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Every parent wants their child to have the best education possible. If your child is due to start secondary school in September 2022, you may already be looking into their options. For many children, sitting the 11+ exam and getting into grammar school is their best option. That’s because grammar schools offer good-quality teaching and produce consistently high exam results.

So, when should you enter your child for the 11+ exam? September 2022 may seem like a long way off, but the process of registering with grammar schools for the 2021 11+ exams begins as early as April 2021.

In this article we answer some commonly-asked questions about grammar schools and the 11+ exam. We also highlight some key dates for parents looking to secure a grammar school place for their child in September 2022.  

What is a grammar school?

Grammar schools are selective secondary schools with a strong academic focus. Pupils are selected for entry into Year 7 by sitting the 11 plus (or 11+), an academic exam. Unlike independent schools, grammar schools are state-funded. This means that they don’t charge fees, and there is a great deal of competition for places.  

What are the benefits of grammar school?

The foremost benefit of grammar schools is that they provide a high-quality education. All grammar school pupils are selected for their academic ability, so the teachers can educate them more effectively, challenge them further, and – in theory – they’ll achieve better results than pupils in other state schools. This theory is supported by the statistics: grammar schools consistently appear near the top of national school league tables, whilst the Sutton Trust (2016) found that ‘pupils who attend grammar schools achieve higher across a range of measures than their counterparts in mainstream comprehensives’.

Another benefit is cost. As we mentioned above, grammar schools don’t charge fees. Not every parent can afford to send their child to independent school but, in theory, any highly academic pupil who performs well in the 11+ should be eligible for a place at their local grammar school.

What is the 11+ Exam?

In a nutshell, the 11+ is a selective entrance exam that is usually based on the following types of questions: English, maths, verbal reasoning, and non-verbal reasoning. Your child may have to sit two or three separate tests as part of their 11+ exam. The content and format of the exams varies between different regions and different exam boards.

There are two primary exam boards for the 11+:

  1. The CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University)
  2. GL (Granada Learning) Assessment (previously known as the NFER)

Schools in most regions will use either the GL or CEM exclusively, whereas schools in some regions use a mixture of both. Again, it’s best to check with your chosen school to see which exam board administers their 11+ exams.

Are there any other selection criteria for grammar schools?

Every grammar school has its own admissions criteria, and these can usually be found on the individual school’s website.

In terms of demographics, grammar schools can be single-sex or co-educational, and many single-sex schools move to co-educational provision at sixth form.

Geography is a factor too – most grammar schools give preference to children who live in their catchment area. High scores on the 11+ may not secure your child a place if you live some distance outside their locality. So, it’s worth checking the catchment area for your preferred grammar school before you start to apply for places. You can check the catchment areas for your local grammar schools with the schools themselves, or on the Good Schools Guide.

What if my child didn’t sit the 11+, or didn’t get the grades they needed?

If your child didn’t sit the 11+ exam, or didn’t get the grades they hoped for, don’t despair; they may have another chance to earn a grammar school place. That’s because some grammar schools have a second intake in year 8 or 9 by means of the ‘late transfer test’ (also known as the 12+ or 13+ exam).

Not all grammar schools have a second intake though, and there are far fewer places available than in the year 7 intake. Check with your chosen school to find out if they have a late transfer system in place.

Can my child sit the 11+ to get into an independent school?

Independent schools have a separate admissions process and different entry points to the state school system. Some select their pupils for entry in year 7 by means of a Selective Eligibility Test (SET) that bears some similarity to the 11 plus. However, the entry point for many Independent Senior Schools is year 9. Different schools have different application and selection procedures, so speak to your chosen school about their admission process.

The Good Schools Guide provides more details about the independent school system.

When is the 11+ Exam, and when should we apply for a grammar school place?

The answer is…sooner than you think. The process for securing a grammar school place in September 2022 begins in April 2021 – that’s next month!

To help you out, here are the key dates and events in the grammar school application process. The exact dates will vary between schools and regions, so confirm important dates and deadlines with your chosen school.

April-May 2021: Registration for most grammar schools opens in April or May, and schools usually set a deadline in June or July for parents to register their child for the 11+ exam.

September 2021: For most grammar schools, the 11+ exam will occur during the first two weeks of September 2021.

October 2021: Most grammar schools will post their 11+ results in mid-October 2021.

1st March 2022 – National Offer DaySchool allocations for all secondary school students, including grammar school applicants, will be confirmed on 1st March 2022.

September 2022: Grammar schools begin their new Year 7 intake.

What does my child need to know for the 11+ Exam?

Most schools do not publish the content of their 11+ exams, for obvious reasons. However, both the CEM and GL exam boards place a strong emphasis on core skills in English (including spelling, punctuation, grammar, comprehension, and vocabulary) and maths (including arithmetic skills, problem-solving, and data manipulation). They also include non-verbal reasoning tests that assess pattern-spotting, problem solving, and logical reasoning.

How can I help my child prepare for the 11+ exam?

Children can find the whole process quite nerve-wracking. Many parents choose to invest in private tuition to help their child prepare for the 11+ exam. Tutors can help your child develop their and confidence in subjects and topics that they find challenging. What’s more, many tutors have a great deal of experience in preparing students for the 11+ exam. They can offer guidance on the different exam boards used in your locality, including what to expect on exam day. That’s especially important if your child has never taken an exam before.

George Alexander Tuition provides 1-1 maths tuition to help students prepare for the 11+ exam. We are familiar with the requirements of the CEM and GL exam boards. We also have a proven track record of helping students secure a place at their dream school. If you’d like to book a maths tutor for your child, contact us today. You can reach us at info@gatuition.com, or make an enquiry via our website. Subscribe to our YouTube channel for some handy maths tutorials and to see some of our lessons in action. Our Instagram account also has tips for parents and more information about our services.

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