The question arose in our household; Grammar School or not Grammar School?
In the area we live, in Dorset, we still work on the schooling system of
First/Primary school (ages 4-8)
Middle school (ages 9-13) and on to
Secondary/High school (ages 14-18)
Most other areas, even those around us, no longer have the middle school system, and children move from Primary straight to High school.
In year six (ages 10-11) it’s time for what’s known as the 11+ exam – or the ‘Grammar School test‘ – yep, we still have Grammar schools in our area.
The Middle school has nothing to do with the 11+ exam or even pushing the pupils forward for Grammar school – they are simply feeding on to the relevant Secondary school.
So this is entirely at the parents’ discretion (and the pupil’s will and desire obviously) as to whether they think their child is ‘bright‘ enough or in fact would ‘suit‘ a Grammar school education.
Sitting the 11+ exam is structured differently to Standard Assessment Tests (SATS) – these are the tests given to your child to show your child’s progress compared with other children of the same age; sat at the end of years 2, 6 and 9 – and are much more formal; not something our 10 and 11 year olds are used to.
Therefore, knowing how to sit the exam seems to play as big a part as being academically clever enough to pass the exam.
It becomes apparent, therefore, that most of the children looking to sit the Grammar school test, will have a private tutor to help and guide them, not only academically, but also in the art of sitting these types of tests and fully understanding the format of the questions.
Does this seem fair?
What about the children who are bright and set their hearts on attending Grammar school, but their parents do not have the extra disposable income to support a tutor outside of school?
Does this start to make the Grammar school an ever so slightly biased establishment?
In other words the slightly better off parents can afford the extra tuition and their child, through hard work too, is then lucky enough to get a place at Grammar, but the family who don’t have that sort of extra income available, even though their child is bright enough, either doesn’t consider even sitting the exam at all or fails due to not being coached in the art of sitting the actual exam.
Hmmm a question indeed!
Now we weren’t ever at the point of having to make this decision, because early on, ie towards the end of year 5 we sat down with MasterB and discussed the whole Grammar school thing with him.
Right from the off he wasn’t keen to go to Grammar school – the main reasons being that the boys and girls are split into different schools and to be fair he gets on well with girls (in fact probably better than a lot of the boys) as well as it being a very sporty school (B’s not known for being an athlete bless him).
That might all sound a bit wishy-washy but he and we all knew that he would not be happy in an all boys school.
Academically he could possibly be clever enough to get the grades, but straight away we were faced with a child who didn’t want to go down that route. Personally I don’t feel in this situation that it’s right to push a child into something they don’t want to do when potentially you could be faced with battles and heartache in the future.
There’s also the issue of stress – the pressure is immense for the children, especially at such a young age. I’ve heard of children losing their hair and becoming ill with the worry of studying for the exam. Wow, that’s hardcore eh?!
After much discussion, MrD and I agreed that we didn’t feel that our local Grammar school was right for our son (MasterB breathed a huge sigh of relief at this point).
Luckily for us (and MasterB) the Secondary school that his Middle school feeds on to is a good one with a good reputation. They excel in the arts and encourage the more artistic side of their pupils which we hope will be to B’s advantage.
It’s such a difficult one to call – you want to encourage, support and dare I say even push your child, but not to the level where it can cause deep unhappiness and where you might even put out their shining light. However, you might just be surprised and they end up flying and doing really well.
It’s all so difficult, aaaarrggghhhh!!
Who knows what the right answer is?
I guess you can only do what you think is right for your child at that particular time and based on that we decided not to go for the Grammar school test.
Do you still have the Middle school system in your area and what are your thoughts on Grammar school? I’d love to know.
Carpe Diem x