The Eleven Plus Taboo

11 plus taboo

Earlier this week I sent a personal email to all the primary school headteachers in Torbay with details of the 11 plus information event I am putting on next week. So far I haven't received a single reply and I don't expect to, I don't even expect any of them to circulate details of my event although I rather hope that at least one of the will. They are busy people and are being bombarded constantly by businesses and charities who have come up with the brainwave that the best way of contacting children and their parents is through the schools - what an original idea! However, that's not the main reason why I expect to get no response, the reason is the eleven plus taboo.

The 11 plus has been controversial since in was introduced in 1944 because it is said to divide children into successes and failures at the age of 10 or 11. It used to be compulsory for all children in England to take the eleven plus. When I took it in the seventies it was something you took as a matter of course with no big build up and although there was some tutoring for the exam, most children, like me, were not aware that 11 plus tuition existed. We now have a system where there are only 163 grammar schools, located in 36 of the 152 local authority areas in England. In some areas competition for grammar schools is extremely fierce, particularly in London. Naturally, if you wish your child to go to grammar school you are going to do what you can to help them so most parents who opt for their children to take the 11 plus make sure they do some preparation for it, often by engaging a private tutor. If they decide to tutor their child themselves they will need accurate information about what the test will be like. This is not easy to obtain as the format of the test varies considerably between different areas, one area is even using a computer-based test this year!

Although 11 plus tuition is widespread, in my experience most primary schools and grammar schools are not very helpful in their approach to this although there is a range of approaches: one primary school I know virtually denies the existence of the 11 plus, while another one holds an annual information session for parents and another holds an after-school 11 plus club. The approach of most primary schools in my area tends to be one of indifference.

If you live in or near to Torbay (or are visiting in half-term) and would like to find out more about the 11 plus, we would love to see you at our information event. If you are not local please do not hesitate to get in touch and we will do our best to answer your questions.