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January 03 , 2010

Eleven Plus without the Fuss

National Edition


Secondary School selection has never been so complex. The range of state schools - academies, faith schools, voluntary-aided, free schools, etc. has never been greater. In addition, competition for places at academically selective state grammar and independent schools is higher than ever.

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This book is a groundbreaking step-by-step guide to help parents navigate the maze of choices. Supported by articles written by parents, head teachers and inspectors, issues such as 'how to choose a school', single sex or co-ed, state or private, the Prep School system and Common Entrance, bursaries, scholarships and recognising a learning difficulty are covered objectively and sensitively. Children's developmental, emotional and spiritual well-being are recognised and a whole section is devoted to help parents keep it in perspective!


"This is a book for our time. Its purpose is to enable parents to navigate their way through an increasingly complex educational system, in order to make an informed choice in one of the most important decisions that they will make for their child – which secondary school?

The character of schools has always of course been of interest to the discerning parent. Parents often talk to others about the merits of local schools, particularly at those crucial times when their offspring are about to transfer from one stage of schooling to another. Schools sometimes acquire ‘reputations’ for being ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in general or specific terms. The keen interest in reputations indicates that parents firmly believe that schools can confer advantages or disadvantages on those who attend them.  In other words, choice of school matters!

The last three decades can be seen as one of the most intensive periods of change in the history of the education system. Change has continued unabated to the present day. It has resulted in the centralisation of the curriculum, national testing, league tables, the creation of alternative types of schools inside and outside the maintained sector, and a dramatic reduction in the responsibilities of LEAs.

Over 90% of primary school children will transfer to secondary state schools, of which there are four main kinds: Community, Foundation & Trust, Voluntary Aided and Voluntary Controlled. In addition to these there are City Technology Colleges, Free Schools, Grammar Schools, Faith Schools, and Specialist Academies – a bewildering choice! There is a wealth of information available to parents about these different types of state secondary schools on various government websites. However, many parents of children in state primary schools are unaware of the range of independent schools in their locality, whether their child might be eligible to apply, and more crucially, how to prepare them for the 11+ or Common Entrance exams. 

As the former headteacher of a Voluntary Aided primary school I saw it as part of my role to advise parents of pupils at the beginning of Year 5, of the types of schools available, what questions they might ask on Open Days and I explained the application processes to both state and independent secondary schools. However, my experience as an Ofsted Inspector inspecting primary schools across the country was that guidance for parents on the transition to Secondary School was often ad hoc.

What this book does very effectively is to extend the general information available to parents, about possible choices of school, to include independent schools (also known as ‘private schools’). By equipping parents with valuable insights and guidance, hints about how to spot good leadership, the right questions to ask at Open Days and advice about assisted places, the authors speak with authority and credibility. With many years’ experience of successfully tutoring children in Surrey to gain entry to local grammar and independent schools, Anita Hill has creditable experience in this sphere.

I am also particularly heartened by the inclusion of the ‘Missing Piece’ section of the book and it contains advice we could all use from time to time! Parents sometimes get terribly worked up about their child’s progress, and usually the child senses this, which is ultimately counter-productive. Yes, school applications are important, but a secure, well-adjusted child from a happy, nurturing environment will make the world a better place regardless of educational background. 

By taking the fuss out of eleven plus and making this knowledge available to a wider range of parents in state primary schools, Anita and Tim Hill will have empowered them to access, from an informed position, the most suitable secondary school for their child. I urge headteachers and governors to also read this book and to consider how they might use it to support and inform parents and prepare pupils who are in the process of transition to secondary school."

Christabel McLean-Bacchus, MA (Ed)
Headteacher and Ofsted Additional Inspector - retired

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