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 08:49:26

Even streaming isn't a good idea, you need setting because someone who is top in English can be bottom in Maths.

DontmindifIdo Thu 24-Oct-13 08:53:16

I tend to think the people who are anti-grammer school haven't really thought through what it takes for comps to stream correctly - they either don't, or they have to be very very large schools to make sure they have enough pupils of hte different levels to teach groups according to ability.

I went to one of the very big schools that can stream correctly. They did get great results (still do), however it was at the cost of the pastoral care. I didn't actually speak to the head or the deputy at any point I was at secondary school, not even a 'hello' or anything - I think can't actually remember talking to head of years - I didn't even know the names of half the teaching staff. At university and got chatting to a boy who it turns out had been to my school in my year, yet I'd never met him before. (he recognised me, but only because he'd fancied my mate! We'd not been in a shared class and we had never had form rooms near each other, so we just didn't meet). Other people who'd been to smaller schools thought this was insane, but then those who'd been to smaller comps talked about being taught with other pupils who'd not been able to keep up with subjects, because the school hadn't the numbers to properly stream.

Personally, I like the grammer system, because it forces smaller schools. It's not a small school trying to stream a large range of abilities, they are trying to stream only the top 23%. My bigger issue round here is the non-grammer schools are huge, I'd be happy for DS to be sent to a non-grammer if that's the level that he's at academically, but I'd hate him to go to a very big school where it's easy for quiet DCs to be lost.

WhatWillSantaBring Thu 24-Oct-13 08:56:23

Thank you - I know I wasn't the OP but this is a question i have genuinely wanted to understand for years. I was "fortunate" enough to be privately educated, but at a school that was entirely wrong for me, so I understand that it is not a one system fits all approach but have limited experience/knowledge of the state sector.

What struck me in the early years of my career (highly academic but also very traditional) is that my only state educated contempories were products of GS. There was not a single comprehensively educated person in my intake of 60. I'm not sure whether the middle class domination of GS's would have started by then (school years in the '90s) so that could have been a factor.

What I do wish is that ALL schools had higher expectations for their brightest pupils and a change in culture where academic excellence is celebrated*, not mocked. How on earth one can get that is beyond me.

* I realise that academic excellence is not the only thing, but it its not "cool" to be clever and I think that is such a shame.

Another genuine question (or 3) - do kids in comprehensives AND GS get setted/streamed from the day the arrive at secondary school? If not, why not? And do kids do annual (internal) exams to allow them to move up/down sets? If not, how do kids get put into the right sets?

Preciousbane Thu 24-Oct-13 09:02:31

DS would do well in a grammar school but they do not exsist in my area. It is obvious that it gives an advantage and pigeon holes people from a young age.

DH went to a private school and I went to a comp that streamed. DS is at a comp that has individual sets for all subjects, even PE.

I'm glad that there are no grammar schools in my area as the thought of getting sucked in to the absolute madness of application that I have read about on here would not be for me nor my DS.

I agree very much with the post by TheAmrylin

difficultpickle Thu 24-Oct-13 09:21:20

I went to GS but back in the day when there was no tutoring and it didn't matter whether you passed or failed, it was simply a test to decide which school you went to after primary. I wouldn't send ds to GS mainly because of all the ridiculous tutoring that seems to be required these days. We are in catchment for Bucks and they had a new 11+ exam this year that was supposed to be tutor proof. I don't know anyone who took the exam that was not tutored so that seems to make a mockery of Bucks CC's claims.

NoComet Thu 24-Oct-13 09:33:51

It isn't just the cost of tutoring for a couple of years it's a £1000 for bus fare plus £350 in petrol to get to the bus stop.

And that means me being tied to the equivalent of my old school run, even if at more work friendly times for the next 7 years.

Comp bus is free and goes from our gate.

NoComet Thu 24-Oct-13 09:42:10

I should add that this is a public bus, so DCs have to hang about in an evening, homework still to do, because the return service isn't timed for school.

