BBC news Kent 11+

(113 Posts)
Startail Tue 19-Mar-13 11:03:09

stopping coaching

I am confused how does making the 11+ maths and English based reduce the value of paying for tutors.

Surely it increases the value of paying a current teacher to tutor your child to the very very top of the primary curriculum. Well of parents are still not going to leave it to chance that their DCs class teachers have.

I'd be quite happy to buy a few bond Verbal and non verbal reasoning books and tutor my own DDs (I'm not Kent and in the end DD2 decided not to try for our grammar which is a very long day).

DD1 gets 131 on non verbal reasoning without having ever practiced at all, she just likes them.

English on the other hand I certainly would need to pay someone, I've tried marking SATs practice papers the mark scheme is in gobbledygook teacher speak. It's not simply right or wrong like maths or VR/NVR

sue52 Tue 19-Mar-13 11:21:42

I am in Kent and am pleased to read this. Anything to help level the playing field is a welcome move. As I recall, the maths covered in school did not include all the 11plus course work so I think that subject could do with a revamp.

weighingitallup Tue 19-Mar-13 11:25:11

I totally welcome this - i am in kent and cannot afford a tutor for my DD many of her classmates will be "coached"

tiggytape Tue 19-Mar-13 12:22:26

I am confused how does making the 11+ maths and English based reduce the value of paying for tutors.

It doesn't.
I am in London where lots of the Grammar schools already test maths and English - sometimes alongside reasoning skills but sometimes instead of these.
The demand for tutoring is high – most children who sit the 11+ will receive some sort of help even if only at home and, at the extreme end, 3 years + of formal tuition with a specialised tutor for each subject is not unheard of!
For English, children are taught how to construct a short story and formal letter using pre-learnt vocabulary, rhetorical questions, similes and metaphors. They practice ways of demonstrating varied sentence structures for any topic posed by always including some semi colons and ellipsis.
For reading papers, they are taught to practice skills like underlying key words, understanding when questions call for inference and generally practicing over and over until they are well used to the types of question posed.

Children can easily be drilled in maths – it is just identifying gaps, teaching a method and then practicing against the clock for several months.

Much of London is super selective though so these techniques won’t help an average child to pass but top group are fighting it out for relatively few places and as such tutoring is very much utilised and the norm even if it is only home tuition and not paid for.

Startail Tue 19-Mar-13 12:23:26

Yes, but I still don't see why well off parents won't coach. Good primary level maths and English is more dependant on good teaching than NVR.

As I say DD1 can just pick up a NVR book and do it, she's never practiced at all. Likewise she's now pretty good at VR too.

She practiced and practiced for maths SAT to be sure of a reasonable grade. No way did she do enough in school to have passed at grammar school level.

Seriously, maths and English based 11+ can only begin to be fair if all state schools offer free upto L6 extra lessons for all able DCs in school time, this is Not going to happen.

Startail Tue 19-Mar-13 12:31:57

Thanks tiggytape you put it way better than I did.

DH and I are bright graduates, had DD2 chosen to go to our, not very local grammar, I'm absolutely certain we could have tutored her in VR well enough to get in. If they added NVR and maths that would be OK too!

But English marking schemes are so prescriptive,and so far removed from my write and essay do a comprehension O level, that no way would I be happy to judge if my DD was working at the required level.

I suspect trusting there DCs primaries is a leap of faith very few parents will risk.

Startail Tue 19-Mar-13 12:34:44

"For English, children are taught how to construct a short story and formal letter using pre-learnt vocabulary, rhetorical questions, similes and metaphors. They practice ways of demonstrating varied sentence structures for any topic posed by always including some semi colons and ellipsis."

I can't even remember what these things are!

tiggytape Tue 19-Mar-13 12:45:11

The only truly un-coach-able exam is the completely unpredictable one. One where nobody knows in advance what will be set, what the mark scheme will be or which subjects will be covered. The format would also have to change every single year.
Of course that would be far too expensive to administer and mark so schools try to find a middle ground. You have to accept though that, where school places are fiercely contested, nothing will stop most parents going to any lengths to give their child an advantage.

Startail Tue 19-Mar-13 12:53:07

From what DH says the old Cambridge entrance exam got pretty close, but that was a crazy collection of general knowlage and educated guess work that couldn't work at 11.

Also DCs also had very formal O'level and A'level grades to be considered too.

seeker Tue 19-Mar-13 13:02:43

Or just get rid of the whole unfair antiquated system and have comprehensive schools like everywhere else.

If selective education was so fantastic, Kent would have GcSE and A level results stratospheric ally higher than other LEAs with similar demographics but with no selective schools. But it doesn't.

MTSgroupie Wed 20-Mar-13 09:39:05

Our primary school wasn't particularly academic so we paid for extra help with maths and English for my DCs right up to the end of Year 6. Consequently they finished primary school over a year ahead of their classmates academically speaking.

So the proposed changes aren't going to give pushy parents like myself an unfair advantage wink.

The current system isn't perfect but IMO any parent with a bit of intelligence and an Internet connection can get loads of free resources. The proposed changes on the other hand will favour the prep school kids and well off parents like myself who can afford academic tutors.

