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?.

Pyrrah Tue 09-Apr-13 13:43:46

Back in the 50's, there was a much smaller population. Private schools were also much more affordable to the middle-classes: the local doctor and lawyer could afford the fees for a decent prep and public school - few of them could now afford the £30k/per child/per annum.

It was also easier to get into university and to get a good job at the end of it.

We now have a situation with a hugely increased population, private school fees out of the reach of most ordinary members of the middle-classes and university is massively more competitive as are good jobs.

I went to a grammar school in the mid-80's. In those days, the top 25% of the local comprehensive automatically got places. Today every place is competitive and parents pay a substantial premium for a house in the area AND send their children to the local private preps to secure a place.

Grammars were seen as a way for the bright working class child to get a step on the ladder. Today the places are sought after by parents who in the past would have been able to afford to send their children privately but have been priced out of that market.

Personally I can see that a great comprehensive school with appropriate streaming should be the ideal across the country, but in so many places this just doesn't exist. My own (partially selective on faith) local comprehensive doesn't even manage to get 50% getting 5 A-C grades - and that is in an area with no grammars or indies in the vicinity.

As a result, parents in areas with grammars - especially the super-selectives - will do everything possible to improve the chances of their child getting a place.

A good comprehensive's fast stream should be the same as a grammar. Basically it is assumed that the children are academically able and so lessons are faster and cover more ground. Disruptive pupils are rare and so there are few discipline issues in class slowing down learning for the majority.

Many grammars also base themselves on private schools - certainly mine had sport 4 afternoons a week and other activities on the 5th, Saturday school, matches against other schools on Sat afternoon, longer holidays etc and there was an expectation that ALL students would go on to University.

mam29 Tue 09-Apr-13 14:32:12

Thanks pyrrah great explanation there.

Dident really start the thread to have usual grammer debate as some would argue it was a school sytem of its time and not right for now or gove be persueing it,

I guess many see it as private school but free but in reality flipping catchments and cost of tutoring not to mention costly commute must add up.

How do the remaining few grammar schools perform?
Better than most comps?

My local comp fairly affleunt area 43%a-c pass rates,

other options 3faith 2 rc and 1 coe very hard to get into.

3lottory academies 2 used to be independent before converting again hard to get in, the 3rd was good school before coverting and has entrance test but no 11+.Other 2 have language/music aptitude test of 10%rest banded.

the very posh areas city have new amazing academy with small catchment.

The free school now where near me and seems to like west london free school toby young model itself on a grammer school minus the 11+.

Gloucestershire over hours commute does have grammars and gets bitter about people taking their spaces plus its huge commute and highly selective.

So whats the solution?

how do we acheive what grammer schools acheived back then?

Will free schools and naming a school an cademy and giving it new blazers and ties will make it good.

Havnt started looking round senors yet seems lot window dressing.

We now have huge changes seems gcses are staying yet devalued.

yet private schools offer interenational bac and igcses.

school leaving age will be 18.

uni is very expensive these days yet to get good job and work way up without degree is hard.

saw newsnight thing about teach first and how london schools and how they outperform even the leafiest areas of schools around uk.

seems like state education is very unequal in uk its postcode lottory.

yet most weeks turn on tv and someones raving and thankful of their grammar education.

wonder how many of the media and mps went to comp as most seem to be private grammar and send their own kids there yet they go on and on about the comprehensive systems best!

Some would say selection by


or catchment-given property prices are so high is unfair.

is it more unfair than 11+.

Can there really be such a thing as one system fits all?

Scrazy Tue 09-Apr-13 14:37:29

Short answer, they should have got rid of them all or kept the system as it was, open to the top 25% in every area.

I was under the impression that it was a labour initiative to go fully comprehensive but then the tory's took power and it still kept on happening in lots of areas, under the education secretary non other than Margaret Thatcher.

It's a terrible idea to only have them available in some areas and not others.

LaVolcan Tue 09-Apr-13 14:54:27

Pyrrah - precious few went to university in the grammar school heyday. Girls grammar schools used to send droves to teacher training college, which offered non-degree certificates (mostly) until about the mid seventies.

An awful lot of grammar schools were not especially good e.g. my GS which out of a 60 pupil entry had 30 get less than five O levels. Ditto the same performance at my brother's school. This was supposedly the top 25%.

However, there were some good Sec Mods and some diabolical ones, so maybe they could have tried to replicate what the good ones were doing.

mam29 Tue 09-Apr-13 14:54:30

I agree Scrazy.

just if they worked and helped the poorest and the cleverest

that if they perform better than most comps and people who go grammar have advantage of equally clever people elsewhere then that seems unfair.

