Genuine question - why do some people have a problem with the grammar school system

(1001 Posts)
englishteacher78 Thu 24-Oct-13 07:24:25

I went to one - my choice in part, parents would have preferred me to go to the Catholic secondary. As a teacher I have worked in two.
I know if I had gone to the Catholic school I would have coasted (even more than I did).
Some people seem to he very against the grammar school system and I'm not sure why. It was the making of my dad (miner's son from council estate in Scotland)and I think that all counties should have that provision. Surely it's just split site streaming in a way.

SatinSandals Thu 24-Oct-13 07:29:19

It would be OK if there was movement between the split site and those at the top of the secondary modern went up and those in the grammar school went down,but their opportunities are decided at the tender age of 11yrs. In the comprehensive they can change streams or sets.
It would have been a different story for your dad if he had suddenly blossomed at 13 years because it would have been too late. It is also just as well that he did it years ago, he wouldn't stand a change today against those who pay for tutors specifically to pass the exam.

Erebus Thu 24-Oct-13 07:30:54

Here we go again.

I went to A GS but I do not support them. They are divisive.

If you'd be prepared to go on a march declaring "Save our Grammar Schools!", you'd also have to be absolutely prepared to go on a march, shouting "Save our Secondary Moderns!".

Would you do that?

zumo Thu 24-Oct-13 07:31:44

Is it because they don't realise how much better it may be for there children?
Some see it as being a snob, I feel you just want the best for your kids

englishteacher78 Thu 24-Oct-13 07:32:51

I also went and wasn't tutored. We get non-tutored students every year. I agree it should be easier to transfer. There are places for Year 9 entry, but they tend not to be as well known.

Ladymuck Thu 24-Oct-13 07:38:23

Reread your OP and consider what would have happened if your dad had made a couple of mistakes on his 11 plus paper. How far would his life choices have changed if he had had an off say when he was 10 years old?

Of course a grammar school education is a huge advantage to those who get it. But it is the equivalent of saying only those children who pass a fitness test at the age of 10 will be entitled to free medical care for the rest of their life, and those who are less fit or less motivated can only access a restricted set of medical options for life (or of course pay to go private).

Pooka Thu 24-Oct-13 07:41:20

Because when we had the proper grammar/secondary modern split the results of one day of testing at age 10/11 could define your academic outcomes for the next decade.

My stepmother failed the 11+. Thankfully for her, her parents were able to send her to a private school. She then went on to oxford and a very successful career, which would have been unlikely had she been sent to a secondary modern which would have very different expectations of her.

My mother has friends who still remember very keenly the shame of failing and who did end up going to university and into professions, but following a very circuitous route. Everything was harder for them. All based on one bad test at age 10/11.

We are ncredibly lucky in our area that there is not a genuine two tier system. It means that the top slicing of the bright kids doesn't happen and that comprehensives are truly comprehensive. Children all have access to the same fundamental education, but obviously their academic success depends upon what they put into it. Setting across subjects is key to providing differentiation, but children who are late developers have the ability to move up sets and children who plateau may move down sets. They all have the same opportunities.

headoverheels Thu 24-Oct-13 07:44:11

Agree with the above comments. My brother was a late developer. He has dyslexia, but he's not stupid. 11 is too young to write someone off.

Pooka Thu 24-Oct-13 07:45:15

And actually, the nearest grammar to us 40mins journey) gets very similar results in terms of Oxbridge/Russell group university entrance, a levels and gcse results to the comprehensive 5 minutes up the road. The key for us is that we can access the excellent comprehensive because we live in an area without top slicing. If we lived in the grammar area and dd failed aged 10 (summer born), the local comprehensives are much less aspirational because the grammars exist.

SatinSandals Thu 24-Oct-13 07:48:34

I failed. I went to university but was a circuitous route and many fell by the wayside. So many highly successful and intelligent people failed.
Of course you were not tutored, englishteacher, we were not, but times have changed and tutoring is now the norm.
If the system was so good everyone would be saying 'bring back the secondary modern' but they never do. People want the grammar school, they want it for their child and they are not remotely bothered what happens to the rest.

JGBMum Thu 24-Oct-13 07:54:33

I think there is also the reality that even in areas with no Grammar schools, there are some very poor comprehensives.

However, when I read comments on MN like send to the Grammar, your child will coast at the comp, there'll be bad behaviour, etc I despair. There are a lot of truly excellent comprehensives that do not allow coasting, bad behaviour, bullying .....
But the perception is still there.
If you can access a great comp, then you don't need a Grammar school imvho.

englishteacher78 Thu 24-Oct-13 07:54:57

Would people still be so anti of it was a system with more room for transfer - like the German system?

englishteacher78 Thu 24-Oct-13 08:02:16

I think it's harsh to say people don't care about the rest. Both me and my dad have non-GS siblings. My dad and his siblings were all let down by a system unaware of dyslexia, his brothers left school at 16 and went on to be very successful. His sisters are another story (for the feminism threads!).
My sister is dyslexic, dyspraxic and may be on the Autustic spectrum. She went to the school I would have failed in. She went on to college and Uni.
You are not 'condemned' to CSEs instead of O Levels these days (at the moment) so to me it is about finding the right school for the child. I do think movement should be easier.

merrymouse Thu 24-Oct-13 08:02:32

Not sure how it works in Germany. However, switching children between schools from year to year is a much bigger deal than switching between streams.

Pooka Thu 24-Oct-13 08:02:38

Having read the German threads on mumsnet and the pressures faced by many of their kids at primary level and the rigidity of their system I would be wary of introducing a similar system here.

