THE BLOG

The Grammar School System Fails Everybody In The End

05/05/2017 16:27 BST | Updated 05/05/2017 16:33 BST
shironosov via Getty Images

Chris Horrie has written a compelling article in the Guardian about his experience of the 1960's 11 plus system. He failed the exam, but then went on to prove that his actual academic abilities were very strong and not fairly reflected by the brutal 11 plus system.

Pass the 11 plus and you could go to a Grammar School - fail and you went to a Secondary School.

He argues that most people who have failed the 11 plus found it very hard to appeal against the failure since they would be ignored by the Grammar schools who had plenty of pupils who had passed to choose from. If you did not perform on the day - that was it!

There is a claim that Grammar Schools increase social mobility - I would guess that it is an argument most often put forward by those who went to Grammar schools.

Social mobility must mean that even if you are born poor that you can still get into Grammar Schools in more or less the same numbers than wealthier children - but this is not so.

The Sutton Trust published 2013 research that shows less than 3% of pupils at Grammar Schools are on free school school meals - free school meals being a measure often use to judge social mobility. This indicates that if you are from a poor family that you are far less likely to get into a Grammar School and that there is little evidence of actual social mobility in Grammar School areas.

Big surprise - I didn't pass the 11 plus. I was attending an RAF school in Singapore at the time - we were simply handed the papers without any announcement and we assumed it was just another routine test. Not too surprisingly I didn't put as much effort into it as I might of had I been told that it was a life changing exam.

I went to a failing secondary school in Bedale North Yorkshire - a School apparently still failing pupils today - judging by the latest Ofsted Report which finds it 'requires improvement' In my time the majority of teachers where rather cynical and rarely encouraging. Young, new teachers, often started as encouraging and optimistic - but that didn't last long.

It is, of course, wrong to blame the teaching profession as a whole because we know there are thousands of talented and dedicated teachers out there and they are constrained by the system as much as pupils were then.

I went onto do take evening classes and passed GCSE's at O and A level and eventually a 2.1 B.Sc in Psychology with the OU - not an academic genius but not the 'write off' suggested by the 11 plus exam system. Curiously - many of the evening class teachers seemed keener and more inspirational - not sure why.

The 11 plus system means to me is that we didn't care enough about our young people and their futures because we were prepared to select a few on the basis of a life changing exam on one day - and to disregard the rest.

Of course - in reality - people have failed the 11 plus and gone on to succeed in life - but this has been in spite of the education system - not because of it. This does not change the reality that the 11 Plus system in about investing in a minority of young people and writing off the rest.

As Chris Horrie observes - failing the 11 plus takes a psychological toll on those young people who don't pass - leaving them feeling certified failures - the State has judged them and found them inferior. This is not a great message to new generations of children - the future adult citizens.

It is not good for wider society - for this country - to fail to recognise and use the talents of all its young people. The 11 plus system wasted the potential of so many people and their probable contribution to our economy and to the arts and culture.

The Grammar School, 11 Plus system, was about investing in the few and not bothering with the rest and it failed both the majority of young people and the country as a whole.