Are grammar schools better for above average children?

(230 Posts)
celticclan Tue 16-Jul-13 21:24:59

I'm talking about your bog standard Grammar in somewhere such as Bucks not Kent (not super-selective schools). Are they better for the top 30% than comprehensive schools? In what way?

I'm personally not keen on the Grammar school system but lots of people are and I'm interested to find out why.

celticclan Tue 16-Jul-13 21:25:35

Sorry meant to say Bucks AND Kent!

tiggytape Tue 16-Jul-13 22:16:29

I don't know that they are better as such. Just like the super selectives, they get decent results by choosing clever children. There isn't necessarily anything magical about selecting children who do well in exams at 11 and churning out children who do well in exams at 16 and 18.

But I think that I'd be more concerned about the comps being a bad for such children in an area where the top 30% go to grammar school (as opposed to some areas where it is only the top 5% or less).
In parts of the country where only a very few children make it to grammar school, the comps are geared up to catering for the needs of top group children and children who will get top grades and go to to top universities. I don't know how true that is of comps not expecting to get any / many top group children. For that reason I think there'd potentially be more pressure on parents of bright and borderline children in those regions than on families living in the crazy super-selective regions.

Bowlersarm Tue 16-Jul-13 22:21:48

In the bit of Kent I'm in they mainly are super selective.

If my children were in the state system I would rather they were at the grammar schools than the comprehensives. They generally produce better exam results and the children (or the parents of the children) are more aspirational. There are exceptions, obviously. The facilities are slightly better, although i'm unsure whether class sizes are similar.

DS1 (and soon DS2) goes to a single sex selective secondary, but went to a mixed ability primary, so as a parent I've experienced both.

These were our reasons for choosing a selective secondary over the mixed ability alternatives:

I like him learning with students who are in the same ability range as him, because they drive each other on to achieve even more. In mixed ability primary he was always top of the class so got a bit lazy.

I like the single sex aspect because it is cool for boys to work hard and achieve. In mixed ability school he was the only boy who was very able, and got teased for it. Being high achieving was seen as a thing for girls.

I like the fact that the subjects on offer are suited to his aptitude: Latin, economics, further maths etc. He has no interest in technical or vocational subjects, and the mixed ability school is more skewed in that direction.

I like the fact that every student wants to be there and wants to learn. He says there is very little disruption in the classroom and high levels of respect for the teachers. In the mixed ability school that many of his friends attend, a small minority of children don't want to be there and sometimes disrupt learning for the rest.

Selective schools aren't the right environment for everyone, but they do seem to work for some children.

celticclan Tue 16-Jul-13 22:41:27

You would expect the results to be better though wouldn't you?

You can't compare the results of a Grammar to a Comp because the intake is different.

If I compare my local Grammar (Grammar county) to the top 25% of my local comp (non Grammar county) the results are very similar so why is everyone so keen to spend a fortune on tutoring to get their children to the Grammar school in the neighbouring county?

It seems pretty cool around here to study and get on so I can't see that peer pressure is a problem. Is is that the parents don't understand the figures and see the higher results at the Grammar and wrongly assume its better or am I missing something?

Talkinpeace Tue 16-Jul-13 22:46:22

The tops sets of a Comp and the top sets of most grammars are interchangeable
they are all expected to get A*/A

and good comps push their bright kids really hard
as do grammars
and private schools

From personal experience, yes. Going from primary to secondary grammar was life changing. From being ignored because I could do the set work easily to actually being expected to think. My self esteem was rock bottom at primary, the work was fine but teachers weren't interested or actually were pleased to show other kids my work when I got something wrong. It improved dramatically when at a school where I was stretched and rewarded for effort. However, that's just my personal experice.

celticclan Tue 16-Jul-13 22:52:49

If they are all expected to get A's a Grammar school isn't any better than the average comp.

Back in years gone by when kids left school at 14 there may have been a place for them but I can't see a reason for their existence now. If a Comp is capable of achieving as good results from its top sets what's the point in Grammar schools?

englishteacher78 Wed 17-Jul-13 06:24:28

I went to a grammar and have taught in grammars in different counties. They are different to comps. But then all comps are different. Ask to visit the schools on a normal day and see if they're right for your DC. All children are also different.

xalyssx Germany Wed 17-Jul-13 06:34:05

I went to a grammar school and it wasn't right for me, as I was in the lower grade boundary there the school just ignored me. If your child is in the top 5% then I would recommend a grammar school, otherwise not.

MissMarplesBloomers Wed 17-Jul-13 06:40:05

We're lucky enough to have the choice of several grammars AND an excellent comp that has good results in turning out kids that are happy and reached their full potential be it all A's or vocational / diploma type qualifications.

To me the choice is whatever best suits your DC's personality and apptitude not what grades the school churn out. If they are happy & stimulated they will do well regardless of the type of school.

Merle Wed 17-Jul-13 06:59:14

From personal experience, yes. The selective (L5 ability, but not a super), my boys go to/will go to, is a dream.

No more behaviour 'issues', no more boredom. My eldest fits right in and is doing better than we could ever have expected.

Tigerblue Wed 17-Jul-13 10:29:01

If you are starting to consider your options, it won't do any harm to look at both. My daughter wasn't willing to even look at the practice test papers for the grammar, so we said if she wasn't willing to prove she could work hard, it would have to be a local comp where she would have less pressure on her to keep up with everyone else.

There were four very bright ones in my daughter's year (which included her) at primary school. She is now at comprehensive school and in all the top sets and tells me she's about average in them, so there are obviously children from other schools who are higher achievers. In English and Maths there is extension work at the bottom on homework for all those who want to do it and I know of one set of parents who are requesting work for the holidays for their daughter and have been given it. What I'm saying is that if you get the right comprehensive school, they can certainly still be stretched and work to the best of their ability.

