Grammar School or not? When you have to make that difficult decision…

Grammar school or not?

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

7 thoughts on “Grammar School or not? When you have to make that difficult decision…

  1. When our kids were school age we lived in London and they went to a traditional church primary school which gave all three of them an excellent academic grounding. However, when it came to secondary school choices we had a division – the eldest and yougest went to a local comprehensive (which turned out to be a bit of a disaster ) , on the advice of the headteacher, but the middle one was determined that she was going to a prestigious grammar girls school near to us in the Hampstead Garden Suburb , Henrietta Barnet School. There were over 300 girls who sat the entrance test , which she passed, but then the actual place depended on how well you did in the interview. Needless to say she got the place , enjoyed the next years in the “hothouse” atmosphere, and went onto uni to study law. I can only say that the whole experience stood her in good stead for her whole career as she was actually taught how to study, whereas her brother and sister bumbled their way through secondary education , eager to leave education, not to return until many years later!
    I do agree totally that it depends a lot on the child , its personality and inclinations towards academic study , but choosing the right secondary school is such a lottery- you can only do what you think is best at the time! Good luck x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely Penny, it’s such a decision to make. It’s interesting how your three fared and so differently too. I think it hugely depends on the child – some can go on to do really good things having attended a comprehensive. Let’s just hope young B works hard and does well.
      Thanks for commenting – it’s interesting to hear your views xxx


  2. We don’t have the grammar school system where we live, but our son went to a different secondary school than the majority of his friends. The secondary school that he goes to is literally a 3 minute walk from our house. Its so hard making the right decision, but I think you just know when you have made it. I agree that children will flourish (if they wish) in whatever school they go to if they have the drive to do well. My son is in year 9 and we love the school he is at, as does he. Good luck xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Tracey – as you say its a tough one but I think we’ve done the right thing for him. All we can do is encourage and support and trust that he will work hard and it will pay dividends.
      I’m so glad your son is doing well and enjoying school – it makes such a difference doesn’t it.
      Thanks so much for popping over and your comments – they mean a lot xxx


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