The UK Grammar School System (Frequently Asked Questions)

Grammar schools are state-based secondary schools in the UK. They are designed to identify students who show the potential to do well in school and place them in a group with like-minded students. The purpose of this is to avoid having to hold these children back because of other students who are not as academically driven as they are.

As a parent of a UK child, you may have some questions about grammar schools. Here are the answers to popular questions UK parents have about grammar schools.

1. When would my child be eligible to attend grammar school?

When your child reaches the last year of primary school they will have the opportunity to take an exam specifically to determine if they will be eligible to attend grammar school. This exam is known as the 11-plus exam because the children taking the exam will usually be around 11 years of age. There is not a standard 11-plus exam – the exam may differ in different regions. Those students who pass the exam could have the opportunity to attend a local grammar school. Those who do not meet the mark of the exam will simply move on to a comprehensive secondary school. It truly depends on the availability the grammar school has and the ideal students they are seeking to have attending their school. 

2. Will I need to contribute any funds for my child to attend grammar school?

Similar to if your child would attend any other school, (such as the comprehensive secondary school) grammar schools are funded based on funds allocated by the central government. Local authorities establish a formula (typically based on how many students are at each school) in order to distribute the funds adequately. Grammar schools may also ask parents for donations or yearly contributions towards the costs of trips and events organised by the school. This amount is usually minimal and the more children a parent has in the school, the less they pay.

3. What are the benefits of my child attending a grammar school versus the comprehensive secondary  school?

Historically, grammar schools  have identified students who are destined for further education. The school and education system  continually evolve and students are continually given additional opportunities to further their education. However, there are still additional benefits to students attending grammar schools instead of  comprehensive secondary schools. Even though there has been some controversy about whether or not grammar schools should continue to exist, (due to them separating children into different education classes) there are still great arguments for parents to send their children to grammar school. Children are placed in classes with students who have a similar skillset and have similar education goals. This provides your child with the opportunity to learn in a positive environment that supports their unique skill level and education goals.

Grammar schools are structured to set your child up for success and make the advancement to attending college/university in the future an easier transition. They are also said to provide opportunities for bright students from poor backgrounds to better their lot, because admission into these schools is based on academic performance and not external reasons.Statistics also show pupils that attended a grammar have a higher earning potential than pupils from comprehensive secondary schools.

 Grammar schools generally admit students of the same academic ability and lessons progress more effectively than at comprehensive secondary schools. League table reports show that grammar school pupils record better GCSE results and make greater progress at KS3 and KS4.

It is always important to do your research when it comes to anything involving your children. As a parent, you want what is best for your child and you want to make sure they are provided with as many opportunities as possible. If grammar school is what you feel may be best for your child, it is definitely something to look into and see if your child may be eligible to receive an invitation for a spot in your local grammar school.