar school must first take the 11 Plus exam. It is up to the student to decide whether to sit the 11 Plus exam, but it is compulsory. Some children may not be ready to take a formal test, so parents should take this into consideration.
What is the 11 Plus exam?
The 11 Plus is taken by children aged 10 or 11. Your child will be allocated a specific school/centre to take the exam in depending on where you live. The 11 Plus consists of four different sections: English, Maths, non-verbal reasoning, and verbal reasoning. These four individual tests are each between 45 to 60 minutes long, with approximately 50 questions per test. If you want to know even more about the 11 Plus exam and what’s involved in it, check out this Think student article.
How will your child adjust to the 11 Plus?
If you have a bright child who has had no problem doing small tests, then they will probably be able to confidently take the 11 Plus. It’s important to note that children who are worried about situations like tests will likely get considerably nervous before or during the 11 Plus. The 11 Plus is usually taken in a big hall with many other students, and this can easily overwhelm a lot of children.
However, unless your child has particularly bad mental health, it’s important that their worries don’t stop them achieving the results they deserve. As a parent, you should encourage your child to face their fears and do their best despite any nervousness. Most children will be feeling nervous to some extent so don’t panic if your child says they do on the morning of the test.
Make sure to talk to them about how they’re feeling and let them know that they won’t be the only student feeling nervous. To find out when the 2022 11 Plus exam is, read this Think Student article.
How should your child prepare for the 11 Plus?
Preparation for the 11 Plus doesn’t need to be over complicated and ridiculously time consuming. It can be done in small amounts in the months leading up to the exam. There’s plenty of resources, both online and in workbooks, dedicated to practicing the different components of the 11 Plus exam.
Some parents might choose to hire a private tutor or take their child to a group tutoring session. Whilst a bit of tutoring might be a good idea for your child if you’re willing to pay for it, there’s certainly a limit to how much work they should be doing.
If your child is smart enough to thrive at a grammar school, then their revision process will likely be more relaxed. Just going through how the test works and what the different sections involve, plus doing one or two practice papers, is certainly enough preparation. You can easily do this yourself with your child, without the need to hire a tutor.