The Time’s Up for the Test campaign interviewed a range of people about the problems of grammar schools and 11-plus selection. They made a powerful film which can be viewed on YouTube here.
Now longer cuts of the individual interviews are available, and you can watch them all on this page.
Caroline Derbyshire, Chair of Headteachers’ Roundtable, says it’s, “ridiculous to give children a test at
the age of 11. It’s ridiculous for all sorts of reasons, one is that children mature at different stages, secondly it creates this notion that you are a failure for 75% of children… We know that children mature at different ages, we know that they continue to improve and that the sky’s the limit if their teachers believe in them.”
Lewis Iwu is the co-founder of the Purpose Union and founding Director of the Fair Education Alliance, he says, “I oppose grammar schools because I think they undermine social mobility. I have a problem with the 11-plus exam because parents can basically game the system for their children. A lot of people have extensive tuition, and that tuition costs money. It’s a problem if it’s the people with money who are able to get their kids ahead in the system. So for me in any education system you want to minimize the impact of wealth and money in terms of accessing opportunity.”
Jack Deasley failed the 11-plus and is now a student at Cambridge. He talks about the impact on his friends. “I know people who had aspirations to be journalists or lawyers before they went through the 11-plus, and now they just assume that’s not going to be the case anymore. For most people in selective areas grammar schools prevent them from being able to move on to the careers they want…thousands thousands of 11 year olds are told to stop being ambitious.”
Joanna Vaughan is a parent in Kent. Her children went to grammar schools but she soon realised the problems with these schools. She said, “If you ask the parents what exactly do you mean by ‘they offer a better education’ I think what they would often say is well they get fantastic results so therefore they must be a great school. But of course they’re going to get better results because actually they’ve creamed off a certain percentage of the cohort… My impression is that I think that grammar schools can rest on their laurels, and they don’t really have to try very hard. At the end of the day our education system is very, very, much about results, and they’re going to get those results. So they’re not having to motivate children, they’re not having to inspire them, they can just sit back and just let the kids get the results that the school needs in order to perform in league tables.”
Francesca McCarthy is a PhD researcher at the UCL Institute of Education, she talks about her project talking to secondary school pupils who failed the 11-plus. She said, “The majority of pupils do not pass the 11-plus and yet despite being in the majority they rarely get acknowledged when it comes to academically selective systems. They present the uncomfortable side of academic selection, they present the side that isn’t ever really raised when we talk about the grammar school debate, and it isn’t ever really raised in the kind of social mobility argument used in support of academically selective education…The pupils within it they are the voices that rarely get heard.”
Michael Rosen, the writer and broadcaster, couldn’t speak about the 11-plus because he’d lost his voice. He recorded his feelings none the less, and explained that, “The 11-plus is socially biased, and it gives many children low expectations. Low expectations affect outcomes. It’s wrong to lay down these expectations at 11.”