History of the 11+

On this page you can find information about the history of the 11 Plus exam.

In the 1944 Education Act, schooling in the United Kingdom was rearranged so that children would be entitled to free education between the ages of 5 and 15. So children aged 5-11 would attend a primary school, and children aged 11-15 would attend a Secondary school. At this time there were three types of Secondary schools - Grammar Schools, Secondary Modern Schools and Technical Schools or Colleges. Each school was designed to fit in with the child's capablities, so a grammar school would suit those who were academic and wanted to go onto university, whilst a Technical School suited those who wished to pursue a trade, with a Secondary Modern fitting somewhere in between. All children took the 11 Plus exam in their final year of primary school and based on their performance in this exam, they would then go onto one of these three types of secondary school.

As time went on, many policitians and educationalists felt that this system was not fair on the less academic children. For example they felt that local education authority funding was biased towards the grammar schools and so by the 1960's the then Labour Government decided to bring in a comprehensive system of education. The idea was to abolish the three school system and introduce a more "comprehensive" system where all children were to be treated fairly and would all attend the same type of secondary school. Children would no longer have to take the 11 Plus examination to see which secondary school they would go to. This meant that by the 1970's the number of Grammar Schools declined rapidly to be replaced by Comprehensives. The speed of this change varied from local authority to local authority as there was no set time limit for this process to happen. Some grammar schools elected to become private grammar schools, some changed to comprehensives and some remained as grammar schools. The latter group are what we have in England today. In Scotland the system was somewhat different with Academy Schools being the main secondary school. In Wales all grammar schools were phased out by the end of the 1970's.

In Northern Ireland the 1947 Education Act led to more grammar schools being built and these have remained in place until 2008, when the the 11+ exam was phased out. Since then most secondary schools have continued to set a selection test similar to the 11+, but no longer called the 11+. Two different bodies were set up to deal with the applications. These are  the Post Transfer Consortium and the Association for Quality Education.

In 1997 when the new Labour government was elected a law was introduced which allowed parents from an area where there was a grammar school to vote for the abolition of the local grammar school. Although a few referrenda did take place, none of them succeeded in their aim and so grammar schools still remain in a strong position today with strong parental support in their favour. Grammar schools invariably do well in the League Tables for secondary schools and their Ofsted reports are usually very impressive.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE HISTORY OF THE 11+ EXAM AND OTHER PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF THE EXAM PLEASE REFER TO THE BOOK BELOW. PRESS ON THE PICTURE FOR MORE DETAILS

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