Are Grammar Schools Free?

PUBLISHED: September 7, 2020

 UPDATED: October 15, 2020

Are Grammar Schools Free

Grammar schools do not charge fees because they are funded by the state. A few grammar schools have boarding facilities who charge fees for boarding, but not for tuition.

Grammar schools provide free education. Grammar schools are state-funded schools like any other secondary school in the country. All of the grammar schools in England are secondary schools. They are also known as selective schools because they in-take pupils through a strict selection process. Grammar schools select their pupils using an entrance exam called the 11-plus.

Under the grammar school selection process, pupils who pass the "11 Plus" exam would go to the local grammar school. Those who do not pass or not taken the test would go to the allocated secondary comprehensive school.

Grammar schools are the only government-funded state secondary schools in England that are allowed to select all students based on their academic ability.

What is grammar school?

Grammar schools are a particular type of state-funded secondary schools that select their pupils through an entrance examination taken by children at age 10 and the exam will take place at the beginning of Year 6, known as the "11 plus" exam.

82% of Grammar schools were rated outstanding.

According to Ofsted, 82% of Grammar schools were rated outstanding as of August 2016, compared to just over 20% of all state schools. Further, 17% were rated good. That totals 99% of Grammar schools are either Good or Outstanding. 

Grammar schools: Outstanding rating


State schools: Outstanding rating


Source: Ofsted, "Monthly management information: Ofsted school inspection outcomes", 31st August 2016

The pupil will have to take an entrance exam called "11 plus" and pass to get into grammar school. There is a great demand in England to seek education from the grammar schools. There is no obligation for your child to sit the 11 plus exam.

Grammar schools are most sought after because of the education provided is on par with the best-run private schools in the country.

There are 163 grammar schools in the U.K with a capacity of 176,000 pupils. They are only a small portion of pupil attend grammar schools when compared to the approximately 3,000 state secondaries.

Before we dive deep into the subject, you have to understand the different types of schools in the country.

In this country, primarily, we have three types of secondary schools.

  1. Comprehensive schools (also known as State secondary schools)
  2. Private schools (Also known as Independent schools)
  3. Grammar schools (also known as Selective schools)
Number of Secondary Schools by Type — England

A tiny portion of the pupils are in the Grammar schools because pupils selection is based on merit and aspirants need to pass an entrance test to qualify.

Grammar schools are available only in certain parts of England such as Essex, Buckinghamshire, Kent, Lincolnshire are known for supporting the Grammar schools echo system. 

How Do Grammar Schools Select their Pupils?

Grammar schools select their pupils through an entrance exam, popularly known as the 11-plus exam, which is taken by pupils when they are in their last year of primary school. They choose pupils based on an entrance test, so you may frequently hear people calling them Selective schools. All selective schools in England are secondary schools.

Grammar school aspirants have to take a test known as the 11-plus exam, which is offered to pupil just before last year of their primary school. The 11 plus exam happens towards the end of Year 5 or beginning of Year 6. 

The 11 Plus exam is designed to test the individual's ability to learn and progress in a school environment with peers of a similar standard.

There are many complains about the format of the test as it often features certain types of questions not usually taught in state primary schools.

Some private schools go beyond and touch upon the syllabus that features in the grammar school entrance test. These private schools are in great demand as the pupil have a high familiarity with the 11 plus exam pattern.

The 11 plus entrance exam to enter into grammar school consists of all or a subset of the following subjects:

  • Numerical reasoning (a fancy way of saying "maths")
  • English comprehension, punctuation and grammar
  • Verbal reasoning
  • Non-verbal reasoning
  • Creative writing

There is anecdotal evidence that who have been tutored intensively tend to have much better chances to pass the exam.

The exam boards are attempting to make the tests more accessible to inline with the primary school syllabus.

In the future, the exam will feature word problems that children are familiar and closer to what they been taught in primary school.

Individual Grammar schools admit students by their rank order offering placements to the crème de la crème of pupils who secured the top scores.

In certain areas, pupils who pass the test are then ranked by admission criteria, which can consider the distance they live from the school or whether they already have a sibling there.

Due to the popularity of grammar schools, there are plenty of tuition centres in existence to offer comprehensive 11-plus tutoring to children starting from an early age almost when they are in Year 3.

Do grammar schools follow the national curriculum?

Grammar schools follow the same GCSE curriculum to that in the comprehensive state school. Grammar schools give more preference to academic subjects, whereas state schools may offer more vocational courses.

In the state schools also known as comprehensive schools, pupil taught physics, chemistry and biology as a combined science qualification. In contrast, Grammar schools are more likely to offer them as separate subjects. That provides an opportunity to the grammar school pupils to study core subjects in-depth which may be useful for A-levels and beyond. 

On top of it, Grammar school provide a choice to select a wide range of specialist subjects like economics, politics, religious education and business.

A majority of grammar schools are adopting to academy status, which gives them greater flexibility and freedom over their teaching and curriculum.

How are grammar schools funded?

All children between the ages of 5 and 16 are entitled to a free place at a state school in England. Grammar schools are like State schools receive funding through their local authority or directly from the government.

Grammar schools won a more significant portion of government cash via Condition improvement fund in 2019, despite having their own £50 million expansion pot.

Nonetheless, a Department for Education spokesperson dismissed any favouritism in allocating more Condition improvement fund (CIF) money to Grammar schools.

English grammars received on average £4,500 per pupil while other state schools received £5,200.

Funding - Grammar Schools vs State Schools 2016_17

Are grammar schools inspected by Ofsted

Grammar schools are inspected by the Ofsted also known as the Office for Standards in Education Children’s Services and Skills, is an independent body which reports directly to parliament.

Ofsted Rating of Grammar Schools

99% of Grammar schools got an Ofsted rating of either Outstanding or Good





Source: Ofsted, "Monthly management information: Ofsted school inspection outcomes", 31st August 2016

What is the main political parties agenda on Grammar Schools?

The 1998 Education Act prevents to open or establish any new grammar schools in England. However, the conservative government is more favoured to relax the ban on opening new selective schools and allow existing grammar schools to expand and grow school in neighbouring areas, at a future date.

About the author 

Narendra Mandadapu

I started this website to help moms and pops who need a direction to guide their little ones to pass the 11-plus. A few years back, I was exactly in your position and running around like a headless chicken. I firmly believe 11 Plus Preparation Is For Life, not a gateway to Grammar School. I am NOT a genius, but I can see things from a different perspective which helped my son to pass the 11-plus. Since then, I helped hundreds of parents. Fasten your seatbelt as principles taught here would propel your kiddos to the next generation of cutting edge creative Hogwarts rather than an army of 9-5 battalion. Are you ready for the magic?

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