Allison Pearson in Telegraph about why grammar schools best

(93 Posts)
PollyParanoia Thu 11-Nov-10 16:28:52

I have to say I think this is poorly written, even without me going into my (somewhat confused) thoughts about grammar schools. Do agree with her about the hypocrisy of so many of our elite sending kids to faith schools.
And, ooo, the readers' comments are a bit scary, but then what was I expecting?

stoatsrevenge Thu 11-Nov-10 19:09:25

So if selection doesn’t work, why are the Prime Minister and 70 per cent of his Cabinet products of selective education?

60% of the cabinet were 'selectively' educated at the following establishments....
Eton, Westminster, st pauls, Charterhouse, Westminster, Brentwood, Rugby, Wellington, Radley, St Georges, Cheltenham Ladies', HMS Conway

What is she going on about?!

Clary Thu 11-Nov-10 23:23:24

Yes, since when is Eton a grammar school????

Or is she just in favour of lots of money to pay for your school? Makes no sense at all.

Litchick Fri 12-Nov-10 08:55:47

Eton may not be a grammar school but it is certainly selective.

I think what AP is trying to say, is that it is bloody hypocritical to campaign against academically selective state schools, when your own children are going to attend private selective schools or schools that are selective by stealth ie faith schools or schools in very expensive catchments.

PollyParanoia Fri 12-Nov-10 12:43:51

Yes agree with Litchick that's what she's trying to say but don't think she says it v well.
Her kids are in private schools, whether this is relevant or not I don't know.
Still have big reservations about grammar schools though I know if I were in a grammar school area I'd probably be tutoring my y2 kid already...

sue52 Fri 12-Nov-10 12:45:49

Politicians adjust their political stance to suit their own children's needs. Tony Blair sent his boys to the Oratory but he himself later converted to Catholicism. I wonder if Clegg, currently an Atheist, will do the same. He does seem to change his mind about firmly held beliefs rather easily.

inkyfingers Fri 12-Nov-10 19:20:52

Nick Clegg's wife is a committed Catholic, so that'll be Nick's get-out clause for sending kids to a church school (it was David Milliband's too, I think).

I have mixed feelings about it: I don't mind comprehensive but want my DC to be with pupils who want to learn and have teachers who are ambitious for them. Don't care about their class or accent.

The grammar school system means the secondary modern system too - those who DON'T pass 11+. Show me a product of the secondary modern system (85% of pupils at the time) who is campaigning to bring back selection. How can you build an education system that is geared towards a well-educated elite to run the country, the legal profession, BBC and stuff the other pupils who'll be happy to make the tea and do the plumbing because 'they're good with their hands' arrgghh.

Prinnie Fri 12-Nov-10 20:11:52

I read a very interesting article today about how the comprehensive system actually produces a more imbalanced form of selection than the old system as the new form of 'selection' is - 'can your parents afford a house in the catchement area of a good school?'.

The article cited the German system as a good system where you have 3 tiers of school - proper grammar schools for the very brightest, a middle ground school which is both academic but also vocational and then a third tier of proper vocational training schools for learners who are really suited to that kind of thing early on. I don't know any more about it than that so would happily be put right/told more, but to me it sounded like a better system than the one we have currently. Children aren't all the same, they have different needs - surely it is better to tailor their education to their needs?

inkyfingers Fri 12-Nov-10 20:27:24

Prinnie - I'm inclined to agree. But I hear so little about the education offered to the others, plus those who failed 11+ and had to prove themselves and work extra hard, that it makes me wonder if the old system had only a few 'winners'. FWIW the 1944 education act had those 3 types of schools - grammar, SM, and technical colleges, but ended in for most pupils being a choice between the first two.

Clary Fri 12-Nov-10 23:55:34

Actually education is tailored to different needs within the comprehensive system.

As an example, I work at a secondary school, and the students have the chance in yr 11 to do a course which involves them in a day-release once a week to do vehicle maintenance.

OTOH if they want they can do GCSE Music or French and go on to do the same at A-Level.

There are students who want to get married at 16, some who want to leave and go to beauty college, some who want to be car mechanics, yes, some who want to compose music, some who want to go to uni and study brain surgery or law.

Oh and teachers soooo much better than those at my grammar school 30 years ago. It's a total eye-opener.

peteneras Sat 13-Nov-10 01:40:00

My greatest problem is not so much with the politicians in this context but some of the faith (Catholic) schools. I’ve no quarrels with the Catholic Church but I’ve lots of disgust and contempt for some of the Catholic schools. They are the biggest hypocrites on God’s earth!