Lucyellensmum95 Wed 20-Mar-13 09:56:25

wow - MTS, do you realise quite how smug your post is? Of course if you had a bit of intelligence i suppose you could have got onto the internet and looked up some free resources.

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 09:58:50

you keep using same argument seeker. are all schools in Kent grammar schools?

MTSgroupie Wed 20-Mar-13 10:08:39

That was me being smug???

That is the 2nd time in a week. Apparently me posting that my DCs, when they were toddlers, didn't chuck food around when eating out was also me being 'smug'.

The 'intelligence' comment was directed at posters who think that you need an expensive tutor or a uni degree to go to the school's website and to download pass papers.

MTSgroupie Wed 20-Mar-13 10:16:18

seeker - in all your rants about the Kent GS system I don't think that you ever mentioned whether your DC was tutored, either by a tutor or by yourself

If you didn't (pardon the Americanisn) then that is like taking a knife to a gun fight and then complaining that it's unfair.

If you did then perhaps you should accept that your DS isn't as bright as you like to think he is and stop injecting the issue into every thread that touches the subject
I mean, the thread is about whether the proposed current changes will make the selection process better. We don't need yet another rehash of the evils of the grammar system.

Lucyellensmum95 Wed 20-Mar-13 10:18:34

Well, maybe its something about your posting style if you have been accused twice in one week wink

Lucyellensmum95 Wed 20-Mar-13 10:19:53

Fuck me - "if you did then perhaps you shoul accept that your DS isn#t as bright as you like to think he is" Thts not smug, thats just plain vile

Lucyellensmum95 Wed 20-Mar-13 10:24:01

Living in Kent i can't make the comparison but its seems a bit of a daft system to me - I have a friend who "thinks she is better than me" (it is a joke, we tease each other about it) just because she passed her 11 plus and I didn't. However now i think im better than her, and tell her frequently because I have a PhD and she only has a paltry veterinary degree grin I can't help but wonder thouh if i had have passed 11+ and gone to the grammar school instead of the comprehensive if i woudlnt have had to gain all of my acedemic qualifications as a mature student.

We live in a different grammar school area. They switched to maths and 2 x English papers this year. The head said he was uncomfortable with a system where you really HAD to be tutored (he was talking about VR - which the English comprehension/grammar paper replaced). He said that at least maths and English is covered at school so you have some hope without tutoring.

FWIW we didn't tutor ds2 (although he did do past papers) and he got in.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 10:28:20

"you keep using same argument seeker. are all schools in Kent grammar schools"

No, but they are all selective.

ReallyTired Wed 20-Mar-13 10:30:09

I think the only way to "level" the playing field is to have seperate competitions for parents from different income brackets and/or limiting the number of places for private schooled children.

If a family has an income of 100K then they are making the choice whether to hire a tutor. If a family who can afford to tutor chooses not to then that is their stupid fault when their child cannot compete with children from a similar financial background.

A family with an income of 20K does not have the option of a tutor. Surely its better for them to compete with similar children for a grammar school place.

There's nothing difficult about preparing a child for an English paper(s) at home. The mark schemes are available. Often the comprehension is a bit bonkers and out there but the essay is easy to prepare for, and the rest of the comprehension paper is multiple choice grammar questions. Easy enough to pick up an 11 plus book and go through it - the same type of questions come up again and again.

Incidentally on the essay this year a lot of the tutored kids struggled because it was a non-descriptive letter. They'd been so drilled on writing descriptions I have come across a few who were completely thrown.

Startail Wed 20-Mar-13 10:44:18

I'm Gloucestershire and we don't really have enough grammars for all grammar standard DCs to go to them.

Geography means some comprehensives have far more higher ability DCs than others. DD2 doesn't go to the grammar because it's an insanely long day, then loads of HW. It's also £1000 bus fare a year, which we could find, but which also hardly makes a level playing field.

For us losing the grammar schools would make my DDs education better as it would release good teachers.

For bright inner city DCs, I don't know. You would need outstanding comprehensives to exist instantly and I don't think that would happen.

Lucyellensmum95 Wed 20-Mar-13 10:46:00

What I have a problem with is selection full stop - whether income comes into it or not (althouh i have a MASSIVE problem with children from well off families having an advantage over those from poorer backgrounds).

My DD is dyslexic - I would say she is about a year behind (being the youngest in the class doesn't help). I KNOW she will get there in the end, she is a bright little thing but definately behind her classmates both in intellect and emotional "age". I would have started her a year later but of course that wans't allowed, even though she is closer in age to children in the year below her than the year group she is in.

She probably wont pass the 11+ but my dillema is - should i push her (im perfectly capable of tutoring her myself actually) or should i just let her be a child and not put the pressure on her when she is,imo, far to young to cope with it? I have a few years yet but i find it sickening actually that children as young as 10 are under this sort of pressure, earlier even if you take SATS into account. All to tick boxes on a poxy league table.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 11:06:53

"There's nothing difficult about preparing a child for an English paper(s) at home"

Provided you have the language, the knowledge, the confidence, the time.........

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 11:40:14

I am opposed to selective education of political and philosophical reasons. But even if I wasn't, the simple fact that it has so far proved completely impossible to design a selection process that is either uncoachable, or which tests for raw ability, without any bias in favour of the children of privileged/educated/better off/middle class people means that it is inherently unfair, and therefore unacceptable.
If such a test could be found, then there is a debate to be had about the merits of selective education per se. But it hasn't been found, despite years of trying, and I doubt if it ever will be.

