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The other thread will no longer accept messages but I wanted to make some more points

(250 Posts)
fivecandles Mon 03-Oct-11 16:54:07

Lequeen, I do find it utterly bizarre that, as a parent, you or anybody else, would accept that if your child missed getting into a grammar school by a couple of marks you would be perfectly happy to accept that meant your child was not academic and therefore should pursue a more vocational route whatever that means.

One of my dc would almost certainly fail to get into a GS. This does not mean I think she should take up a hairdressing course and stop learning GCSEs. I see no good reason why she shouldn't get a good academic education with as much support as possible and go on to university. She has suggested she might enjoy primary teaching and I think she'd make an excellent teacher. The idea that she shouldn't be able to go to university or learn languages and should settle with her lot just because she's not ever going to be a nuclear physicist is absolutely staggering.

I also find your idea that it would be better to segregate underperforming students into an entirely different school for their self-esteem staggering.

Why can't you just be honest about it lequeen. There are no advantages whatsoever for the majority of pupils who do not get into the GS. All the advantages go to the kids who DO get in and these are the pupils who are already doing well (and the research indicates most likely to be well off).

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that privileged and clever kids don't deserve the very best education and I absolutely agree that they should be challenged and supported but this can and should and is being done in the same school as students who are struggling academically and are likely to be from very different social backgrounds are also supported to achieve.

fivecandles Mon 03-Oct-11 17:01:23

If I think about the 10 people in my department I would say the person who's been most successful lately is the one who is least academic and is most likely to have not got in to a GS if they had existed where I live.

How odd that we should argue it is ok to judge children at 11 through examination and allow the results to decide their life paths when the rest of life doesn't work like that. Once people leave school or university most will never sit another exam again. And how people might perform in an exam rarely if ever decides how successful they will be in adulthood.

LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 17:58:14

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LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 18:02:24

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LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 18:06:46

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teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 20:16:00

The point is, leQueen, that if you have ANY grammar schools locally, then you have NO comprehensive schools.

A school is not comprehensive if a proportion of the brightest children is sent to another school - it is (even if not in name) a secondary modern.

So saying that a child who just failed to get into grammar would thrive in the top set of a 'comprehensive' is disingenuous - in a grammar system, there ARE no comprehensives.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 20:20:06

My elder brother was assessed on entering our local comprehensive to decide whether he should be in the a or B stream. Tests used - the same verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests used for grammar school selection in many areas nowadays.

Result? Bottom of the B-stream, taken at face value he should have been straight onto the SEN register. Happens not to be much good at those types of test.

So definitely, definitely a secondary modern candidate at 11. Actual destination - top class Physics degree from Oxbridge.

IloveJudgeJudy Mon 03-Oct-11 20:32:07

teacher, that's not actually true. We have four grammars in our town and our DC go the the RC comp. It really is a comp as we have top stream pupils who go to Oxbridge and the Russell Group universities. The school also takes AEN pupils so it definitely is a comprehensive.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 20:39:41


Apologies, you are right. I had overlooked the fact that faith schools (particularly RC schools) can exist in a parallel system to the two-part grammar / secondary modern system.

However, although obviously the RC comprehensive is doing well, are you sure that NONE of its prospective pupils are creamed off by the grammars, ie does it have EXACTLY the same intake as it would do in an all-comprehensive area?

(I live in an area with one super-selective grammar. As it happens, the local secondary school is excellent, and gets fantastic results but it is still without that very top 1 or 2% of its pupils which it would get in a true comprehensive system - a point that Ofsted / schools guides etc pick up when they say 'despite existing in a grammar school area and this losing some of its very brightest potential pupils, this school produces exceptionally high results').

In my reply above I was thinking more of 'true' two-part systems such as exist in parts of Kent and other areas of my own county.

LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 20:43:00

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 20:55:12

But you have specified that 'secondary modern type' schools exist to provide 'more vocational courses' for 'the less academic'. So an almost-but-not-quite academic enough child gets consigned to doing vocational courses rather than being able to access the precise mixture of vocational and academic qualifications they need, from across the whole range of different routes available in a comprehensive.

How many exceptions are 'enough' to illustrate and condemn the unfairness of the system? A 1 in 10 mis-attribution at 11? A 1 in 100? They really aren't that rare - as the margin of 'failure' is a single mark you are probably talking at least half the children just above or just below that borderline who on another day on another test might well have fallen on the other side of the dividing line.... and as almost by definition in 'full grammar' systems that line falls in quite a high point on the bell curve of abilities that is a LOT of children.

LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 21:03:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 21:08:35

Sorry, pressed 'post' too soon.

The point I was trying to make was that, as the children just on either side of the 11+ dividing line are almost exactly the same in ability, they should (if they are receiving an education appropriate to their abilities and aptitudes as the law states) be able to access almost exactly the same curriculum, quality of teachers, range of subjects etc. Because they are, to all intents and purposes, at that point, the same.

