“It knocked our son’s academic confidence for years.” A parent’s story

The recent 11-plus results day has got me thinking back to the same day five years ago for my son. It is not a good memory and I have spent much of the last five years trying to forget about it. He was always very happy and successful at school and we are interested parents. He was expected to sail through. It was the old exam style at that time and his forte was verbal reasoning.

My husband and I were both brought up under the 11-plus system and knew the requirements and pace of a grammar school. We knew our son was completely right for this. Whereas we always knew our younger son was not and he did not sit the exam at all.

We were hugely surprised to learn when opening the envelope that his score was so much lower than we expected. It was not a reflection on his ability. We also saw other children go through who have subsequently struggled at grammar school. We appreciate that the LEA have tried to change the exam to make it more ‘accurate’ on ability but it is the system which isn’t working for the local children it is meant to serve.

Fifty years ago grammar schools may have worked but do they really work now? Much evidence points to the fact that selective education does nothing to assist social mobility and actually it hinders children from poorer backgrounds who have little chance in ‘passing’. The grammar schools are all outstanding, so we can understand why people want to go there. What we need is outstanding schools across the board!

Our son has dusted himself down but I don’t think he will ever get over his ‘failure’. We try to tell him it wasn’t a failure and it’s just a silly system, but it has knocked his academic confidence for years. We hope he can pick his confidence back up for the GCSE exams soon.

What a strange system it is which kicks children in the teeth at the age of ten at the very time we should be building their confidence and starting to prepare them for the dynamic world in which we live.