Provided you have the language, the knowledge, the confidence, the time

Well yes, but people upthread are saying that it's easier to home prepare for VR/NVR. If you can cope with that you can cope with English.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 11:49:41

It's not easy to home prepare at all. Anyone who thinks it is has a very narrow view of society!

As explained in the previous post I am talking about people who said they would be happy to prepare for VR/NVR and maths but for some reason not English. My point is that it is no harder to prepare for English than the other three.

The head at the grammar school felt the English exam was the one which most closely matched the work done in general class so one that didn't need tuition (and I would agree - albeit the 11 plus is taken too early in most places now).

Startail Wed 20-Mar-13 12:02:17

No English isn't easy, because of having a dyslexic DD1 we tried doing SATs practice.

No way could I mark writing tasks, you need knowlage of what good writing of DCs that age looks like. As a non teacher with just your own DCs work in front of you it's very very difficult.
You can't just look at the answered in the back of the book.

Yes I accept not all parents can work out maths or NVR questions by looking in the book, but most with DCs capable of going to grammar school probably can.

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 12:05:33

Perhaps we should sterilize couples with income of more than £50000 to level the playing field a bit. If we miss any couple and they have children we can just whirl them away and lock them up.

this will level the playing field and keep you all happy.

You can just look at the back of the book for the main English paper. If they're doing the usual English paper there is a right and wrong answer for every question and it is given in the back of the book. It is no different to teaching maths, they don't even need to write a sentence.

We didn't do much essay practice. But the mark scheme was provided (basically you get more marks for more complicated sentences) so you can show your child how to improve but that IS covered in school and really isn't all that 'tutorable'. As I said upthread some of the tutored kids hated the essay paper because they couldn't write descriptions.

Our essay preparation consisted of using free websites to get a list of titles. Then discussing the sorts of things ds2 could write. He did a few practice timed ones and I showed him the sorts of things that would mark him down (all very basic). Showed him the mark scheme and talked about how we could use better words (my tutoring consisted eg of 'don't use 'got')

But anyway we didn't do much of that - the harder paper was the main English one which does have mark schemes, does have right and wrong answers, doesn't need the child to write much more than a word (if that) and is easier to do at home than something alien like NVR.

Startail Wed 20-Mar-13 12:26:58

I guess being dyslexic English is alien and NVR is blindingly obvious, like DD1 I'd do them for fun.

Selective education is intrinsically unfair, my Dyslexic DD1 couldn't read well enough to do our VR based 11+, which was held in oct when she was 10. She'd have passed a NVR based one.

DD2s EAL DF and all DCs like her are massively disadvantaged by English and VR tests even though her maths are really good.

Really good comprehensives are what all DCs should have access to, but that's never going to happen.

weighingitallup Wed 20-Mar-13 12:27:33

What a brilliant idea socareless - we can send them all to eton and then lock them up in the houses of parliament and give them moats for their ducks - they will be perfectly happy there, bless their little cottons.

As I said, its not selection based on income that i oppose to, its selection at such a young age.

Your life is mapped out for you before you are even born sad

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 12:35:23

not sure the answer is to demonise parents and their children though weighing.

weighingitallup Wed 20-Mar-13 12:52:40

who is demonising? I am certainly not - I don't have the answers - i think that there needs to be good education available to everyone and having selective schools doesn't achieve that. Those children in private/grammar schools wont have to sit in a class of rowdy disruptive kids who's parents couldnt give a shit about their education and try and work through it. (im not wording this very well) So will rather be used to being able to carry on with lots of support from peers etc, when they get to real life and work situation then they will get a shock. A more equal playing field is what is required but i don't know how to achieve that. There is clearly no point in having high achieving kids wanting to be stretched and challenged in with those who are struggling, that would be no good for either end of the spectrum.

I went to a comprehensive school - i left without qualifications becaue i was bullied for being bright. There were other reasons too, i later went on to achieve a degree and PhD. I don't think i got these despite a comprehensive education, It must have equiped me somehow. However, i have not had the confidence to do anything really with that - maybe that was due to the bullying - would that have happened in a grammar school? I might hve been bullied for being from a council estate, i might have been bulled because i had a terrible ever snotty nose and i snorted alot blush But i do believe if i wasn't bullied at school i would have probably been in a much better position now. I clearly had what it took, but a test that i sat when i was 11 suggested otherwise.

weighingitallup Wed 20-Mar-13 12:54:40

My DD1 did not pass her 11+ and as a consequence did not get into grammar, she did not do well at school but seems to be doing ok making her way in life (shes 22 working and happy enough - im proud of her). The irony being that had we lived in a different catchment area (a poorer area - thanet) she would have been well above the pass mark for that area and gone to grammar school. I think this clearly highlights the bollocksness of selection.

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 13:01:06

I do not work with rowdy or disruptive people weighing. so is that one of the benefits of comp education to be able to work with rowdy people? genuine question.

weighingitallup Wed 20-Mar-13 13:03:41

No, my point - which i agree was badly made, is that in life we have to deal with all sorts of challenges and diversity. Diversity is the big thing these days isn't it? Well how are we encouraging that if we only have all the bright kids together and the less academic together?

