Any professional working as an English tutor in or around Wimbledon is almost certainly supporting some anxious 10 year olds getting ready for the notorious 11plus exam.
At the “posh” primary schools at the seriously well-off end of the borough they’re doing practice papers every week: in fact, some of them are having targeted coaching for independent schools. All this, even before the promised (or threatened?) expansion of Grammar Schools that has relit a fiery debate that should have fizzled out decades ago. Tutors are facing an 11 plus frenzy!
In fact the comprehensive schools in Wimbledon and all Merton have bucked the national trend with big improvements to their GCSE results this year. They were well above the national average. So why are parents still frowning over the long odds against placing their kids in the grammar schools of nearby Sutton – where there are already five fully selective Grammar Schools – and Kingston. Could be because at present the children have barely a one in 10 chance of success.
More than sixty years ago most children and teenagers were taught in underfunded Secondary Modern Schools. A lot of them should have gone to Grammar School, but there weren’t enough places. And too many girls did well in the 11 plus, because they were more mature than boys of the same age. So they were weeded out to keep the gender balance right. It doesn’t sound ideal, not when you face the brutal facts. (Luckily colleges offered a second chance to thousands of teenagers.)
Grammar Schools back in the day did provide an academic education that was eye-stretching. They also fostered an atmosphere of hard work and genuine love of learning. A few years later, those who attended came to feel both lifelong gratitude and guilt – for receiving so much at the expense of others. Can’t we just learn the Grammar School’s best lessons and move on?