Parents’ Perspectives on the 11 Plus: What UK Parents Think of the Exam

Parents play a pivotal role in guiding their children through the 11 Plus process, and their views shape decisions regarding exam preparation, school choices, and support systems. 

By comprehending parents’ perspectives, motivations, and expectations, education professionals can better address the needs of both students and families.

This article explores UK parents’ diverse perspectives regarding the 11 Plus exam. Through this exploration, we seek to foster understanding, empathy, and dialogue surrounding the 11 Plus exam, ultimately contributing to informed decision-making and support for students and their families.

What Do UK Parents Think of the 11 Plus Exam?

Parents’ Perspectives on the 11 Plus: What UK Parents Think of the Exam

The process of preparing for and navigating the 11 Plus exam is multifaceted. This is reflected in the diverse range of parents’ perspectives and experiences, taken from online forums and educational news articles. 

Parents Prioritising Preparation and Opportunities

Many parents prioritise preparation for the 11 Plus exam, viewing it as a gateway to opportunities for their children’s academic advancement:

“I pushed hard for my daughter to do well… My hope is that she passes to get into a school with a good record of success… Us parents will do whatever we think is in the best interests of our children… There is a scrum for the best schools, and those who push hardest get in.”

Others emphasise the importance of hard work and the competitive atmosphere of selective grammar schools:

“I would encourage your son to go to the Grammar. If he passes the exam then he will surely keep up… I’m sure the stimulating and competitive atmosphere will be good for him… I also wouldn’t worry that he might struggle at the Grammar after having had to do lots of extra work for the 11+ because… it is obvious that MOST kids have to do extra work to compete for the Grammar places.”

Advocating for Minimal Tutoring and a Stress-Free Approach

Some parents advocate for minimal tutoring and emphasise the importance of a stress-free approach to the exam:

“All 3 of ours took the 11 plus, none of them had any tutoring, they just saw the sample test paper in the info pack to know what to expect… On the forum, people had paid thousands on tutoring only for the child to not score well and I felt sorry for the children after having all that pressure placed on them… Our children had the choice all the way through to take the test, which school to apply for and whether or not to accept the place if successful and there was never any pressure or expectation.”

“I think it’s totally pointless to put a child into the eleven plus if they are not top table material. Even if a child is bright they may still be happier being a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond.”

Others express concerns about the stressful nature of the exam process and its impact on children’s well-being:

“Who would have thought the whole 11-plus experience would be such a shocking revelation and such a test of my parenting skills… All of a sudden, play was no longer a life learning skill, it was a waste of time, a luxury that would have no effect on the 11-plus and was therefore of no benefit to my child…”

“My son recently attempted the 11+ exams. the process for me was full of anxiety. He is a very bright kid but is not very willing to do extra work… However, his constant moan about being made to do too much work is concerning and I do not want him in an environment where he is not comfortable.”

Criticisms of the 11 Plus System

Some parents express criticisms of the 11 Plus system, advocating for its abolition due to its stressful nature and perceived inequities:

“The 11+ should be banned! I have children in both grammar and comp and have been extremely pleased with both but I still think the 11+ should be stopped. It is incredibly stressful for both children and parents… However, getting rid of the system would spread the load as far as ability was concerned and would give the less than decent schools half a chance.”

“I am all in favour of streaming, sets etc and opposed to mixed ability teaching at secondary level, but nothing will change my view that the 11 plus should end.”

Others question the effectiveness and fairness of the exam:

“I am not sure the whole thing is to the benefit of the children, as it seems only to push them into a competitive framework very early on, irrespective of their skills. Funny. The 11-plus is supposed to test the academic intelligence of children and yet the whole exercise is one of the least intelligent experiences I have ever endured.”

Whilst, a few frustrated parents reluctantly accepted the system:

“I dislike 11+ selection, but we are stuck with it here in Kent and most of us are just trying to make the best of it for our children.”

“In our case I have very much disliked the process and there have been times that I have wanted to call a halt to it all but it is a means to an end. I know my son will sit comfortably at a Grammar school. I think the hard part is getting them in.”

Summarising Parents’ Perspectives on the 11 Plus

Let’s delve into the contrasting viewpoints of parents both the pros and cons inherent in the 11 Plus exam process.

Positive Aspects Highlighted by Parents

  • Some parents view the 11 Plus as a gateway to their children’s academic advancement opportunities.
  • Emphasis is placed on hard work and the competitive atmosphere of selective schools.

Concerns Raised by Parents

  • Some parents highlight the stressful nature of the exam process and its impact on children’s well-being.
  • Others advocate for its abolition due to its perceived inequities.

It’s important to recognise that every family’s experience with the 11 Plus exam differs. Some parents may feel strongly about its benefits, while others may have concerns or criticisms. By acknowledging this diversity, we can better understand the various factors at play and appreciate the complexity of the exam process.

Given the range of opinions and experiences surrounding the 11 Plus exam, it’s crucial to maintain open and ongoing dialogue. We can help alleviate concerns, address challenges, and ensure all families feel empowered and informed throughout the exam process by fostering communication and support.

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