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 13:05:42

sorry about your experience weighing. but I thing from your post if you could you would have preferred a school where you would not have been bullied for being clever irrespective of whether it is a comp, grammar or private school

weighingitallup Wed 20-Mar-13 13:10:38

Yes i agree, which is why i said that i could have quite possibly have been bullied for other reasons if i had gone to a grammar school. WAs recently on a train carrying loads of kids from local grammar and to be fair, their behaviour was appalling. I was shock

My only problem with selection is that it happens too young. Once you are slotted into that expectation, that follows you. Your exam grades are predicted when you leave primary school i heard!

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 13:13:15

yes i heard that too. that is a shame I think.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 13:13:48

I always ask this question and it's always ignored. Maybe I'll try again!

If selective education is so fantastic, why is it that Kent, which is wholly selective, doesn't get significantly better GCSE and A level results than wholly comprehensive LEAs?

My feeling is that there is more scope for tutoring if the test is solely on English and Maths, as they are much wider subjects in scope, and taught at very different levels at different primaries. At least the VR and nVR are finite and easy to find resources for if you wish to support your child at home; with the new test only those "in the know" will have a good idea what to cover and tutoring from teachers/ those with experience of the CEM style test will be a a premium.

TSSDNCOP Wed 20-Mar-13 13:22:08

Don't know the answer to that Seeker. What I do know though is that all the time the Grammars exist, and lets face it even Maggie couldn't get shot of them in Kent, tutoring will happen.

Selective education is fantastic for those who would be a square peg in a round hole at a comprehensive. That does not neccessarily mean that it will lead to better results overall, but it may be a happier time for many children.

weighingitallup Wed 20-Mar-13 13:23:47

I do think that is a fair question seeker, i haven't igonored it, i don't have the answers though. I think it proves your point but i can't help but wonder if other areas are selective, just tht the individual schools have their own selection criteria? Maybe having a county wide one is fairer?? If thy have to have one at all that is! Its all a bloody lottery really, because if there is a good school then only the more affluent kids will go there because of catchment areas. I know a school local to me that has a ridiculouly small catchment area and they had to enforce a new rule that you only "counted" as being in that area if you lived there for over three years as people were moving there to get there children into the school! Pricing everyone else out of course!

I wasn't aware that kent was wholly selective though - the secondary school in my hometown certainly isn't - no one in their right mind would choose to send their child there, it takes what is left over.

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 13:28:24

seeker because Kent doesn't have 100% grammar schools. the SM 's will be akin to mid/bottom set in a comp area.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 13:29:06

"Selective education is fantastic for those who would be a square peg in a round hole at a comprehensive. That does not neccessarily mean that it will lead to better results overall, but it may be a happier time for many children."

But in a comprehensive school, the top sets will be the same children who would, in a selective area, be in the grammar school.

And who says that square pegs are academically able?

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 13:31:30

"seeker because Kent doesn't have 100% grammar schools. the SM 's will be akin to mid/bottom set in a comp area."

And the grammar schools will be akin to the top sets in a comprehensive area. My point exactly.
[puzzled emoticon]

Only the children that fit at a grammar and not at a comp! Maybe only a few. Not all comps stream or set, there are lots in mumsnet threads on that. Selective education may not be idealogically for everyone, but it is a huge relief for some children.

Owllady Wed 20-Mar-13 13:36:58

The attitudes on this thread about children who have to go to local schools because they didn't pass the 11+ or they chose not to take it are one of the reasons i sighed quite loudly with relief when we passed through the tunnel on the way out saying goodbye to Kent and saying goodbye to the foaming at the mouth mummies who are desperate to get their children into grammar. I refuse to believe that children should be written off as average or below at 11, it's absolutely ridiculous

Owllady Wed 20-Mar-13 13:38:31

seeker, I used to interview for a large firm in Kent, mainly school leavers and those in sixth form college and I think you might be surprised how similar the results were from both grammar and the academys. I certainly couldn't see much difference (and I saw hundreds of application forms)

weighingitallup Wed 20-Mar-13 13:39:07

Owllady - am very jealous of your passing through the tunnel - i sometimes wish i could do that too

Owllady Wed 20-Mar-13 13:42:32

well there was a rather long queue and I am sure our removals lorry overtook us at one stage hmm

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 13:44:17

"Only the children that fit at a grammar and not at a comp! Maybe only a few. Not all comps stream or set, there are lots in mumsnet threads on that. Selective education may not be idealogically for everyone, but it is a huge relief for some children."

Is that a good reason to have an unfair and divisive system for all children, though?

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 13:59:31

I am puzzled as well? so what is the problem? you hate the exams and testing then do not enroll your child rather than wanting everything to be just the way you want it.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 14:02:45

My question was "if selective education is so fantastic, why do wholly selective LEAs like Kent not have significantly better results than wholly comprehensive LEAs. I thought your post was intending to answer that question. Was I wrong?

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 14:11:11

i answered you seeker, maybe I shouldn't have as you are hell bent on your views. If you think your child is a failure because they did not get into a GM then you have only yourself to blame.

