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?

Pyrrah Mon 10-Dec-12 11:45:35

This thread shows why people still want GS and don't entirely trust a comprehensive school to cater for a bright child: http://www.mumsnet.com/Talk/secondary/1633217-Mixed-ability-teaching

Why should teachers rely on the bright children pulling the not so bright up? Does harnessing a race-horse to a cart-horse really make them both achieve to the best of their abilities?

Children also don't need to learn about social inclusion in the middle of a maths, French or Latin class. They can do that out of school, in PSD or non-academic time.

NamingOfParts Mon 10-Dec-12 12:37:34

But Pyrrah Comprehensive does not have to mean mixed ability classes. A good sized Comp will have sufficient numbers of students to provide full setting from the most able to the least able in any subject.

A good Comp allows a student to excel at both academic and vocational subjects rather than forcing their parents to choose at the age of 11.

Why shouldnt the butcher/baker/plumber also excel at French?

A Comp should not be primarily about social inclusion, it should be about providing the best opportunities for all students in all subjects.

Surely it is highly inefficient to split off whole groups of students into a separate school so that they can be taught separately.

I think teacherwith2kids has nailed it precisely. Only separate out the children who need to be taught separately. Being better than average at a few subjects does not indicate that need.

jeee Mon 10-Dec-12 12:44:30

If your child is in the top 2%, you'll want a 5% grammar school. If your child is in the top 20%, you'll support a 25% grammar system.

creamteas Mon 10-Dec-12 12:46:20

Exactly naming very few people are equally good at all subjects.

Where you have separate schools, they can't easily cater for this. So if a GS selects for ability in English/Maths there might be very little help available to those who struggle with MFL . Likewise those gifted at MFL could not have access to similar peers if they are at the secondary modern and most of the other good linguists are at the GS.

A good comp that sets in all subjects will help everyone.

NamingOfParts Mon 10-Dec-12 13:02:41

I dont agree jeee, perhaps because I have never experienced GS for myself or my DCs. My oldest DD was able to achieve straight A/A*s at GCSE in her decidedly mediocre comp. I would have liked her to have better teaching but that isnt the same thing as saying I wanted her isolated in some sort of academic ivory tower. A well motivated student can do well wherever they are.

CarlingBlackMabel Mon 10-Dec-12 13:04:50

A comprehensive need not conduct any mixed ability teaching at all. I have never heard parents at Graveney, for example, complaining that the 'racehorses' ( hmm ) in the top streams are held back by the 'carthorses' ( double hmm) in the other streams.

In a comp which uses setting a maths genius can be in a top set for maths but not held back by not being good at English Composition, whereas that student migt not even get into a Gramma and could be left with unfulfilled maths potential in a secndary model. There is no flexibility for subject ability or for changes in a child's ability and potential in the grammar system.

Grammar schools seem an expensive way to pander to competitive parents - put the resources into good genuine comps.

jeee Mon 10-Dec-12 13:12:00

NamingOfParts, I live in Kent. I have found out that rabidly pro-GS parents will do a rapid u-turn if their child fails the 11+. The 'fantastic' educational system that we have in this county looks a little less bright when your child isn't going to the grammar school.

Most people only want grammar schools when their child is sure of a place.

NewFerry Mon 10-Dec-12 13:30:56

I am a great supporter of good comprehensive schools.
But I think we do need to address the needs of the disaffected and the disruptive. It only needs a few in a class to affect the learning in the whole class. I believe that most children are well behaved and are ready to learn, and will give to the best of their ability, but for those who will not, or cannot, then something different has to be provided.

But I don't know what. Certainly more time spent on subjects in which these students are interested and can achieve, but perhaps segregated from the main learning group if they are having a negative affect on the achievement of the majority?

breadandbutterfly Mon 10-Dec-12 14:49:09

I think a figure of about 10% or less would be about right - ie the top 2 or 3 in a class of 30. All the kids in my dcs' primary know/knew who those top pupils are/were and those who got into selective schools were those kids. The kids where it was less obvious that they were bright but just had pushy parents, failed. (And are now doing v well in top sets at comps instead.)

I know parents in grammar areas like Kent object to the figure there of 23% as it removes the top set effectively from other local schools, turning them into secondary moderns. A smaller number - 10% or 5% - would prevent that happening - more akin to what happens in superselective areas.

The downside might be that the very bright kids from more dsadvantaged homes might be less likely to scrape in? as happened routinely in the grammar system of the 1950s and 60s, where i believe 25%+ got places, and which provided an escape route for those kids, out of the poverty they had been born into.

