War Horse author Michael Morpurgo: 'Failing 11-plus was like a dagger to the heart'

Writer Michael Morpurgo has hit out at the "pressure" put on children by constantly being tested in schools.

As the grammar schools debate continues, the War Horse author spoke about his own experience of failing the 11-plus when he was a boy.

He told ITV News: "The word fail hits you like a dagger in the heart when you're that age.

"You don't forget it, and I think it somehow sends you into a spiral that you simply can't get out of.

"The notion is that they have thought you to be stupid, that's what it tells you."

His comments come after prime minister Theresa May revealed plans to potentially give the green light to a new generation of grammar schools.

But critics have called it "elitist" and claim it amounts to "segregation".

While eight in 10 teachers said they were against the plans.

The former children's laureate revealed all his exam results were bad - but it was the teachers that got him through.

He said: "I failed the 11-plus, I got poor O-level results, my A-levels were not brilliant and my degree was certainly not brilliant, really bad in fact.

"What happens with testing is that you divide those who succeed from those that fail.

"I got lucky, I had one or two good teachers who just about kept me going right the way through.

"But if you don't have that, you fall into this hole which is no books, which very often means a lack of knowledge, a lack of understanding of yourself and the world about you.

"And look at what a difficult world we live in today, look how hard it is for children to grow up.

"We need to stop concentrating on the top, top, top all the time."

Morpurgo wrote War Horse - which is now a West End spectacle. Credit: PA

Asked how children could be better engaged in books, Morpurgo said: "You don't quiz them at the end of the day.

"You just let them walk out and go down the road with the dream of the story still in their head. That's the way you get children to love books.

"And if parents think this is a good idea, they are going to go home to books or they go to the library. But we have to have libraries open, not closed - all this, we must focus on.

"We have to persuade those growing through the education process that books are something to love.

"They can be the pathway to knowledge and understanding and all these wonderful things, but they've got to learn to love the books first - give them the love, that's the thing."