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What do you think about Grammar schools?

(64 Posts)
StickyNote Wed 14-Jul-04 15:40:55

I'm genuinely interested in anyone's opinion on Grammar schools or selection at age 11 or 12 in general.

I live in a county which has always had Grammar schools and the 11+ and I went to an all girls Grammar school. I've just finished a conversation with my sister who lives in a county with comprehensive schools and kids still have to do an exam at 11 to be able to get into the comprehensive of their choice.

Bearing in mind that the Govt is encouraging schools to specialise in different areas, isn't this a return to the Grammar/technical/sec modern system in a different guise? Wouldn't it be more benefical for our kids to go to a school that suits them i.e. more or less academic/vocational/technical/trades etc.? So the 11+ would be seen more as a "let's see what you're good at" exam, rather than something to pass or fail?

I know this is an area where people have strong opinions and I would be very interested to hear them.

hmb Wed 14-Jul-04 15:44:31

Light Blue touch paper.....are you wearing your flak jacket!?!

Re the 11+. It was originaly 'supposed' to find out what you were good at. In practice it was an iffy IQ test that tested your ability to do tests like the 11+

StickyNote Wed 14-Jul-04 15:49:35

I had a feeling I might need a hard hat...

So could the 11+ be redesigned do you think, or are you against selection completely?

Janh Wed 14-Jul-04 15:59:34

Agree completely that kids should be educated in the way that is best for them, esp the completely unacademic ones - forcing them through 5 years of ordinary secondary education with exams to fail at the end is pointless and wasteful, when they could spend the time doing something they're good at and come out satisfied and happy.

Also think that some grammar schools (ours is one) are obsessed with bloody grades and don't do nearly enough non-academic stuff.

Psychometric testing at 10/11 would be a way to go. Possibly. Wouldn't like to be the person responsible for introducing, organising and financing it though!

Jimjams Wed 14-Jul-04 16:51:39

Nothing against grammar school- or some sprt pf academic school for academic kids (went to one in the 6th form). Providing- that the alternative is good and suitable for the kids who want to go there. Ie have good academic schools, good vocational schools etc- but not everything else second best.

IN Japan they had this system- I taght in an agricultural high school, low academic acheivement but highly respected and oversubscribed. Very few kids went onto higher education from there- but it offered a lot more and parents wanted their kids in there.

StickyNote Wed 14-Jul-04 17:36:25

Can anyone shed any light as to why grammar schools went out of fashion and comprehensives were introduced? I'm interested in how we've reached the point we're at now.

Freckle Wed 14-Jul-04 17:42:55

The whole comprehensive idea was dreamed up by a Labout government. I think their reasoning was that it was mainly children from better off families who went to grammars and they were therefore seen as elitist and totally against what Labour believed in. I'm not saying that all comprehensives are bad, but I don't think they offered what the old system did - academic schools for academic children (grammars), practical schools for practical children (technical highs) and secondary moderns for others who didn't fit into the other criteria. I think that should be padded out with apprenticeships for children who are totally unsuited to school at all, and other forms of practical education to fit children up for entering the work place.

We have grammars here and there is some opposition to them. There is a local campaign to abolish the system, but the people who run it never seem to recognise the fact that they are not getting the support of the parents (which should say something for the system) and have wasted millions of pounds (honestly) started up ballots which never lead to anything.

I think the new system proposed by Labour (which is very similar to the one proposed by the Conservatives with a few differences) is really going back to the old system, but with a different name.

Jimjams Wed 14-Jul-04 17:51:00

I think they were abolished in the 70's SN when education went through a rather strange patch. For example going to school in the 70's I wasn't taught to spell (too restrictive apparently) and had to use a different phonetic alphabet for the first few years (ITA). I made the switch to normal writing easily age 6 or 7, but I know some children who struggled with reading and writing really found the change hard (and the system was introduced to supposedly help them not be held back). I still can't spell though - and when I apologised to a biss recently explaining that I was at Primary school in the 70's he said "ahh but I'll bet you can throw paint creatively". I don't think children were allowed to have different abilities then....

Jimjams Wed 14-Jul-04 17:51:41

boss not biss! Can't type either

hmb Wed 14-Jul-04 18:12:14

I was in Secondary school in the 70s and they banned us from learning any english grammer. We started to learn it in Y7 and then it was stopped. I still count on my fingers and don't know my tables because they went 'out'. And as you already know my spelling......

It seemed that going to school in the 70s was an exercise in getting an education by accident!

I went to a comp in a working class area. Once the grammar system was abolished it went from half of the working class kids having a crappy education in a sec mod, to all of the kids getting a crappy education in the comp!