Pyrrah Mon 10-Dec-12 19:01:56

The important thing is a 'good' comprehensive that is large enough to have proper ability setting.

The issues come with school such as those being discussed in the thread I linked to where setting is happening only in a couple of subjects and even then the sets are very mixed ability.

Looking at one of my nearest comprehensives (all girls so the results should be a few percentage points higher I believe), only just over 50% get 5 GCSE's including English and Maths. There are no grammars or selective schools in the area. Not a single student got all A

Pyrrah Mon 10-Dec-12 19:12:01

Not a single student got a run of A grades at GCSE.

Why, if my daughter turns out to follow my husband and I in terms of academic potential, would we want to send her to a school with such a low level of attainment when we went to schools where today 100% of students achieve 9 GCSE's and 75% of students achieve a minimum of 5 A*/A grades and a good handful go to Oxbridge every year (my GS).

Pyrrah Mon 10-Dec-12 19:16:03

I would very, very happily send DD to a comprehensive - and be prepared to say that the case of GS didn't exist if there was universal access to a wonderful comprehensive.

One thing I would add is that not all bright children will 'do well anywhere'. There are a fair number of very bright children who will tend to coast and do what they need to get by. Put these children in a high-paced, high-achieving class and they will still try and coast, but will have considerably better results than if they were allowed to coast in a lower achieving class.

seeker Mon 10-Dec-12 19:25:10

"Children also don't need to learn about social inclusion in the middle of a maths, French or Latin class. They can do that out of school, in PSD or non-academic time."

Which is why properly setted comprehensive schools are the way to go. In grammar school aras, the grammar school kids don't learn about social inclusion at all- they just mix with all the other middle class children of university educated parents that populate their classrooms!

Pantofino Mon 10-Dec-12 19:45:24

I went to Grammar School after passing the Kent Test as did my dsis, my dh and both my parents. I come from a totally working class background, and dh and I are a great example of the social mobility aspect that the GSs used to provide. Dh's parents nearly didn't send him due to the cost of the uniform/PE kit etc. My family, whilst poor, were sticklers for the importance of a good education. There was a great social mix when I was there. I had friends whose parents were doctors, solicitors, waitresses, miners etc etc. None of us ever cared. I am really grateful for the opportunity.

Saying all that, these days, with all the tutoring and effective "buying" of places, I think the whole ethos has changed and would prefer to see a decent comprehensive system in place. I don't agree that so many should go to Uni either - would prefer to see better investment in vocational training post 16 and more apprenticeships and in-company training schemes. You don't need a degree at all for a large proportion of jobs.

Pyrrah Mon 10-Dec-12 19:52:02

What is the situation in areas that don't have GS, and don't have selective indies, but do have a lot of faith secondaries?

I can see how comprehensives could work incredibly well in towns with only a couple of schools taking pupils from a wide area and hence equally wide range of socio-economic backgrounds and abilities . How would this work in some of the areas of London where high density of population could mean the cohorts don't have anything like as much of a range?

Or is it just a case that parents will opt for selection by postcode in ever increasing numbers?

(apologies for the lots of little posts - I must keeping pressing something that makes it post rather than move to a new line).

I don't know about GS at the moment, but there were a very large number of children at the GS I was at back in the mid-80's who were not very MC at all and who were the first in their family to go to anything but the local comp and definitely the first to go to University....

Has this helped fuel the desire for GS educations? A majority of the those who benefited in the 1970's and 1980's now wanting the same thing for their children - who are now of course the children of the middle-class graduates.

NamingOfParts Mon 10-Dec-12 20:40:09

I would be interested to see some statistics on how many students were genuinely lifted out of poverty by GS education. Both my and DH's parents knew of people who had been unwilling or unable to take up GS places whether because of not wanting to be parted from friends or not being able to afford the uniform, transport or the other 'extras'.

Comprehensive schools are much better positioned to avoid these simple pitfalls.

I dont see why comprehensives cant work in both city and small town settings. One of the problems that I see where there are a number of schools serving different communities is that some of the problems will be specific to the particular community and therefore the school. However I dont see why this has to be used as an excuse for providing people who live in poor areas with a poor education.

Why is there an obsession with segregation in education? I said upstream that well motivated students can do well anywhere (not will, can). If the student needs to be protected from all distractions so that they can perform academically then isnt there a risk that the student is simply being set up to fail further down the line?

