Advanced search

Genuine question - why do some people have a problem with the grammar school system

(1001 Posts)
englishteacher78 Thu 24-Oct-13 07:24:25

I went to one - my choice in part, parents would have preferred me to go to the Catholic secondary. As a teacher I have worked in two.
I know if I had gone to the Catholic school I would have coasted (even more than I did).
Some people seem to he very against the grammar school system and I'm not sure why. It was the making of my dad (miner's son from council estate in Scotland)and I think that all counties should have that provision. Surely it's just split site streaming in a way.

Summerworld Tue 29-Oct-13 10:11:03

well, if I and many others parents believed that my child has got as good a chance of education in a local comp, I would send my child to my local comp. There would be no problem.

As it stands, it is a nerve-wreking, extremely stressful undertaking to prepare your child for the 11+ and go through the whole grammar process - in some areas it is 13 applicants competing for 1 place! People do not do it just for fun or lack of something else better to do.

Closing good schools is not the answer. Improve the rest and see what happens. But this is an unpopular view.

kitchendiner Tue 29-Oct-13 10:00:54

Shouldn't we at least try and do our best for the majority? Most people with children at GS seem think that it is the best solution for their child but do the larger percentage of parents with children at SM think the same? I personally would be fine with a comp or GS (less so) for my DS but no, I would not be thrilled with a SM. I would be very p*** off with it.

LifeHuh Tue 29-Oct-13 09:58:18

I would be the first to admit I'd rather my child be in a class with like-minded motivated people (in a grammar) than in a class where 1/3 is only there, as they are technically in compulsory education and simply have to go, but do not want to learn anything. Is it politically incorrect to separate those from the children who have got aspirations and actually want to do well? Or aspirational children are supposed to be dragging the non-motivated ones up? Reading this thread, one might think they are, pull 'em all together and hope for the best. I would not be so sceptical of forcing bright kids into comps if i did not know that unfortunately, what happens in 99% of cases is not the top dragging everybody else up, but the bottom dragging everybody else down to their level. The good old law of gravity.

This is what I object to in a nutshell.Are you talking about selection on aspiration/motivation or selection on academic ability? Grammars select on academic ability.They do not select "children who want to learn and do well" The subsets of academically able children and aspirational motivated children are NOT the same.
From my experience I would say secondary moderns manage to put aspirational children in with non motivated kids and hope for the best very well (that is how the system works)- but we aren't talking about motivated non academic children who want to learn,are we? hmm

teacherwith2kids Tue 29-Oct-13 09:55:35

Woowoo, I wouldn't argue that setting does have occasional problem. However Summer seemed to be implying that just because in a comprehensive there were less able pupils in the school, the more able students would suffer - and her belief seemed to be that everyone sat in the same class all the time. I was simply making the point that that wasn't how it worked......

Summerworld Tue 29-Oct-13 09:53:58

^kitchendiner Tue 29-Oct-13 06:33:33
"Is the GS system best for ALL children? ^

there will never be ONE system which is best for ALL. After all, humans are not produced in a factory using the same machine. People are different, why would there be a uniform system to suit all? It is impossible and unrealistic (and you wouldn't like it, anyway).

How far do you go? We should all wear the same "right" size clothes, we should all drive the same "right" model car, we should all send our children to the same "right" type school?

Don't you see a fault with this argument?

teacherwith2kids Tue 29-Oct-13 09:50:52

Summer - my son - Y9 targets all high L7s and L8s - is in a comprehensive. he sits with, and compares himself with, similarly able children. The fact that in the same form there are some children targeted with L4s makes no difference to him. He is taught what HE needs to make progress - partly through setting, partly through differentiation within each class.

WooWooOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 09:50:18

Setting has its own problems and isn't always the solution.

When I was at school my maths teacher told me I was nearly ready to move up from the bottom to middle set in maths. I stopped trying because I didn't want to leave my friends and the fairly stress free maths lessons I was in!

Anyway, this thread is nearly full so I would like to say thanks to all for the debate, as always it's been interesting. Hopefully see you on the next grammar thread!

teacherwith2kids Tue 29-Oct-13 09:48:22

Superselectives are amaging because of the influence they have on the wider educational environment, and the way in which they entrench disadvantage and reinforce advantage. They do not NEED to be as danaging as 'normal' gramars, but with the current method of selection they are still damaging.

teacherwith2kids Tue 29-Oct-13 09:46:34


Have you never heard of setting? In every comprehensive I have ever come across, setting [or its appalling cousin streaming, but the less said about that the better] is used to group children of similar ability, and then teacher do their utmost to differentiate work within each class for every child to make the most progress.

