Grammar School Entry Advice for Parents



Passing the 11 Plus exam gives your child the opportunity to apply for grammar school entrance. However, even with an eleven plus pass, admission isn’t a guarantee. Over-subscription often means that students are subject to the school’s admissions criteria.


Every Local Authority has different admissions criteria and individual schools often have their own selection process too. Because there’s such a variation in grammar school admissions, we’ve put together this post to provide you with a general overview of the grammar school entrance system.


How Are Grammar School Places Allocated?


Girl with a pen in her hand and books

Every Local Authority has its own admissions criteria


Grammar school entrance is governed by the School Admissions Code, who set out criteria that every local authority needs to follow. Within this criteria, individual schools are able to set their own admissions policies to satisfy their own requirements. Children who are in care or have special needs are given priority places.


Some of the criteria that grammar schools choose to base their admissions policy on can include:


Catchment Area


Some schools use catchment areas as a means of admission when places are over-subscribed. So-called ‘priority areas’ mean that pupils from certain postcodes are given priority places over others out with the catchment area.


Distance from School


One of the most common admissions criteria is the distance pupils live from the school. Those who live closer are given priority. Exact distances are measures using ordnance survey maps to provide a fair assessment.


Sibling Priority


Students who already have a brother or sister at the school are sometimes given priority places. However, each school enforces this differently, for example, they may state that the brother or sister needs to be in a specific year group at the time of applying.


Special Relationship Priority


In some cases, grammar school places are given to pupils whose parents or close relatives are teachers at the school.


Scores in the 11 Plus Exam


When places are over-subscribed, some schools, known as ‘super-selective’ grammars look at the 11 Plus test scores. Those with the highest scores are admitted first until all places are filled.


Feeder Schools


Grammar schools sometimes give priority to pupils from partnered feeder schools. This criterion is often used as a way of discouraging parents that would consider moving house in order to be in a certain catchment area.




Faith schools are able to prioritise pupils based on their religion and involvement in a certain faith. Application forms, followed by interviews are sometimes used as a means of testing a family’s devotion to the faith.




Partially selective schools allocate places to pupils with particular talents. For example, a child may be admitted to a grammar school on the basis that they have a particular aptitude for sport, art, or languages.




Schools that strive to admit pupils of all abilities often do so through the two types of banding criteria. The first is common banding, where all pupils across the local authority are given an entry test and the second is where schools can use their own tests. The schools admissions code ensures that all banding is fair and not disproportionate to high-achieving students.


Lottery System


The lottery system is a process of random selection, whereby pupils that satisfy the allocations criteria are chosen by an unbiased computerised programme.


Exceptional Circumstances


In cases where students are at risk of being excluded from allocation on the basis of medical, educational, or social grounds, exceptional circumstance criteria can be used alongside professional supporting evidence.


A Combination of Criteria


In some cases, a combination of criteria from the above is used to for selection, which can become quite confusing for parents who want to understand the admissions process fully.


Grammar School Entry Advice


advice for parents ahead of the 11 Plus

Preparing your child with practice papers will help familiarise them with the exam


Now that you have a general overview of how the admissions process works, here are our tips for preparing your child for grammar school entry:


Try to set your child’s expectations about the success of gaining a place at their first-choice school. It’s important that they are prepared for the eventuality that may not be allocated a place.


If the school has an interview process, it can be beneficial to prepare your child by discussing topical news issues that show an awareness of the world around them. During interviews, schools look for evidence of good communication and social interaction and having an awareness of current affairs can demonstrate both these skills.


In preparation for the 11 Plus exam, ensure that your child revises every relevant subject from Maths, English, Verbal Reasoning, Non-Verbal Reasoning and Spatial Awareness. Divide attention between each subject according to their strengths and weaknesses.


Practice with 11 + mock exam papers in the lead up to the exam and allocate the correct amount of time for each paper. This way, your child will become familiar with how long they have to spend on each question and they types of questions being asked.



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