TalkinPeace2 Mon 10-Dec-12 20:49:48

Pyrah
Outside the big cities, the only faith schools you get are Catholic, and not very many of them.
my city has a boys one and a girls one, both of which are more than half non Catholic kids (judging by the head gear at kicking out time)
The rest of the schools are comps.

creamteas Mon 10-Dec-12 20:49:59

Where I live there are no GS and few faith secondaries. The primary schools are all small so there is selection on postcode, but I would say almost all of the secondaries have a balanced w/c & m/c class intake, including most of the faith schools.

Admissions is based on catchment area for non-faith schools, and although there are some who don't attend their catchment school, this is a minority. For 3/4 faith schools priority is given to feeder faith primaries from both better off deprived areas. The other faith school selects on church attendance, but as it is the only one it doesn't really distort the comprehensive community schools intake.

The LEA next to us (which is really easy to get to on the bus) does have some GS but no one from our primary has ever gone there (and I had kids in the school for 14 years grin). To be honest, I have never even heard anyone discussing this as an option.

CecilyP Mon 10-Dec-12 21:57:59

FWIW, when I lived in Kingston in the days before the Greenwich ruling, they only allowed 15% of pupils to pass the the 11+, and all remaining grammar school places were offered to out of borough pupils. The reason being that they needed to keep enough bright pupils in their SM schools to make running O and A level courses in them viable. So, if this was the level of selection that they could allow in an affluent west London borough before it had a significant impact on other schools, in less favoured areas the percentage would have to be much lower.

Pyrrah Tue 11-Dec-12 00:24:48

I guess I'm very influenced by what I see/know of London and East Sussex/Kent.

camilamoran Tue 11-Dec-12 11:20:59

NamingofParts, I would also like to see the evidence for GS being better for social mobility than comprehensive. It's something people will state quite vehemently but never back up, beyond observing that grammar schools' heyday through the 50s and 60s coincided with a time of greater social mobility in this country. But that social mobility had many causes and happened in all western countries, whether they had selective or non-selective education systems.

I also know no evidence that comprehensives are better for social mobility or anything else.

seeker Tue 11-Dec-12 11:24:44

You only have to look qt the level of FSM at a grammar school to know that they have no impact at all on social mobility.

Or, for a more anecdotal slant, I could list the first names of all the people in my dd's year grin

camilamoran Tue 11-Dec-12 11:33:01

When I did the 11+ back in 1970, which I passed and my best friend 'failed', it was quite traumatic. I was grateful that my children would not have to go through it.

However, come year 6, they have to do SATS and this turns out to be if possible more traumatic than the 11+. In addiiton it turns out that half a dozen of our local comprehensives have entry tests. Tried not to get caught up in the madness but both my children still ended up sitting about three of them. So at this point the comprehensive system is not looking so much better after all.

At about this time, I noticed a number of kids, older brothers and sisters of my kids' friends, bright ambitious working class kids who were leaving school without the qualifications they needed for what they wanted to do, largely because of the low expectations and poor organisation of the schools they were at. It seemed to me these kids would have done better at a grammar school. However, it is equally true they would have done better at a decent comprehensive. And there is no guarantee they would have got into grammar schools.

So I'm on the fence. I would prefer my kids to go to a comp. But am I certain that that is the best overall system, the best outcome for all our kids? That I am not so certain about.

seeker Tue 11-Dec-12 11:39:41

Why are the SATs traumatic?

Oh, and I didn't think comprehensive schools were allowed to have entrance tests? I think some select 10% on sporting or musical ability or something like that, but not on academic ability, surely?

losingtrust Tue 11-Dec-12 12:25:30

So a person who misses out on the test by one percentage point in a very good cohort year should be relegated to a secondary mod whereas had they sat the test in another year with a less bright cohort they would have gone to a gs. How is that any good for a bright kid in a bright cohort to have less options? There is a lot of choice for comps here and people pay attention to which comp is the best at getting expected return for their ability child. This information is readily available and means less kids from the same postcode. This is certainly what I look at for my children as do others and the faith school has a higher level of fsm than the closest comp as it takes in from all areas. As somebody has mentioned how can grammar schools be good for social cohesion when their fsm figures are so low. The superselectives in the city near us are dominated by private prep kids. All of the preps publish and compete as to how many they get into the five or six grammars. So they benefit from the parent pound to get into a state secondary supposedly set up for social cohesion. In my view this is a very poor use of state education funding and the pupil premium in inner city comps with high levels of fsm should be much higher.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now