Are we missing a trick with grammar schools?

(85 Posts)
mam29 Tue 09-Apr-13 12:21:05

Always a a tricky topic but struck how many people in public eye say grammar school changed their lives for the better.


Toby young
most of bbc newsreaders John Sopel. Andrew neil.
Various other mps who all went to grammar schools and are proud.

My nan had 5kids and only went to grammar and had the best jobs.

I know some say they unfair but do wonder if they in someway improved social mobility.

Of course its changed today.

Theres very few grammar schools none here or where I grew up.

Now seen preserve of middle class wanting private education cheap.

That the child has to be tutored within inch of life to get in and that those who went prep had advantage as state does not prepare for 11+.

To me it seems vastly unfair that they exist but not in every area.

Wondering if comprehensive is a failed idea and that they should have kept grammars but reformed secondary moderns,

Would all the people named above be where they are now if they went to comp?

What is it that grammar schools do that comps dont?

Theres that old chestnut a bright child will do well where ever they go.

Do the new grammar entrants today especially in super selectives need to be brighter than the kids who passed in the 50,s?.

FrauMoose Wed 10-Apr-13 12:04:15

I'm in a grammar school city. Mounting hysteria through Years 4, 5 and the start of Year 6. Wailing and gnashing of teeth when the allocations are made. Absolutely hated it.

housemad Wed 10-Apr-13 12:22:30

In a grammar school town upper school just not a comfortable place to be. I feel more and more anxious as every term and week gone by as the D-day is getting closer... dreadful! I wonder how many or how few y5 children can have a stress free summer holiday in this town.

mummytime Wed 10-Apr-13 16:28:23

I think I would have moved from a Grammar school area if we'd lived in one. As my eldest children are dyslexic and it would have been too close for comfort for the grammar school test.

Both DH and I went to very poor performing comprehensives, we both went to Russell group University. I did a doctorate at Oxford, DH teaches there.

DCs comprehensive send about 3-4% to Oxbridge each year. Lots more to Russell group, art colleges and other top Unis. It also gets a lot into apprenticeships, employment etc.

The best Maths teacher I had, had gone to a secondary modern because she failed the 11+, she was extremely clever and had a first from university (before grade inflation).

camilamoran Wed 10-Apr-13 17:27:09

Massively disagree with scrazy. It's the best of both worlds to have grammars in some areas but not others. If you want the 11+. you go and live in Kent. If (like me) you prefer comprehensive you don't. Simple.

FrauMoose Wed 10-Apr-13 17:41:25

Gosh, and there was me thinking it was possible to have a life that didn't revolve solely around children's education, but which was also about work, broader family commitments etc etc. How splendid to be reminded that we are to be in a booming economy and to have a really sensible property market, so we are free to flit hither and thither.... Perhaps we could even live in several different places at once, if we felt that one child might like a primary school in Berkshire, while the other child would do better in Cornwall...

VelvetSpoon Wed 10-Apr-13 17:41:56

That presupposes everyone has geographical mobility. Most people don't. It's certainly not the best of both worlds if you are (like me) tied to a grammar area.

lljkk Wed 10-Apr-13 17:44:06

It used to be very fashionable on MN to say that grammar schools should be brought back, were the best thing for bright kids from poor backgrounds, etc. I never understood it (not from this system). But my gut feeling was and is that it's ridiculous to decide a child's academic future at the age of 10/11.

They still have Grammar Schools in NORTHERN IRELAND. If you want a grammar school system, it's there. In all its inequities.

I have heard too many horrible stories about people who failed the 11+ because of a recent family bereavement or temporary lack of family support. And then struggled their way back into brainy education.

DeepRedBetty Wed 10-Apr-13 17:49:16

camilamoran that was one of the most breath-takingly thoughtless posts I've ever seen on MN!

DeepRedBetty Wed 10-Apr-13 17:51:31

I thought the grammars in NI were in the process of being abolished? Much to the chagrin of various groups who pointed out that the region had the highest average educational attainment in the UK.

<wanders off, having chucked that little grenade into the conversation>

camilamoran Wed 10-Apr-13 18:02:17

I'm making the point that a system with more choice is better than a system with less. I'm perfectly aware that we don't all have perfect geographical mobility. Why not engage with what I'm saying, rather than going out of your way to get offended.

DolomitesDonkey Wed 10-Apr-13 18:03:09

They're good because it's "streaming" so less push from the disinterested.

housemad Wed 10-Apr-13 18:16:48

Yes ………………. it has changed overnight. First time I saw so many people stating they are not real fans of grammar schools. Funny………………

muminlondon Wed 10-Apr-13 18:24:25

The 'bring back grammar school' debate is actually a pointless one. The Admissions Code does not allow any new schools with academic selection. Labour and LibDems would not allow this. Most Conservatives know this would be divisive and unpopular with many local constituents. Even if they won an outright majority and changed the law, they would have to take responsibility for the fact that a single new grammar school would create secondary moderns out of at least the nearest three comprehensives. Who would allow that? Not the academy chains which are already struggling to improve their schools and have political clout (the directors who have donated money to political parties). Not the converter academies which could see all their top stream sucked out of the school - the governing bodies are likely to bring a case for judicial review. And LAs can't create new schools unless it is a faith school and have lost control over the majority of secondary schools.

