If you're in favour of a return to grammar schools (and secondary moderns) what percentages would you choose?

(95 Posts)
camilamoran Sun 09-Dec-12 21:06:05

Those of you who are in favour of return to grammar schools - what proportion would you have in your new grammar schools?

IIRC when I did the 11+ about 20% went to grammar school. At that time about 10% went to university. Getting into grammar school did not mean you were university material - it created the pool from which the university students were selected.

Now, we have more professional and white collar jobs than we did then. And also, more of those jobs now require a degree. So there are more of us going to university - about a third at the moment I think.

So if we brought in new grammars - would that be for 30% of children? 50%?

So would we end up with a non-elitist grammar school? Wouldn't that be pointless for people who want grammar schools back as an alternative to independents, or those who believe they help social mobility by picking up kids at 11 and inducting them into a higher social class?

Theas18 Sun 09-Dec-12 21:21:28

Not sure. Difficult as superselective grammars have been bril for my kids ..

Actually ,knowing a wide range of kids through work as well as the immediate mates of my 3 I might do it the other way round and spilt at year 9-10 into and academic and vocational ( maybe evn workplace based some of the time) stream. They can still have intensive literacy/Maths work - these kids are often struggling in these areas.

The non academic kids get disillusioned at 13/14, or esrlier If we have to keep these kids engaged in education till 18 ( rather than them truanting and parents bing prosecuted for it etc) we have to do something differently.

My elderly father used to teach the " remedial class" 1950s through to ealy 80s. He was sure that heavily academic expectations and trying to force his boys to do what the could do/didn't have any interest in was pointless ( this was in mixed 7-11 schools . Interesting his classes were almost all boys-they were probably ADHD he thinks.

Give the disillusioned kids an education that suits tem best, rather than trying to teach them French when they are still working on English might mean they get a better education and kids like one who need/ want an academic education are more able to learn too.

NulliusInBlurba Sun 09-Dec-12 21:29:57

We could maybe do a comparison with the German system, which is almost entirely selective at the age of 10 to 11 (but because children start school later, this is after year 4). Most of the federal states (which have independent education policies) have a three-tier system, and somewhere between 30 and 40 per cent would go to the grammar school equivalent, the Gymnasium. However, the first year is a trial year, and anyone whose grades are inadequate during that time can be sent to the middle, less academic school form. But this is fairly rare, and here in Berlin around 40 percent of children do go to grammar school and get their A-level equivalent - and the standard of education expected of my DD1 in year 9 is way above anything I was doing for O-level at the same age in the UK.
So if a percentage that high can cope with an academic syllabus in Germany, why would it not be possible in the UK?
And given that in Finland 90 percent of a year group go on to get the university entrance certificate (A-level equivalent), shouldn't we all be thinking of ways to make this possible instead of re-introducing inequality at a stupidly early age.

"inducting them into a higher social class" confused I want my children to get a good education so they can lead fulfilling, interesting, comfortable lives in the way that best suits them, not as a form of social climbing. Anyone who genuinely believes the 'social inducting' argument doesn't deserve to be taken seriously, surely?

NamingOfParts Sun 09-Dec-12 21:32:36

I'm not in favour of education going backwards. IMO there has never been a golden age of education.

If we had the chance to start again then we should really think about what we want education to achieve. In a simplistic sense then this means each year needs to turn out X number of butchers/bakers/plumbers/lawyers/accountants etc. Now of course these people arent going to tumble out of school and fall into these roles. Their education needs to leave them capable of taking on the training for these roles.

You need an education system which doesnt treat non-academic skills as failure. Equally you need a system which doesnt just applaud talent from the sidelines but actively nurtures it.

You need a system which doesnt pigeonhole. You need to avoid an 'all or nothing' exam at age 11. Some people develop much later. Some are early developers who then dont continue with that development.

You need a system which allows people who are learning trade skills to also study poetry and art (or whatever). You need a system which allows the academic to also show off their woodworking talents.

Please dont let us be dragged back to the 'know your place' tyranny of the past.

LittenTree Sun 09-Dec-12 21:38:51

Quite, naming.

GSs are great for those who 'get in'; SMs can damage a DC for life.

Until there is a sea-change in attitude regarding academia and non academia in this country, we cannot have a grown up discussion about it, really!