Seem some parents go huge lengths, time, money to get their child into a grammar so demands still there as they perceived as better.
Ukip want to bring them back

Ironic Thatcher was product of grammar and scrapped them.

Even the left mostly grammar or private yet they preach about the poor,social mobility and comprehensives.

Seems bit rich only people lucky enough to have grammars are south east home counties and spa towns think tunbridge wells has 4 in 1 town.

I went to bog standard crap comp in rural welsh town.
The welsh are behind the league in education compared to england.

I do worry about how many real options have for my 3.

realised through applying for primaries not everyone has good choices.

Guess fed up of the smugness I went to grammar school and look how well I did.

We have high independent sector here but not affordable.

We have one of worst lea in uk.

so many comps now academies with rubbish results.

I dont even know if nay of mine will be bright enough but be nice to have the option as imagine theres probably few bright underachieving kids out there.

mam29 Tue 09-Apr-13 15:33:42

La volcan rasies good point,

be good and bad schools whatever sector.

Although on the whole I imagine most grammar schools do fairly well.

My aunty went to grammar school and ended up working in bank.

I forget teaching and nursing were non degree then so grammar school was seen as step to reasonably good vocational job.

Im not sure every career needing degree these days is good thing.

as long as they get high standard gcses. alevels and train on job or in colleges would be lot easier than saddling kids with debt for not very well paid careers.

My dad went grammar but couldent afford uni so went to college and trained to be civil engineer and apprenticeship with local planning department which then led to a job.

Now most graduates need to do masters just to stand out.

Just baffled if system worked and we see and hear the benefits why its been dismissed .

I wouldent have got into grammar i was middle but do think if top 25%had not been in my comp then people in the middle and bottom would have got more attention and be raised up.

I think there would have to be a lot of significant changes to the system for me to accept that Grammars are a good thing for social mobility.

I agree that currently they are vastly dominated by families who are already at an advantage, but can't afford private school.

I would prefer all schools to have better standards and options available.

Scrazy Tue 09-Apr-13 16:04:12

Nursing requires a degree that doesn't charge tuition fees atm. Teaching does charge up to 9K. I think this is wrong.

My DD attended a bog standard comp the same one that let me down grin. Out of a bright year of 100 or so 6th formers. I could count on one hand how many got into top uni's.

whistleahappytune Tue 09-Apr-13 16:52:17

OP, small correction - Toby Young never went to a grammar school, but a comprehensive (pretty posh comp) in Muswell Hill.

mam29 Tue 09-Apr-13 18:26:16

Quite a useful article by toby young and love some of the comments from people

that back in day grammars were inner cities and took poor kids not just middle class ones.

As for toby young he started at a bog standard comp in devon.
He got 1 c at o level english not sure what else he got

went away travelling to israel.

then he did a levels at william ellis london in its last years as grammar school to do 3alevels.

Then got into oxford got a first and did phd.

I guess initally at 11-not sure if he did 11+ and 5th form o level hes wasent deemed to bright.

He talks how grammar was better school and how its inspired lot ideas for his free school.

jckhgg Tue 09-Apr-13 19:50:36

My son took the eleven plus and passed, about five hundred took the exzam and 200 passed but there was only one hundred and fifty places at the grammer school. Unfortunately he did not get a place, but was told that he was ninth on the waiting list. What chance has he got of getting in, and do some children pull out before they get to grammer school.

muminlondon Tue 09-Apr-13 23:04:08

mam29 if you look at this link on p.8 there is a chart showing proportion of comprehensives compared to grammars:

Margaret Thatcher was education secretary from 1970 to 1974 and this was the period with the most rapid increase in comprehensive schools. This was not so much as a result of the number of grammar schools that were abolished but the number of secondary moderns that converted to comprehensives - and could start teaching O-levels and attract better qualified teachers (at a time when universities were expanding). Three times as many secondary moderns were 'upgraded', compared to grammars that became comprehensives. More comprehensives also had a sixth form then, and there was a big phase of school expansion and new buildings, often with extensive grounds and new science labs, etc. So it was a very popular move because the majority benefited. In my comp in the 1970s streaming and setting was quite rigid but there were more opportunities for children to take O-levels than under an 11+ system (which no longer existed in my area). And we did Latin ...

