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【The Standard】Big plus of grammar schools

School Guide


In the uk today, there are many different types of schools to choose from. Of course, there are the big names which are known all over the world: Eton College, Harrow School, Winchester College and so on.

These are all examples of independent schools. Some independent schools are boarding schools, some are day schools, some are single-sex and some are mixed, but what they all have in common is that they are fee-paying.

Then, there are state schools. These are run by the state and do not have to be paid for by parents. Most of you will be aware of these two types, but there is also a third type in the UK.

This third type is a grammar school. These schools are not fee-paying, but they are selective – meaning that there are limited places available for those students who show academic promise. 

This concept of an excellent school that does not cost a lot of money is, understandably, always very appealing to parents.

This is also the kind that will be of interest to many families in Hong Kong who are now considering resettling in the UK through new pathways offered by the BNO passport.

Grammar schools are nearly always day schools, so traditionally they wouldn’t have been so appropriate for international students. For families who are UK residents, though, it is clearly a different story.

To give you some idea of the rarity of these schools, there are more than 4,000 secondary schools in Britain and of these only 163 are grammar schools.

So what does this mean for students who want to earn a place? It means that exceptionally good results must be achieved in the entrance exams.

What can you expect to be tested on in the entrance exams? The core elements are always English, maths, as well as verbal and non-verbal reasoning. An overall score is given to each student based on all of these elements.

In the English county of Kent, one of the “home counties” that border Greater London, students must rank in the top 10 to 15 percent to apply for a grammar school.

It goes without saying, then, that a lot of advanced preparation is advisable for any student wishing to get their place at one of these schools.

However, it should not be assumed that only the naturally academically gifted can make the cut.

You can think of preparing for the entrance exam almost in terms of training for a sport – hard work and commitment go a very long way. This is because the format is always the same. You know what material you will be tested on; the time limits that will be imposed on the day of the exam; you can learn techniques to solve certain problems more efficiently and improve your performance through practice and tuition.

One very good preparation service that my team and I at Britannia always recommend is provided by a company called Atom Learning. This is actually the UK’s leading 11 Plus and pre-test online revision platform and is tailored to learning both at home and in the classroom.

Essentially, this is the best way for students to get their brains fit and ready for the all-important entrance exam.

The mock exams from Atom are for any students aged eight to 12 who are interested in grammar schools in the UK.

They are also a good initial step to see if students have academic potential that could be developed. The tests are easy to sit as they can be done online, at home in a quiet space and last for around two hours, costing around HK$220.

Following the mock exam, you receive thorough feedback that lets you understand your strengths and weaknesses as shown by the results.

To find out more about grammar schools and Atom Learning mock exams or information on UK schools in general – including boarding and state schools – visit or give our team a call on 3184-0362.