I think it's somewhat idealistic to expect that such a fluidity, allowing movement from grammar and into grammar would be practicable. So bright kids who had a bad day are moved into grammar. Movement in the opposite direction would surely be pretty soul destroying for the kids moving OUT of grammar in the opposite direction.

A true comprehensive system is more equitable and nurturing environment for children. A good comprehensive school can provide challenge and differentiation for kids and that's what we should be aspiring to and funding publically rather than the divisive two-tier system.

A friend recently moved to Cornwall and her experience of looking st local schools for secondary has been wholly different to my other friends living in grammar areas. There isn't the stress/tutoring/fear and worry.

Morgause Thu 24-Oct-13 08:07:10

I had 7 miserable years at a grammar school. No way would my DCs have gone to one. But fortunately comps arrived for them.

One has a PhD and the other a MSc. I got my degree despite the awful school.

southeastastra Thu 24-Oct-13 08:09:23

maybe as it's isn't a fair system across the UK so areas with the grammars attract people who can pay the higher house prices and the system of setting them up to help children from poorer families attain greater academic success just can't happen

englishteacher78 Thu 24-Oct-13 08:13:33

The fair access does frustrate me a bit. Worse at the first GS I worked in (boys, Berkshire). The student car park told an interesting tale. To me that argues reform of system not scrapping. Of course, growing up in Essex I haven't experienced or seen 'proper' comprehensive education.

Southeastastra, we don't have grammar schools in Scotland. We have some that are called, for example, Hamilton Grammar or Bearsden Academy, but that's just a hangover from previous generations. All out secondary schools are comprehensive and non-selective.

Seems to work well here.

TheAmyrlin Thu 24-Oct-13 08:21:34

In theory the grammar system is ok, the problem is what happens in real life. Children at normal state primaries have to be tutored to give them some kind of chance of passing, as an hour a week of private tutoring cannot compete against several years of private education. Where their main role seems to be making sure their pupils pass the local selective tests.
We are lucky in that the non selective schools are also very good. Just not as high achieving as the grammars!

UghughughFUCKER Thu 24-Oct-13 08:22:36

I think the grammar school system could be really good, except right now, it almost exclusively selects children whose parents can afford to have their children tutored for a couple of years.

Our local grammar school has become a middle class bubble, whose parents continue to have their struggling dc tutored to keep up with the expectations and pressure placed on them.

If a test could be found that genuinely selected the brightest children, regardless of hot housing parents, then the system would probably work better.

NulliusInBlurba Thu 24-Oct-13 08:23:15

"Would people still be so anti of it was a system with more room for transfer - like the German system?"

How much experience of the German system do you actually have? Because after having kids at school in Germany for the last 11 years, I can confirm that it (the practice of separating kids into one of three different schools after Year 4) is the most appallingly divisive system that quite simply doesn't work. My kids are personally doing well out of it because we have the education, resources and motivation to support them, but it is a system that very much maintains and reinforces the status quo. And the middle classes want to keep it that way, unsurprisingly.

- It's been proven that the school you end up at is largely determined by your parents' social and educational background (both directly through parental support at home and indirectly through teachers' expectations).
- It's been proven that there is a huge overlap in academic ability between schools (ie the top performers at the 'middle ability' school are way more capable than 'lower performers' at the grammar school) - which.
- It's been proven that there is relatively little movement within the system, and of that, it is almost all one way - downwards for those who who are academically struggling. I have never heard of a single case of a child who has moved up into a grammar school after doing well at a middle or lower school (Realschule or Hauptschule).
- In the 1999 PISA comparative test run by OECD, Germany did appallingly badly, particularly at the lower end, because of the tendency to 'write off' pupils in the least academic school form. This might have worked in the days where a huge pool of poorly educated manual workeds was needed, but nowadays ALL workers need higher skills than the divisive system is capable of providing.
- I regularly read one of the main German teaching union magazines - many teachers hate the divisive schools and are totally in favour of introducing a fairer, more comprehensive system. The ideal model would be the Finnish system, where all students are taught together until the age of 16 and which has a post-16 qualification (A-level equivalent) rate of 90%, I believe.

The only thing that does work well in Germany is that the decision for which school someone goes to is made on the basis of an entire school year's work rather than a single test day. And there is some room for flexibility if the teachers feel that someone has underperformed for their actual ability and potential - but again, this system favours MC children, because teachers are more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Pooka Thu 24-Oct-13 08:25:52

We looked round a local private school when ds was having some issues at school and they set aside pretty much a day a week from beginning of year 5 for selective tutoring. And start nvr/vr in year 4.

Their USP is to get kids through the tests.

How is that fair to kids in state schools?

daytoday Thu 24-Oct-13 08:32:54

I think the problem arises when there is a two tier system, like in Kent.

In London there are a few grammars but not enough to skew the whole system. Personally I think there is no one system that fits all. The more differentiated schools the better.

Inertia Thu 24-Oct-13 08:39:17

Having someone 's entire future decided on the basis of an exam on one day when they are 10 or 11 is ridiculous. It isn't an example of streaming, because streaming within a school gives lots of room for movement.

I used to teach in a comprehensive, and saw how levels of academic achievement can change over time. In a comprehensive school those changes can be accommodated, but a late developer isn't going to be moved from a secondary modern to a grammar school at 14.

Top-slicing the most able students means that any non-GS school doesn't actually have a comprehensive intake, so no fair comparison can be made.

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