According to the Joint Guidance on Admissions for the Governing Bodies of Catholic Voluntary Aided Schools published by the combined Archdiocese of Westminster, Archdiocese of Southwark and the Diocese of Brentwood, a non-practising, two-parent Catholic family has a higher priority and claim to a Catholic school place than a single-practicing Catholic parent of a two-parent family. In other words, Tony Blair’s children would never have entered the London Oratory if he was just an ordinary Mr. T. Blair before his conversion. But true to their hypocritical form, the London Oratory would gladly admit the Blair children because he was an important minister.

Some may say Tony Blair had always wanted to be a Catholic anyway. Yes, but it was inconvenient for him to covert whilst still aspiring to be, and eventually becoming, Prime Minister. There would be constitutional problems for a Catholic to become Prime Minister in the UK. So, it’s a matter of “my career comes first and God comes second” when it suited him. Apparently, he went to see the Pope just before he converted when pushed out of office later. Why? Does it mean he’d stand at the top of the queue in front of the Pearly Gates when his time comes?

My partner converted to Catholicism when we got married (we never saw the Pope) and my son (therefore, born and bred a Catholic) was refused a place at the London Oratory because we were “not Catholic enough” in spite of the fact that the family regularly attended church and our parish priest supported our application 110 percent.

So, Nick Clegg, an Atheist and an unprincipled man ( No Student Fee Increase Pledge) put your son’s name down at the London Oratory and you’ll be guaranteed a place.

onceamai Sat 13-Nov-10 08:56:14

I went to grammar school. I had a fabulous education. My classmates included the local doctor's daughters, the local bank manager's daughters, local bus driver's daughters, local shop keeper's daughters, ticket office daughter's, the farmer's daughter and the farm labourer's daughters.

It provided a setting where all bright girls were able to receive the same education and intellectually were treated as equals and given, by virtue of their intelligence, the same opportunities to succeed.

It was three form entry, it was nurturing, I don't remember anything ever getting nicked and there was very little bullying.

It was Kent in the 70's. My best friend from primary went to secondary mod; she went to the tech for O'Levels and A'Levels. Admittedly a year behind me she went to uni and is now a very successful lawyer. Her children go to grammar school. grin

I though Alison Pearson's article was on the nail - she also listed a number of very successful people from very moderate backgrounds who succeeded because of the opportunities afforded to them by grammar schools.

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 09:03:09

I haven't yet readthe article yet, but I just wanted to say that if grammar schools were ever a way for clever children from disadvantaged backgrounds to step up out of disadvantage, then they certainly aren't now. They are now a way to give the privileged children of middle class parents even more privilege, and to perpetuate social divide. You only have to look at the FSM statistics to realize that.

onceamai Sat 13-Nov-10 09:04:58

Seeker - it wasn't like that though when there was a grammar school in every town.

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 09:07:19

I suspect it was, though - although I can't prove it!

But the fact remains that it is now. Grammar schools perpetuate privilege and also have a negative effect on the non-selective schools in the area.

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 13-Nov-10 09:09:34

agree with Seeker. They used to be. They aren't now.
My parents and MIL all came from working class backgrounds and went to grammars. My dad's grammar was in a coalmining area and the children included a lot of miners children as well as the local doctor's etc. It is now a sink comprehensive - bad education for everyone.

Seeker/ Seth - actually a recent Sutton Trust report found the grammar schools are more diverse than top comprehensives schools.

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 09:22:12

Unless you have one secondary serving one town, then it's all selective - based on 11+, religion, wealth of parents buying into the right catchment or paying to go private.

My father gets phone calls from prospective parents saying if we buy a house in this road will we get into your school.

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 09:23:20

jackstarbright - so not very diverse at all, then!

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 13-Nov-10 09:26:39

didn't know about that Sutton Trust report Jack. I like the Sutton Trust.

I still think more needs to be done to make grammars more diverse though.... when you read the threads about 11+ preparation it is clear the children without supportive and clued-up parents have very little chance. Whereas in mum's and MIL's families it was 'Your dd has passed the 11+!' 'Oh, has she?'

And I hate the attitude that selection by ability is worse than selection by house price.

Bonsoir Sat 13-Nov-10 09:31:50

onceamai - I also went to a Kent grammar school in the 1970s, though, by dint of fate, didn't stay long.

