Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 21°C

min temp: 14°C

Search

The pigs have arrived. See the latest

Pigs Gone Wild

news here.

Poll: Can a single test, on a single day of your childhood, significantly affect your life chances? We look at how the 11-plus shaped futures

09:20 21 June 2014

Sheila Hardy

Sheila Hardy

Archant

If that test is the 11-plus, then the answer could well be yes, according to university researchers. Sheena Grant studies the evidence.

Angela Carter, a former hairdresser who went on to become vice-principal of Otley College before quitting to become a life/management coach. Angela Carter, a former hairdresser who went on to become vice-principal of Otley College before quitting to become a life/management coach.

It’s almost 50 years since Henry Neale sat the 11-plus and narrowly missed out on a grammar school place but the emotions stirred by talking about the test and the selective education system it represented haven’t diminished over time.

“I remember weeping into the exam paper,” he says. “You knew how important it was because the teachers kept telling you. I struggled on the day because I was so nervous and wasn’t confident with maths. Also, you knew that if you didn’t pass the 11-plus you would probably end up at the local secondary modern, which had a terrible reputation. Kids were constantly in trouble with the police and the school was in a really rough area. You would be confined to the education scrapheap and the only way out would be a hard, physical dockyard job. How on Earth can you perform at your best in an exam under those circumstances?”

Henry, who now lives in Suffolk, was heartbroken when the results came through. His only hope of avoiding the feared secondary modern in the south coast city of his birth was to get a place at the local technical high school.

“If you were a borderline case you could go for an interview there to see if they would take you,” he says. “That’s what I did. They also reviewed your 11-plus performance to get an idea of your aptitude for the sort of technical education they offered, which was heavily skewed towards subjects such as technical drawing, metalwork, brickwork, physics and chemistry. There was no emphasis on cultural or artistic stuff, although we did do O and A levels. I’m certain that failing the 11-plus had a catastrophic effect on my self-esteem. I wasn’t remotely technically minded and felt like a fish out of water at the technical high school but anything was better than the secondary modern.”

Emilia Del Bono, lead researcher at the University of Essex in a study on the long term effects of grammar school educationEmilia Del Bono, lead researcher at the University of Essex in a study on the long term effects of grammar school education

The disparities of the system were obvious to Henry, even as a child.

“You were constantly made to feel like a failure,” he says. “Our school football team played against the grammar school team. We couldn’t believe the facilities they had. It was palatial compared to our school. God knows how it compared to the secondary modern.”

It wasn’t just that the grammar school was better resourced – it was clear to Henry it had a different calibre of teacher too.

“Our teachers were completely dismissive of us,” he says. “There were certain members of staff who should never have been anywhere near a school. Many were coming to the end of their careers. They just wanted to get through the day, go home and wait for retirement.”

Angela Carter, a former hairdresser who went on to become vice-principal of Otley College before quitting to become a life/management coachAngela Carter, a former hairdresser who went on to become vice-principal of Otley College before quitting to become a life/management coach

After doing A levels, Henry went on to college and had a career in the media but still feels the injustice of the past.

“If I had gone to grammar school I’m sure I would have been treated differently,” he says. “I would probably have gone on to university and perhaps even a higher paid job, if I had wanted one. There were a lot of very bright people who didn’t pass the 11-plus. I’m glad that system has, largely, gone.”

Henry’s memories of selective education in the 1960s are particularly damning but recently-published research from the University of Essex suggests many of his observations may be correct.

The study, carried out and published by the university’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, looked at the long-term impacts of the grammar school system on borderline 11-plus passers. Its findings appear to support claims that success or failure in the test can have a major impact on a child’s whole future.

In The Long Term Effects of Attending an Elite School: Evidence from the UK, Dr Emilia Del Bono and Professor Damon Clark tracked the progress of 12,500 Aberdeen-born children from ante-natal care to age 50. The research found that for girls, grammar school led to an average of almost one whole additional year of full-time education, increasing their chances of getting A levels by almost 25%. Grammar school education led to a 20% increase in gross income, a 10% increase in wages and a significantly decreased fertility rate, by an average of 0.5 children per family. Men who attended grammar school had more than a year extra full-time education, and doubled the probability of receiving a degree, but researchers found no effect on income, wages or fertility by age 50.

A second study, carried out by researchers from the University of Bristol, University of Bath and the Institute of Education, University of London, found the English grammar school system widens the gap between rich and poor.

In ‘Selective schooling systems increase inequality’ Simon Burgess, Matt Dickson and Lindsey Macmillan analysed pay of more than 2,500 people born between 1961 and 1983 and found a much bigger gap between the wages of the highest and lowest paid individuals born in areas with a selective education system than they did in similar local authorities that had introduced comprehensive schools.

“Schools with high ability pupils are more likely to attract and retain high quality teaching staff,” says lead researcher Prof Simon Burgess. “This puts pupils who miss out on a grammar school place at an immediate disadvantage. They will also be part of lower ability peer groups, which affects their chances of succeeding at school too.”

•How did the 11-plus affect you? Write to ealife at 30 Lower, Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

In Essex, pupils can still opt to take the test for a place at one of eight remaining grammar schools. A future edition of ealife will look at the measures some families will take to try and ensure success.

The Trotters Pig

Everyone has a favourite piggy - but which one is it?

Possible views for the new Cornhill in the heart of Ipswich.

A free wifi area could be created in the heart of Ipswich when the Cornhill is rebuilt over the next two years, it has emerged.

Martin Myerscough's Frugalpac cup

A Suffolk entrepreneur could soon be supplying his eco-friendly invention to the world’s largest coffee chain, after grabbing industry attention for his answer to an environmental problem.

Alexander Baxter, owner of gentleman’s accessory firm Baxter & Baxter

A 22-year-old fashion designer who left his day job to build a brand from the ground up has seen his accessories paraded on the red carpet.

A computer-generated image of how the Sizewell complex will look after construction of Sizewell C.

Britain is set to get its first new nuclear power station in generations as EDF’s directors approve investment in Hinkley Point.

Ipswich Hospital

Hundreds of working days were lost at Suffolk’s largest hospital through psychological issues last month, prompting an investigation into the possible link between staff overtime and stress.

The A1071 between Ipswich and Hintlesham.

There was heavy traffic on the A1071 in Hintlesham this evening due to a number of different crashes.

Tess carried a faulty BRCA2 gene, which greatly increases the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.

The family of a 24-year-old woman from Ipswich who has died of cancer have paid tribute to her “strength” and “bravery” as she was determined to live life to the full despite the devastating diagnosis.

Beatrix Potter fun day and celebrations at Long Melford Hall. Pictured is Maisey Doyle.

Birthday celebrations including a picnic, party games and a special trail have been held at a Suffolk hall in honour of the famous children’s author Beatrix Potter.

The Aldeburgh Carnival Queen for 2016 has been chosen

Summer wouldn’t be summer without a seaside procession, a great British fete or a laid back music festival - and all of these happen in abundance on the Suffolk Coast.

Most read

Most commented

HOT JOBS

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Streetlife

Newsletter Sign Up

Great British Life

Great British Life
MyDate24 MyPhotos24