NamingOfParts Sun 09-Dec-12 21:54:32

Interesting LittenTree - my DH said exactly that - GS is great if you get in. I would add also if you fit in. My DM said that her parents argued and appealed her into GS but found that she simply couldnt deal with that academic level.

Comprehensive is the way forward, we just need to make it work. They need to stream for every subject and this needs to be active not passive. It needs to be possible for students to pass between groups as they struggle and succeed.

For those students who are heading more toward trade skills there needs to be support to ensure that literacy and numeracy skills are nailed on. There also needs to be talent spotting. We need to be looking out for those students who will be designers of the future.

MoreBeta Sun 09-Dec-12 22:00:15

I think 25% which is roughly the proportion we should have in University.

DS1 would pass 11+ but DS2 probably would not under that scheme. I think DS1 definitely should go to uni but DS2 I think should do a more vocational qualification.

My view is that having schools that are unashamedly academic for very bright children is just as important as having academy status schools for children who are gifted at sports or music or drama or art.

ReallyTired Sun 09-Dec-12 22:01:09

The school I want to send my son to has children complete keystage 3 in either 2, 3 or 4 years depending on levels of numeracy and literacy. Often low academic levels are caused by social problems rather than academic problems.

Vocational and academic courses should be open to all. If a child with low NC levels want to do an academic course at keystage 4 they may have to spend longer in key stage 3 getting to a suitable standard.

noblegiraffe Sun 09-Dec-12 22:10:05

Statistically, if you attempt to predict academic achievement at 16 by achievement on some sort of test at 11 (e.g. CATs which are considered one of the best predictors at about 0.7 correlation between achievement at age 11 and 16) and use the results of those tests to send the top 25% at 11 off to a grammar school, then 22% of students will end up in the wrong school. We cannot predict much more accurately than that who the top 25% at age 16 will be.

LittenTree Sun 09-Dec-12 22:21:01

See, beta- I don't get why 'the clever kids' need to be physically separated from the less clever. My DSs comp is 'unashamedly academic' in that it produces the best GCSE results (real ones, not equivalents!) in the county but it also does a very good BTEC (correct spelling?) in performing arts, for instance. They also reward good effort more conspicuously than high achievement!

The advantages of a good comp is that a DC can do Maths 'A' level at 12, but also be taught wood tech seriously by a chap who will also gets some kids into woodworking apprenticeships.

I think we have to get over that psychological barrier that 'less clever' automatically means 'less well behaved', and that somehow the more academic will be 'contaminated' by the vocational.

Your post sort of enhances what I said- that we cannot have an adult conversation about this in this country due to our blind bias in favour of 'the academic' over 'the non-academic/ vocational'.

As an aside, what we do need are bigger schools that can offer the widest range of subjects.

Pyrrah Sun 09-Dec-12 22:41:24

I would go for 25%, but I would change the exam and move it to 13.

I did CE at 13 and won a place at a grammar school in Kent via that. CE has papers in all subjects - the VR I actually didn't realise we had sat as it just got shoved in as a 'quiz' one morning.

It meant that if you were crap at maths but outstanding at history, geography, English, French etc it could be taken into account. Likewise the mathematicians could let the English slide a bit. I still had to get 75% average across the board to win a place.

Obviously this would require a lot more work in terms of marking, and it wouldn't prevent people tutoring (I will hold my hands up and say that my parents paid for a hot-housing prep-school for 4 years because they couldn't afford an indie at secondary level and the local comps were truly dire).

It would also require an extra 2 years in primary schools.

The non-grammars should then cater for the full-range: top sets for those children who either didn't wish to sit for the grammar or those who didn't get a place but are still academic - could give many children who wouldn't otherwise have the chance the possibility of shining... which can only be good for confidence and inspiring greater effort and attainment.

There should be an option for children who score particularly well at GCSE to move at 16 to the grammar for A-levels should they so wish. And for those who aren't really thriving at the grammar to move the other way.

Perhaps there could be ways that certain subjects could be taught together - a bit like the all-girls indies sometimes pair up with the all-boys indies for some things.

For the less academic there should be intensive teaching on things like English and Maths, with the curriculum directed at the workplace... sod quadratic equations, lets just have the kind of skills you might need in an office or as a builder for example.

For those who are really unenamoured by school there should be lots of practical training.

Above all, lots of money into everything - and especially at the lower end.

