6 August 2016

What if one twin gets into a grammar school and one doesn’t?  Julie Kerwin and Martin Cruft, and their twin daughters Heidi and Heather share their experience.

A parent's perspective

Our daughters had such similar results at school that when they took their Eleven Plus in 2014, we assumed they would either both pass or both fail.

What we didn't realise is quite how many people take the exam. Children just one or two marks apart can end up hundreds of places apart in the final ranking that determines which children get offered a place at a grammar school, and which go to a secondary modern.

We could see from the results that while there was little difference in marks, the ranking was significantly different. We had wanted the girls to go to the same school, but when the allocation letters arrived, in March 2015, Heather had a place at the grammar school and Heidi at the secondary modern.

We never would have considered the Eleven Plus if we'd thought it would mean separating our girls.

The grammar school is a quarter of a mile from our house and the secondary only a little further. We could have let the grammar option go and requested a place for both girls at the secondary modern. But with the girls’ marks so close, we thought we might be able to appeal and get both into the grammar school. If this failed, we could still get them places at the secondary modern.

We got a supporting letter from Twins Trust explaining why it would be better for the girls to be educated at the same school; another from their primary school explaining how similar their work was; latest school reports, and a letter from the doctor showing that Heidi had a Vitamin D deficiency at the time of the exam which could have affected her work. At the appeal, the panel asked no questions and made no comments. Needless to say, we lost.

We considered accepting both places and putting the names of each child on the waiting list of the other school, but the council holds these lists until after the school term starts, and they will not allow a child with a grammar school offer to go on the waiting list of another school without first giving up the grammar place. Worse, our local secondary modern was full, so both girls would have ended up together at a school we did not choose.

In the event, we accepted the places the girls had been offered and put Heidi on the grammar school waiting list. If a place comes up she will need to take an age-equivalent test to secure it.

The whole process has been incredibly difficult. I think I never would have considered the Eleven Plus if I'd thought it would mean separating our girls. I find it difficult watching them set off for school at different times and in different uniforms. But Martin still feels it would have been wrong to deny the girls a chance of a grammar education just because they were twins.

Secondary life

By Heidi

I assumed we would either both go to grammar school or both not. Going to different schools didn’t seem possible, and even after the results, it didn’t seem likely because of the appeal. When that didn't work, and we started getting up at different times, then it became real.

You get to be your own person rather  than one of a set.

My friends helped; most of them didn’t get into grammar school either, and they know me almost as well as Heather. Form time was lonely. Normally I would have walked in with Heather, but she isn't here and neither are my friends: our forms are a mixture of year groups and there are only two year sevens in mine.

Lessons are fine, though, and in some ways you get to be your own person rather than people thinking about you as one of a set. I have gotten used to being away from Heather in the day and seeing her at home, although sometimes our holidays don't coincide, making family holidays hard.

While we do things differently now, we both seem to get picked for the same activities in school competitions - we were both picked for a cross country competition and came only one place apart!

To be honest, being in separate schools isn't that bad. I might miss Heather sometimes, but I still see her outside school.

At the grammar

By Heather

When we got the results I got that feeling where your heart plunges all the way to your toes. I felt sad for my sister, but to tell the truth, I was so proud of my score that it didn't sink in that we would now spend lots of our lives apart.

Heidi helped me most to adjust. I was more concerned about how she was than how I was, and she convinced me she didn't mind and we would still see each other. I realised there was nothing I could do to change the situation, so I decided to get on with being where I was rather than where I might have been had it all worked out. I do feel that we are becoming more different, though that may have happened anyway.

I found it annoying at first when people said, ‘Oh no! It must be absolutely terrible!’ as if it was a disaster, when actually, after a short time, going to separate schools became normal. On the downside, we have different friends who want to come over and then everyone starts moaning about how they want their friends to come over and before you know it, you have a full-blown house party going on (not good!).

I do feel that we are becoming more different, though that may have happened anyway.

After a few terms, it all became normal. It's only an issue now when we play Heidi's school at netball and I have to explain we are twins. I get asked that question so much I might just write it down and hold it up every time anyone looks at us!