GreenShadow Tue 09-Apr-13 23:14:12

jckhgg - I don't know where you are, but in Gloucestershire there tends to be a similar situation and in the end it seems to sort itself out quite well with just about all of those who pass eventually getting a grammar place.

Not everywhere is the same though - West Kent is very competitive whereas East Kent ends up with lots of children securing a place despite not passing the test (ie. get in on appeal).

deleted203 Tue 09-Apr-13 23:36:09

We have the grammar school system locally. No comprehensives, no private schools. You take your 11+ and either go to the local grammar, or the local secondary. If you want your child privately educated it means sending them away to boarding school - and I do not know anyone personally who can afford to do that.

This is not an affluent area; the grammar school offers bright children a really excellent education and gets 98 - 100% 5 A-Cs. The local secondary had a pass rate of 44% 5 A-Cs (including Eng and Maths) and 78% 5 A-Cs if you didn't include English and Maths.

I like the grammar system, personally. I think it allows children to be taught at the level they are realistically at - neither holding back the brightest, nor being completely over the heads of the ones who are really struggling academically.

muminlondon Wed 10-Apr-13 07:08:37

mam29 one other thing - the improvement of London schools is not just down to a small group of Teach First graduates - it is the London Challenge programme. Ofsted and the DfE have produced glowing inspection reports and Michael Wilshaw also confirmed this. Toby Young is Michael Gove's biggest fan so he is very biased. Gove is trying hard to ignore it because it was a big success under Labour but, although not led by LAs (their school imprivement teams did benefit), community schools did better than academies because it involved cooperation between schools so the whole area could benefit and not one school.

muminlondon Wed 10-Apr-13 07:32:57

The average GCSE pass rates for those who gained Level 5 SATs is 94%. A tiny proportion are educated in grammar schools and not all those at Level 5 would have got into a super selective grammar. So yes, on the whole bright children do well wherever they are.

Whatalotofpiffle Wed 10-Apr-13 07:42:45

I adored my private school... But dh went to 25k per yr boarding and detested it!

muminlondon Wed 10-Apr-13 07:48:37

It is easier to timetable and teach Ebacc subjects in grammar schools though as all the children are likely to pass. Equally, pupils in a secondary modern or company in grammar school area have much poorer opportunities for Ebacc.

'In selective schools, an average of 84% of pupils are studying towards the EBacc compared with 48% in comprehensive and 33% in secondary modern schools.'

exoticfruits Wed 10-Apr-13 08:00:52

A comprehensive is merely a grammar and a secondary modern under the same roof. A good one will be streaming and not holding the top end back and not going over the heads of the bottom end. The vast majority of the population attends a comprehensive school , they still get to top universities. Aspirations of the pupils and parents are no different because they didn't get separated at 11yrs.
Margaret Thatcher - she would still have been surrounded and taught with the same pupils if the grammar school went.

VelvetSpoon Wed 10-Apr-13 08:01:32

I live in an affluent grammar school area. Private secondary schools locally are pretty average - all the wealthy parents go down the private prep/tutor route to ensure their DC get into grammar school. The numbers who get in from local primaries without extensive tuition is tiny.

The problem is that the alternative schools (certainly where I live) are utterly shit. My DSs school achieves about 30% A-C passrate at GCSE (it is 100% at the grammars). He is in top stream yet the education he receives is nowhere near as good as those even in the lowest grammar stream - they get to do mandarin and economics, and will get a total of 11 gcses. My ds has no choice over languages (only french on offer) and will only get 8. He is receiving a completely second tier education.

If grammars are to be kept/ improved then we need to improve the standards of other schools. My son is predicted As and Bs at gcse - better tham many of the grammar school children. Annoys me to think how much better he might be doing at a 'good' school.

muminlondon Wed 10-Apr-13 08:04:34

Sorry, 'or comp in grammar school area' (may not be called a secondary modern but will have a much smaller top stream and more in the bottom stream).

What a shame Velvet.

I know for me, that's why I didn't want to live in a grammar area. I was worried about my DC not getting in because they bloomed later, or competition just being really high, and ending up with fewer choices because of it.

It's not fair, at all, on those who don't make it to grammar.

mam29 Wed 10-Apr-13 11:05:06

Thanks for input guys.


Thats sounds frustrating hes done really well to get to such high place and hopefully stand a a chance of getting a place. ins some grammar areas there,s a few at least near each other.

The left argument would be having the bright ones in same school will boost the middle and the ones at the bottom.
But this could well be to detriment of the very bright in some cases.

I am not sure if it does have much benefit.