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 14:16:14

the 'you' in my post is plural by the way. not directed at any particular person.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 14:21:05

Socareless- am I misunderstanding you? You seem to be saying that the children currently in grammar schools would get the same results if they were in a comprehensive area. If you are saying this, then what is the advantage of having grammar schools?

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 15:03:37

did not say that seeker. you can refer to my particular post so i can clarify.

Blu Wed 20-Mar-13 15:07:15

"If selective education was so fantastic, Kent would have GcSE and A level results stratospheric ally higher than other LEAs with similar demographics but with no selective schools. But it doesn't. "

I think this is a fair and imoprtant system. if a system based on grammar schools and high schools is superior, the overall combined achievement should be better than in a comparable LEA which educates in comps.

It is also relevant to the thread as a discussion about how to make admission within a selective system fair and equable. Ensuring fair and equable access to state funded resources is surely of crucial importance> Sorry to see snide comments in response to wanting things to be fair.

If there is no way to make the selection method fair, and if there is no uplift of overall achievement in a selective county system, then why not simpoly abandon the selective system?

And ensure that all pupils are fully challenged and supported to reach full potential in a proper comp?

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 15:07:50

"seeker because Kent doesn't have 100% grammar schools. the SM 's will be akin to mid/bottom set in a comp area."

This is what you said as an explanation of why selective leas don't get better results than non selective. I think. Or am I wrong ?

Blu Wed 20-Mar-13 15:09:59

Sorry, 'fair and important question' not system.

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 15:26:23

did not say that seeker. you can refer to my particular post so i can clarify.

socareless Wed 20-Mar-13 15:32:34

not sure how what i said in that post equates to GM Students achieving same if in comp. But my guess is you are not interested with any views different from yours. by the way i do not live in Kent and the comps in my area are appalling. wish i had a choice to choose something free but different rather than going private.

Startail Wed 20-Mar-13 17:01:36

Which ever way you look at it neither grammar nor the present comprehensive system get it right for all DCs.

We need comps that set ALL subjects, includingArt, DT, music and PE from Xmas of Y7, so those DCs who want to work are separated from those who don't. This would hugely reduce the square peg problems and bullying.

We need an acceptance that some children aren't academic and they deserve a proper education too. At present they become disengaged and disruptive.

We need regular reviews of DCs progress to ensure they are in the right groups.

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 17:32:02

"not sure how what i said in that post equates to GM Students achieving same if in comp. But my guess is you are not interested with any views different from yours"

Yes I am. You said you had answered my question of why the results in selective areas are not better than the results in comprehensive areas, and I didn't understand your answer. Please could you tell me again?

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 17:36:29

And it's interesting that it's the square pegs who people think would be getter off in a grammar school that seem worth of consideration- but not the equally square pegs in grammar schools and secondary moderns who might be better off in a comprehensive.

Blu Wed 20-Mar-13 18:02:20

Startail - but setting is not done on the basis of behaviour, work ethic and concentration levels. There are plenty of well-behaved middle ability children who work hard, behave well and do their best, just as there are top stream and Grammar students who piss about or bully people.

Owllady Wed 20-Mar-13 18:05:25

there are plenty of well behaved middle ability children who leave school go onto further study, get a first class degrees and masters/msc and have really great careers too smile! <looks at dh>

Blu Wed 20-Mar-13 18:08:48

<also looks at DP>

(own DP, not OwlMan)

And plenty of scholarship students in competitive academic schools who pissed about a great deal, put lolly sticks in the ventilation thing in the classroom window to make a huge racket and disturb class, got a mediocre degree and a very low paid career.

<looks at self>

Mintyy Wed 20-Mar-13 18:11:15

I do wonder why Kent insists on keeping this antiquated system.

Owllady Wed 20-Mar-13 18:11:34

Blu grin

Owllady Wed 20-Mar-13 18:12:04

Mintyy, it's an old boys thing innit <sweeping statement>

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 18:37:09

I think the stereotyping of schools- and children- on here is shocking. Grammar schools are full of sensitive little flowers who would be "eaten alive" at a comprehensive and so have to be kept separate. Comprehensives are full of knife wielding knuckle draggers, and as for secondary moderns- well, I don't think mumsnet has words for them! When actually, most kids are OK, there are a few disruptive people and a few bullies in all sectors (including- gasp- grammar schools and the private sector!) And top set kids do what top set kids do anywhere. And the figures support that view. Or there would be loads more A*s and As in selective LEAs than in comprehensive ones. Which there aren't.

Startail Wed 20-Mar-13 19:04:04

What I was trying to say, badly, because RL got in the way, is that we need a system that gets the best out of children of all abilities who value education and want to learn. Not selective at 11, but flexible allow DCs to move groups as they mature in ability and attitude to learning.

Alongside that we need a way to enthuse the ones who only want to talk about Xfactor and engage in petty bullying to look good to their peers.

At present this disengaged group really effect the learning of middle and lower ability groups.

Blu Thu 21-Mar-13 10:21:31

Agreed, Startail. smile

I picked up on your post because of the general stereotyping and pigeonholing that I have seen on MN generally of the kind Seeker describes.

It is true - I work with many teens from what could be described as the margins of society and the vast, overwhelming majority are lovely people and good kids. Schools in general are not the bear pits that some were in the 80s. Hair raising incidents occur, but are not indicative of the whole school population, and occur in all sectors. When there are specific issues and problems, and when individual children are unhappy, or causing trouble, it needs dealing with.