I would only accept that a grammar system is just and fair to all children IF all children in the 'bottom' of the grammar school and the 'top' of the secondary modern had EXACTLY the same quality and kind of education, as is their due - and then as ability diverges away from this mid-point, appropriate differentiation would mean that the exact type of education offered would also subtly diverge (while allowing, of course, children who were great at Maths but poor at English, or excellent at ICT but less good at languages, to access appropriate levels of teaching and qualifications in each subject).

But in the real world, that is not true. The top set of the secondary modern does single or double science, whereas the bottom set of the grammar school does triple. The top set of the SM does 1 language, the bottom set of the grammar has access to lessons in 3. The excellent mathematician who didn't get into grammar because of his poor literacy skills (or perhaps the fact he is an EAL student) cannot access the Further maths and Statistics courses he is quite capable of taking - they are in another school.

A comprehensive school, with differentiation sensibly managed and with an appropriate setting policy, CAN offer those 'both sides of the divide' children EXACTLY the same opportunities and allow flexibility for children with 'spiky' profiles of ability.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 21:11:02

But leQueen, you have said it yourself - if your daughetr doesn't get into a grammar school, you will send her private.

So it is one rule for you - you can opt in to the state system if you get what you want, opt out if you don't - and another for families whose children do not get into the grammar school (perhaps through a 1 point difference due to absence of coaching), you are happy for THEM to go to secondary modern, but not YOUR child????

fivecandles Mon 03-Oct-11 21:24:46

lequeen, I apologise, I thought you were advocating a return to a system where the top 'academic' students got into grammar schools and the rest pursued vocational subjects at the equivalent of a secondary modern. That did seem to be the line you were taking earlier but I may have misunderstood. I hope you'll agree that it would be wrong to make the assumption that children who may have missed a grammar school place by marks alone in any system should not be written off as 'unacademic' and not allowed to pursue academic subjects on that basis.

I don't think there are many careers where exams are compulsory in the same way as school exams, no.

'Plus, you've just said that people who get into GS pretty much go on to have all the advantages and do well. So, I think their ability to pass exams does decide how successful they will be in adulthood.'

I think you're missing my point hugely here. I'm saying that passing or failing an exam at age 11 is not a very good way of deciding what sort of career a child should go into or how good they'll be at it. Under a grammar school system which divided children into 'academic' or 'vocational' your opportunities would be severely limited at age 11 if you didn't pass the exam.

fivecandles Mon 03-Oct-11 21:26:37

ILOVeJudy, sorry but a RC school in an area with 4 grammar schools is in no way a truly comprehensive school.

LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 21:27:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 21:31:14

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

fivecandles Mon 03-Oct-11 21:31:15

'And, yes, there's always going to be those exceptions (like your brother) who end up with a degree from Oxbridge, having been written off as non academic at 11 or 13. A few will always slip through the net, initially.

But, they are the exceptions, not the rule.'

I don't think we can ever know how many children would have benefited from a grammar school education and gone on to be successful at university BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T GIVEN A CHANCE TO GET ONE. As we've been saying telling a child at age 11 that they're not very academic is likely to severely limit their life chances and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 21:32:14

Fivecandles, I wuld also like to pick up the same point.

By definition, a child 1 point ahead of the 11+ pass mark and 1 point below will be VERY similar in ability at that age - and if not divided into separate systems, it would be reasonable to make the prediction that they would go on to similar careers and be equally successful. The fact that the child who got 1 mark less (and who in the next town might still have got a grammar school place) does NOT go on to be equally successful is a HUGE failing of the system as it shows that the bipartite system has taken two children with equally good career prospects and actively depressed the prospects of one of them.

fivecandles Mon 03-Oct-11 21:34:31

You're right teacher but grammar schools are also wrong because they SEGREGATE children (largely by social class). Children who don't get in are denied the chance to mix with pupils who are likely to have higher aspirations and may raise the intellectual standards of the whole school. Equally they deny those students in the GS the chance to mix with children from the full range of abilities and backgrounds.

LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 21:34:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 21:37:21

"But, if the bottom set in the GS, and the top set in the secondary modern/comp are both following the same GCSE syllabus for subjects etc, then they are getting the same kind of education, covering exactly the same work, topics?"

The point is, as I said, they don't. They do 1 language vs 3. Single / double science vs triple. Food Technology or Fashion rather than Statistics (that's a gross simplification, but you know what I mean). The syllabuses of the couurses they both offer may be the same, but the range, and restricted combinations, of subjects on offer are VERY different.

LeQueen Mon 03-Oct-11 21:38:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

teacherwith2kids Mon 03-Oct-11 21:39:02

But LeQueen, there are NO comprehensive schools in a grammar system - no highly academic role models to extend and inspire the 'only just missed out', no genuine top top set destined for Oxbridge .

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