I remember in my school at least the bottom sets in comp were dire rubbish behaviour, teachers. I always felt like the top were the favourites the ones focussed on.
I witnessed this myself with my french teacher gcse who just said french not your thing you not very good at it I predict you an e. I got a tutor and got a c.

I guess what I do find unfair is unequalness of provision.

say for example

my comp educated child applies to uni and is competing against grammar pupil are they at disadvantage

if grammar child has better grades
slightly more academic range of subjects
more gcses ie triple award science, latin.
slight better extra curricular eg music because the grammar had orchestra and good choir.

As applying for uni you competing nationally.

If the grammars achieving good results then why are we not expanding the model however

improve secondary education so they not like the old style secondary moderns.

Those I know who went to secondary modern dont feel hard done by they all mostly got into good trades mechanicsm plumbers, secretaries they were not doomed to life of low skilled jobs.

I think if both grammar and comps offer gcses.
but comps offer much better vocational qualifications.

They need to improve fe colleges and invest in that as I much prefered college to 6th form.
Now they extended the school leaving age to 18 what are they doing to cater for kids who alevels are not for them?

Its argued londons improved due to cultures that value education more, lot of economic investment, good teachers and just so much on doorstep for kids to aspire to.

How we transfer this to rest of uk?

maybe im totally mad but cant see why both cant exist and seems morally wrong not every areas kids have the opportunity as well pay through taxes for our education and feel bit shortchanged.

I do think grammars with 11+
then a test at 13
then possible opportunities for new people to join for 6th form be very fair.

as long as state primarys not allowed to prepare for 11+
then those with money for tutors or prep schools will have an advantage.

Im skeptical about academies as initially here was the very bad schools and although they improved they not on my choices list due to such low gcses rates.

The well performing comps and the ex independent schools who converted will continue to do well there are 2 very different types of academy here they not the same.

The catchment areas for good schools are incredibly small although most of the best performing schools here have no catchment its faith or lottory based on bands postcodes.

I think parents are just crying out for real choice if we had this then the private school sector would shrink.
Some here choose private by default as couldent get a place they happy with.

The lack of discussion in politics about it is a bad thing.

I think if did survey demands quite high if you compare applications to current grammars to places.
Even if my child would not make grade feels wrong to deny opportunity for those who could,

As long as there,s good alternative provision and later opportunities to opt in and every child properly prepared so not set to fail then dont see the problem.

seems fairer to earn a place through hard work and academic merit as opposed to what house and catchment you can afford as that just creates middle class ghettos too.

housemad Wed 10-Apr-13 12:01:53

I totally agree with Scrasy. They should leave things as they were or get rid of them all - a total reformed. It is very annoying when the policy makers just left a little bit of job unfinished.
We are just about to move into a new area close to a good comp. We can’t wait to get out of this grammar school town. We want to ensure that my dcs (summer babies) will get into a good school . Living in a grammar school town doesn’t provide us with that security. Also I don’t want my child or myself feel like somewhat second class if they cannot get in to gs. It shouldn’t be the case but just can’t help it.

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!

VelvetSpoon Fri 12-Apr-13 17:56:23

The problem is that there is a very different approach to teaching and results in each type of school.

In the local GS, the approach is you will all get C's across the board at GCSE. Absolute minimum (they have had 100% for years at this). Then they want as many as possible getting As, A*s etc. Children are pushed, encouraged, set extra work, allowed to sit exams a year early. There is also loads of extra-curric stuff.

In SM, like my son's school, they don't bother with the kids who will get a C or above, or the ones who get an E or lower. They can basically fend for themselves, all focus is on the ones who are on the C/D borderline, to improve their pass rate from 30something percent.

My son should be in GS. He is top of the top set of his SM, and (even though the standard there is massively lower) if he works as hard as he is capable of doing I expect him to outperform about a third of his GS peers at GCSE. But he will have had the disadvantage of 5 years of crap teaching in second rate subjects. Plus when we come to apply for uni places, he will never get in to a 'good' uni based on his current school, whereas at the GS he would walk it.

It is hugely unfair.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 12-Apr-13 18:19:48

Yes indeed, we should resurrect this system and bring back secondary moderns. And I'm sure all the luminaries who are so vocal about having got where they did today due to their secondary modern education would fully support such a move. hmm

exoticfruits Fri 12-Apr-13 19:00:19

I have never yet heard a 'bring back our secondary modern schools' campaign. (mainly because it hasn't occurred to the people running the campaign that their DCs might get the secondary modern school.)

deleted203 Sat 13-Apr-13 00:52:25

Actually...(raises head above the parapet)

Quite a lot of people in our area would like to bring back the 'old' secondary modern - and these are people who went to one and whose DCs are at the local one. (I teach there).