Just because children of different abilities are under the same roof - and this is the beauty of comps, because of the flexibility it offers for children to move between setsm to realise theiur true ability - doesn't mean that they always sit in the same classrooms ....

WooWooOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 09:46:10

It's not necessarily money that influences the outcome the most though, it's attitude.

I don't think it's fair to say that super selectives are damaging because there may be a few children that slip though the net.

No one would say that special schools are damaging because they don't have enough places for all the children that need one, and there is a massive shortage of places in special schools.

kitchendiner Tue 29-Oct-13 09:43:41

Is there anyone out there who is happiest with their kids to going to a secondary modern as opposed to a GS or comp?

I personal order of preference would be:
1. comp
2. GS
3. SM

Anyone out there willing to put SM at the top?

teacherwith2kids Tue 29-Oct-13 09:43:11

Also a point on superselectives. As I have said repeatedly, I do believe that there is a need for a very few 'special schools' for those of such high ability that they cannot efficiently be educated in mainstream schools - those of the 1 in 10,000 type ability of whom one school may only see one every 10 - 20 years. Some superselectives are sufficiently 'selective' that they COULD operate as such special schools IF their selection mechanisms could become more accurate.

However, what happens at the moment is:
- An industry of private primaries, providing 7 years of intensive coaching for superselective entry.
- An industry of private coaches.
- Clever, well-educated, clued-up parents back up this education and coaching or intensively coach themselves.

These form a significant barrier to entry for those exceptionally able children who do not come from wealthy or educationally knowledgeable families [the ablest child I have taught to date lived with his single mum, a part-time cleaner who was barely literate and had left school with no qualifications at 16 - he was probably within that top 0.5 or so %, but he had no chance of accessing the superselective].

Which is why, unless the selection process is changed to one where money cannot influence the outcome - the best I can think of is ed psych reports, as done for SEN children for special schools at the moment - superselectives are also damaging, though not in such a widespread way.

WooWooOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 09:40:39

Teacher - I thought I could remember someone saying it, but I wasn't going to trawl back through 40 pages to find it!

It would be interesting to know for definite what it is that makes the difference, and to include the number of private schools in those areas into the study too.

Summerworld Tue 29-Oct-13 09:38:57

I would be the first to admit I'd rather my child be in a class with like-minded motivated people (in a grammar) than in a class where 1/3 is only there, as they are technically in compulsory education and simply have to go, but do not want to learn anything. Is it politically incorrect to separate those from the children who have got aspirations and actually want to do well? Or aspirational children are supposed to be dragging the non-motivated ones up? Reading this thread, one might think they are, pull 'em all together and hope for the best. I would not be so sceptical of forcing bright kids into comps if i did not know that unfortunately, what happens in 99% of cases is not the top dragging everybody else up, but the bottom dragging everybody else down to their level. The good old law of gravity.

Summerworld Tue 29-Oct-13 09:38:03

^curlew Mon 28-Oct-13 23:12:01
"Too many bright kids' potential is wasted in substandard comps."

People keep making statements like this. For all I know they are true. But they have nothing backing them up. In a thread like this you really need evidence.^
I am reluctant to give out names of schools and the areas they are in. Unless somebody lives in a very sheltered environment, they are bound to know a few schools like that. I live in a city and I certainly know several non-selective state schools where I would not want to send my child to for both educational and social reasons (those normally come hand in hand anyway). But it is not politically correct to say so. We need to pretend that a comp in a white MC area is the same quality as a comp in an inner city. You would say there is no reason for them to be different. Well, all I know is they are. And in the same way, grammars are very different to comps.

I really fail to see how doing away with excellent grammar schools will make bad comps good. It will not, and has never done. It is not the way to go about things. It would make a lot more sense improving the alternatives to grammar schools, so people make their choice accordingly. Then GS would lose a lot of their appeal and more people will turn to comp education. Especially when they do not have to go throught he huge stress of the 11+/ pay lots of money to get the same. But this is a lot more difficult to do, that close a few schools down, isn't it...

teacherwith2kids Tue 29-Oct-13 09:35:12

[Evidence on my first point was linked to earlier in the thread, woowoo]

WooWooOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 09:35:03

Pat, I don't think it's about the private schools creaming off the bright children when it comes to private schools, I think the impact is more to do with creaming off families that care about education and contribute to their school with time, money and support of their children.

Saying that, I know many private schools ask for nothing from the parents except money, and the parents like it that way because they are are paying for the school to do things that would be done by a PTA in state schools.

I think the biggest thing to make a difference to the achievement of a school is going to be the attitude to education from the majority of its intake. In areas where it's only the minority that aren't engaged with education, private or grammar schools shouldn't really make that much difference.

teacherwith2kids Tue 29-Oct-13 09:33:04

Looking at this statistically, rather than emotionally:

- Counties with grammar systems do, on average, slightly worse than counties with full comprehensive systems.

