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To think that grammar school places should not be allocated just on the basis of an exam

(327 Posts)
ReallyTired Tue 19-Jul-16 10:11:55

A super selective school should be a specialist school for the ultra bright. At the moment wealthy parents are able to give their children an unfair advantage over working class children by paying for tutoring. Grammar schools are no longer a leg up for bright working class kids. Many children who attend grammar schools are not super gifted.

If we are going to have super selective schools then we need to make sure that places go to the right children. I do think that an eleven plus exam is useful to weed out those who do not stand a chance with coping with a faster pace of learning. However such a major decision should not be solely based on an exam

Maybe the work that a child produces in class, previous test results or school recommendation should be considered. Maybe as a final stage a child should be assessed by an educational psychologist to be sure that the child is ultra bright rather than hot housed. Some universities take into account the secondary school a student has attended. I feel that grammar schools should look at the background of the applicant and their school.

A superselective school should have a curriculum which is tougher than the national curriculum. Children who cannot keep pace should be transferred to a mainstream school.

ReallyTired Tue 19-Jul-16 10:23:13

In past three have been children who have gone up to the grammar with mere level 5s in their key stage 2 SATs. I know children who got high level 6s across all subjects who failed to get a place at the grammar because of lack of preparation.

There should be a ten week course in numerical and verbal reasoning working class kids who have been identified as more able by their primaries to help them complete with the hot housed middle class kids.

charleybarley Tue 19-Jul-16 10:24:28

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

charleybarley Tue 19-Jul-16 10:27:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Scarydinosaurs Tue 19-Jul-16 10:27:50

YANBU and I also think all children should automatically be entered to go there.

I have no problem about separate schools for the most able- but when you put a process of an exam that parents have to apply for as a barrier, you will always attracts wealthier families who will pay to tutor their way in, and children from non-academic families who might not be aware of the procedures will miss out.

charleybarley Tue 19-Jul-16 10:29:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ReallyTired Tue 19-Jul-16 10:34:43

I think that head teachers of state primaries should be able to recommend children for assessment for a super selective rather than relying on parents to enter children for an exam. Schools could put together a portfoilo of classwork that could be taken into consideration.

I suppose it would require children to have an insurance offer, but I feel that children should not be allowed to attend a grammar if they don't have stellar SATs results.

Scarydinosaurs Tue 19-Jul-16 10:45:13

Ok- so the teacher/head teacher do their own in school assessments, from that they put forward their students who have achieved a minimum cut off in their tests. So technically, one primary school could enter all their students.

Then, a week in the school, each day doing a different type of assessment to gauge a range of different intelligence types.

But this would be expensive, test the poor kids to the point of destruction, and still benefit the naturally more confident children rather than those with great intelligence (thinking here of kids with SEN who would find the trauma of a week in a new school very stressful, but who actually would do really well in a selective once in).

I think it's just an impossible task to do execute fairly.

itsmine Tue 19-Jul-16 10:51:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bombayflambe Tue 19-Jul-16 10:56:22

In principle I agree with you OP, but you rather blew your own argument out of the water by stating that Grammar places shouldn't be given based on an exam result and then tried to make it all about SATS.
SATS are drilled in many schools, and based significantly on rote learning of things which the government deems necessary. The SATS are no better an indicator than 11+, just slightly different questions at a different level of preparation.

ReallyTired Tue 19-Jul-16 10:58:06

Primary schools do assessments all the time. There is plenty of data already to show who is doing very well. My daughter's school have regular tests to assess progress through out juniors. There is teacher assessment of what they write in their books. There is no need for additional testing.

I think that moving away from decisions being purely based on the eleven plus would help though those with SEN. I believe that an assessment with an educational psychologist would help spot those who are gifted, but have SEN.

I agree that making assessment fairer may be expensive, but long term it will help to have the right children selected. Getting the ultra bright children to meet their full potential and be happy will have long term savings.

Oxford and Cambridge have expensive selection procedures because it is hard to seperate the ultra bright from the ultra prepared.

Lurkedforever1 Tue 19-Jul-16 11:01:22

Yanbu. At the least they should be like independent school entrance with interviews etc. Dd had an extra long interview because we were applying for a bursary, and from the questions she was asked I'm convinced they were trying to discover whether her exam results were a reflection of her ability, or if they were just those of a bright child who had been tutored for years. Not so much quizzing her on what preparation she'd done. But eg a maths question involving concepts and topics they couldn't feasibly expected her to have covered, just to see how she approached it. Also they communicated with Dd's primary, presumably again to try and discover whether her exam result was representative.

I don't think prep by primaries is the best solution though, because not all primaries would provide equal levels, and you'd also get kids who benefited from private tutoring at home and great state primary support, still getting places over a brighter dc who only got a half arsed bit of help from an unsupportive primary.

Short of a tutor proof test, I'd also like more score banding. I know they do it with pp in some grammars, but other income/ background should be banded in some way. So eg the dc from a supportive mc home requires a much higher score than the dc from a home just over fsm cut off with parents who for whatever reason can't fully support them.

Alternatively income banded place allocation reflective of local population.

Scarydinosaurs Tue 19-Jul-16 11:04:28

I wouldn't trust teacher assessments to place students in grammar schools- they aren't moderated and are subject to far too much variance in quality of marking.

Series of IQ tests. Maybe a krypton factor style course with puzzles in would at least make the marking interesting grin

AllTheMadmen Tue 19-Jul-16 11:04:59


More needs to be done to help dc in Primary schools!
I cannot fathom why no emphasis is put on this. Its really frustrating!

I do like your idea of looking at the past work as well though, they do this in DD school in a rounded approach, ie they are not going to give her bad end of term mark if her work has been excellent but she did badly in the exam ie its clear something went wrong.