Some of the most vocal complaints centre around the fact that everything nowadays focuses on exam results and pushing towards the magical 'C' grade. I have lost count of the number of parents who have complained to me that they do not see the point in their non academic child having to do a load of stuff they struggle with and are not interested in. Particularly when they fully accept that their child is unlikely to get particularly good grades.

Many, many parents would far prefer it if their DCs were taught practical subjects in the way secondary moderns used to. Suggestions in the past have included brick laying, plumbing, 'proper' woodwork, 'proper' cookery, how to run a home, child care, dressmaking, etc.

I have had endless parents telling me how much better the school was when they, or their parents went to it - purely because it was recognised that preparing pupils with practical, usable life skills was likely to be of greater value than pushing them towards academic grades that were always going to be 'average' at best when compared to other, brighter children.

I do actually get very frustrated that the only thing schools care about is their exam results. A lot of my pupils are never going to shine academically - and if we are telling them that the grade you received in your GCSE is the only thing that matters then that is wrong.

exoticfruits Sat 13-Apr-13 07:10:55

There is a lot of truth there sowornout. The good thing about secondary moderns was that they didn't treat all pupils the same. They had the very bright and academic and they had the ones who were never going to pass exams but were still educated, often in practical ways. The disadvantage was that when you were the academic top there was very much a ceiling.
I can't see why a comprehensive can't take the best of the grammar school and the best of the secondary modern under one roof. The sad thing today is that even subjects like woodwork have changed names and have become academic with a lot of writing - they don't just go in and learn techniques and make things.

NewFerry Sat 13-Apr-13 08:34:49

I am always frustrated when people hark back to the good old days. My friend failed the 11+, and went to the sec mod. He was/is very bright but wasn't able to take o-level because they weren't taught!
He had a real struggle to get to college to do A-levels, then went on to a good uni. But it was all so much harder than it needed to be for him.
Whereas those of us who passed the 11+ had it all handed to us on a plate.

I think it was a deeply divisive system even back in the 70s when the exams were sat by everyone in our LEA during the school day.

exoticfruits Sat 13-Apr-13 08:46:30

I think that is the problem- I got there from an 11+ failure and so did thousands more, but it was harder than need be and unfair when some just got on the right track at 11yrs. At least the comprehensive gives all access to the right track.

It seems to be much more competitive than it was in the 70s as well - at school I had some great teachers, most of whom had got into Oxford/Cambridge on EEE type offers because they were clearly passionate about their subject.

Now those kind of offers are so rare, every single grade and experience can count - and if you are at a school that doesn't even offer those subjects you need you can be forgiven for giving up and assuming you are stuffed. Kids should not be giving up on their dreams at 10/11 because they didn't do quite as well as others on a test.

I do think there is a place for a more vocational school alongside traditional GCSEs etc. I'm not sure what the best way to structure it would be, but definitely not via a grammar system.

lljkk Sat 13-Apr-13 09:37:11

Isn't that what streaming & setting & BTECs are for, though, SoWornOut?

I suppose I would like the combined Grammar / SecModern system better if the division was done on a long body of work (at least 2 yrs of assessment), not a single one-off 11+ type exam. Also, there should be opportunities to switch between the systems in yrs 7, 8 & 9, for late developers.

Grammar vs. SM is inherently elitist, though. No denying that. One of the wealthiest people in my extended family is an electrician, but let's face it, most Tradesmen don't get so lucky.

Erebus Sat 13-Apr-13 10:31:08

A major problem is that we don't value 'vocational'- which is one reason why Germany will stride out of the economic crash far sooner than we will as they do. We turned our FE colleges and Polys into Unis, our Diplomas and HNDs into degrees, we measure all school subjects in their 'GCSE equivalent'- because we have all been lead to believe that if it's not measurable on the GCSE/A level/degree continuum, it ain't worth diddly-squat.

sowornout re 'bringing back the SM'.. hmm How can it be possible to really decide a DC's potential and future based on one exam taken when they're 10? What about the DC who has a real flair for, say music, but is rubbish at say Maths? And conversely the brilliant mathematician who is barely able to express themselves on the written page? The former might be heading for an A* in music, the latter for an E in English, but the 11+ system more or less prevents them from being taught in appropriate classes for their strong and weak subject.