Talkinpeace Thu 21-Mar-13 15:18:10

The only way the 11+ should be kept is if it becomes an untutorable test of innate knowledge

20 x maths questions
20 x comprehension questions
20 x logic / spatial questions
20 x current affairs questions
20 x spelling / punctuation / grammar questions

each of the exam setting teams should be forced to write 200 of each question fresh every year
and the 20 picked at random by computer
so the exam could vary massively year on year
NO past papers should ever be released
NO sample papers should ever be released

if your kid is up to the mark they will get a mark in the top fifth
and Prep schools will no longer charge fees to get well heeled kids through into free secondary schools at the expense of bright poor kids

ReallyTired Thu 21-Mar-13 21:19:14

Surely it might be cheaper to pay for the bright, but poor kids to have small group tutoring for a year than make a complex exam every year.

Tutoring can only take a child so far. No amount of tutoring will get a thick kid through the eleven plus.

Schools already use tutors for SEN kids or kids on free school dinners who aren't making progress. Why not use some of the tutoring budget to prepare children who are level 4 standard at the end of year 4 for the eleven plus. A tutor in a school costs about £30 per hour. Thirty sessions would cost £900 for five chidlren or £180 per child to have a decent shot at the eleven plus.

This would be far less than the cost of redesigning an exam. I think with tutoring that there comes a point where it makes little difference how much tutoring a child has had.

seeker Thu 21-Mar-13 21:23:10

Please somebody explain to me why grammar schools and secondary moderns are better than properly setted Comprehensives? Please!

Talkinpeace Thu 21-Mar-13 21:30:01

NO, the whole point is that IF you are going to select it needs to be totally fair : ie what is in the normal day to day curriculum.
But the sharp elbowed would never have that
I therefore firmly come down against ALL FORMS of selection in state funded schools (by religion, purported ability etc etc) and encourage all schools to take all pupils and once they have them set them accordingly to get the best from each.
Something that the Grammar system always failed to do and nowadays fails dismally to do.

muminlondon Thu 21-Mar-13 23:05:09

I found out an interesting statistic the other day about grammar schools in the 1950s, supposedly the heyday of working class mobility and academic rigour ... in 1955 about 25% of pupils were in grammar schools (like Kent) and less than 5% at private schools. The school leaving age was 15 in the other schools so only grammar school pupils got a chance to do exams. Yet only 10% of the country passed 5 O-levels - so only about 40% in grammar schools actually made the most of it and the rest coasted or failed. About 70% of Oxbridge students were still from public schools. There never was a heyday for grammar schools. It wasn't effective or fair then and it isn't now.

cory Thu 21-Mar-13 23:18:57

seeker Wed 20-Mar-13 13:29:06
""Selective education is fantastic for those who would be a square peg in a round hole at a comprehensive. That does not neccessarily mean that it will lead to better results overall, but it may be a happier time for many children."

But in a comprehensive school, the top sets will be the same children who would, in a selective area, be in the grammar school. "

This is what it is like for my dc in Hampshire (no grammar schools).

academically able and ambitious dd has enough of academically able and ambitious peers in top set not to feel out of place

less academic and ambitious ds gets to see that it is normal and not weird to work hard and be successful

what's not to like?

particularly as today's mentoring meeting showed that ability at age 11 is not necessarily set in stone: 12yo ds, who was regarded as of low ability at junior school and was struggling badly with reading and writing, has gone up two whole stages in a core subject in the last year

You could leave grammar school at 15. My dad did (to join the navy - his family needed the cash). He said that only the richer pupils stayed on to do exam s and go to university - until the mid- 60's when it began to change (he's always been a bit hmm at having just missed the chance to tour around Europe in a VW I think).

seeker Thu 21-Mar-13 23:29:01

I struggle so much with this. Sometimes there is a flash of honesty on threads like this- like the time somebody said they didn't want their child to mix with lower ability children in the dinner queue. But surely there must be more solid reasons for the system surviving? It can't just be snobbery and fear, can it? Or can it?

Talkinpeace Fri 22-Mar-13 12:55:04

it can

SO glad to hear your DS is thriving other than at the Purple school - actually I think yours has orange bits grin

those stats are fascinating. Any chance of a link - for stamping on future variants of this thread wink

muminlondon Fri 22-Mar-13 17:29:30

Talkinpeace, there's a treasure trove of facts in this parliamentary briefing on Education: historical statistics and another on Oxbridge 'elitism'. I worked out the 5 O-levels percentage from the numbers.

Also see this page on LSN website where it quotes the 1959 Crowther Report ('38% of grammar school pupils failed to achieve more than 3 O levels'; 'A non-manual worker’s son [was] nearly three times as likely to go to a selective school as a manual worker’s”; '40% of professional and managerial sons left before 17 compared with 81% manual workers.')

Phineyj Fri 22-Mar-13 17:42:59

Startail if Glos ended grammars it might 'release' teachers into the independent sector (and some of the grammars might go private anyway). That was what happened in the 60s.

