Since their start, grammar schools have been the top for academic excellence. Their slots are limited and highly coveted. Every parent wants their child in a grammar school, which means going through the selective process by taking the 11 Plus exam.
At the moment, there are about 164 grammar schools in England and about 69 in Northern Ireland compared to about 3,000 state secondaries in the country. That explains the competitiveness of getting into these exclusive schools. But are they worth it? Are there any benefits of going to grammar schools?
What Are Grammar Schools?
Grammar schools are state secondary schools that admit pupils based on their performance in the 11+ exams. The most successful students in the exam gain entry into the local grammar school while the unsuccessful ones attend the local state secondary.
Parents who are not interested in taking their children to grammar school can take them to comprehensive schools, which are the most common alternative to the grammar school system.
Benefits of Grammar School
There are various reasons why grammar schools are highly coveted and sought-after. Some of the benefits of grammar schools include:
Opportunities for academically gifted children
Grammar schools enable the brightest students to get the best education at the top schools regardless of their social backgrounds. Entrance into grammar schools is based purely on academic performance. Pupils who score highly in their 11 Plus are not denied entry into the school for other external reasons.
Grammar schools are often believed to provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds opportunities to climb the social ladder.
Excellent exam results
Because students in grammar schools have the same academic ability, as determined by the 11+ exam that is taken before entry, the teachers can progress with the lesson plans more effectively compared to comprehensive level schools, which means grammar schools are often the best performing schools in both local and national league tables.
According to a report published in 2018, grammar school students perform better in GCSE than pupils from other students. These students also make better progress at the KS3 and KS4 levels.
Grammar schools have a well-documented track record of producing successful students who have gone on to have successful careers and become important people in the country. Many students from grammar schools have become celebrities, successful politicians and entrepreneurs. Notable names include John Lenon, Boris Johnson, Anthony Hopkins, Margaret Thatcher and David Attenborough.
Better social mobility
Students who gain access to a grammar school get access to the best education and a network of influential friends. The friendship bonds that students have in grammar school usually have an impact on their future success. There is a notion that grammar schools give students an opportunity to climb the social ladder, and going by this assessment and the students that make it into grammar school, this notion is most likely true.
Are There Downsides to Grammar Schools?
Even with all their exceptional performance, glory, and competitive entry slots, grammar schools also have downsides. Some of these might be perceived. But as you would expect, parents might have different things to say about grammar schools based on their experience and personal opinion. Some of the downsides of grammar schools include;
Most of the students who make it into grammar schools are from well-off backgrounds. This is usually because these children have access to better education and the resources they need to thrive from an early age. Therefore, grammar schools are considered to encourage classism because of the high intake of children from well-off backgrounds.
The 11+ plus exam is considered unfair
Many people consider the principle of selection of students at age 11 is unfair can have a lasting effect on the children, particularly those who don’t qualify to get into grammar school. Some experts also consider the children taking the exam at this age still developing cognitive abilities, and therefore, the exam doesn’t consider late developers.
Getting into grammar schools comes with significant pressure. The expectation for students to succeed in the 11+ exams is exceptionally high for the students. Failing is not an option, but at the same time, not all students can excel. Those who don’t meet the expectations can be left feeling like a failure and might suffer from low self-esteem.
There are some downsides to grammar schools. However, it is also worth considering that these schools have produced the best minds in the UK and continue to churn out bright minds over the years. Considering their track record and the GCSE grades they produce, one can make the case that grammar schools are better. But that could also be because they have better students to work with. It is also worth noting that the state secondary schools also have their fair share of success stories, particularly with students of the same calibre as those in grammar schools.
Regardless of the school, your child ends up in, what is important is to provide the student with the support they need to succeed in school, including hiring a tutor if possible.