I would agree entirely that there's no point in forcing further algebra or Chinese on a DC who is, at 14, evidently heading for a good career in carpentry. But a) that DC has to hit 14, really (and fairly) before that decision should be made, and b), the boy sitting next to him who was pretty average at 10 but who now is showing real talent in English shouldn't only have 'English for apprentices' available to him.

Surely a true comprehensive school would be the best place for all of these DC?

DH went to one. He left to go to university to do Biochemistry. Other DC there learned catering to 'employable' standards, in the industrial kitchens. Some learned carpentry in sheds that wouldn't look out of place in an industrial estate; not just diddy hack-saws on pegs on walls, but bloody great gantry mounted band saws as well. DC could learn how to birth a cow and lay a line of fencing straight; and do farm accountancy. Some learned performance art skills or stage management in the school's professional theatre. DH did his science 'A' levels, as it were, in properly equipped science labs with properly trained teachers.

This was in rural Australia.

exotic Q: "The good thing about secondary moderns was that they didn't treat all pupils the same. They had the very bright and academic and they had the ones who were never going to pass exams but were still educated, often in practical ways. The disadvantage was that when you were the academic top there was very much a ceiling."

My experience was that many if not most SMs certainly didn't differentiate between the 'very bright and academic' (because they were sitting in a GS class!) and the SN. The 'ceiling' academically was there because a test taken at 10 dictated that that DC didn't have the ability to do any better- by definition of the system, if they were able, they shouldn't have been at a SM!

As I said earlier, a problem with SMs were size; too small to be able to offer a wide range of subjects to a wide range of pupils; the potential gulf of ability between the most and least able; the inability to necessarily attract the best teachers; the sense of 'Fail' written all over the establishment before you even began.

By all means beef up vocational provision, by all means campaign to get qualifications other than the GCSE/degree continuum valued, but please don't return to the out-dated, out-moded, discredited pass/fail mentality of the 11+ to do so!

Scrazy Sat 13-Apr-13 11:38:39

Re the intelligence over better teaching debate.

2 scenarios, 2 clever DC's getting A's and A stars at gsce, one moves to the grammar 6th form and gets 3 A's at A level, the other stays in the local comp and comes out with 3 B's at A level. These are hard subjects and the comp doesn't get any pupil up to 3 A's at all, even in less academic subjects.

Both go to Uni, do the same course and get similar results. That's why I don't think it's down to intelligence.

It happens to lots of comprehensive bright students, round here anyway.

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 11:44:55

I haven't read the whole thread, so I'm sorry if I am repeating others.

I think the important thing to remember that in areas which are wholly selective, the results as a whole are exactly the same as a similar LEA with comprehensive schools. If selective education was better, then surely that would not be the case. Yes, the grammar school results are fantastic, and the high achool's underwhelming, but put them together and they are the same as a comprehensive school. Because it is the same children- just with the top set creamed off into another school, with all the social and psychological issues that creates.

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 14:04:28

It's not exactly the same seeker, only the average is the same. In a grammar system some groups do better (especially the marginal ones who make the grammar) and some do less well (notably the marginal ones who don't make the grammar) than in a comprehensive. The same results overall, does not mean the same results for sub groups, let alone individuals.

camilamoran Sat 13-Apr-13 14:14:47

scrazy - It doesn't have to happen though. Other comprehensives get plenty of 3 A's at A level - the one my son goes to for starters. It's not an inherent fault in the comprehensive system.

I suspect your local comprehensive is like the one down the road from here, the one I didn't send my kids to. This is a school with mostly working class pupils, which just assumes that they (we) have low expectations and doesn't attempt to challenge that. So bright kids leave this school with fewer qualifications than they should have and - as in your example - have to try to remedy this in further education.

There isn't really a mechanism to fix this. This school is actually very popular, over subscribed, and manages to hit government targets. There are actually better run schools that are further down the league tables. So the only way this school will improve is if a new head happens to take over and happens to want to do something about it.

camilamoran Sat 13-Apr-13 14:16:00

Glaurung - it sounds like you have found the statistics I have been looking for. Where did you find them?

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 14:53:17

I've read that it's the borderline pupils that are most affected by being at a grammar or not (in selective areas) in several places camilamoran, here is one - it's quite old now, so there's probably more recent studies about somewhere.

Talkinpeace Sat 13-Apr-13 15:00:22

Many moons ago I asked the BBC to compile a league table of secondary school results, that only counted the top 60 kids at each school.

