12 Literature and Studies on 11 Plus History

The 11 Plus exam has a storied history dating back to its inception in the mid-20th century in the United Kingdom. 

This selective entrance examination for secondary schools has been a subject of considerable academic interest, generating a rich body of literature and studies that explore its origins, evolution, and impact on education and society

For those diving deep into the scholarly landscape of the 11 Plus, prepare for a comprehensive review of resources on 11 Plus history.

What Literature and Studies on 11 Plus History Are Available?


“Education: Culture, Economy, and Society” by A.H. Halsey et al.

This book explores late 20th-century educational changes and their impact on society. The book’s introduction outlines key theories and future research areas, whilst 52 papers offer crucial international insights, making it a classic reference in educational studies.

“Education, Social Reform and Philosophical Development” by Richard Pring

The book examines how political changes and historical contexts shape UK education, especially in England and Wales. The book covers educational development from the 19th century, philosophical influences on education, and lessons from historical debates, aiming to define education’s purpose in fostering human flourishing.

“Social Class and Educational Opportunity” by Jean E. Floud et al.

This book provides a critical examination of how social class influences educational opportunities. Published in 1956, it is a pioneering work that explores the disparities in educational access and attainment based on socioeconomic status.

The authors meticulously analyse the structural barriers faced by individuals from lower social classes and the systemic discrimination prevalent in educational systems.

“The Eleven-Plus Book: Genuine Exam Questions from Yesteryear” by Michael O’Mara Books

This book offers a historical collection of actual exam questions from the early years of the 11 Plus. It serves as both a nostalgic look back and a useful resource for understanding the types of questions that shaped the exam’s early format.

Scholarly Articles

“Education in the UK: A History” by Derek Gillard

This long article provides a comprehensive overview of education in the UK, covering various aspects such as historical background, political influences, budget cuts, comprehensivisation, and progress in education policy.

It discusses key figures, budget battles, concerns about the tripartite system, progress under different governments, and the roles of campaigners like Robin Pedley and Brian Simon. 

“A (Short) History of Comprehensive Education in England” by Anne West

This presentation explores the history of comprehensive education in England, tracing its roots from the pre-comprehensive system established by the 1944 Education Act. It discusses the tripartite system of grammar, technical, and secondary modern schools.

It also examines the introduction of selection based on aptitude/ability and touches on the concepts of egalitarianism and elitism in education.

Research Papers

“Date of Birth, Family Background, and the 11 Plus Exam: Short- And Long-Term Consequences of the 1944 Secondary Education Reforms in England and Wales” by Robert A Hart and Mirko Moro

This research examines the socio-economic impacts of the 1944 Education Act in England and Wales, focusing on free universal secondary education and the tripartite system of grammar, technical, and secondary modern schools determined by IQ tests at age 11.

Using the British Household Panel Survey, it analyses how date of birth and family background influenced school attendance, post-school qualifications, and long-term job status and earnings. The study also considers the effects of raising the school-leaving age from 14 to 15.

“The Role of the Eleven-Plus Test Papers and Appeals in Producing Social Inequalities in Access to Grammar Schools” by Rebecca Allen and Joanne Bartley

Rebecca Allen and Joanne Bartley’s study investigates the role of eleven-plus test papers and appeals in creating social inequalities in grammar school admissions. Analysing data from a local authority, they examine disparities in test scores by social background and assess the impact of headteacher assessment panels.

Their findings suggest ways to enhance students from disadvantaged backgrounds’ access to grammar schools.

“Local Authorities and Comprehensivisation in England and Wales 1944-1974” by David Crook

David Crook examines the role of local education authorities in the transition to comprehensive schooling. The research outlines the historical context of the tripartite system, the challenges faced, and the gradual shift towards a comprehensive model. It highlights political and social influences on educational policy and the varying pace of comprehensivisation across different regions.

The study underscores the significance of local authorities in implementing educational reforms and addresses the ongoing debates about equality and access within the educational system.

The Creation, Development, and Present State of Grammar Schools in England” by Professor David Jesson

Professor David Jesson of the University of York delves into the evolution and current status of grammar schools. His research highlights their origins, particularly post-1944, under the Education Act, which established a tripartite system including grammar schools.

Jesson examines how these schools select students via the 11-plus exam and discusses ongoing debates about their role in perpetuating social inequalities and academic elitism in the UK education system.


Secondary School Selection (1957)

Led by Philip Vernon for the British Psychological Society, the report critiqued the fairness of the existing school selection system. Based on Cyril Burt’s theories, the report rejected the notion of total genetic determination of intelligence.

It argued that intelligence is influenced by environment and upbringing, making early selection for different secondary schools problematic. The report recommended comprehensive schooling at least until age 13 and greater freedom for students to transfer schools to avoid the negative impacts of early segregation.

Admission to Grammar Schools (1958) 

Prepared by DA Pidgeon and Alfred Yates, this report was a pioneering large-scale study on school selection practices. It found that approximately 10% of children were misallocated to the wrong school type, highlighting significant selection process flaws.

Given the improbability of improving allocation techniques, the report advocated for adopting comprehensive or multilateral schools to ensure fairer and more effective education for all students.

Final Note

The 11 Plus’ history is rich with academic inquiry, and the resources listed here thoroughly explore its development, implementation, and impact. There is a wealth of material available for those looking to delve deeply into the 11 Plus history. 

Whether you are an academic researcher, a student, or simply someone with a keen interest in educational history, these resources provide a solid foundation for understanding this important examination.

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