Also given how awful our local public transport is many, many DCs will be in the same or worse circumstances.

Is it any surprise that three out of the four DCs I know who go to grammar here (and that literally is it) have parents who commute in that direction.

Level playing field it is not!

Blu Thu 24-Oct-13 09:47:51

Because it divides children out at 11, or some may only be 10, when they take the test
Because it even divides out a particular kind of bright child - those who do well across a range of tests - not those who may be geniuses at maths but not at language, who will then be left in something more like a secondary modern in full grammar areas
Because a well-run comp enables top sets to be challenged and extended, just like in a grammar, whilst also allowing for a child to be in less advanced sets for particular subjects
Because whilst in a good comp there is plenty of room for adjustment - move a late-maturing summer child up a set when they are ready, move a grammar child doiwn a set for the subjects they find hard (or when they are found to be burnt out and tutored to the test and need more help in MFL, for example)
Because nowadays a well run comp is now more likely to offer the equality of opportunity and a good education for economically disadvantaged children than a Grammar - you can't compare the lives of our working-class- parents-made-good with children nowadays because in our parents / grandparents days comps didn't exist - it was Grammar or Secondary Mod - and secondary mod dictated that you took CSEs, vocational classes and left at 15.
Because a full grammar system precludes the benefits of a proper comp system for bright kids who do need to be amongst peers within a set or stream.

I do think that comps need to make sure they are good for all kids - I like the more detailed breakdown of stats that now show how a school perfomrs across a range of abilities, which hopefully precludeds the temptation to focus only on the middlings to get them over the precious C grade threshold in pursuit of overall good stats.

(I went to a selective school, my Dad was a first generation Grammar school boy frm a mining village - his father worked in the pit - my DS is in the top stream of a good comp)

tiggytape Thu 24-Oct-13 09:56:24

The people who are against it in London object because it isn't like it used to be:

- No catchment areas. The grammars in some areas take children from miles and miles away with no priority for local children. This makes the school place shortage even worse and local children who pass the 11+ can end up not getting into grammar school (if they score 1 or 2 points less than someone living 50 miles away)

- Test Expectations - With so many applicants, the standard needed to pass goes up and up. Being a level 5 in Year 5 just doesn't cut it. The tests are taken at the start of Year 6 yet the child will be tested on the whole KS2 curriculum (where maths is tested) so at the very least they need parental input to teach them this.

- Tutoring Culture - At some schools there are 10 - 12 applicants for each place. Mainly top group children take the tests and people only opt-in if they expect their child can manage them. The difference between a pass and a fail (or a pass with an offer versus a pass with no offer) is increasingly down to technique and speed. Every point counts. A few years ago tuition in Year 5 was pretty common. Now people up the ante all the time and start in Year 4 or Year 3 just to gain an edge.

- Effect on Other Schools - In London only the top 2 - 8% of children are skimmed off so the other schools don't suffer a brain-drain. They have lots of top group ability children all starting on level 5's and 6's and get good results.
In other regions the top 25 - 30% are skimmed off and this creates other schools which might not be able to cater for a bright child who fails the test (and anyone can have a bad day).
In London the effect is more that local children who pass the test still cannot get a grammar place if they are narrowly beaten on score and so all the other local schools get clogged up causing problems for people who don't even want a grammar school place.

Old Ethos Diminished - Grammar schools aren't particularly small anymore. In London 180 per year (with plans to expand) isn't abnormal for a grammar school. Classes aren't any smaller either because they have the same funding concerns as all other schools. They no longer focus on taking bright but disadvantaged children since some form of tuition or preparation is so vital to passing the exams (in London at least). A lot of things that people fondly remember about their own grammar days have gone

PottyLotty Thu 24-Oct-13 10:10:13

I would send my childen to a Grammar School if there was one locally.

I believe they help the brightest students reach their 'full' potential rather than just 'doing well' in a comprehensive school.

