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To think that condemming the grammar school system , because it cannot give 100% of pupils a brilliant education is wrong.

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sunshield Thu 02-Jul-15 10:54:23

I was watching the 'Secret life of the Grammar School' on BBC four last night and it occurred to me that the majority were successful because of a grammar school education. The debate on grammar schools is centred around the 75% or so who don't pass. The ideology expressed from many, is that if 100% of children can't get a highly academic education either though ability or resources than no one should have the chance. This is surely wrong and ultimately does not do the less academic any favours yet it significantly reduces the chances for bright children, who may need a structured and highly 'disciplined' environment to achieve.

I know many people on this site will disagree with this post and will cite the excellent 'comprehensives' their children attend. The truth is the best comprehensive schools are 'covert' grammar schools operating a more 'acceptable' form of selection .

The grammar school system needs to be applauded for its contribution to the United kingdom from politics , commerce to science and engineering . There is no part of life in the UK that has not been influenced or improved by grammar school educated people.

However, if you read the constant 'diatribes' of people on the left you would believe that grammar schools are worse than 'public schools' in their effect on society. Grammar schools have provided the backbone to society for over 70 years. I believe that it is morally wrong to prevent academic children from all sectors of society a 'grammar ' education just on the basis of it not being available to all.

SecretNutellaFix Thu 02-Jul-15 11:12:10

I don't think it has much to do with education and more to do with parents bragging that their kid got in, yours didn't so in some way that makes you a more superior parent than you.

The grammar school system was supposed to work on a meritocracy basis- if you were bright enough to get in then you deserved to be there. Now, that has gone by the wayside and it amounts to who can afford to pay money for tutors for their children to pass the exams with the highest points.

This is just my view.

NobodyLivesHere Thu 02-Jul-15 11:15:24

I think 100% of children deserve an excellent standard of education. I have no issue with kids being streamed by ability, but to say those who are more acaedemic deserve a better standard of education is utter, utter nonsense.

forago Thu 02-Jul-15 11:15:51

I agree, the system has become pevertes from its original ethos. I went to a grammar school open day recently and I have never heard so much bragging, boasting and elitism - far, far more than I have heard at any local private school or comp.

KittyOShea Thu 02-Jul-15 11:19:02

I live in a 100% grammar school area.

The % of pupils who receive free school meals in our local grammar school is 2.3%. In the local secondary it is 46%.

Throughout the area the average % for pupils at grammar school is 4%. This includes both rural and urban areas.

Grammar schools no longer give a 'leg up' to bright children from any background. They give further privilege to those who are already privileged.

BarbarianMum Thu 02-Jul-15 11:21:05

Grammer schools were once an excellent vehicle for social mobility. Now they are just a way of keeping the upper middle classes 'on top'. Would love to see how many people would support them if they truely selected on ability/potential and little Flossy Jo couldn't be guarenteed a place through prep shool and/or tutoring. Not so many, I suspect.

The idea that 25% of children deserve a better education than the rest is abhorent.

dancestomyowntune Thu 02-Jul-15 11:25:02

My dd is in the selective side of a bilateral school (which basically means they have a grammar stream, where pupils must pass the 11+ in the same way as grammar school and then the rest is comprehensive). She is just finishing year 7 and has done exceptionally well. She is at the top of the school, second in the year group for maths and encouraged to be the best she can be.

I was extremely worried about her going there, as I was concerned about bullying amongst other things. I should not have worried. The only time she has been bullied it was on the bus and once I was aware of it the school dealt with it quickly and efficiently. She does not feel snowed under with her schoolwork like some of her friends in grammar school and she loves school.

My problem with grammar is that so many children are coached that should not be there and others who have the ability are ruled out because they haven't had the coaching and that is wrong. I know several children who should not be at grammar and are struggling. It isn't right for everyone.

TwoDrifters Thu 02-Jul-15 11:25:12

I come from a working class background and went to a grammar school by passing my 11+ back in the day. We weren't a "monied" family (though never went without) & I didn't have a tutor, just some exam practice booklets, that I think we bought in WH Smiths! My school was excellent & really helped give me a great start by means of a good education. It makes me really sad to think this is no longer how the system works :-(

OTheHugeManatee Thu 02-Jul-15 11:25:54

YANBU. The ideological commitment to comprehensive/non-selective schools has done nothing but widen the attainment gap between private and state education, and has meant that a top rate classical education is now out of reach unless people can pay for it. And then people wonder why top jobs consistently go to people who have been privately educated.