Bitter and twisted? Me? Never!

MeanBean Wed 14-Jul-04 18:45:02

My friend's son went to school in the eighties and when she complained to his teacher that he still couldn't read and write at the age of 8, the teacher said to her "It's not my job to teach your son to read and write!"

This is not an exaggeration!!!

Jimjams Wed 14-Jul-04 19:24:11

hmb- I am so annoyed that I wasn't taught my tables- I am useless! I remember we would be given metal arithmetic tests, but were never taught the tools that would help us do them!

dinosaur Wed 14-Jul-04 19:27:59

Is mental arithmetic really anything to do with knowing your times tables? I was rigorously drilled in them and I am the worst person at mental arithmetic imaginable - whereas DH is brilliant at it.

hmb Wed 14-Jul-04 19:29:26

Dinosaur, knowing them doesn't mean that you *can* do mental arithmatic, but not knowing them means you haven't got a hope in hell!

dinosaur Wed 14-Jul-04 19:40:19

Do you know, it just demonstrates how much of a non-mathematician I am - I have never made any connection between knowing your times tables and doing mental arithmetic!

MeanBean Wed 14-Jul-04 19:41:44

Dino! So much for drilling...

hmb Wed 14-Jul-04 19:42:07

We all suffered at the vacarious hands of Vygotsky. Children don't just learn from teachers , they learn from each other. Well, yes, true, but they don't always learn the sorts of things that are helpful in later life!!!

StickyNote Wed 14-Jul-04 19:44:34

I use my times tables on a daily basis! And not teaching children how to spell is criminal - it sets them up for a lot of unnecessary disappointment in RL.

StickyNote Wed 14-Jul-04 19:45:30

Who's Vygotsky? (Yes, I really am ignorant about all this)

Freckle Wed 14-Jul-04 19:46:53

I think I was lucky and went to a small village primary school which was run along very old-fashioned lines and we had spelling tests and times tables tests, etc. When the old head retired (Miss Broughton - typical spinster headteacher - her school was her life, apart from her Persian cat who used to sit on our sewing she had taken home to check ), they brought in a new, "forward-thinking" head. I only had him for one year so I missed out on all the new-fangled ideas. Can still do my tables and my spelling is,usually, pretty spot on. Something I am trying to instill in my children.

I think a lot of damage was done in the name of progression and only now are they thinking that perhaps the old tried and trusted ways might have had a point.

hmb Wed 14-Jul-04 19:51:23

Russian learning theorist who put forward the idea of the Zone of Proximal Development, you have to create a 'framework' that will allow children to learn, and then they learn from everyone around them. I agree to a point, but you also have to do some instruction. baby sort of got thrown out with bath water.

hmb Wed 14-Jul-04 19:53:49

Find info on him at

As I said, I don't disagree with some of his ideas, but things got taken a little too far in the 1960s-70s

StickyNote Wed 14-Jul-04 19:58:01

Thanks hmb, I'll have a look

LunarSea Wed 14-Jul-04 20:03:01

As a product of the very first year of comprehensive education in the area where I lived, I really wouldn't want to wish the same experience on my child. The philosophy then seemed to be everyone is equal, and with an ex secondary modern school that meant that everyone got treated as if they were the intake they had when the old grammar school had creamed off their 10% (or whatever it was). So we had totally mixed ability classes until 14, and then only a maximum of 4 exam subjects plus English and Maths allowed. Never mind that I could coast through that and get straight A's, at the end of it I'd never seriously had to work. And then I had to do additional O's (externally) at the same same time as the A's (which again had never been taught at the school before) to bring the total number up to something which compared to what people at a gramamr school would have taken in order to apply for Universities. Surprise, surprise - we didn't get any assistance with that either, as the school had NEVER had anyone go to university before so those of us applying (just 4 - and the school had a 300/year intake) had to find it out for ourselves.

While I agree that the experience I had then may not be typical of comprehensive education today (can anyone enlighten me as to what is "normal" now) it has certainly coloured my views to the extent that as I am now living in a county which has grammars I will be perfectly happy for my ds to take the entrance papers for it when the time comes.

As a slight aside - what's the point of having specialist language/science/sports/whatever schools if they don't select on ability/aptitude for that subject at all (which apparently 94% of those with specialist status don't)?

dinosaur Wed 14-Jul-04 20:06:31

On the subject of mental arithmetic - I mean if someone asked me what 12 x 12 is, obviously I'd know immediately - but if someone asked me to multiply 1400 by 1375, or something, I just wouldn't know where to start without a pen and paper, and I don't "instinctively" see how knowing your times tables helps.

Way off topic, I know...

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