I remember many girls in my class having free uniforms, free school meals and living in council housing; there was also the daughter of the headmaster of the nearest boys' public school and many daughters of the professional middle-classes.

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 09:33:13

The 11+ doesn't rely on having a certain native level of ability any more. The test includes an area of maths not required by the NC in yr 6 so it's also a test of parental support in teaching them this/getting coaching/accessing test papers. However, you could say the same of parents who suddenly find an interest in religion or who plan a house move for the right catchment.

The Sutton Trust report Worlds Apart - social variation among schools is actually more of a criticism of the comprehensive system in this country, rather than an endorsement of grammar schools.

"Of the 100 most socially selective schools in the country, 91 were comprehensives, eight were grammars and there was one secondary modern."


"The ... country's top 164 comprehensive schools took only 9.2% of children from income deprived homes although they drew pupils from areas where about 20% were income deprived. The 164 remaining grammar schools, also drawing their pupils from areas where 20% were income deprived, were found to be more inclusive, admitting 13.5% of children from poor homes."

Bonsoir Sat 13-Nov-10 09:35:32

DinahRod - I find your comment self-contradicts.

If the 11+ test is not covered by the NC, surely it is trying to test innate ability?

Though, personally, I do not believe it possible to test such a thing as innate ability and discount that which has been taught and learned.

daftpunk Sat 13-Nov-10 09:36:57

If you can afford to buy in a good area and you're catholic - you're going to do ok education wise.

The London oratory is not a grammar school for example.

A2363 Sat 13-Nov-10 09:38:56

All of the London faith secondary schools we applied to only looked at the "Catholicity" of the Catholic parent. You didn't stand a better chance if you had 2 Catholic parents- this was made very clear on the application forms. In fact one of my son's old classmates didn't get into the school because his Catholic Dad did not regularly attend Church even though his Catholic Mum virtually ran the Parish.
from my experience there are a large number of children in these schools with only one Catholic parent.

sarah293 Sat 13-Nov-10 09:38:57

Message withdrawn

Bonsoir Sat 13-Nov-10 09:40:21

Undoubtedly Maybe because the pool of great Headteachers (and teachers) is not large enough for all the schools in the country, Riven?

<runs for cover>

sarah293 Sat 13-Nov-10 09:41:07

Message withdrawn

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 09:42:24

It would be practically impossible for a child who had not ahs some sort of coaching, even if that just means a few practice papers at home, to pass the Kent Test - and I assume that other areas are the same.

The level of vocabulary needed for the verbal reasoning paper and the level of knowledge neded for the maths paper are very high - it's unlikely that a child from a family which was not involved/interested/educated could pass.

Bonsoir Sat 13-Nov-10 09:43:25

You cannot sew a silk purse out of a sow's ear and all that wink.

All developed countries (except perhaps Finland) have an issue with quality of teachers - you need to recruit very high quality raw material before imparting excellent training...

The UK is unusual among developed countries in having exceptionally low standards for the recruitment of secondary school teachers (ie recruitment pre-PGCE).

bruffin Sat 13-Nov-10 09:44:16

But that is the problem RIven it does seem to me that the most important part of the school is the Head and his leadership.

DCs school have been turned around from 16% to 88% 5 GCSEs in quite a short period of time. He is an amazing HM and I just hope he doesn't move in the next 5 years

WynkenBlynkenandNod Sat 13-Nov-10 09:46:38

I went to a Grammar in Bristol in the 80's that had the weirdest catchment area designed to take in the middle class children in a posh area and exclude those in a nearby bit which was well known for rioting.

DD announced a week ago she wants to do the 11+ in a few weeks time so I find myself getting her tutoring but don't want her to go at all. She's not hugely academic and I think if by any miracle she got in her new found confidence would be crushed and it would be a disaster. As we're out of catchment she'll have to get a higher mark and is up against the local prep school children who have been tutored up to the eyeballs for years so I don't think she stands any chance of getting in thank goodness.

"....Maybe because the pool of great Headteachers (and teachers) is not large enough for all the schools in the country,"

Sadly - I think you are spot on Bonsoir.

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 09:50:34

What I mean is that it tests an area not taught by the NC and is not something a child would be expected to know unless taught (have forgotten what this is - must look it up) Clued-up parents know this; parents who just send their child along to see how they are comparatively disadvantaged. Grammar schools increasingly see children taught intensively to the test and then once in, struggle. Data from primary shows they have SATs levels of 3/4 rather than the norm which is 5, for instance. My point is that the test has become flawed and afair there are plans to change it.