Last year there was a shiver of fright as it looked like Kent council was going to create the first new grammar school for 50 years in Sevenoaks by allowing a 'satellite' school managed by a grammar in a different town. But the DfE has quietly blocked it and reserved the site for a new Christian free school. I'd question why it has to be a faith school - but most free schools have some sort of sponsor (that isn't the local authority).

So there can no longer be any expectation of a planned system unless central government recreates school boards that takes over all academies, free schools and faith schools in order to reorganise them. That would be the biggest U-turn in history for the Conservatives now that it has gone so far in dismantling LAs. But it might happen a few years down the line.

Your best best is a nationwide programme for school improvement, an 'England Challenge', funded by central government which requires outstanding schools to federate with weaker ones all in target areas or face losing either funding or independent status.

mam29 Wed 10-Apr-13 18:44:45

Our local comp was in federation with other equally not so good schools and left and is now an independent academy twinned with a good school a distance away.

Most locals dont send their kids to local school. so the school is full of people from neighbouring areas as it seems marginally better than schools near them.

We have primary shortage by 2017 it will be secondry competition is feirce enough already dd1 starts 2018.dd2 was boom birth year,

We have so few options here other than faith, catchment or lorttory its why we have highest amount independents outside london and peole send their kids out of the city to be educated often traveling miles and different counties.

even read on that people from bristol going to grammars in gloucestershire its a fair old commute.

I guess grammars tried and tested some of the new free schools sound weird they trying to open up free steiner school here .

I dont think anyone wants replicate old days but thinkn we could have kept the best bits and improved on bits that we dident like.

making secondary moderns as good as grammar in terms teaching .

I do think with bit tweaking they could work better.

I do feel very unfair coverage is so patchy.

I dont want to live in kent.

Our grammar school is fee paying.

similar thing goes same sex schools we have 1 girls school now academy and oversubcribed but no state boys school yet freind who lives windsor says they have boys and girls.

Windsor also have middle school system which think means they start high school at 13 year 9 which possibly seems better.

The disparity of state education in uk is mad.

Only if you have money can you have choices.

camilamoran Wed 10-Apr-13 18:46:25

Muminlondon - that's interesting.

Would it be theoretically possible for an academy chain to make some of their schools into grammar schools?

muminlondon Wed 10-Apr-13 19:48:52

If there was a change in the law, theoretically academic selection is most likely to be attractive to smaller free schools, especially owned by chains such as Ark, which has a better reputation, or to converter academies. How many academy chain schools can you think of that are high performing and/or attractive to the middle classes? Mossbourne gets fantastic results but is a one-off sponsored by a local trust not a chain (Robert Bourne Trust). Harris and AET schools are most in danger of being relegated to sec mods. Or look up the Ofsted reports for 'Ormiston' schools (there is a tab in the performance tables and you can do a keyword search once you have selected 'secondary' - the schools are branded under the trust's name.

Ultimately LAs with grammar schools perform fairly badly on taking all their results together, while any government would have to be accountable for results nationally. So it is not in the government's interests to encourage expansion of grammars.

Converter academies were promised freedoms in return for federating with poorer schools but no pressure has yet been brought to bear on them.

The places shortage is in primaries at the moment - free schools are likely to meet only 10% of the basic need by 2014 so LAs will have to expand existing schools. We are now seeing 3 and 4 form entry primaries which are as big as secondaries. But the crunch point for secondaries will be from around 2016-17 when that bulge hits secondaries. The free school policy can't be sustained indefinitely with the ban on new LA schools. Academies and free schools can't be directed to expand and only a minority of schools will be under LA control. It will then be even more of a luxury to talk of grammars when there are severe shortages of places generally. The National Audit Office will have something to say if basic need isn't being met because resources have not been targeted properly. It's a huge time bomb.

camilamoran Wed 10-Apr-13 20:05:26

I was wondering about this partly because the Harris chain already has large differences between its secondary schools, in terms of academic results and intake. Harris already controls the way it does its admissions. It would not seem difficult for them to designate one or more schools as openly selective, if Lord Harris felt an ideological urge to do so. I do not know whether parents would be supportive of this or not. One thing that might mollify them is the idea that you could make it relatively easy for late developers who failed at 11 to move to another school within the group.

muminlondon Wed 10-Apr-13 20:25:34

My understanding is that the ones that do really well have inherited an anomalous but favourable admissions policy. And were already foundation schools on takeover which had allowed them freedoms. That's probably true of a few converter academies too. I'm not sure that would be easy to replicate - academic selection is very definitely banned by the admissions code. Reputation also hangs around a school for years but that is as much for socio-economic intake as much as standard of teaching.