If more students went to GS's the comprehensive schools would have smaller class sizes so those who need the extra help will get it because the staff have less students and more time. Everyone wins. The option at year 10 to transfer to a GS if the students show the ability should be available though.

My DD would pass an entry exam for a Grammar School however my DS would not and I would not object to one going to a GS and one who did not.

ClifftopCafe Thu 24-Oct-13 10:18:42

Why don't the primary schools raise their game in terms of the 3Rs and academic focus so the playing field is more level? We are consistently told that a few familiarisation sessions are all that's needed if applying to selective schools or the local Grammars.

Recent literacy homework involved drawing pictures (even top group) to illustrate characters in a story they'd read etc. A bit more to it than that but lots of emphasis on ICT and speaking and listening skills. Lots of posters etc. Those I know in the Prep are working on a comprehension on Mansfield Park currently and picking out literacy devices in the text which they are then told to use in composition & note in special books to remember. VR and NVR on the syllabus one way or another from Y3 and twice weekly at least from Y4. Who do you think is at an advantage when it comes to the exams?

In the Prep a clock is up on the whiteboard with the emphasis on countdown and working to time. In our primary writing is assessed over a much longer period and children will typically do a introduction one day, the middle the next and the ending another.

Our Primary is universally praised for it's creative and child led focus. We are told not to enter our children for the grammar or selective school if they need more than familiarisation with the test papers as they will be unsuited to the environment. Meanwhile I see those who are above average academically but certainly not the top 5 or 10% stroll into the Grammar and selective schools. We have to make up any short fall at home. Sometimes the children resent the extra work, especially if they are doing sport after school etc and frankly I can see their point. If you have a strong willed child who doesn't want to comply, what then? Or is the Primary correct and if we need to do the work with them at home they are simply not clever enough?

Inertia Thu 24-Oct-13 10:24:17

PottyLotty- you are sadly misguided if you think that having Grammar Schools take the most able students means that the resulting secondary-modern-equivalent would have smaller class sizes. They would have to do exactly what they do now, where staffing depends on pupil numbers. Fewer pupils means less money available to the school. In fact it would probably reduce their flexibility to have smaller class sizes , as many comprehensives have larger top and middle sets in order that the less able groups can be smaller.

Inertia Thu 24-Oct-13 10:26:27

CliffTop- I suspect that part of the answer to your question is that state schools have to follow the National Curriculum. Independent schools do not.

Inertia Thu 24-Oct-13 10:27:41

Satin, you're right- setting for individual subjects instead of across-the-board streaming is a much better system and I should have made my comment clearer to reflect that.

WireCat Thu 24-Oct-13 10:36:51

I'm not against them.
What I don't like is that children can come in from far & wide. From areas that have good schools. I believe the grammar schools should serve the area that they're in.
Am in Southend. We have 4 grammar schools. 2 girls, 2 boys.

My dd wouldn't have passed the 11+. My ds1 could have with tuition. Too early to see with ds2.

IMO there's schools should only take from the SS postcode.

Instead we have children coming in from London, Colchester, Chelmsford. Personally I think that's ridiculous.

curlew Thu 24-Oct-13 10:41:19

Change the name to The secondary Modern System.

Still like it?

soundevenfruity Thu 24-Oct-13 10:52:41

It seems to be a question of opportunities which in the current system come quite infrequently. Your future can't be decided at 11 and you can't expect children to pick a profession when they choose their GCSEs. For me it's not about abolishing grammars (because there are children that are academic at 11) but about building in options for those that blossom later. Including something akin to International bacalauriat where you have to do all subjects; evening degrees at universities where people can study after work; tax breaks for employers that allow employees to do further education.