MotherMountainGoat Sat 13-Nov-10 09:53:21

Prinnie "The article cited the German system as a good system where you have 3 tiers of school"

The German system has been much criticised within the country itself. It may not be as chaotic as the current mess in the UK, but it's just as unfair.

Reliable studies (from the OECD) have shown that if two children have the same ability, the child from an academic family is more likely to be sent to a grammar school and the child from a non-academic family will probably land up in the middle or lower school form.

Theoretically the school forms are transparent, so that there is movement between them if a child shows more promise etc. In practice there is only movement downwards, and moving a child into a lower school form is used as a punishment for persistent bad behaviour.

In most federal states in Germany, pupils only spend four years in junior schools before the selection is made. So pupils from poorer families go to school at 6, perhaps with no reading or numeracy skills, and have very little time to catch up. It's no wonder that background is a much greater factor in determining which school form a child goes to than the child's ability.

The lowest school form, the Hauptschule has been totally discredited. Traditionally the kids there would go into 'unskilled' work which needed little training, but now the kids in the middle school form (Realschule) are taking those jobs. So the kids in the Hauptschule, who are overwhelmingly migrants, end up unemployed and disaffected. The problem is so great in Berlin now that the lower two school forms have been joined together to lessen the 'stigma' of having been to a Hauptschule. Ideally all three school forms would have been merged to create comprehensive schools, but the grammar schools had too many influential parents who objected.

Selection is not the solution.

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 09:53:54

Good H/T are in short supply.

A2363 Sat 13-Nov-10 09:55:14

Peterneras, I have just scanned that document, they refer throughout to a "Practising Catholic Family" but in the definition on page 42 it says that a practising family is "where at least one parent is practising" and goes on to give examples of other types of families.

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 10:10:51

To get into our nearest v good church secondary, if you are not the 50% living in the immediate vicinity, you have to prove faith. It's not enough to attend church, as a parent you have to be actively involved in an assigned role within the church. Have asked dh, devout atheist, if he wants to be ordained

Hullygully Sat 13-Nov-10 10:18:17

Separate church and state. Remove church from schools, it's completely ludicrous that in a country like the uk, where religion plays a part in so few lives, that the church gets to dominate education to such an extent.

When I were a yoof we all took a test at the end of primary, at our own school, and based on the results went to grammar or not. There was no teaching geared to the test.

My ds is at a grammar and was not tutored.

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 10:24:08

"Separate church and state. Remove church from schools, it's completely ludicrous that in a country like the uk, where religion plays a part in so few lives, that the church gets to dominate education to such an extent."


I agree!!!!!!

daftpunk Sat 13-Nov-10 10:25:44

Riven; I agree - all schools should offer fantastic education, and for the most part they do. However, as with most things - money talks, and if you can buy yourself into a better catchment area you will. People with money have (usually) worked damn hard to get it, they have a good work ethic and want their children to do well. They don't want their children in schools alongside families who don't value education - and let's be honest - there are plenty of families who see schools as little more than a free baby sitting service.

MotherM - I suspect when the Germans look at our system they see that the comprehensive school system isn't any fairer to children from disadvantaged backgrounds than their selective system. Plus, they normally outrank us on OECD education tables (in maths and science - anyway).

As Bonsoir indicates, only the Finns have come close to making a truly comprehensive state education system work well, and they appear to have an excellent supply of good teachers and head teachers.

sarah293 Sat 13-Nov-10 10:30:40

Message withdrawn

Hullygully Sat 13-Nov-10 10:32:05

Riven, small population, greater per capita wealth, investment, less social divide.

sarah293 Sat 13-Nov-10 10:33:52

Message withdrawn

Hullygully Sat 13-Nov-10 10:38:02

Riven, I can't remember - have a snoop about on tinternet

bruffin Sat 13-Nov-10 10:40:33

"Finns have come close to making a truly comprehensive state education system work well,"

Unfortunately they turn out robots with no initiative. I worked for the largest company in Finland for 6 years, in their uk branch.
The Finns were brilliant at their jobs as long as they didn't have to go outside their narrow remit.

daftpunk Sat 13-Nov-10 10:41:18

We live in a capitalist state Riven - we're not a communist country. Money talks and the more you have the more power you've got. The poorer people you talk about have to accept that. We couldn't afford to privately educate 4 children - we'd have loved to. So we did the next best thing - bought property in a good area. (and I'm catholic - which helps)

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 10:46:27

Damn - dp's on the thread. There goes the neighbourhood.