The result of which would be that the top streams at comps would be compared with grammars and private schools.

Strangely enough there was never the political will to collect the data in that way.

Because it would of course show that Comps can do a really rather good job with bright kids for much less money and stress

while at the same time doing a pretty good job with the kids that the other schools won't touch.

creamteas Sat 13-Apr-13 15:15:54

I passed my 11+ an went to a grammar school, it was a disaster for me. I was the only child in my year to go from a huge council estate. You were entered automatically at this time, and had no choice in where you went.

I was ostracised by all my friends who refused to associate with me, and struggled to make friends at the grammar school as I was from the wrong part of town. The isolation and bullying was terrible.

Eventually, I found other working-class kids in the same position in other years and also from the other town grammar school. We pretty much stopped going to school for lessons (just turned up at registration) and spent most of the time hanging out in the cafe at the bus station. The school never chased us, they must have noticed, so I assume they didn't really care if we were there or not.

I went back into education later, but most of my friends didn't. If you look at the research, this was a quite a common outcome for poorer kids who got into grammars.

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 15:28:52

Glarung- that paper is, as you say, old, and actually doesn't show much of a difference. And the group most disadvantaged by the system is, ironically, poor bright children. And I would imagine that, since that paper was written, the results at grammar schools have remained static while those at comprehensives have improved. So probably the difference is even smaller now.

I am prepared to stick my neck out too, and say that if a couple of kids get a grade lower in their GCSEs, it's a small price to pay to get rid of the hideous divisive awfulness that is the 11+.

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 16:24:39

Why do you think comprehensives have improved more than grammars & sec mods recently seeker?

Any system that penalises one group over another is difficult to justify, so I do tend to agree over 11+, but it's not black & white imo.

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 16:39:37

Because generally speaking there wasn't much room for improvement in grammar schools and there was- and is- at comprehensives and secondary moderns.......

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 16:51:00

camilamoran '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?'

To be honest, not sure! But David Cameron also described the grammar school debate as 'pointless':

What's a comprehensive anyway? There are huge differences. Academy chains are very like secondary moderns - GCSE pass rates look good, till you take out equivalents (soon to be abolished from the league tables). Theoretically at least, you choose the school rather than the school choosing you. Look at the differences between types of comprehensives for those studying for Ebacc:

Sponsored academy 36%
Community schools (LA maintained) 46%
VA (faith) schools 52%
Academy converters 57% (does include some selectives)
Free schools ???

It's a creeping divide that is supposed to be market-driven. Compare that with:

Secondary Modern 33%
Comprehensive 48%
Selective 84%

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 16:57:33

leaving aside whether or not there's room for improvement at grammar schools (I think virtually all schools have massive scope for improvement, and grammars have often been accused of complacency, just getting good results by virtue of selection rather than good teaching, so arguably there is more scope there than anywhere), if the secondary moderns have improved as well as the comprehensives then the differences between the two systems should be broadly the same?

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 17:05:40

All schools have room for improvement - but I though we were only talking about results?

And yes, that's my point- grammar+sec mod in one LEA = comprehensive in another as far as results go- but with added divisiveness and general horridity.

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 17:19:09

Just having a look at league tables re complacency at grammars. Interesting variation in 2012 Ebacc results if you just concentrate on the high attainers:

(Top) Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar: 100% entered/98% achieved
(Middle) Poole Grammar: 87% entered/74% achieved
(Bottom) Dover Grammar School for Boys: 49% entered/20% achieved

Some Good Comps
Tauheedul Islam Girls: 100% entered/100% achieved
Wembley High Technical College 98% entered/87% achieved
St Alban's Girls 92% entered/91% achieved

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 17:29:15

Best secondary modern in Kent for high attainers passing Ebacc is one in Dartford: 55% entered/40% achieved. Better than the Dover grammar school.

glaurung Sat 13-Apr-13 17:41:30

Is what you are looking for the relative performance of high achieving pupils at comps vs selectives?

If so:
" Not surprisingly (albeit rather oddly), 89.8% of students in selective schools are classified as ‘above Level 4’, whereas the percentage for comprehensive schools is 31.7%. Selective schools do substantially better on all the measures, especially the EBacc where the percentage of ‘above Level 4’ students achieving this benchmark is double the comprehensive school figure (70.7% against 35.0%). More worryingly, 6.6% of these high-attaining pupils in selective schools are not making the expected progress in English and 4.1% are not doing so in maths. In comprehensive school there is even more cause for concern, with 17.7% falling short of three levels of progress in English and 15.3% doing so in maths."

