What Are Grammar Schools: Benefits And Setbacks

You might have heard about the term “grammar school” without knowing what it means. Grammar schools are primarily found in Britain and Australia.

Some countries colonized by the British also have them, making them model secondary schools because of their relevance in establishing a learning culture for students who desire higher education.

Grammar schools may not currently be what they used to be. However, it still has an impact on the educational sector.

Like other secondary or high schools, they created a solid foundation for students who wanted to be masters in various academic fields like science and languages.

This article will tell you all you need to know about grammar schools. Starting from its definition, history, characteristics, benefits, and setbacks of grammar schools.

With this new knowledge, you can compare them to other kinds of schools and how it serves a greater purpose in shaping education.

Definition of Grammar Schools

We can define grammar schools as state secondary schools that admit students at the age of eleven. They are also known as “11-plus” schools. The process of admission is available for students who are 11 and younger.

They would sit for an entrance examination, and those who passed would get into grammar school. Nevertheless, not everyone gets in. Those who do not meet the examination criteria will have other “secondary modern schools.”

Grammar schools focused on academic prowess; traditional teaching methods were imbibed with strict discipline. Some of them may be all-male or all-female schools. On the other hand, male and female students can attend them depending on the school’s vision.

From the definitions above, you will discover that grammar schools accept students based on academic excellence alone. Other secondary modern schools usually balance theoretical knowledge with others, like vocational skills.

The government funds grammar schools, which stood as the only type of secondary school that could select students based on education alone.

Students who aspire to attend these schools will undergo tests in English, mathematics, verbal, and aptitude reasoning.

History Of Grammar Schools

Grammar schools were very active in the medieval period. In this period, ancient Greek and Latin were the order of teaching. Not long ago, other European languages, natural sciences, mathematics, history, and geography became part of the curriculum.

In the early 19th century, these schools developed into secondary schools with the government’s support. However, as time passed, comprehensive secondary schools turned out to be more attractive to people who thought that students should not be restricted to academics alone.

This led to the influence of grammar schools being on the decline. While some remained as grammar schools, others transformed into comprehensive modern schools but kept the name “grammar school.”

Characteristics of grammar school

1. Government-owned

As early as the 14th century, grammar schools existed. When the learners are of the required age, they learn from great scholars so that they can serve in the king’s court later in the future.

The government was impressed by their achievements in literature and science. This was how they came to be.

Moreover, these schools have always been an initiative of the government to produce students who are excellent in academics.

The government develops and oversees most grammar schools in the United Kingdom and some parts of Australia. However, it differs from a regular public school because it only accepts a particular set of pupils yearly.

2. Academic achievement

One of the ways to gain acceptance into a grammar school is through academic achievement.

Aspiring students will have to take tests in mathematics, English language, creative writing and comprehension, verbal reasoning, and other relevant subjects. Students who meet the required scores will advance in school.

In addition, most students with an average age of 11 years are eligible for admission. This is because students of that age prove to be better learners of the curriculum that the grammar school will provide.

Grammar school students passing through the school should exhibit critical thinking.

3. Rigid curriculum

In grammar schools, students and teachers follow a rigid syllabus for the various subjects taught in the school. They also take most of their classes in a formal classroom setting where the teacher lectures the students. There is little or no room for flexibility, especially among the teachers.

Because they admit students who excel academically, the curriculum tends to push students to study and practice harder.

Most of the time, students who graduate from grammar schools tend to perform better academically in higher institutions because of the curriculum’s strictness.

4. It is cheaper

Grammar schools are cheaper than private secondary schools. They are also better quality than other government comprehensive schools too.

Because of this, parents often ensure their children work hard enough to get into grammar schools so they do not have to pay more for a lower educational standard.

It is important to note that these schools raise funds directly from the state government and alumni.

Successful students who have passed through the school often give back to make sure the school improves the academic lives of the current students. With this means of funding, they would always continue to remain relevant. 

5. Little or no practical classes

Technical and vocational subjects require skills and practicality.

Students skilled in various handcrafts do not have the opportunity to exhibit them because the curriculum sticks to theoretical subjects that involve critical thinking.

Because there are no practical classes to take in these subjects, grammar school students rarely improve their skills.

However, some grammar schools promote extracurricular activities so students can have time to explore other areas and keep their physical and mental bodies fit.

This tends to cover the lack of practical classes because students can learn new skills during extracurricular sessions.

Benefits of grammar school

1. Better learning environment

Because the state government sponsors the school, grammar schools are better equipped to suit the needs of students and teachers alike.