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 10:47:11

Where I used to live in London there were 4 better state schools north of the borough that everyone across the borough wanted to attend. Over time, the one I went to outranked the others by acquiring an excellent head and teachers so it became the one to get in to, whilst another went downhill quite rapidly, hence the scramble for places and houses.

For all schools to be excellent depends a great deal on the quality of the headteacher and the ability of the school to recruit the best teachers. We live in a one school small town and the secondary school excels at mediocrity. For dh's tough school to be excellent, there would have to be a sea-change in education, with far more vocational courses and apprenticeships properly funded and skilled from 14 - and they just aren't. Part of his frustration is for the 50%+ at his school who are railroaded through GCSE courses they are not going to pass.

Riven - I am sad enough to have spent a bit of time researching the Finnish Education system (mainly on the net - so I'm not 100%).

Their system evolved in a very different way from ours.

They have a relatively sparse population - so built one local community school (for 7-16 years olds) in each town.

Schools typically have 400- 600 pupils and everyone knows everyone else.

Teaching is a very high status job (top graduates only) and most people have a high regard for education generally (it's like they all have 'middle class' values towards education).

Pre-schools are very good and virtually all children arrive at school aged 7 and ready to learn.

The schools are very inclusive and there is no 'setting' or streaming (pretty much up to 14 - I think).

Pupils take one set of national exams at 15 years old - which helps to decide (together with teacher and parents input) on vocational or academic further
education (16-18).

As I say - I'm not really an expert - happy to be corrected by any Finns on here.

sarah293 Sat 13-Nov-10 10:51:33

Message withdrawn

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 13-Nov-10 10:51:52

Coming back to the grammar school issue, I was thinking if I was queen of the world I would start off by getting tough on the grammar schools' selection procedures and putting pressure on them to become more diverse. I would make it clear their continued existence depended on it so they had to go all out to recruit from a wider range of state schools, more children with parents with less education, etc.
If they failed I would turn them comprehensive and if they succeeded I would open more. Good plan, or rubbish?

bruffin Sat 13-Nov-10 10:51:56

2For dh's tough school to be excellent, there would have to be a sea-change in education, with far more vocational courses and apprenticeships properly funded and skilled from 14 - "

Isn't that starting to happen. At DCs school and I have heard similar down in Dorset they are starting to do more vocational studies from 14 which include doing part of the course at local colleges.

badgermonkey Sat 13-Nov-10 10:54:14

Those amazing rises in pass rates are nothing to do with improved teaching at all. The Head will have fiddled the results by putting kids in for BTECs and similar qualifications which are GCSE-equivalent and so count for up to 5 GCSEs. They're almost impossible to fail and so by entering every student in the year for a BTEC you automatically get a meteoric rise in pass rates without any actual improvement taking place.

Not to say that BTECs are worthless - indeed in some cases they are far and away the better qualification, i.e in vocational subjects - but a school can go from 40% of their students passing Science GCSE to near enough 100% passing BTEC simply by switching to the easier course. The teaching isn't better. If anything, it's worse because the BTEC is so dumbed-down no real science is being taught at all (not necessarily the case for all science BTECs but probably what is happening at schools that do it only for the results). I'm a teacher and I have seen this happen in more than one school. In fact the school I teach in is soon going to go from being top of the league table in the county to near the bottom because we're not going down the quick-and-easy route but are instead sticking to teaching the qualifications we think are the most appropriate and robust for our cohort. But it will look like we're failing when every other school is improving rapidly hmm

daftpunk Sat 13-Nov-10 10:54:24

Ha ha ha

I live in a half a million pound house - my daughters are both at good universities training to be teachers. My standards are so high the London oratory is 2nd choice for our son. I am a shocking snob - despite my lack of education = -----> appalling spelling/grammar.

sarah293 Sat 13-Nov-10 10:55:18

Message withdrawn

Seth - i'd think you'd achieve more by targeting the socially exclusive comprehensive schools.

How about encouraging them to take more socially disadvantaged children by allowing them to academically select them?

This could be done by primary school teacher recommendation (to avoid tests and application forms).

Good plan?