That's from the 2012 school stats and I found it here. You do have to be a bit cautious of drawing any conclusions about comps failing high ability more than grammars from it though, since high performers at grammars will be a bit skewed towards the upper end of the band (even though some grammars take some middle ability too).

Talkinpeace Sat 13-Apr-13 17:45:02

which says more about Dover than it does about grammar schools!
(I used to live there)

And actually your choice of Comps is not what I'd like to see.
A comp should admit all children.
Not sure how my son would fit into two of your three.

Kings School in Winchester is a true Comp with a massive catchment and managed 65% Ebacc

teacherwith2kids Sat 13-Apr-13 18:21:17

You do have to be very cautious about EBacc as well - it was a retrospectively-applied measure and has quite a restrictive range of subjects, particularly on the 'humanities' side (only history and geography count, not e.g. RE).

So students at a comprehensive school (which will often , through its nature, offer a wide range of courses) who take one of the 'non-included' humanities (which may well be equally academically rigorous, just not included in the magic list) will not get the EBacc even though they have a good range of academic GCSEs IYSWIM?

If everything had remained the same, schools would have got cleverer at playing the EBacc game....goodness knows what will happen with all the shake-ups.

seeker Sat 13-Apr-13 20:15:41

My dd's grammar school has near perfect GCSE scores- but not very good EbACC scores. That is because they only do 9/10 gCSES because they are expected to do lots of other things as well, and the RE department is fantastic, so many of them opt for RE- which doesn't count towards EBACC.

muminlondon Sat 13-Apr-13 23:47:17

The ground is shifting all the time with 'comprehensives' though - my point is that the 'let's have new grammar schools' debate is irrelevant because the school system is already too segregated and autonomous for a new/old division of comprehensive/grammar to be applied on top. In general it is obvious that a critical mass of bright children will generally result in better academic results. (I still think it is interesting that a Muslim all-ability school in a deprived area gets Ebacc results and grades for its top set that beat the best grammar schools though - it can't be explained by numbers on FSM).

But all sorts of things are changing with the league tables too - equivalents are getting knocked out, even the 5 GCSE measure is proposed to go, leaving measures of progress against ability bands. So where schools may have focused on C/D borderline before, because that was the measure, they will be expected to push all ability bands now.

LaVolcan Sat 13-Apr-13 23:55:31

The trouble is, we don't even know what people mean by Comprehensives. In some parts of the country they genuinely are. In other parts it's a euphemism for a secondary modern, so you are just not comparing like with like, and this is before you throw academies and free schools into the mix.

Measuring progress against ability bands sounds like a good idea.

muminlondon Sun 14-Apr-13 08:48:25

glaurung thanks for that link re progress of high achievers, really interesting. I read that Michael Gove had asked Ofsted to investigate this too - that blog suggests a report will be published April/May so the analysis is really topical.

Interesting that sponsored academies see progress levels 7-8% below the average (even taking account starting from a lower base). And also that on EBacc, the percentage of successful selective school high attainers has fallen by 0.2%, but in comprehensives school has increased by 1.4%, so the gap is closing.

However, the proposed changes to the national curriculum will redefine attainment levels, so expected progress may be harder to compare year on year (for the next government). Already, the English GCSE regrading makes comparison with last year difficult. And the biggest variation in progress is for middle attainers - still the more intractable problem.

Scrazy Sun 14-Apr-13 14:35:26

The comprehensive school I mentioned isn't predominantly educating working class pupils. It's in a nice area and a mixture, many pupils come from professional households and the sixth form has pupils from the local indie school who want to take A levels. I'm sure there are comprehensive's with much better results though.

muminlondon Sun 14-Apr-13 14:59:49

There have been repeated surveys that conclude comprehensive educated pupils do better at university or can achieve a good degree with lower grades at A-level. Comp sixth forms are often smaller and there can still be timetabling problems or teacher shortages. That's why there is a fair access policy in university admissions.

'A comprehensive school student with A-level grades BBB for example is likely to perform as well in their university degree as an independent or grammar school student with A-level grades ABB or AAB.'

At the same time comp educated pupils are less likely to apply for the most competitive universities. The new measures in the A-level league tables of 'facilitating subjects' has been nicknamed the 'Abacc' so it will have an effect on choices, although perversely it may lead to some subjects (like Music or RE) getting dropped in small sixth forms where there is less demand.

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