What is a Grammar School?

In General by Think Student Editor2 Comments

Deciding which secondary school to go to is a very important decision and one that should not be taken lightly. Different types of schools have different benefits, meaning some schools may be suited more to you than others. For example, some schools specialise in mathematical subjects, whilst others specialise in English or physical education. Therefore, it is good to base the school you go to on your strengths and interests. Grammar school is one of the many options available that this article will discuss.

A grammar school is a state funded school which only offers places to academic students who the school believe will be successful. Usually, a higher percentage of students in grammar schools are seen to go to university compared to the percentage of students who don’t attend grammar schools. However, grammar schools are not for everyone. Grammar schools can specialise in certain subjects. However, they are a little different to normal secondary schools.

You may be wondering if going to a grammar school is for you. If you are unsure about which type of school will be best for you to attend, then I suggest that you read on, to discover the benefits and drawbacks of grammar schools.

What is a grammar school in the UK?

Secondary schools do not require any special testing for a student to apply there, apart from SATs. Students are able to follow an application process, through their local authority, based on where they live, their education needs and if they have a sibling who already attends the school.

In comparison, grammar schools only take on students who are shown to be academic with their studies. Currently, there are about 163 grammar schools in England alone. In contrast, there are about 3,000 secondary schools! This just illustrates how selective grammar schools are with their applicants, as the spaces are so limited. There are also 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland. However, there are no grammar schools in Scotland or Wales. Check out this link from the BBC for further information.

One main difference between comprehensive and grammar schools is that grammar schools tend to be more rigorous and demanding. They also may offer more unusual subjects at GCSE and A-Level, such as politics and classical civilisations. Therefore, grammar schools are extremely academic and focus on achieving great results from all pupils. The nature of their application process and their attitude to learning separates them from Comprehensive schools. To find out more about applying to comprehensive schools, check out this article from Think Student.

Do you have to pay to go to a grammar school?

A comprehensive school is the term used for a normal secondary school. These are funded by the government, meaning that students do not have to pay to attend there. Check out this article on think student to find out more about comprehensive schools. 

Many students believe that they have to pay to go to a grammar school because it isn’t comprehensive. However, this is not the case. Grammar schools are also funded by the government. This means that disadvantaged students are able to attend and receive the best education that they can. This is because grammar schools purely focus on the intelligence of the students and not their social or economic backgrounds.

If you wanted to go to a private school, then you would have to pay for a place. Private schools also offer stimulating teaching methods; however, they are very expensive to attend. Check out this article to discover how private schools are different.

How do you apply to grammar school?

To get a place at a grammar school, you have to show that you are academic. This is because Grammar schools aim to only teach the best pupils in the country, who they believe will become successful academics. Due to this, students wanting to attend a grammar school must take an exam called the 11-plus. Check out this Think Student article to learn more about the 11 Plus exam.

This exam can be taken by a student towards the end of year five or the beginning of year six in primary school. This is not a compulsory test if you want to go to a comprehensive school. However, if you would like to go to a grammar school, you must take the test. The 11 plus exam measures English, maths, verbal reasoning and non-verbal reasoning.

If you pass the exam, you can then apply through your local authority’s application process to choose a grammar school. However, passing the 11 plus exam does not guarantee you a place at a grammar school. The number of places is so small, that they only look for the highest scores and may even base their choices on proximity to the school.

Different types of schools have different application processes, so check out this article from Think Student to see the differences between each type of school.

What are the benefits of attending a grammar school?

Overall, grammar schools are shown to produce the brightest students, meaning the students that go there will potentially go on to attending the best universities. Here is an outline of the pros of grammar schools:

  • Grammar schools focus on the minds of students, not their backgrounds. This means that no one is discriminated against and disadvantaged students are able to reach their full potentials.
  • Exam results are always shown to be really high. This is because the students are seen to be the same ability, so lessons can be taught more efficiently. Students from grammar schools perform better than the students who attend comprehensive schools.
  • Many successful famous people attended grammar schools. For example, David Attenborough and Margaret Thatcher attended grammar school. This indicates the success that attending a grammar school can result in.
  • Attending a grammar school can result in making good friends. The students there are more likely to form friendships with those who will have a positive influence of their lives, to help them through their education.

As you can see, grammar schools offer a range of benefits, which can lead to a better education and therefore, a better future.

What are the drawbacks of attending a grammar school?

Attending a grammar school can be a great idea, however, there are some disadvantages involved in the application process. Here are some of the possible disadvantages of grammar schools:

  • There may be some classism because wealthier families are able to afford tutors, therefore, the wealthier children will perform better on the 11 plus exam compared to other poorer students.
  • Failing the 11 plus exam can also be extremely distressing for the children, as they may feel as if they have failed as individuals. This can have negative psychological effects on their mental health long term.
  • If schools focus on preparation for the 11 plus exam, this may result in the teachers not prioritising the national curriculum. This could lead to gaps in their education.
  • Grammar schools may also be too challenging for some students. They can be very competitive, as all of the students will be focused on achieving their best. You may be used to being the top of your class. However, attending a Grammar school could decrease your self-confidence, as the other students will most likely have the same abilities as you do.
  • Finally, if you attend a grammar school for A-Level, some universities might expect you to get higher grades than students from comprehensive schools. This means that the minimum amount of UCAS points you need to get into a certain university will be higher compared to a student who went to a comprehensive school.

Click this link to see the UCAS website, which gives more information about comprehensive school grades.

Are grammar schools popular?

Due to the tiny number of places that grammar schools can offer, they are extremely oversubscribed. This is why it is so difficult to get a place in a grammar school. They are also very popular because of the amount of academic success the students that attend them achieve.

This means that many parents encourage their children to take the exam, as attending a grammar school can result in a better career. They are also not available in many parts of England, increasing the competition even more.

In 2010, approximately 1,050 grammar school pupils were studying at Oxford or Cambridge. These students were also shown to achieve the best grades. Check out this website, relocate magazine, to discover the other mind-blowing statistics.

What are the best grammar schools in the UK?

As I have already mentioned, pupils in grammar schools are shown to be extremely competitive. However, grammar schools are also competitive against each other. Here, I will show the top five grammar schools in the country based on their GCSE results in 2018 and 2019.

  • The best grammar school was shown to be Kendrick Girls’ Grammar School. This is found in Reading, Berkshire.
  • The Tiffin Girls’ School in Southwest London was shown to be the second best.
  • Wilson’s School in Sutton was third in line.
  • Dr Challoner’s High School in Buckinghamshire was fourth.
  • Dartford Grammar school in Kent was shown to be the fifth best grammar school.

Check out this website from 11plus help to discover all of the other outstanding schools.

As you can see, attending a grammar school can be an amazing thing to do, as it can open doors for your future by providing you with the best education possible.

Hopefully, this article has helped you understand what a grammar school is and you are able to make an informed decision about whether you would like to attend or not. Good luck with the 11 plus exam!

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2 years ago

I failed my 11+ plus exam 🙁

Reply to  Mohammed
1 year ago

Eh, I wouldn’t really worry about it. You can get just as good an education from normal secondary schools, if not better in some cases. Besides, it’s just one test and it’s not going to decide the rest of your life – it’s not like GCSEs/A Levels or anything like that.