Selective education guide – Wiltshire


There are just two grammar schools in Wiltshire: Bishop Wordsworth’s School, an all-boys school, and South Wilts Grammar School, a school for girls.

Check out our map of selective schools in England to find out more about these schools. The map gives the percentage of disadvantaged pupils, the percentage of pupils attending a grammar school who are likely to have come from a fee-paying ‘prep’ school, and the relative selectivity of every grammar school in Wiltshire. View the map HERE.

Or, to read stories from parents and teachers experiencing education in Wiltshire, visit the 11+ Anonymous site HERE.


In every area where academic selection still exists there are some common problems. For example,

  • Grammar schools admit fewer disadvantaged pupils than non-selective schools. Grammar schools are also more likely to admit pupils from more advantaged families.


  • A significant number of pupils previously educated in fee-paying ‘prep’ schools take up grammar school places. In Wiltshire grammar schools around 16% of pupils were previously educated at independent schools. In England around 5% of primary pupils attend private schools, so this is not a typical balance of pupils.


  • Tuition for the 11-plus ‘buys advantage’. Better-off families can afford private coaching while poorer families feel compelled to pay for tuition they can ill afford.


  • The 11-plus has been proven to lack accuracy because it takes place while children are still developing academically.


  •  Research shows the proportion of children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) attending grammar schools is small. For many children with additional learning needs such as dyslexia and attention deficit disorders, the 11-plus test is inaccessible. The same children often perform very well academically outside a test situation.


  • Grammar schools change the pupil profile of other schools in the area. If a large number of higher attaining pupils attend grammar schools then surrounding schools find themselves with a pupil population which is skewed, with a disproportionate amount of moderate and lower attaining pupils and pupils with additional learning needs. This impacts on subject choice (fewer subjects available than at a grammar school) and teacher recruitment. Non-selective schools in areas with grammar schools cannot be ‘true’ comprehensives and tend to underperform compared to comprehensive schools.


  • GCSE results in areas with grammar schools are on a par, or worse, than areas that have only comprehensive schools. Research has shown that children who attend selective schools would be likely to achieve broadly the same results in any comprehensive school.


The percentage of pupils attending grammar schools in Wiltshire

Although a relatively low proportion of Wiltshire pupils attend a grammar school, these schools impact on other schools in the areas where they are located. Wherever there is selection, a disproportionate number of higher-attaining pupils from better off families populate the grammar schools leaving surrounding schools with a greater proportion of disadvantaged and moderate and lower attaining pupils.

A social divide in Wiltshire’s secondary schools

In common with all grammar schools, disadvantaged pupils are underrepresented in Wiltshire’s grammar schools. As a result, the county’s non-selective schools educate a far greater proportion of pupils on free school meals.

Many academics argue that a selective education system risks creating the kind of divisions which go beyond the schools themselves and can affect the wider community more generally.

Grammar schools educate many privately educated pupils

Around 16% of pupils in Wiltshire’s grammar schools did not attend a state primary school. It is likely that the majority were educated in fee-paying ‘prep’ schools, although a small proportion may have been home-schooled or educated abroad.

Research shows that grammar school places tend to be monopolised by better-off families resulting in nearby non-selective schools admitting a higher proportion of disadvantaged and Special Educational Needs (SEN) pupils. A disproportionate number of higher need pupils can put a burden on non-selective schools and their teachers. In a comprehensive school system all schools have a similar mix of pupils.

The 11-plus damages children’s confidence

Many children feel demotivated by a ‘fail’ in the 11-plus. We believe all children should start secondary school feeling positive about their academic ability. The success of non-selective schools in most areas of the country proves that there is no need to divide children by using an out of date and discredited test.

More information

You can read more information about Wiltshire grammar schools by visiting the school websites.

Want to end the 11-plus in Wiltshire?

Join Comprehensive Future’s campaign to end the 11-plus.


To learn about the data sources for our interactive map and selective education guides click here. If you spot any errors in the data for any area, please let us know.