I think its a good point and would help to make things more fair. For my DD I know she would pass this test as she is getting excellent grades and has been since year 2.

I also know of ONE ultra pushy parent who has hot housed her ds to get into grammar, they type of unrelenting bombardment in every aspect of life, eg eating lunch they speak in several languages to pass the salt grin

I do casual work with my DD however literally 10 mins here and there over the holidays, to get her tables up to top speed. I will do a tiny bit of word work this summer, she can buy computer time by doing ten mins here and there and I stop the moment she gets fed up or bored.
Its makes a difference.
Ultimately though I will have to get a tutor in to assess her in terms of the test.

AllTheMadmen Tue 19-Jul-16 11:07:18

I don't think prep by primaries is the best solution though, because not all primaries would provide equal levels

there is no playing field at the moment because there is zilch coming from primary schools.

It wouldn't be hard to ensure a basic package to help those that can would be set up across the board. At the moment there is nothing.

oldbirdy Tue 19-Jul-16 11:08:48

Meh. All selections are unfair in some way. For example, my bright autistic DS would have failed an interview as he cannot speak to unfamiliar adults, but is fine at his grammar. I agree that schools should be able to nominate students but as an ed psych I can tell you that a) anyone who thinks IQ tests are not culturally or class biassed is naive b) tests can be hugely impacted by anxiety and their accuracy is dubious and c) I have better things to do with my time than act as a gatekeeper to selective education. Many grammars local to me are trying to use 'tutor free' exams but the only possible improvement I can imagine would be for schools to send the work books of their potential candidates up for checking, plus some kind of statement from their teacher.

littledrummergirl Tue 19-Jul-16 11:10:19

My dc all went to state primary school. Ds1 is at the most sort after SS grammar in our area.
Ds2 just missed out on a SS grammar place but was later diagnosed with dyslexia and is thriving at his comp.
Dd sat and passed the 11+ and opted for the comp as she felt it would be better for her. Looking at the underlying figures for the girls SS grammar in our town she will be better off top set at the comp.

I provide my dc with similar opportunities in different ways that suit them both. E.g. both Ds do cadets, ds1 at his school, ds2 at the local group (Dd is too young at the moment ).

Grammars are not the be all and end all, as a parent you can look for other ways to give the same opportunities if you choose.

The amount of dc that go to the grammars from private primaries is quite high though in comparison to state primaries.

LemonDr1zzle Tue 19-Jul-16 11:10:20

I think you've answered your questions already: "If we are going to have super selective schools" We shouldn't need super selective, or even selective schools.

In an ideal world all schools, parents and children should embrace learning. Teaching should be catered for different needs, different educational paths.

In our current non-ideal world, your suggestions are no more fair or coherent than the existing 11+ system.

Some grammar schools have changed their admissions criteria to prioritise pupils from lower income families. It's a crude measure that is used but still not ideal.

I havr no qualms about tutoring for the 11+, no more than I would for encouraging a person to revise for their GCSE or A levels. Why would you not help your child to prepare for a test, whether that help is paid for externally or done by parents?

Lurkedforever1 Tue 19-Jul-16 11:24:30

allthe I see where you're coming from, but I think the danger would then be that as primaries all prep, it is now a fair playing field, when it still wouldn't be. That's why I'd prefer entrance to be on the basis it isn't a fair playing field and never will be.

MaQueen Tue 19-Jul-16 11:39:50

I think a combination of looking at previous school work + some sort of tutor proof IQ test would be fairer than the current system.

But, then again, it's very likely that the children from supportive homes, with parents who really value education are going to have a better portfolio of school work. Plus, if both your parents are graduates then it's likely you will have inherited an above average IQ, too.

I, personally, would favour grammars for the top 5-10% based on academic ability.

MaQueen Tue 19-Jul-16 11:42:08

Also, being able to afford tuition for your DCs is no guarantee of them passing if they don't have the basic academic ability to begin with.

I know plenty of children who were professionally tutored but still failed the 11+.

ReallyTired Tue 19-Jul-16 12:06:28

At school a child's parents are not there to help them. Teachers know what is a child's unaided work. I think that super selective schools should for the highest 1 to 2% who cannot be easily catered for in the mainstream classroom. Ultra giftedness is a form of SEN, but it's extremely rare. It's not the top 3 children in a class of 30. It's more like the top 1% than the top 10%.

There are selective schools like Tiffins where there is no catchment or sibling rule. Do they currently offer a different education to the national curriculum? Maybe such brilliant children could do GCSEs in year 8/9 and then spend 4 to 5 years doing a balance of A-level work and enrichment. Such children would be able to complete with those from Harrow or Etonian. Common Entrance is roughly GCSE standard so it would be unreasonable to get gifted children to such a high standard.

MLGs Tue 19-Jul-16 12:10:29

I think you are right, but I'm not sure what the right system should be.

A complete overhaul that doesn't allow for some school in some areas to have a variety of different tests probably would be the first thing.

I don't think this is a question that anyone should answer "meh" to, as thought it doesn't matter.

BertrandRussell Tue 19-Jul-16 12:13:28

Can you imagine the appeals if it was based on teacher assessment?

Ditch all selective state schools and introduce secondary admission by lottery. It's the only way.

ReallyTired Tue 19-Jul-16 12:21:56

Teacher assessment would only be part of the picture. There would be no right of appeal just as there is no right of appeal for getting into Oxbridge. The numbers of children who would be so expectionally gifted to get in would be so small that it would not turn nearby schools into secondary moderns. Kingston upon Thames has two super selective a that until recently had no catchment area. Most of the secondary moderns in Kingston have enough able children to run a good top set. Problems come in areas like Kent or Bucks where the top 25% are creamed off.

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