The whole failure/success things is a British issue that just doesn't seem to happen in other countries to the same extent. No idea how to solve that, just seems a big shame and very sad.

Anyway... that is my idea for a good system that includes grammar schools.

noblegiraffe Sun 09-Dec-12 22:47:42

How could the non-grammars cater for the full range when the top 25% have been creamed off and sent elsewhere, Pyrrah? That does actually have an effect on the kids left behind. A top set of maths kids where they're all aiming for As and A*s is a very different atmosphere to a top set of maths kids where a couple of lonely kids are working towards the top grades on their own and there's a spread of the rest down to C grade.

noblegiraffe Sun 09-Dec-12 22:58:37

Anyway, talking about vocational subjects, James Dyson was in the news lately for donating a substantial sum of money to school technology departments to spend on the latest equipment in the hope of inspiring young engineers.

Engineering is vocational, but it's also not for the less academic. Would you have this money go to the secondary moderns, or to the grammars? Wouldn't it be better to have all students, both academically and practically minded (and the two aren't exclusive!) to benefit from this sort of initiative?

The problem with vocational education is that a lot of people see it as something for the less able. Yet you don't want an electrician or a plumber who can't do maths or science, or an aircraft engineer who isn't highly skilled in many areas.

NamingOfParts Sun 09-Dec-12 23:04:38

noblegiraffe I think you highlight the problem. I think that the creation of GS then creates the essential problem of small schools. By working on a comprehensive model you have a substantial community of students to call on for all classes. The top set for maths/english/history/woodwork contains the top whatever else they are doing. This means that the student who is truly excellent only at history can be in the top set for history even if they are in the bottom set for everything else.

I do not agree with separating students off from each other. By doing so there is a huge restriction on mobility. Even broad brush streaming can do this. In my school it was practically impossible to move between the academic stream and the vocational stream. Once your foot was set on a particular path then that was where you stayed.

teacherwith2kids Sun 09-Dec-12 23:33:17

The same proportion, or less, than currently go to SEN Special Schools - because the only argument for a 'school for the brightest' is a special educational one, that such schools are for those who are so far from the 'norm' that they cannot be educated in mainstream schools.

Actually, the proportion is probably even lower than for SEN Special Schools, because the latter cater for a wide variety of different SENs - visual impairment, mental handicap, behavuioural difficulties - whereas the SEN of 'being exceptionally intelligent' is equivalent to only 1 of these IYSWIM.

equally, the assessment of children to go to such schools should be by assessment and Statementing of special need in the same way as for SEN Special Schools. Exceptional intelligence - at the 1 in 10,000 sort of level defined in books such as 'Exceptionally Gifted Children' - IS a special educational need and needs special provision, but it is also exceptionally rare.

For children who are clever but remain educable in mainstream with appropriate differentiation, then mainstream provision in the form of comprehensive schools should be fine, in the same way as children with less acute SENs thrive in mainstream schools with appropriate differentiation and support.

teacherwith2kids Sun 09-Dec-12 23:41:24

Percentage of children in Special Schools is around 1% according to some figures I just found.

So the number of children NEEDING a Special School for the most able would be less than 1%, possibly as low as 0.1% - and it may be that most of those children would only need to attend for some lessons e.g. through being exceptionally able in one area of the curriculum such as Maths, but needing mainstream provision for other subjects.

teacherwith2kids Sun 09-Dec-12 23:45:31

(I should, perhaps, declare that I know one of those '1 in 10,000 or more' type children well, though I am not related to them. They are as clearly 'different' from the norm as a child who has a mental handicap that puts them at the 1 iin 10,000 group at the other end of the ability spectrum - and they are also clearly different from your averagely 'bright' child that a parent might see as 'benefitting from a grammar school education')

MoreBeta Mon 10-Dec-12 08:16:02

LittenTree - you ask a very fair question about why we need to physically segregate the academically able from the less academically able. We don't. We just need to stream.

In fact I think we could take a lot of the heat and the stigma out of the grammar school versus comprehensive debate by not physically segregating but just by aggressive streaming within schools.

My own children go to a private secondary school that is selective but takes its cohort of children from the academic ability range which is at the national average and above. In other words top 50% of the ability range. It does cater for SEN like dyslexia and dyscalcula as well. It has excellent sport, drama, music, art and extra curricular. It is not just about academic achievement but it does stream for Maths and English in Yr 7 and above and gradually streams other subjects like modern languages as children move up the year groups.