Phineyj Fri 22-Mar-13 17:49:23

I don't, personally, see what's wrong with wanting an academically able child to go to school with other academically able children (would certainly agree that any form of testing will lead to unfair results in some cases, however). People rarely advocate for mixed ability sports teams, orchestras etc. But mixed ability teaching is somehow supposed to produce good results. hmm The alternative to selection by ability is selection by parental income, faith or house price. None of those is very fair either.

Talkinpeace Fri 22-Mar-13 17:56:02

an academically able child : define?
Aspergers, great at maths, rubbish at English
or amazingly artistic but dire at maths
or a budding author who hates science
or great at sport and middling at all academic subjects

because a grammar school test - like the one that currently exists - will exclude all of those children - who add richness to the upper sets in comps

and remember, neither Seeker or Cory or I are demanding mixed ability classes just mixed ability schools

Talkinpeace Fri 22-Mar-13 17:57:42

PS : in the 60's private school fees are (allowing for inflation) less than half what they are today. Therefore unless private school fees drop back to what they were when my parents put five of us through, expansion is a fiscal impossibility.

teacherwith2kids Fri 22-Mar-13 18:10:26


Comprehensive schools don't do mixed ability teaching.

They have children of mixed ability within the same 4 walls, and, crucially, teach in ability groups FOR EACH SUBJECT. The able linguist who is terrible at maths can be top set for 1 and lower set for the other. Equally the brilliant mathematician who is still at the relatively early stages of learning English can be set appropriately. No crude 'sheep and goats' on a broad brush 'able / less able' spectrum, as there is in the grammar / secondary modern divide - instead, the flexiblity for every child to work at the level that is appropriately challenging for them, subject by subject...

muminlondon Fri 22-Mar-13 18:44:31

'I don't, personally, see what's wrong with wanting an academically able child to go to school with other academically able children'

Grammar schools are the wrong way to do it because:

1. The margin of error with the Kent tests is such that a very large number who get in (1,500 pupils per year) only actually achieved Level 4 in SATs so may just be middle class with parents who can afford time/money for tutoring not academically able. Many others achieve Level 5 yet fail the 11plus. As Talkinpeace put it, there are a whole variety of talents and subjects out there so whether you're testing Maths and English, or NVR etc., no test will ever be truly fair.
2. Less than 3% in the grammars are from disadvantaged backgrounds compared to the LA average of 18.5%, perpetuating inequality.
3. Children left outside the grammars within this system have about half as much chance of being entered for Ebacc subjects as the national average and therefore their options for further training or jobs are more limited.
4. Results very average for Kent considering it's a relatively wealthy county so it's very poor value for money. See Chris Cook's blogs at the FT.

Talkinpeace Fri 22-Mar-13 18:50:16

I know of one Comp that does - and it gets results that whump many, many grammars , but it also magically has 0% FSM !

At my DCs comp I love the fact that my kids - who happen to be top sets for most things - meet such a mixture of kids who are top set for one thing but not another.
A kid in DS class is currently on international tour with his sports team (year 8)
- that is what I call rich education.

teacherwith2kids Fri 22-Mar-13 19:25:30


Tbh, even as I was typing I knew that I was makking a crude generalisation. My DS's comp teaches in mixed ability form groups for all subjects except for Maths for the first year - because they prefer to find out how children perform in the secondary school context rather than setting children based on what their primary says about them but sets for increasing numbers of subjects as the years go on.

As you say, I love it that DS is - and will increasingly be - with a mixture of children for each subject, so that he will meet fellow linguists and mathematicians one lesson and then in another lesson be with children of similar (not great) ability in art or D&T...who might be the same children or different ones...

teacherwith2kids Fri 22-Mar-13 19:29:56


"I don't, personally, see what's wrong with wanting an academically able child to go to school with other academically able children'"

My DS will, for the majority of his time in his comprehensive secondary, spend every lesson with children whose ability in that subject is closely matched to his own... surely that's better than a crude 'able / not able' matching, with the benefit that if he finds a subject hard, he is still matched with children of the appropriate ability level for him to succeed within it...

38% of grammar school pupils failed to achieve more than 3 O levels

But that's probably because the poorer grammar school kids left to head out to work. Like my dad, who joined the navy straight from grammar without taking an exam. It wasn't that he couldn't take an exam or that he failed them, he was just expected to bring money into the family. He nearly couldn't attend the grammar because his mother couldn't afford the uniform.

I don't think there's much point using 1950's stats really - it was a totally different world then - you didn't need O levels to get most jobs and people like my dad were always going to have to head out to work at 15. My dad said the only people who took exams were those who were rich enough to stay on and go to university (of which he said there weren't all that many at his particular grammars).

I'm not using the above to support grammar schools btw - just saying it's a pointless argument.

Owllady Fri 22-Mar-13 20:26:15

yy my Gran got into grammar school but she was the eldest of 8 and had 5 brothers and her parents couldn't afford the uniform because one of her brothers might get in, so she didn't go sad None of her brother passed the 11+ and she left school at 14

Owllady Fri 22-Mar-13 20:28:40

regarding year 6 sats. My son goes to a mixed ability and mixed socio economic background middle school and he has no tutoring and has been put on the level 6 papers for his sats :because he scored 39/40 and 40/40 on the level 5 papers
and we aren't even middle class

CecilyP Fri 22-Mar-13 20:56:21

The alternative to selection by ability is selection by parental income, faith or house price. None of those is very fair either.