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 11:03:04

True, another London school I know went from 40% to near enough 100% because pupils were entered for art, ICT and science that awarded 4 GCSEs per subject. Their results dip when you look at 5* A-C including maths and English, but now they target their best teachers and smaller class sizes to the E/D/C groups to get the pass-rate % up.

bruffin Sat 13-Nov-10 11:05:25

YOu also have to look at the rest of the school Badgermonkey. DCs school do offer btecs for ICT and a few other subjects but they now get 80% A-C passes in english (my dyslexic DS has gone from a narrow scrape by one point of a 4 at KS2 to a level 7 at KS3 and now forcast an A for english GCSE.
They have excellent pastural care and a bullying is trodden on from a very great height!

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 11:08:28

Seth, re your plan to make grammar schools more inclusive, the schools themselves don't recruit or administer the 11+, the LEA do. They have nothing to do with it - the pupils just turn up in yr 7. It's up to parents to rock up with their child one Saturday morning to sit the test, afaik.

I looked at the Brighton lottery system but parents seem dissatisfied with that too.

badgermonkey Sat 13-Nov-10 11:12:44

You're right, Bruffin, that the other subjects do offer an important guide to the quality of the school. Their offering BTECs is not necessarily a bad thing if it has been a carefully considered choice based on the needs of the students. Too often though it is just a knee-jerk "must raise pass rates!" decision. 80% pass rate in English is excellent (similar results to the English dept I teach in!) and shows a dedicated staff IMO, especially in a comprehensive.

PaulineMole Sat 13-Nov-10 11:20:17

i went to a kent grammar in the 1990s
even that long ago, about 1/3 to 1/2 of the intake came from the independent crammer primary.

i came from a council estate school with no preparation, and i am quite sure that nowadays, in the absence of any tutoring or practice papers, i would not make the grade.

waterlooroadisadocumentary Sat 13-Nov-10 11:22:01

I do not think the answer is more grammar schools, we need to improve the comps so they offer a grammar within a comp if that makes sense. I have taught in grammars and live in grammar areas and would far rather my child went to a great comp that a grammar. The only reason we may choose a grammar for dd is because she is currently in catchment for a crap comp and tbh she has been in a crap primary for years and I think she has paid enough of a price for our values. I am considering moving so we do not have to put our dd though the grammar

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 13-Nov-10 11:22:20

OK Dinah so either the school would need more control of their entrance exams OR it would need to be sorted out at LEA level. But there is still stuff the schools can do: in the same way as Oxbridge sends current students into state schools without a history of Oxbridge entrance to try and get the kids to apply, grammar schools could advertise and run information events to encourage parents from the state primaries which don't usually send many children, to apply. Or do they already do that kind of thing?

Jack - that sounds sensible.

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 13-Nov-10 11:30:37

my problem with the grammar-within-a-comp idea, is, aren't the numbers inevitably going to limit what the school can offer to the 'grammar' children? So if each of several comps in a town has, say, 5 children who would benefit from taking 3 foreign languages, it's not cost-effective to run those classes for such small numbers of children. Put the children together in the same school and it does make sense. 'Grammars-within-comps' probably exist in the 'top' comps but not in all of them.

Seth / Dinah - if the objective is to make grammar schools less socially exclusive - then I think primary school support is needed.

But, unfortunately primary school teachers often aren't in favour of academic selection.

I think the Sutton Trust does some work in this area. Much of it appears to be building awareness and aspiration.

Often the biggest barrier to getting a disadvantaged child into a good school (comp or grammar) is parental ignorance and lack of interest.

On the grammar within a comp idea - there's lots of research on the harmful effects of (badly implemented) streaming.

I can see the advantages to a child (of liberal minded parents). A good academic education with some interaction with a wider social and ability group. I'm not sure about the benefits for the rest of the kids.

waterlooroadisadocumentary Sat 13-Nov-10 11:40:21

But why can't more comps be "top comps"? What about those students who are gifted at maths but have poor literacy - they will not make it into the grammar. What about those students who peak early but fail to sustain or those who blossom a year after selection for the grammar.

I teach in a comp that offers third languages, we select staff who can do it and we find a way to work around the timetable to make it happen.

I will admit to having taught in grammars that were awful and living in an area where the grammars are dull, stifling and leave no room for students to flourish beyond getting an A*. The very students who should be given the greatest independence are spoon fed and therir choices shut down. I know a number of parents who have chosen the grammar route and now regret it when they find out what the comps could have offered.

