Why Don’t Mums Talk About the 11 Plus?

Why Don’t Mums Talk About the 11 Plus?

Since its inception in the 1940s, the 11 Plus has created competition amongst children. This is understandable – it is they who write the exams and they who face selection for grammar schools. But who would have thought that mums (and some dads, too!) Take this competition to such extreme lengths.

It’s one of those hidden secrets at the school gates that only emerge once all the registrations and exams are well and truly over. Mums just don’t talk about the 11 Plus as much as they should when their child is in Year 5. It can be a real shock to the system (I’ve been there!) when school mum friends suddenly play the silent game when the conversation of secondary school choices come up – especially when your children are the same gender.

It’s amazing to think that of all the thousands of places available across grammar schools, mums see children in their child’s class or year group as competition. Yes, it’s true that they are in competition with each other, but the secrecy can often create problems when children don’t pass grammar school selection tests. 

Having open conversations about the exams among mums and the children alike would create a much more relaxed approach to the exams.  Every year, I see children go through the preparation of the 11 Plus thinking it is just their parents who have called time on their social life, replacing it with books galore. If they could find evidence amongst their classmates that they are not in the minority (or the only known entity), it could make their experience a lot more positive.  

The 11 Plus Secrecy is Unfair to Some Parents

Unfortunately, not discussing the 11 Plus has one key disadvantage: parents who are not used to the UK education system don’t find out about the exams (or grammar schools) in time to apply. This is even more the case if they live in boroughs that don’t have grammar schools (most of the London boroughs, for example). So, many mums who don’t understand the UK education system get left behind. They don’t ever find out how to play the game when it comes to choosing a secondary school for their child because of this hidden secret.

There’s a lot of debate about whether grammar schools create a social class divide, but clearly the lack of information provided about them to parents creates other divides, in particular race. This isn’t the forum in which I would explore this – I like to keep Geek School’s blog posts informative and actionable. Therefore, the following video will be extremely insightful for all parents. I’d love to hear your feedback.


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