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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Eleven Plus Information

Some of us tend to think about grammar schools as institutions that can solve any problem pertaining to a bright child. Yet a number of grammar schools now have specialist functions. One could be, for example, specialising in mathematics and languages while another could look to develop mathematics and science. What is also rather complicating for some eleven plus parents are the different types of rules about entering a grammar school. Some seem to have legislation about how close a family have to live to the school while other maintain that a `first past the post’ system is fairest. Some grammar schools seem to obtain better marks than others at GCSE and A Levels.

“Do we go for the school that is just three miles away, but specialises in science (which my child hates) and has seldom had a child at either Oxford or Cambridge?”

“Should we, however, push for a school that is further away – a rather long bus ride – but specialises in languages and get super results with lots of Oxbridge passes?”

It is just that eleven plus parents – and their children – do not appear to receive much careers guidance. Is it too early for your ten year old to want to do physics at a good university? Can your primary school teachers be expected to know what happens on a physics degree – especially as there are an incredibly wide variety of combinations of subjects? (Do parents know, for example, that there is a course at Manchester University where their child can do Physics with Mandarin?)

We know a sixteen year old girl who wanted to do International Law – with an Arabic flavour – so that she could concentrate her career on the property market in London. Her grammar school did not offer Arabic so she intended to do a booster course in learning to read and write Arabic while she was working on her degree.

Could a boy even think of becoming a doctor if he had taken languages in the sixth form of a language specialist grammar school?

Suppose the parents of a bright girl had been to university in another country. To some degree university educations must be rather broadly similar – but the route onto a course may be very different in this country. How do they ask the right questions of the teachers at their daughter’s primary school about differences in grammar schools if their perception of a university education is not the same?

What do parents do if their child’s teacher does not approve of selective education? “Which school should my child apply to?”

It is obviously highly impertinent to wish careers guidance and help with choice of grammar school onto the shoulders of every primary school teacher. A Careers Guidance counsellor may also be a rather expensive option for some schools to consider. There may even be some grammar schools that would prefer to be able to mould their new eleven year olds to a `grammar school’ way of thinking.

What seems to be needed is a series of information leaflets aimed at ten year olds covering selection of schools, what happens in a grammar school and how to choose the right university.

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