Schools that go from 35%-85% A-C are almost always "fiddling" their results through course selection.

waterlooroadisadocumentary Sat 13-Nov-10 11:46:41

I don't agree with streaming but I do agree with setting. I teach children who are in top set for my lesson but further down the school for maths or science say. I don't want to create a school within a school - so perhaps my use of language was wrong.

But in my top sets within lessons there is as much of an academic rigour ( infact more because I know what is being taught in my subject in the grammar) as there would be in a grammar. We offer similar subjects as the grammar but also allow for more creative expression. Our faciliies are better, many of our teachers are better and we offer the social mix.

I am confident that a child in my top set will do as well if not better with me than they would at the grammar.

cory Sat 13-Nov-10 11:49:38

I remain to be convinced that my dd- in an area which is non-grammar, in a part of town which is not thought of as "desirable" - is not getting an education that will stand her in good stead. Yes, on average fewer children from this school will get a good number of A*'s. This is because the school is inclusive and takes on children who were simply never going to do that. But what the GCSE tables show year after year is that it is perfectly possible for any individual child with the ability and willingness to put in the work to achieve results that are as good as those achieved by children in the selective system. So that's good enough for me then. If dd can't see for herself that she needs to push herself harder than some of her mates if she wants to achieve different results, then I wouldn't want her on my university course anyway.

waterlooroadisadocumentary Sat 13-Nov-10 11:53:25

While I wish otherwise that is not always the case. My dd is a motivated, mostly well behaved , bright girl who loves learning. She is in a primary that is chaos and is learning nothing. It is so bad that my husband took a drop in working hours and salary so he could spend time teaching her and I do the same during the evenings and school holidays.

I am hoping it may be better at secondary because even if she ends up at the crap secondary there may the odd teacher who comes ito work regularly, marks books, sets appropriate lessons and can control the class.

abr1de Sat 13-Nov-10 11:54:40

'It went from 35% GCSE pass rate to 85% in one year '

Perhaps they pushed the kids to take easier exams. this is what happened in our town. Great big poster about the 'best' results in the area. But many kids weren't taking English or Maths.

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 11:55:26

Cory - I agree. We also want parents to realize that schools like our nearest high school (not a comprehensive - it can't be because the "top" 23% are at the grammars) is an excellent school, even though its exam results don;t look good. A school which takes everyone who applies int eh catchment is necessarily not going to look =as good on paper when the measure of success is A-c GCSEs and A levels. But if you look at the Valu added it's stupendous. People seem to find this very difficult to understand.

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 11:55:50

value added, obviously.

sethstarkaddersmum Sat 13-Nov-10 11:55:56

those are all good arguments Waterlooroad.
I am just still not sure what you do about the academic children in a school where there are not many. Do you give the children a right to be offered particular academic subjects, or facilities like a school library, even though that may skew the allocation of the school's resources towards a relatively small number of children?
In a way I would quite like that (it would be the best thing for my children, I think, if they could go to the really-rather-nice comprehensive but be offered subjects that they don't currently do there because there isn't enough demand) but I quite get that most people wouldn't think it was fair.

I went to a grammar school that was quite spoonfeedy and I totally know where you're coming from re that, but the option was that or a comprehensive that didn't offer the academic subjects.

waterlooroadisadocumentary Sat 13-Nov-10 11:56:06

I worked in a school that did exactly that abr1de, they refused to change , I handed in my notice in the end.

sarah293 Sat 13-Nov-10 11:56:36

Message withdrawn

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 12:52:05

Re grammar's reaching out - grammars are LEA schools operating within the allowed perimeters of the school system so they function as other schools do - open mornings, open eves, community based projects like mentoring younger students, sharing facilities etc but it's not like public school who can offer bursaries etc.

But grammar uptake can depend on the primaries - some heads are anti grammar and offer no info/support to parents on getting their child into one, whilst others actively prepare their students.

cumbria81 Sat 13-Nov-10 12:55:36

I am not opposed to selection per se, but I don't agree with creaming off the top percentage of kids and leaving the rest in sink schools.

I failed to get into grammar school when I was 11. I wasn't stupid, but did struggle with maths and that let me down. By the time I reached GCSE I had sorted it all out in my head and went on to get 4 A's at A Level.

My point is, you can't possibly guage a child's intelligence at 11.

Comprehensive education with streaming is the only answer.

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 12:57:30

In Kents, primary schools are specifically instructed not to offer any 11÷ training.