Not sure why I'm bothering to post here though as opinions on this subject are so fixed and polarised on MN that I'm sure nothing new will come of this thread hmm

muminhants1 Thu 02-Jul-15 11:29:39

I went to a state grammar school which took 25% of the local population (defined as being within a 3 mile radius, if you didn't live there, you didn't get in, regardless how well you did in the 11+ exam. The rules were relaxed at sixth form level).

However, now, there is no catchment to speak of and it's all to do with tutoring. There are people who live 50 odd miles away. It's crazy.

I wouldn't have said that it was a better school, it certainly didn't have as good facilities as the local secondary modern.

However, the whole grammar versus secondary modern issue goes away if you have decent comprehensive schools which cater for all ability levels with proper setting etc. Grammar schools have to set by ability anyway (well mine did for Maths, English and languages).

Philoslothy Thu 02-Jul-15 11:30:59

I think that grammar schools have changed. I do think that there probably was a time when grammar schools provided an escape from poverty although I am in my 40s and it would not have worked for me so one has to wonder how far back you have to go.

One of my children attended a grammar, my very limited observation was that it was just a way for middle class parents to ensure that their children got to be educated with other middle class children without having to pay school fees. Most of the parents that we knew admitted that if their child had failed the 11 plus they would have gone private.

Dowser Thu 02-Jul-15 11:31:52

I owe the chances I had in life to my grammar school education. I also think that people who went to the the tech schools got a brilliant education . I don't consider myself any cleverer than them. I just learnt different subjects. I took Latin for example.which may not have been offered at their school. My best friend went to a secondary modern and she too had different skills and abilities.

The thing is in the 70 s there were the jobs around for all abilities.
Plenty of them. You cold leave on a Friday and start work on a Monday. If you didn't like it you went elsewhere.

I know teachers that went to a tech school or a secondary modern. My school was very high pressurd. Perhaps the children who didn't pass the 11 plus learnt better in a less demanding environment.

It must have been very difficult for them trying to learn in a class of more able pupils when they were in junior school.

VivaLeBeaver Thu 02-Jul-15 11:33:50

I'm on the fence about this. I went to a grammar school. DD passed the 11 plus and goes to a very much bog standard comp. I'm talking 43% of kids only getting 5x GCSEs. Not one of these comps with a 99% gcse rate.

I'd firstly like to say there's no reason why kids who go to a secondary modern couldn't get a brilliant education, one at a level suitable for them. Remembering of course that there will still be a wide range of levels, kids who only didn't get into the grammar by the skin of the teeth to those who are really, really struggling.

DD's comp sets for all academic subjects. The way I see it is that the lesson is then suitable for all those in the class. Which is surely what any parent wants? There's no point your kid being bored as the lesson is too easy, nor any point in your kid switching off because they don't understand anything.

I think this can be achieved in either the grammar or the comprehensive system. What I like about the comp system is the ability to move up a group if you improve. Or if you're shit at maths but fantastic at English and history you can be in a bottom set for a weaker aubject and a top set for stronger subjects.

forago Thu 02-Jul-15 11:38:13

yes same round here. the only people I know who are considering grammar schools are the aspirational people who can't quite afford private school fees or are worried about their jobs / still waiting for an inheritance. They say they like the schools (only a few round here) because they're "basically free private school", not because the school is the right fit for their child (patently isnt in many cases). all bar one who is naturally academic and would fit in well are being tutored for the exams.

eddiemairswife Thu 02-Jul-15 11:38:27

Until 1974 the school-leaving age was 15, so in the 40s and 50s children who failed the 11+ had virtually no chance of sitting O Levels let alone A Levels. The drive towards comprehensives from the late 50s onwards was partly fueled by the middle-class parents who did not want to pay fees if their children failed.

loveareadingthanks Thu 02-Jul-15 11:38:39

I disagree with the principle of it, although I know if I had a child where I live now I'd be trying to get them into one of the grammars.

I come from a 'comprehensive' county and era. Our schools were streamed and catered well for the less academic, the middling sorts, and the academic. I was top stream and we all did well. Our school had plenty of discipline, not all comprehensives are like Grange Hill!