The school ensures that students get the best learning environment to achieve their goals of becoming notable scholars in the future.

In addition, students are exposed to good classrooms, a working library for study, functioning laboratories for projects, and many other valuable facilities.

If a grammar school aims to produce quality students for the future, creating an excellent learning atmosphere should be of the utmost priority.

2. Promotes equity

We have established that grammar schools are affordable for every parent. This means that children from humble backgrounds can access quality education as quickly as those from wealthy homes.

Since the criterion is academic excellence, a poor child from a poor family has the same opportunity as a child of affluence.

This helps build the gaps between the two worlds and opens more doors of opportunities to those that cannot get it in the outside society.

They provide a ladder for poor children to climb higher in the community, provided they meet academically. This is known as social mobility.

3. Maintains high academic performance

Before a child gets into grammar school, he or she must be academically outstanding by scoring higher than the cut-off mark set by the school.

A lot of 11-year-old students who want to access quality education often create competition for the limited spots available during the admission season. This makes the school set a high cut-off mark so that the best of the best can be selected.

By maintaining this admission process, grammar schools often produce outstanding students who excel in higher institutions.

Compared to other categories of secondary schools, they possess the most students with consistently high-performing academic results. Furthermore, it is no surprise that these schools always want to create a standard.

4. Higher self-esteem

Students who attend grammar schools tend to have higher self-esteem.

In other private secondary schools, learners get bullied for doing well academically, discouraging them and other students who want to excel in their academics. However, that is not the case in grammar schools because excellence is a priority.

Moreover, when a student gets a reward for academic excellence, it inspires other students to achieve better in their learning activities. This trait follows them even after their school years by motivating them to be the best in their various fields.

5. Parents often favor grammar schools

Parents prefer to send their children to grammar schools than other secondary schools. Most of them are state-owned, and it is cheap and accessible in their locality. These parents tend to save costs on tuition and transportation.

Furthermore, people see it as a very prestigious school. Parents who have kids in grammar school are always proud of their academic success. They believe the child has a high prospect of becoming relevant in the future.

Most parents from humble backgrounds ensure their children become better members of society by setting high academic standards for them.

Setbacks of grammar school

1. Grammar schools do not promote talent

Because academic performance is the requirement for admission, students with talents may not have what it takes to qualify for grammar schools.

This has a negative psychological effect on 11-year-old students who believe they are not good enough because their talents are not enough to get them admitted.

In addition to this, students who gain acceptance into these schools often do not have time to develop other hidden talents that they have as well as build social skills. They are stuck with rigorous school projects and assignments that keep them busy.

Once they leave school, it might be difficult for some of them to have a wonderful social life because of their poor interpersonal skills.

2. Favors the rich

While some believe that grammar schools help bridge the social diversity gap, others think that the rich will always have an edge.

Due to the competitive nature of the admission process, wealthier children have a better chance of getting admitted because their parents can afford quality tutoring. This limits the hopes of a child from a family that cannot afford extra tutoring.

Even after the students gain admission, those from wealthy homes tend to easily bully those from humble homes, making it difficult for them to build quality relationships.

3. High academic performance is a myth

Getting into a grammar school does not guarantee that academic performance will remain high. Students who attend other comprehensive secondary schools sometimes outperform students from grammar schools academically.

Most parents began to favor comprehensive secondary schools, and grammar schools lost their relevance. Comprehensive secondary schools often allow students to combine academic and vocational skills, and it helps them to be better learners.

On the other hand, the low extracurricular activities in grammar schools negatively affect their overall academic performance compared to different secondary schools.


Are grammar schools the same as private schools?

Grammar schools are state-owned and rely on the state government’s sponsorship. Alternatively, private schools differ from grammar schools because individuals or groups own them privately.

Are grammar schools boarding schools?

No. Some provide boarding facilities for students, but not all grammar schools are boarding schools.

Are grammar schools free?

Grammar schools are free because they get funds from the state government. However, students who attend a boarding grammar school will have to pay boarding fees to keep up with the cost of living.


In this article, we now know the definition and history of grammar schools. We have also seen its characteristics, advantages, and disadvantages and how it contributes positively to the academic sector. 

Grammar schools have been an important part of British education since their inception. Because it is free, students can easily access quality education and a better future life.

Although most of them have reduced in quality today, I believe that they are successful in making students become high achievers.

Lastly, you can check out the article on why private schools are better than public schools if you consider enrolling your child in a private school.

I hope you got value. Thanks for reading.