Cumbria - I suspect the number of bright kids who missed out getting into grammar school is small relative to the number of bright kids who now end up in sink comps.

Not that I think selection at 11 is particularly fair. 13 would be more accurate - except that by then many less advantaged kids have given up, or are too far educationally behind their MC peers to catch up.

There is no easy, pain free answer to allocating good schools places fairly.

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 13:18:46

really need to check my posts before posting : perimeters/parameters confused

Alouiseg Sat 13-Nov-10 13:23:05

My children are distinctly academically, average. They went to a small non selective private school that they could have stayed at till they were 16.

They left at 11 and go to our local comprehensive which has been better for them than any school we could ever have hoped for.

Alouiseg Sat 13-Nov-10 13:23:45

In fact I'm going to write to the head to tell him so

seeker Sat 13-Nov-10 13:42:20

I wonder how many "sink comps" there actually are. Compared, I mean, to how many people think there are - a school can look very "sink" indeed from the outside and on paper, and not be!

DinahRod Sat 13-Nov-10 14:17:38

Quite a high no of sink school in the county we live in combined with quite a insular outlook (dh has worked in two - he likes working with tough kids but not when the management's weak) but there's hardly any in the county adjacent, and that's the one with grammar schools. In Kent which I think you mentioned before, there's relatively few unless Margate/Ramsgate way.

Seeker - I was picking up on Cumbria's use of 'sink' - referring to a 'secondary modern' standard of education.

Bright children need education appropriate to their needs. So a bright child who mistakenly ends up in a secondary modern might be limited by, e.g, lack of qualified science or foreign language teachers.

Unfortunately, one result of the move to comprehensive education was a far larger number of bright children missing out on a level of academic education they required.

IMO the core of this problem is the limited number of good teachers and head teachers. How do we allocate them?

It used to be decided (roughly) by ability of the pupil. So the brighter kids got the best teachers. But now
appears to be mainly by parents bank balance.

waterlooroadisadocumentary Sat 13-Nov-10 15:34:32

I teach in a school that is comprehensive but in a grammar school area. People not in the know could assume we were a secondary modern. The challenge is for all schools to provide the highest standards for their pupils . We do not see the existence of grammar schools on our doorstep as an excuse to dumb down or provide a second rate education. As a result we are chosen over the grammar and independent option. We also take an increasing number from the grammar into our sixth form.

elvislives Sat 13-Nov-10 15:49:41

What nobody can ever answer in this debate is why selection by ability is "unfair" yet it is thought perfectly fair for all children to be forced to go to their nearest school, which might be dire.

We've just moved away from a grammar area (work, not deliberate). We aren't overburdened with money and couldn't afford any of the "nice" areas that automatically feed into the half decent schools in this area. So we live in a normal house in a road that is OK but our nearest secondary is awful. I just hope it turns around in the next 8 years or it looks like we'll have to move again, and I'm sure we can't afford to.

In Kent, although we wouldn't have technically been in the catchment for the grammar, which was on the other side of the town, our boys got to go there on ability. That is so much fairer than selection by bank balance/ postcode.

waterlooroadisadocumentary Sat 13-Nov-10 16:05:09

Of course it is not fair when you are in catchment for a dire school, I am in that situation. However my dd's school is so awful because so many local parents opt out of the state sector . If my dd's school had nor become a ghetto for the poor, those that don't care and the odd leftie it would be a different place.

peteneras Sun 14-Nov-10 05:09:27

A2363, I know things have changed considerably in many of the London Catholic schools in the last six or seven years and quite rightly so. Dare I say perhaps I had a hand in this change?

Please note I’ve nothing whatsoever against single-parent family, 2-Catholic-parent family, Muslim family, Hindu family, gay family or whatever family. If Catholic schools like the London Oratory want to use criterion like “Catholicity” as a fundamental tool in determining its admissions selection, then they must stick to the guidance and rules as per the published Guidance issued by the various Archdioceses of London and surround and other Regulations. Hypocrite Governing Bodies were setting up and interpreting their own rules even to the extent of overriding a parish priest’s authority on who is or isn’t a practising Catholic. That’s not to mention some of the admissions criteria set by these hypocrites are actually illegal.

The damning indictment at the end of the first paragraph of this(1) and this(2) directive sent to the Chair of Governors of the London Oratory by the then DfES in 2003 following my complaint says it all.

I believe the scanned document you referred to, A2363, is the updated version whilst this 2003 version was current when I applied.

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