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.

curlew Wed 17-Jul-13 14:54:29

Not forgetting a couple of important facts.

A non selective school in a selective area is not a comprehensive school.

Comprehensive does not mean mixed ability teaching -even if once it did.

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 14:58:22

looking at the stats for much of London, I can accept that the numbers siphoned off by the superselectives is less than those at Private school so the rest of the schools are as comprehensive as they will get.

The grammar counties are a different matter.

Some kids from here bother to get the train into Wiltshire to go to the grammar. Most stick with the comps - DCs school loses around 2 pupils a year to the grammar. I'd say that makes it pretty "comprehensive"

curlew Wed 17-Jul-13 15:01:13

Agreed. Should read "non selective schools in wholly selective areas are not comprehensives schools"

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 15:01:47

THis page is interesting to play with .....;sort=ks4_12.ptac5em&set=20&no=136417&superview=sec&sscla=886

go to BBC league tables, click on a school and then click on the compare box ....

legallady Wed 17-Jul-13 15:04:45

Agreed Talkin about "high achievers" being rather esoteric. It will be interesting to see if next year's tables differentiate between level 5 achievers and level 6. I know only a tiny fraction of all children get a level 6 but if the very selective grammars are crammed to the rafters with those level 6 children, then that would go a long way to explaining the discrepancies.

CecilyP Wed 17-Jul-13 15:26:12

In terms of KS2 results, high achievers means level 5 which is achieved by around 30% of the ability range, and is, coincidentally, around the same percentage who achieve 5 grade Bs or above at GCSE.

Therefore a superselective taking the top 10% of children will, in effect, reject 67% of those level 5 high achievers, so is it really surprising that their pupils do better on average than level 5 pupils in other schools?

Added to which, in many parts of the country, the 11+ is an opt in system, so that only children from homes where they will get continued encouragement to do their best will be likely to apply.

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 16:34:14

Superselectives take much less than 10%
If you look at the area that the blessed Tiffin picks up from, its around 1% from each area
The catchment alone is
KT1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 17, 19
TW1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18
SW13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20
W3, 4, 5, 7, 13
UB1, 2
which is around a million people!

CecilyP Wed 17-Jul-13 17:09:05

Good point, well made. Superselectives often quote 5-10% but I think the real answer is that nobody knows the exact figure.

gazzalw Wed 17-Jul-13 18:24:59

Well for what it's worth DS, at a superselective, got decidedly average end of year results. Nevertheless he still came home saying that his form teacher told him he was still in the top 5% academically in the Country! Not entirely sure that's the right approach to take though....not for DS anyway!

Talkinpeace Wed 17-Jul-13 18:33:45

and public school kids are constantly bombarded with messages that they are the best

not ideal for motivation but probably true!

xylem8 Wed 17-Jul-13 23:21:48

All the research shows that borderline 11+ passers do better in a grammar school environment.

Talkinpeace Thu 18-Jul-13 10:37:53

how can they have measured that?
such a small proportion of kids take the 11+
nobody round here does because we do not have selective state schools

curlew Thu 18-Jul-13 12:50:55

"All the research shows that borderline 11+ passers do better in a grammar school environment."

I think there is a little research by the Sutton Trust that points in that direction, although the sample was too small to be very helpful.

No research done on borderline 11+ failers. Not surprising really- no one in any position of power or control ever thinks their child might fall into that category. The failing majority are consigned to the cutting room floor in the film about selective education.

Talkinpeace Thu 18-Jul-13 13:34:45

So no research to see whether those borderline passers might have done EVEN BETTER in a comp ....

xylem8 Thu 18-Jul-13 18:34:43

'I think there is a little research by the Sutton Trust that points in that direction, although the sample was too small to be very helpful.'

There is a lot more research than that to show that weaker students do better when working with those of higher ability

No research done on borderline 11+ failers. Not surprising really- no one in any position of power or control ever thinks their child might fall into that category. The failing majority are consigned to the cutting room floor in the film about selective education

but the subject of this debate is do average children do better in a grammar school!
You are right though.Grammar schools are great for those that are there.The trouble is (particularly in area grammar schools) they are detrimental to the surrounding schools who are no longer 'comprehensive'. Our local grammar wrecks at least 3 other schools nearby

FormaLurka Thu 18-Jul-13 20:35:05

Yay! A GS versus Comp thread! Its been about three weeks since the last one so I guess we are due for another one hmm

Talkinpeace Thu 18-Jul-13 20:57:53

the GS system as it exists today in England is
- incredibly divisive and stressful where it operates
- massively increases the carbon footprint of schools
- takes in many of the sharp elbowed rather than all of the brightest
all funded by taxpayers who do not get to "enjoy" it
'tis hardly a surprise that it is a source of controversy.

If I genuinely thought Grammars were the best option for the children who pass the 11+, that entry was truly on merit and that those who did not get in still got a good education at all of the surrounding schools, I'd not be set against it.
But I've never seen any evidence to disabuse me of the opinion I have formed.

gazzalw Fri 19-Jul-13 10:33:24

Well I can offer an opinion based on a slight sense of disilllusionment! For what it's worth!

DS got into a super-selective but is not doing brilliantly (although he is only at the end of Year 7). In fact his report was all Bs and Cs (with more of the latter than the former!) and really it made for quite disheartening reading (and that's not me being super-critical but really the rather negative view of the teachers!). And this is a boy who passed three super-selective 11+ exams without being tutored. He is by no means thick but I'm beginning to think that he is in danger, unless he ups his game considerably, of being marginalised. And certainly it seems to me that they expect all the boys to be self-motivated learners from the off!