Another great thing for my daughter is the fact she is only five minutes from the local school, so has many friends in the immediate area who she can easily see. I know most of us think about schools from an academic point of view, but I also think the social side is something to consider - it's good to have friendships but also learn from them.

celticclan Wed 17-Jul-13 11:22:01

I agree that the social side is very important and you can't underestimate the convenience of a secondary school child having a school and friends on their doorstep. It means you can allow them more independence as they grow older.

I think that exceptionally bright children are catered for very well at Grammar schools but in my opinion I can't see that Grammar schools offer advantages for fairly bright/slightly above average children.

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 13:22:37

Interesting the people who say that the grammar cured the problem of bright bored kids.
No. The large cohort cured the problem of bright bored kids.

DCs junior was single form entry - 30 pupils.
They both spent year 6 at the top of the group bored out of their minds.

Come year 7 in a 300 pupil cohort they are suddenly in the middle of the top set and surrounded by people like (or brighter than) them.

And because its a big school with non academic kids there are lots and lots of extra curricular sports, arts, music activities where the non academic can trump the lot.

GrimmaTheNome Wed 17-Jul-13 13:34:32

As ever with these questions - it depends on the individual child, and it depends on the schools available. For my DD, the girls' grammar was definitely the right choice; apart from that she is the sort who does benefit from being somewhere where everyone is bright, the subject choices available exactly suit her and aren't available at either the comp or any of the independents near us. There's a girls' comp on the other side of the town which might have suited her quite well (also has strong emphasis on science) but she simply wouldn't have got in there because of catchments - whereas the GS 20 miles up the road was possible as she got a residual place.

She's got bright friends at the local comp - which is the sort people move house to get kids into - so I guess I'll be able to answer this better in a couple of years time.

gazzalw Wed 17-Jul-13 13:53:11

It's a difficult one isn't it? I know that some of DS's classmates who went to comps (and didn't pass the 11+ exams) are in the G&T stream and being pushed to the nth degree. DS who comfortably sailed thro' his three 11+ exams is at a super-selective grammar, but isn't exactly doing brilliantly at the moment. I think the super-selectives expect them to be very self-motivated and DS is by nature quite lazy.

legallady Wed 17-Jul-13 14:04:57

Agree with most of what's said above - right school for the right child etc.

However, as just one additional research tool when looking at different schools, the Dof E performance tables can be useful - (http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/performance/). They allow you to compare the outcomes of high/middle/and low achievers (i.e. those coming out of primary school with a Level 5, 4, or below) at GCSE. So for example, you can compare a grammar and a comprehensive and see what the average grade of children who came out of primary at a level 5 is. In my local area, the average gcse grade for high achievers at my local comprehensive is a B but the average grade for high achievers at the nearest superselective grammar is an A*.

Of course, Level 5 encompasses a huge ability range and so you are not necessarily comparing an identical cohort of children. However, it is worth asking what the grammar is doing to get these Level 5 children to an average A * grade at GCSE which the comprehensive isn't.

Before anyone flames me, I would like to reiterate that no assessment tool is perfect and there is so much more to finding the right school for your individual child than just the academic results of another group of children. The performance tables also only give the "average" outcomes and there will always be children who do considerably better than average grin.

musicalfamily Wed 17-Jul-13 14:10:07

Also, many comprehensive schools (around here anyway) only set for English and Maths. Although these are important subjects, surely it must be demoralising for a child who say loves history or art, to be sat in a mixed group with children who have zero interest in the subject?

Or do some schools set for everything?

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 14:13:05

legallady
That is entirely logical.

The superselective has taken 10 out of the top 30 kids (allowing for tutoring and private preps) from every one of the schools in the area.
Therefore all of the kids there should get A*
Every other school is missing ten of its A* candidates, but none of the E grade ones, so the average will be suppressed.

A better comparison would be to look at the grades of those taking, say, triple science and see how the non selectives do.

And in a non grammar area, roughly 10% of the kids are expected to get A* = the top set

I ignore SAts grades - they are a fix

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 14:15:18

musical
most of the ones round here (except Thornden) set by subject groups so yes, they are in sets for everything
very, very few schools do NOT set for most things by year 9
and years 10 / 11 are effectively set by the subject choices

tiggytape Wed 17-Jul-13 14:15:24

Yes - some comps set for everything. Some have a grammar stream in fact where the top group children are almost totally separate from the rest of the school, study extra languages and work at an advanced pace.

This is London though where only a tiny % of top group children get to go to grammar school so most end up in comps who cater for this.

legallady Wed 17-Jul-13 14:29:20

Talkinpeace, I am in a non grammar area. The superselective takes a tiny number of children from the local area - the children who get in travel from all over London and beyond. The presence of the grammar has a negligible effect on the intake of the local comp (3-5 children at most based on information published by the grammar.) Also, the average I was talking about is the average of the "high achievers" so you really shouldn't be factoring in the E grade candidates for either school.

It still doesn't explain why the average grade of the "high achievers" in one school is 2 full grades below the average grade of the "high achievers" in another. Interestingly in another comp (not my local but close enough) the average gcse grade of high achievers is an A. Again, what is one school doing that the other isn't?

I'm not saying there is any easy answer to this, but sometimes I think it's worth asking the questions!

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 14:47:53

In that case they probably need a kick up the backside!
I defend comps, but not lazy ones grin

NB "high achievers" is a rather esoteric number : at my local yob central, its 10% of the kids, at the aforementioned Thornden its nearly 50% of pupils. "Above level 4" can mean a 5c or a 6 (what the superselect will be full of)

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