LittleSiouxieSue Thu 24-Oct-13 11:30:21

In Bucks all of the grammar schools are good, or outstanding, and although lots of parents engage a tutor, lots do not and work through relevant books with their children. A poster suggested Grammar schools are small. They are not. Many in Bucks are 1400. The costs are too great if you stay small and successful schools grow, especially when out of county children are desperate to get in. In a grammar school system, countywide, you have secondary moderns for the 70% of local children who do not get a grammar school place. In the last 15 years, the majority of Bucks secondary schools have been in special measures, some twice. There is a first division of secondary schools which have always been successful but some of the others have had numerous problems down the years. If you have no choice of secondary modern you can be stuck with an under performing school. If you look around a grammar school and compare with a secondary modern you will notice differences. Grammar schools appear smarter, better resourced and give more opportunities even for sport which should not be based on intelligence. One if mine got the 11+ and the other didn't take it as we sent her to an independent school. Had she attended our local secondary modern I felt the differences between the grammar and the secondary were too great. The grammar offered a myriad of learning opportunities but the secondary offered very limited experiences, poor results (being one of the lowest performing schools in the country), virtually no music or drama and was housed in scrappy buildings. These schools have been neglected for years and it amazes me that parents accept that their children are treated like second, or third, class citizens. Have grammar schools by all means, but the secondary's all need to be good too, and they are not.

TeenAndTween Thu 24-Oct-13 12:45:32

DD1 would not have passed a GS test. She has blossomed at secondary school, moving up sets rapidly for maths, top set for French etc.

Luckily we live in Hampshire with its excellent Comprehensive system.
Every child matters at her school. They monitor progress of all children, intervening where needed.
Options at GCSE allow for the very academic (eg triple science, 2 languages, + latin as an extra) , and the less so (eg construction or beauty).

Grammer schools
- don't allow for late bloomers
- are biased towards middle class parents who can pay for travel and tutoring
- often seem to go hand in hand with associated poor secondary modern schools
- put a great deal of stress on families from about age 9 upwards

A good comprehensive
- copes with academic and non academic children
- allows for brilliance in one subject and struggling in another
- has excellent behaviour
- has high aspirations for all children

Blu Thu 24-Oct-13 12:49:11

Tiggy, I am in London, and my comments on Grammar schools are based on my wider views of the education system as a whole, not my subjective experience or view as a London parent. The OP asked about the ‘Grammar School System’ and my problems are with the system wherever it is or not.
Within our education system I also have a problem with state funded faith schools. I have no beef at all with individual families choosing to send their children to faith or grammar schools. They are legal, provided as part of the system and parents who can and would like to opt for those schools should absolutely do so. My ‘problem’ (aka beliefs about how things should be instead) is with the system as a whole, not with anyone who chooses to take up a place in the school. No personal sniping at all.

Blu Thu 24-Oct-13 12:50:31

Sorry - post composed with an interruption - hence grammatical nonsense in the middle!

Xoanon Thu 24-Oct-13 12:54:04

There isn't one single 'grammar school system' though, which is probably part of the problem. I expect I wouldn't like the way things are done in Kent, or South London. I think the way things are done where I live is excellent, although the proliferation of private schools does skew things somewhat.

ouryve Thu 24-Oct-13 12:56:55

My problem is about where kids like DS1 would fit. Exceptionally bright, but has ASD and ADHD and needs a lot of support. His difficulties are severe enough that I'll be taking him out of MS altogether for secondary, but there's plenty of kids not quite so severe who would stay in mainstream who might not be served well by a grammar school which might barely give a nod to SN.

ouryve Thu 24-Oct-13 13:01:20

Not usually one for pedantry, but hmm for people discussing what they see as the merits of grammEr schools.

davidjrmum Thu 24-Oct-13 13:07:15

Pottylotty - you say "My DD would pass an entry exam for a Grammar School however my DS would not and I would not object to one going to a GS and one who did not." but how would your children feel about that. My mum's sister passed her 11+ and went to a grammar school but my mum didn't. My mum is a really bright lady, she retired as a teacher a few years ago but I don't think she would share your view about it not mattering if one sibling got to GS and the other didn't.

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