- Many grammar schools have very poor value added results compared to other schools in their areas, which means that children in grammar schools are actually making LESS progress than expected.

Can someone explain to me why grammar schools are 'better'??

I can understand that individual grammar schools, like individual omprehensive schools or individual private schools, may have particular features that a parent might believe makes them a better fit for their own child - a formgroup arrangement, a particular choice of subjects - but unless that feature is a necessary feature of the grammar SYSTEM as a whole, then they do not add up to a compelling argument for the retention / expansion of grammars.

Completely separate from the grammar argument is the one that some schools - private, free, comprehensive, yes even grammar - are not as good as they should or could be. However, sorting schools by the 'value they add', and digging deeper into their stats about the achievement on exit of high, medium and low attainers on entry, does give a rather different list of 'not as good as they should be' than the headline stats and gossip on the street bandied around....

WooWooOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 09:29:34

There are loads of private schools in my area, (not London or Bristol) and I don't think they have a huge impact on the comprehensives because the comprehensives are still very good. But maybe they would be significantly better if the private schools weren't here, we don't know. I'm sure that if they do have an impact, it most be much bigger than the impact of the grammar.

I have no idea if there is evidence that sec mods/ grammars are better than comps, but you can't really compare secondary moderns in relation to comps without taking into account the grammars. It's the whole system that would need to be compared to be accurate, not the individual schools.

PatTheHammer Tue 29-Oct-13 09:26:29

Plus since lots of them are non-selective, what they are doing is 'creaming off' the rich children. Not necessarily the bright children. And believe it or not, there is a difference.

Unless of course they offer a huge number of full scholarships. Which none of the ones around here do, but again I'm interested to hear otherwise in different areas.

PatTheHammer Tue 29-Oct-13 09:20:53

Woowoo, aside from London and Bristol I really don't think that most private schools have that much of an impact on how comprehensive their area is.
Particularly large independent boarding schools. I live almost next door to one and I can tell you that precious few children that go there come from the town we live in. A very small proportion come even from this county. A huge number of the pupils there come from much further afield, many of them from other countries.

kitchendiner Tue 29-Oct-13 09:14:43

Is there evidence that secondary moderns are better than comprehensives? In what way are they better? is the outcome is better for kids at secondary moderns than it would be at comprehensives?

WooWooOwl Tue 29-Oct-13 09:04:13

We are all paying taxes to support all children merrymouse - grammar supporters included!

All children can be supported and given a high standard of education, even when grammar schools exist.

Is there evidence that comprehensive systems are better, especially considering that you say they can't really exist without a comprehensive intake, which I'd say was more damaged by private schools in many areas?

merrymouse Tue 29-Oct-13 08:01:49

And let's not forget that until the end of the 1970's 50% of the population weren't really expected to earn a living at all, whatever kind of school they attended.

SatinSandals Tue 29-Oct-13 07:50:25

It is a different world now. Back in the days when I took 11+ there were no comprehensives, and very few grammar school pupils went on to Oxbridge. My grammar school had the names of those who had gone on boards around the school hall and there were never more than one or two a year, some years without any. It was very common for grammar school pupils to leave at 16yrs and get a job. I was talking to someone, aged about 60yrs,a few months ago,and she walked into a good job with one O'level because she had been to grammar school. It wouldn't happen now!
State school pupils are in the majority (still not enough in proportion) at Oxbridge and there are more from comprehensives than grammar schools, because there are so few grammar schools around. It is very unfair, some comprehensives are all geared up for sending because they do it on a regular basis, and some never send any and so don't encourage it and don't know the system.
When I took 11+ it was a much fairer system in that primary schools prepared you and a few people did extra practice papers at home. There was no need for most to do more because the school preparation was sending questions home for homework and marking them together the next day. A bright child stood a good chance, whatever their background. There was more social mobility with it.
It is nothing like that today, the schools don't prepare and so parents step in and it is big business. The amount of preparation is unequal. The social mobility has gone.
I think it was fine for 1944 when it was 'modern' and better than what went before. It is now so antiquated that secondary moderns don't use the name!I have never heard a single cry for 'bring back secondary moderns' only 'bring back grammar schools', with the assumption of those saying it that secondary moderns need not concern their own children. We do not need vast amounts of people down mines and in factories and education needs to reflect this.
A lot of comprehensives are not fit for purpose, a lot are excellent- with the whole range between the two extremes. The unfortunate truth is that the very children who need the very best education, to compensate for a lack of it in the home, get the worst. That is what needs addressing. You can pick out the disadvantaged children at 2 yrs old and so there should be time to do something to get them level.

This thread is not accepting new messages.