The misallocation of the eleven-plus

The aim of the 11 plus is to accurately select high achieving children and put them in a more academic school setting. It is clear that a short multiple choice test is not a very accurate way to select children for this purpose, and the graphic below illustrates this well. The Sutton Trust commissioned a report compaing eventual GCSE results with pupil’s pass/fail results in the 11 plus. It found that 11% of grammar school pupils did not deserve to be in the more academic school based on eventual outcomes, and it found that 11% of children who failed the 11 plus were denied grammar school but deserved places.


Here’s a comment from one of these ‘misallocated’ children from Kent.

“I failed my 11+ and went to a pretty bad school. There were a lot of supply teachers and we didn’t often get homework, which I didn’t mind at the time! I worked hard for my GCSE and I got 10 A grades. I had to move to a grammar schools to do A levels because my school didn’t offer many options, mostly BTECs and not many A levels. I couldn’t have done the subjects I wanted if I’d stayed in my school.

I know I did well in my GCSE, but what makes me angry is that there are kids in the grammar sixth form who did worse than the kids in my school. But just because they passed the 11+ they’re allowed to be in the better sixth form. It doesn’t seem very fair. Not many children at my school moved to grammar school for sixth form because they didn’t know if they’d get high enough grades, so it was easy to stay in the school they knew.

I suppose I caught up after taking the test. I don’t know if I’m clever, I think I just worked hard! My mum thinks I should have been able to go to grammar school, but the test said I couldn’t. I don’t think I would have wanted to move schools if they had let me in later, moving schools is hard.

I think the school system in Kent is wrong to think children can be defined into two groups at ten years old. If you don’t accept that the test is accurate then you can’t think that the grammar school system is fair.”

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