Grammar school application tips

Everything you need to know. Here are our grammar school application tips.

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Plus, the differences in your grammar school application are detailed below.

Everything you need to know about differences in Grammar School applications! - cathedral

Grammar schools are state secondary schools which select their pupils by means of an examination taken by children at age 10 or 11. This is known as the “11-Plus”.

The first grammar schools, called ‘scolae grammaticales’, such as King’s School in Canterbury, first appeared from the 6th century. They were usually attached to cathedrals and monasteries. They focused on teaching Latin which was the language of the church. However, it wasn’t until the Education Act of 1944 that the first state-funded grammar schools emerged.

Who were grammar schools aimed at? 

They were aimed at the most intellectual 25% of children (as defined by the 11-Plus). They focused mostly on an academic curriculum, including Latin. Initially, children studied for the School Certificate and the Higher School Certificate. However, these were replaced in 1951 with the General Certificate of Education (GCE) at ‘O’ (Ordinary) level and ‘A’ (Advanced) level.

In the 1940s and 1950s, there were over 1200 grammar schools that were fully state funded. There were also a smaller number of direct grammar schools which were partly state-funded but also took money from fee-paying parents (ie. Manchester Grammar School).

When is the 11 Plus taken?

Children generally sit the 11-Plus test for grammar schools during the Autumn term of Year 6, which is the beginning of their last year at primary school. This means that they are likely to be 10 or 11 years old when they take the exam. They will enter secondary school in September of the following year (Year 7) when they are 11 or just turning 12.

Other types of state school

The alternative was secondary modern schools. Aimed at children aged between 11 and 15, secondary modern schools taught some academic subjects, such as arithmetic. However, they usually focused on more ‘practical’ skills including metalwork, woodwork and cookery. Before the advent of the national curriculum in 1988, it was up to the individual school to decide the exact subjects they taught.

How to apply to grammar school

Application differences

Both grammar schools and private schools are usually academically selective and require the student to pass an entrance test. Today there are around 163 grammar schools in England and a further 67 in Northern Ireland. Only a handful of local authorities in England have kept selective schools across all of the boroughs. These include Kent, Medway, Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire. In other areas, such as Gloucestershire, Trafford and Slough there is a mix. There are also a number of grammar schools in a few of the London boroughs as well as in Birmingham and Bournemouth. Approximately 45% of children in Northern Ireland attend a grammar school compared to just 5% in England.

grammar school application tips

How do I find grammar schools in my area?

One source for finding local grammar schools is the National Grammar Schools Association. This allows you to search for grammar schools by different counties. Here’s a list of English grammar schools and a list for Nothern Ireland’s grammar schools. You can also search by region.

Best grammar school results?

The Telegraph’s top grammar schools list is based on GCSE results. Tiffin Girls’ School in Kingston Upon Thames was the number one grammar school. The second was Upton Court Grammar School in Slough (boys and girls) and third was Queen Elizabeth’s School in Barnet (boys).

Are all the 11-Plus exams the same throughout the UK?

No. Each region has different types of questions and even different subjects. Most 11-Plus exams incorporate verbal reasoning (word puzzles), Maths and English (comprehension and/or creative writing). Some also include non-verbal reasoning (picture puzzles) and Science. Some are multiple choice, others require candidates to write the answers.

Who sets the questions for the 11-Plus?

There are several companies which provide 11-Plus exam papers. However, the main two are the GL Assessment and Durham’s CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring). Although GL Assessment still remains the biggest supplier of 11-Plus papers for schools and local authorities, Durham CEM’s papers are gaining in popularity because they claim to be more ‘tutor-proof’. According to its website “CEM aims to reduce any disadvantage created between children who are tutored for tests and those who are not.” It continues: “Our assessments are designed to enable all children to demonstrate their academic potential without the need for excessive preparation.”

Everything you need to know about differences in Grammar School applications!

Which other types of 11-Plus test are there?

In addition to these two companies, 10 grammar schools in the Essex area have their own 11-Plus exam. In Northern Ireland, candidates take a separate exam called the Northern Ireland Transfer Test.

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What are the key differences between CEM and GL Assessment tests?

CEM exams group the Verbal Reasoning 11+ and the English 11+ tests together. CEM exams are also divided into separately timed sections. It’s therefore important that children learn how to manage their time correctly as it’s not possible to return to sections once completed. Nevertheless, the CEM entrance tests cover the same subject areas (Maths, English, Verbal and Non-Verbal Reasoning) as the GL Assessment tests. They also have the same standardized pass-mark (121).

What about a Grammar School application for the CSSE test?

The CSSE test in Essex is a little different comprising only English (including creative writing) and Maths papers. The English paper is 60 minutes + 10 minutes of reading time, and the Maths paper is 60 minutes in total. Further information on the CSSE test.

How do I know which company our local grammar schools use?

You can find a list of grammar schools using the CEM Entrance Test. Here is a list of grammar schools using the GL Assessment test.

How do 11+ pass rates vary?

October’s test results come in the form of a standardised score. Parents will then have until the end of October to apply for secondary school places. Place allocation is at the beginning of March.

It varies considerably around the country. Kingston and Sutton’s four grammar schools in Kingston are the most oversubscribed/ The 11+ pass rate is less than 5 percent. In areas where the grammar system has been retained in full, the 11+ pass rate is considerably higher. In Buckinghamshire, it is around 30 percent each year and in Kent, it is about 50 per cent.

grammar school application tips

Can I appeal my Grammar School application?

It is possible to appeal a decision if you believe that the school has breached its own admission policies, that your child’s future could be harmed by not attending the school, or if there’s absolutely compelling proof that your child underperformed in the exams. The appeal procedure will normally involve submitting evidence, such as a letter from the head of the primary school, as well as attending an interview. However, don’t build your hopes up! Only around one in four appeals are successful. For more information, visit School Appeals Services.

Where can I get past Grammar School application and practice grammar schools test papers?

Some schools and local areas publish past papers and sample questions on their websites. Kent’s Familiarisation booklet is very useful. You can also find a range of past papers on School Entrance Tests including papers for English 11+, Maths 11+, Science 11+ and Non-Verbal reasoning 11+.

grammar school application tips