Dispruptive pupils are excluded though. It is absolutely forbidden for a single/few pupils to stop other children in the class learning by being disruptive.

In my view, my children's school is perhaps what a 'modern grammar school' should look like. Mildly selective, streamed and excludes children that are disruptive but not so overtly academic that it belittles the less academic. We dont have grammar school in our town but if we did I am sure that my children would be going to a grammar rather than private.

What kind of schooling we provide for the children who fall below the average in the academic ability range is another question and needs equal emphasis. We can't solve teh entuire problem in one type of schol but we dont need to create a grammar elite either.

crazymum53 Mon 10-Dec-12 08:55:18

Don't agree with the idea of returning to a grammar system BUT the idea of a percentage is wrong too. I think that ALL children who achieve the pass mark in the 11+ should be awarded a grammar school place.
It is possible for children at secondary modern schools to go onto university so the posters view that Getting into grammar school did not mean you were university material - it created the pool from which the university students were selected. is also incorrect. Even in the days when everybody took the 11+ exam, a small percentage of non-grammar pupils still went to university and obtained good degrees.

MoreBeta Mon 10-Dec-12 10:22:35

Theas18/Pyrrah - what you said about the transition at 13 yr old is very interesting.

It seems to me that 13+ is probably the age where the need for basic education in Maths and English naturally ends and children do then naturally make the transiton to either an academic or vocational syllabus.

I do wonder if the education system ought to be formally split at 13+ with children/parents choosing at that point to go either academic or vocational routes.

For purely practical purposes children going the vocational route are going to need to go to an educational establishment with more specialist technical facilities that are needed for courses up to NVQ/HND (eg workshops/kitchens) and a timetable that is built around allowing off site work place experience.

Meanwhile those children following the academic route will need more access to say language labs, science labs and only perhaps more limited DT workshops and art rooms.

Things like the type of staff, computer facilities and software will also be quite different in an academic versus vocational teaching facility. In that sense it does make sense to physically segregate academic versus vocational educational establishements.

mumsneedwine Mon 10-Dec-12 10:46:27

Good, proper comprehensives have always offered academic and vocational qualifications side by side (& then get pillared about it in the league tables as all their subjects are not academic !). My brother and I both went to Oxbridge from a big standard Essex comp (first in our family) & loads of my friends went to great Unis to do law etc. However, the richest ex school mate left with no O Levels and became a brickie - he now lives in one of his 5 houses and lets me ride his horses.
Being book clever is great but there is so much more to getting on and enjoying life & a true comp means I have school friends from all walks of life (v useful when you need a plumber at 1am).

ReallyTired Mon 10-Dec-12 10:47:27

"Meanwhile those children following the academic route will need more access to say language labs, science labs and only perhaps more limited DT workshops and art rooms."

Brain surgeons are good with their hands. People who are "good with their hands" aren't necessarily less academic.

I think its important to have good facilties on site for all children. It is the only way to give choice and flexiblity.

creamteas Mon 10-Dec-12 11:09:18

I'm not sure that outside of the London/SE bubble that most people want testing and an increase in GS. What they do want is a good education for their DC. If we invested properly in education instead of treating it as a political football, this would be possible without writing off the majority of the population through testing.

More why do you want to limit entrance to university to 25%? You do know that we have a lower percentage in HE than many other developed countries don't you?

It is true that many jobs ask for degrees when for previous generations they did not. But if you restrict university places within the UK, without changing the entry requirements for employers all that will happen is the jobs will only be open to graduates from other countries!

rabbitstew Mon 10-Dec-12 11:14:43

Quite a few people were let down at my grammar school because of the total lack of any proper outlet for their practical skills (right through from age 11 to age 18). Not all clever people who have passed the 11 plus and been sent to a grammar school actually want to be academic to the exclusion of all else... or even have particularly good academic skills: clever and academic are not synonymous. In fact, I've known quite a few people who are good academics but not exactly the fastest thinkers in the world...

MoreBeta Mon 10-Dec-12 11:34:47

creamteas - I do question whether we need so many people going to university. The fact that jobs ask for degrees now where they never did in the past probably just reflects the fact that more people go rather than an actual need for a degree to do the job.

In the old days, most clearing banks took a lot of people straight after A Level and put a lot of investment into training them - now they probably ask for people with degrees.

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