There was a US study on charter schools that said those that came in at the top of the market stayed there, those that took over failing schools didn't move up much. It's more evidence for me that academies won't improve results nationally - neither will grammars. Only a big collaborative push for school improvement.

sashh Thu 11-Apr-13 07:41:34

Where I grew up they abolished the 11+ but kept the two grammars (one boys, the other girls).

So you went to a comp for what is now Y7-Y9 then either stayed at that school or went to the grammar on the recommendation of your comp.

But the RC schools (one girls one boys) were originally secondary moderns, the RC grammars were in the next town that went totally comp.

So if you went to an RC comp you stayed there until 16. If you went to the nondenominational comp you could transfer to the grammar at about 14.

The grammars and the RC schools had similar results.

Not sure this proves anything about grammars or comps.

Also only two comps were co-ed, most schools were single sex.

Scrazy Thu 11-Apr-13 11:10:40

The nearest grammar school to us is in a different county and a 60 mile round trip. I sometimes wish we had had the forethought and the money for fares and DD had applied for their 6th form.

The results from the grammar at A level are remarkably better than the results from all of the comps in our county, not so much GCSE, it carn't be down to intelligence it must be better teaching. It doesn't seem fair.

camilamoran Fri 12-Apr-13 13:28:21

Why can't it be down to intelligence?

camilamoran Fri 12-Apr-13 16:54:53

muminlondon, am I right that you think the debate is pointless because there isn't any mechanism for schools to become selective. Is the opposite also true? Could the 11+ areas go comprehensive - would that be an act of political will by the county council, and if so would it become impossible once all schools are out of local authority control?

Suzieismyname Fri 12-Apr-13 17:02:32

Get rid of grammars altogether or change the rules so that you can only go if you attended a state primary.

Erebus Fri 12-Apr-13 17:28:28

I can't for the life of me in these increasingly fractionated, tribal times see how splitting our DC up, educationally, and therefore inevitably, socially can possibly be for the overall benefit of society (or is there 'no such thing as society?' Where've I heard that echoed recently??! grin) ?

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe many people can see every reason to separate their DC off from those who are 'other'.

Yes, in an 'ideal' world, you'd imagine there'd be no need for any parent to send their DC to anything other than 'the local comp' but humans are competitive creatures: many will always look at 'good' but then seek what they perceive as 'better'.

FWIW I went to a girls' GS in 1973. It was great for me, the school was full of local primary village girls, like me. We were all of a broadly similar intellect (and of broadly the same social class, too!), there was little recognised or recognisable SEN; my DB, however, went to the local SM (his 11+ result was 'borderline'). His education was dire, dire, dire.

Upstream, someone has said 'Why can't SM teach better, like grammars? Well, several reasons. First you'd have to define 'better'. Many of my teachers at my GS would have been eviscerated in a SM classroom, or even quiet a few modern comps! But we were all a) bright enough and b) smart enough to recognise that we could be selected out; that our future exam results and onward 'glittering prizes' was dependent upon us alone; and we all sat in classrooms with other DC of a similar, narrow intellectual ability in fast paced lessons tailored to us alone. A SM classroom at the time held the DC who got '79%' at 11+ (80-100% having gone to the GS) and DC who maybe got 10%, DC with quite serious SEN and SN, DC with serious behavioural (and social) problems. The 'one size fits all' of the GS classroom would have failed miserably in that setting.

There was no movement whatsoever between the schools (OK, I lie- 2 DDs left my GS to go to the local girls' SM due to persistent poor behaviour!).

I just can't see why all the DC can't be at the same school and have their lessons differentiated according to ability in that subject. That way the DC learn to rub along with all sorts in their day to day dealings with each other but get taught lessons in an appropriate environment. You don't need to put a chain link fence around that building to achieve that.

As for the stats, well, taking 100 DC, if 20 go to a GS and they all get the Eng Bacc; 80 go to the SM and 30% get the Eng Bacc, overall 50% get the Bacc. In the comp setting, using these stats again, 50% will get the Eng Bacc. When it comes down to it, if Emily is child 81 or child 79 she will get the Eng Bacc. BUT if Emily is child 79, her SM might not even offer the full range of Eng Bacc subjects; she may find herself in far more educationally diverse groups (often in a smaller school, these days, with fewer opportunities to differentiate the DC through streaming). Her classmates may include several with complex educational and social needs which the money isn't there to address. The expectation upon her as child 79 (SM) will be very different to that of child 81 (GS). So her Eng Bacc might have to be harder won than if she'd been child 81 at the GS.

How's that fair?

Erebus Fri 12-Apr-13 17:32:12

Suzie! Wash your mouth out! Only allowing state primary DC into state selectives? grin.

No, you'd get parents lying through their teeth about the tutoring they bought.

If (and I mean a big IF, see my earlier post re GSs!) GSs continue, a DC should only be allowed in on the basis of a few tests but largelyhead teacher recommendation from the primary, with the results of each DC being carefully monitored to attempt to rule out bias (and back-handers), i.e if many of the DC from St Helpus failed to flourish at the selective, St Helpus might have to 'show good cause'. Or that Head's 'bonus' should be predicated upon the good performance of his recommendees!

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