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Grammar school guide
Grammar school guide

What is a grammar school?

A grammar school is a type of school that teaches children during their early teenage years. They are typically attended by students in years 7 through 12. Grammar schools are public secondary schools that choose their students based on an 11-year-old examination known as the "11-plus." These schools focus on both traditional academics and extracurricular activities so that students can get a well-rounded education.

Grammar schools are not to be confused with comprehensive state schools because they do not offer the same level of academic study as general secondary schools. They provide the basics of maths, history, languages, and literature while teaching extracurriculars such as sports and music.

Where did grammar school come from?

Grammar schools began in England in the 16th century.

The grammar school system originated during the Protestant Reformation and was championed by the likes of Thomas More and John Colet. The intention was to "elevate society by teaching young people Latin, logic, and rhetoric." The grammar school, which dates back to medieval times, was a place where language and academic disciplines were encouraged to be taught. Fast-forward to Victorian times, when it was common practice for secondary schools to pick their students. The grammar school system slowed as the twentieth century progressed, and by the 1970s, many had been combined with secondary moderns, non-selective schools, and comprehensive secondary schools.

The system has endured for centuries, but it is now under threat from politicians who argue that grammar schools are elitist and academically selective.

How do Grammar schools choose their pupils?

In grammar schools, the best way to decide which students get in is by looking at their academic performance. They also take into consideration the average scores of the applicants, their performance in entrance tests and the availability of places.

The exam consists of subjects such as

Grammar school entrance exams can consist of all or a subset of the following:

• Maths

• Verbal reasoning

• English, punctuation and grammar

• Non-verbal reasoning

• Creative writing

Its purpose is to assess if they are capable of learning in a grammar school setting with classmates of similar abilities. However, many people are unhappy with the test's format, which frequently includes questions that aren't seen in regular state primaries.

The popularity of grammar schools

Despite the constant criticism of grammar schools, there are countless supporters for the system, academic success is indisputable.

The study by Gilman and Krawiec found that children attending these schools are more likely to have better reading skills and higher educational attainment, with grammar school students more likely to go to a top university.

This is not because of the catchment area or because they are over-subscribed. Rather it is because they emphasized STEM subjects and languages as well as arts subjects like music.

There are around 160 grammar schools in England that do not charge fees, as well as 69 grammar schools in Northern Ireland. Some (but just a few) offer boarding services for which a fee is charged.

Around 1,050 grammar-school students attended Oxford or Cambridge in 2010, and 98% of grammar-school students earned five or more GCSEs, including English and arithmetic, with grades ranging from A* to C. This compares to 55% of students across the country. As a result, there is considerable competition for admission to these schools.

Applying for a grammar school

Parents can apply for a spot at any grammar school in their area. Due to the high demand for these institutions, whether a family lives in the catchment region might be a deciding factor.

There are also ‘super-selective schools in some counties, which are allowed to choose only the best performers in the selection examinations.

It's a good idea to check with the school and the local government to see if the family will be awarded a spot based on the area's and the school's unique criteria.

It'll be worthwhile to investigate the school more - on its website, in its prospectus, and, most significantly, during school visits.

Grammar Schools compared to state schools

Grammar schools, unlike state schools, are selective in whom they admit. This has led to grammar school students being typically academically high achieving. State schools, on the other hand, are open to all students and offer a broad curriculum with a focus on vocational skills.

It is stated that because grammar students are often of similar competence, teachers can progress lessons more successfully than at the comprehensive level because the classroom includes some of the most able students. As a result, grammar schools consistently rank first in local and national league tables.

There is also the opinion of many that grammar school's entry system is unfair and not an overall judgment of the children’s intelligence and self-worth, especially at age 11 over one test, and with the rise of more grammar schools, selective education had driven a dangerous wedge through community’s.

Ryan Shorthouse, the Director of Bright Blue, an education said in a recent Guardian interview “policymakers need to look at the aggregate effects: poorer kids from selective areas do worse on average than their peers in non-selective areas. They are not engines of social mobility. The motivation for lifting the ban on new grammar schools would be political positioning, not the evidence.”

Grammar school test

The 11+ is a selective secondary school admission examination used by both state-funded grammar schools and many private institutions to identify the most academically capable students. The exam is given towards the end of Year 5 or the start of Year 6 in primary school.

CEM (Durham University) and GL Assessment are the two primary exam boards for the 11+ exam. The exam board that will be used is usually determined by the location of the grammar school that you have chosen. However, exam boards might differ amongst schools in the same area, so check with your chosen grammar school to see which exam board they use, as this can affect how you prepare your child. Although the content of English and maths assessments tends to match the National Curriculum, verbal and non-verbal reasoning are not taught in public elementary schools as part of the curriculum.


Here is an example verbal reasoning question you can find in the progress 11 test,

(The answer will be included at the bottom of the page)

Mahmood, Jamie, Louise, Molly and Naomi have gone to the chip shop for their dinner.

Molly, Naomi and Jamie all have chips. Mahmood chooses pie and mushy peas for his meal.

The only one to have fish is Molly. Jamie, Louise and Naomi each have a sausage.

Everyone has mushy peas with their meal except Jamie and Molly.

Who buys the most items? ( ______________ )

 You can find more examples of test questions here

Should I send my child to a grammar school?

At the end of the day, it's mostly a matter of personal preference for parents. Every child is unique, and it is critical that they feel at ease at school. Both grammar and state schools have pros and downsides. Ironically, many Grammar Schools strive to emulate old-fashioned Private Schools by emphasizing uniformity, discipline, and structure. Grammar schools, typically provide considerably better facilities, albeit not always necessarily better teachers or well-behaved pupils, the best way to form an opinion is ultimately to see the schools for yourself, get in contact with your prospective school and take a visit.

 *Also, the person who ate the most was Naomi —  She bought 3 items: chips, sausage

and mushy peas. (Yum)







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