Having a split system goes terribly against those who are smart but cannot get into the grammar. I agree it's a lot about coaching and tutors these days - or having a primary school that pushes grammar entrance. That's simply not right. My son, smart as hell (officially a genius IQ) is also dyslexic and we could not afford tutors. He wanted to go to grammar but failed the 11+ because he simply could not finish the exam in time. He ended up in a crappy comprehensive, which wasn't actually comprehensive as it only had the ones who failed 11+. Grammars are not interested in children who are academically good but with any difficulties such as dyslexia. They were bemused when I asked them about any help or support with this if he got a place. Does having dyslexia mean he should have got a second-rate education? And none of those children should have had a second-rate education, but they did. Having mixed ability comprehensives means everyone gets the same changes and good education.

DP grew up in a grammar area and went to a secondary modern. He's always thought he must be a bit thick while at the same time feeling quite angry because he knows that actually he isn't thick. This is not me saying children who fail 11+ are thick - but it's the attitude in this whole area. All his mates are 'grammar school' boys who still, over 40 years later, take the piss out of him for the school he went to and he resents not having the type of classes, opportunities and education they had. Actually, I'm pretty sure he is also dyslexic but never tested/supported with it, it was just assumed 'he's not very academic'. He's a clever man who suffers from low self esteem in these areas at times because of being designated as 'second rate' 'not clever' 'not academic' as a child.

SunnyBaudelaire Thu 02-Jul-15 11:39:44

" Grammar schools no longer give a 'leg up' to bright children from any background. They give further privilege to those who are already privileged. "

exactly KittyO'Shea

loveareadingthanks Thu 02-Jul-15 11:40:19

And grammar isn't always better.

One of my colleagues moved my son from the grammar school to a local Technical Academy school as their IT provision and tuition was far better and that is what he was interested in. He's just finished his tech related degree and got an excellent job in that field. The grammar was unable to meet his highly intelligent and highly academic needs.

sparkysparkysparky Thu 02-Jul-15 11:40:57

I started secondary school in 1977blush . The first year of comprehensives in our area. Grammars had just been scrapped. I think my secondary education was poor compared to my older siblings. Academically strong children were expected to be untutored and unpaid classroom assistants to less academically strong children that the ex grammar teachers didn't know how to reach.

Dowser Thu 02-Jul-15 11:43:54

The comprehensive system did not work for our daughter, a very bright girl who became a member of Mensa aged 12 .

On parents day one of her teachers said that she never put her hand up to answer questions even though they knew that she knew the answer. I just replied that it wasn't surprising. She didn't want to be picked on and called a swot. She was already struggling as she was and a couple of girls were starting to make her life hell, so we removed her and had her educated at a private school.

This would have been my sons idea of hell. He was terrified he was going to suffer the same fate. He was extremeley happy at the same school and was much less academic, preferri Ng to go into an occupation where he used his hands more.

I think it was a good system supported by there being plenty of jobs.

Philoslothy Thu 02-Jul-15 11:44:35

My son had an awful education at the grammar, he wasn't tutored to get into the grammar but he needed tutoring once he arrived!

SayThisOnlyOnce Thu 02-Jul-15 11:50:07

My only experience of grammar school is going to an open evening recently, expecting to be blown away, and encountering a pretty stuffy/snobbish slightly shabby school.

At least three people prefixed their answers to my questions with 'well it IS a grammar school so' which I found pretty depressing. Like a vein of 'considerably better than yow' running through the school.

Treats Thu 02-Jul-15 11:56:51

I want to see a commitment from those in charge that 100% of our children are going to get a good education. When I hear people talk about grammar schools, I think a) that's only a commitment towards 25% and b) that's the easy bit - the 25% most intelligent are presumably closely correlated with those to whom it's easiest to deliver a good education.

If grammar schools are ALSO the answer to providing an excellent education to the OTHER 75% whose needs become increasingly harder to meet as you go down the intelligence scale, then fine. If it makes it harder to give a good education to the other 75%, then they're not the answer.

Personally I feel that comprehensive education is most likely to be the answer for the reasons that VivaLaBeaver gave.

PosterEh Thu 02-Jul-15 12:02:17

It's not the fact that the grammar system only benefit the top 25% that bothers me, it's that it actively disadvantages the remaining 75% relative to how they would do in a comprehensive system.

sparkysparkysparky Thu 02-Jul-15 12:05:44

The problem is also - are comprehensive schools failing the 25 per cent (to use others' figures)?

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