I am questioning whether his very mixed primary school actually furnished him with the right skills to be able to revise brilliantly and write superly-constructed and argued essays at the age of 12, as the other boys seem to do. I know for every bright child there will be some that are much, much brighter and they obviously have some super-super-bright ones there, but I am starting to worry whether we did the right thing encouraging him to apply (although he himself was keen to do so) - is he going to up his game academically or is already starting to feel like he's 'second rate'?

And I am beginning to think that the very raised 'bar' academically is raised even higher by the ones who are being tutored (still) so that they get their places at law/medical school etc... hmm.

We have a very, very well regarded comprehensive (with a grammar intake) nearby too, which one of our DS's former classmates is at. Their approach for the grammar school level entry classes seems to be the reverse...constantly being on their case and setting very achievable targets - and I think that those possibly applies to the rest of the intake too....

tiredaftertwo Fri 19-Jul-13 11:15:00

Gazzalw, we have been in a similar situation - no, the primary will not have taught him these skills - you may have to, depending how good a job the school is doing. IME, he may well 'catch up' as he sounds very very bright and as the work becomes more demanding in analytical or numerical terms, and less about organisation/presentation/structure/focus. It may also be that Bs are normal for the cohort and because the school is dealing with very clever children, they do set out to nail any weaknesses. it is hard to know as people are not truthful always. You may have to recalibrate.

RussiansOnTheSpree Fri 19-Jul-13 11:43:20

Gazzalw The school may be using its own idiosynchratic marking system. A DD1's school, reports give two grades/scores - one for attainment one for commitment. The attainment level is given in terms of 'for this school'. Not in terms of NC levels or anything like that. So A=above expected level for X school, B=expected level for X school, C=slightly below expected level for X school (but we were told, when DD1 was in Y7, that many Y7 kids got some Cs and that the important thing was the effort grade) D= very below expected level for X school (I think this would be one to be concerned about). They have the same delineations for commitment.

I personally found it really unhelpful. But having been confronted with DS's reports from his comp, which use NC levels, effort grades, progress grades, Target levels and aspirational target levels - it's designed to confuse. And now I realise that DD1's school's way of doing things is much much better. A means really something special by any standards. B means completely fine in the context of that school (which is a high performing SSGS). C means fine by normal standards, but perhaps a bit more effort or help needed to reach to well known standards of the school. That does all make sense and is easily understandable. Is it possible that your GS has a similar system? How did parents' evening go?

Theas18 Fri 19-Jul-13 11:49:28

Superselective area here. I agree with the comment above that " non selective schools in a grammar school area are not "comprehensive" . That is Really important.

DD1 is 20 now and DS 17. They went to grammars. They had mates who were "just fails" for 11+ who re joined the grammar system at sixth form ( each school takes about a form of newcomers) . The kids that join don't seem to ever quite " catch up". For instance DD1s mate came to 6th form with 5A* and 6A-C grades at GCSE. I know the details because it was on the " aren't we wonderful" board at the open evening at the non selective we went to with DD2, they were celebrating her as their highest achiever.

Looking at the year group results published by the grammar this was probably lower than all their grades from in house GCSE candidates ( and it should be I guess!).

Fully comp schools are different, but I don't think a non selective in a selective area is a place to be as a "fairly bright" child.

Just my experience

SlowlorisIncognito Fri 19-Jul-13 11:59:59

I don't think going to a grammar always means no behaviour problems. I live in a town on a county border, and some children go from the town to the boys/girls grammar in a city in the next county. I guess these schools are super-selective, because they select from all over the city, and probably take 1-2 children from each primary school.

However, the boy's grammar especially is in one of the rougher areas of the city, and they are often target by drug dealers as they are percieved to be richer. Whilst I don't think the school has a drug problem as such, I have never heard of anyone selling drugs in the comprehensive school in the town I live in.

Both the grammar schools and the comprehensives have basically the same grades for entry to their sixth form- the grammar schools ask for 6a*-c inc English and Maths with B or above in the subjects you wish to study. The comprehensives/sixth form colleges I know of ask for 5a*-c with b or above in the subjects you wish to study. To me, this suggests there's not that much difference in the levels many of their students are achieving.

I also think travelling a long way to school each day can make children's social lives more difficult.

gazzalw Fri 19-Jul-13 12:03:56

Thanks for your illuminating words Tiredaftertwo and RussiansOnTheSpree!

Yes, DS's report indeed as you describe DD1's, RussiansOnTheSpree.

and yes, Tiredaftertwo, I think we do need to recalibrate. Have to keep reminding ourselves and DS that it's not an average school.


tiredaftertwo Fri 19-Jul-13 15:36:17

"Average" at his school may well mean 10 A/A*, with more than half A*s. My DCs' reports also use expected standard for this school etc.

They would not be doing their job, I guess, if they said yep, he is on his way to being average, nothing more to say.

Tough on the children though, until they get used to it, and then praise really means something.

And it is also I suppose possible to miss a genuine concern because you adjusting their comments!

RiversideMum Sat 20-Jul-13 08:37:27

I think the problem is that the selection at that age is not appropriate. I have family in Bucks. One of their DCs got into grammar only because he was (a) young in the school year and (b) male. He ended up doing brilliantly. Their other child was also a borderline pass and is really struggling and is unlikely to get the results needed to stay on for A levels.

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