These things are not mutually exclusive; assuming that all the academically selected are happy with their selective option, this still leaves 80% of 11-year-olds, most of whose parents will want to choose the best of the remaining non-selective options.

muminlondon Sat 23-Mar-13 00:29:11

The point of 1950s stats is that little has changed - grammar schools favoured the middle classes then, but created little mobility for the working classes. The schools themselves weren't effective in engaging the whole school and those outside the system had no opportunity. There are still a few people who hark back to what they think was a golden age, the type who write in green ink and phone Any Answers. For contemporary arguments (Kent and Lincolnshire are anachronisims) look at link to Chris Cook's blog.

If you live in Kent though, you're sucked into that system.

It wasn't the grammar schools that prevented social mobility in the 1950's. Exams were not as he was needed to bring money into the household. Granmar did however, give him an academic education & had his family not been quite so poor would have given him the option of university.

To say that they weren't creating opportunity in the 50's is daft - that wasn't their role at the time, and they didn't hinder it - there were few options for social mobility outside school at the time I'm not sure they even favoured middle classes (other than the affording the uniform business) - my dad started at grammar in the east end on London - very few middle classes there at the time. The middle classes may have got better results but that's because they were taking exams, the working classes were leaving to earn money. That was expected. Despite my grandmother moaning for the rest of her life about being made to leave school at 14 to go into service my dad was still in the navy giving most of his earnings to her at 16. That was normal for the working classes. School (of any sort) wasn't seen as a great opportunity because it couldn't be. M

Sure, complain about the unfairness of the 11 plus but don't assume grammar schools were trying (and failing) to offer social mobility in the 50's. I don't think the concept even existed.

Phone typos

seeker Sat 23-Mar-13 11:03:31

I've long suspected that the grammar school as a engine of social change was a myth. But it is a very tenacious myth- and one which people use with absolutely no sense of irony nowadays as they congratulate themselves on "saving on school fees"!

CecilyP Sat 23-Mar-13 11:32:52

This article sums up the report that muminlondon was referring to earlier. Sjj, most grammar school pupils at the time did stay on to take O levels, although not necessarily doing very well in them. Most did not stay on to take A levels and go to university. I would agree that grammar schools did not especially see their purpose as providing social mobility; 'social mobility' seems to be a more recent mantra, the one that replaced 'parental choice'.

Well they might have allowed the new middle class some social mobility (thinking someone like Margaret Thatcher daughter of a shopkeeper iyswim) but I don't think the numbers of people in that sort of class was particularly high, so they could not have effected great social mobility. I suppose you could say it allowed some upward mobility of some individuals. But not the working classes - because they still had to leave school to earn money. My dad greatly values his academic education btw - even though it was cut short by a need to work.

I suppose my point is at that time your prospects were limited far more by your family than by your education.

I do think Kent sounds particularly bad. Ds2 is going to the grammar school in sept - but it takes kids from 3 LEA's and from such a wide area that the non-grammar schools do still have a mix of abilities. We would have been quite happy with our second choice (local comp) and we didn't hire a tutor (yes we practiced past papers because you have to - a lot of the primary schools here run 11 plus prep classes for the ones that are having a go though). I can't find too much to get incensed about in such a system - other than the pressure on the kids, although a lot of that is whacky parent generated. I'm more bothered about what they're doing to special schools & SN education tbh.

seeker Sat 23-Mar-13 11:51:22

That's true about the new middle classes.
Margaret Thatcher is an interesting case. The establishment figures who let her rise through the party could never have expected her to become leader- being female and a grammar school girl would have ruled her out in their minds. The shock they felt when she got to be leader must have been extraordinary. Notice they haven't made the same mistake again!

Cecily - I'm not sure o levels were seen as that important if you were leaving straight away to get a job for which you did not need any qualifications - which may well reflect poor results I just think you cannot compare results then with results now - education then didn't have the same goals and expectations as it does now. You're arguments against the grammar school system has to come from the results now, not then.

FWIW - it's always interesting to look at GCSE versus A level results. Our grammar school results are fab at A level (after another round of selection to get into 6th form) but our local comp (out 2nd choice which many aren't keen on due to the catchment) gets A level results just below the grammars - which is pretty impressive. GCSE results at the grammar are okay (well excellent for the country but I think okay given it's a selective school) - much higher than the local comp - but if you look at points per pupil taking GCSE's the local comp is doing really well - on some measures it is outperforming the grammar. And this is with an unpopular catchment.

I do like what the schools here do at a level which is get together in consortiums (comps & grammars) to offer a wider range of subjects. Ds3 will be next for the 11 plus - I'd be quite happy for him to go to the comp & bypass the whole bloody thing except that he is obsessed with interested in Latin - and the only school offering Latin is the grammar. It would be a logistical nightmare but would be good if there was some open access for that sort of subject between schools - that does seen to happen more with vocational subjects.

Yes she was a bit of a one off seeker. Not sure whether to say that's a good or bad thing grin

Gah phone typos still - I am educated honest

And of course the structure of the 11 plus means that ds3 has no chance to demonstrate his Latin prowess grin - he has to be good at maths & English to get to study Latin (especially maths)

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