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Ballot to abolish grammar schools

(251 Posts)
zeolite Tue 24-May-11 10:58:18

With all the talk on catchments, here is the second ever ballot to abolish grammar schools (the first was in 2000, on Ripon Grammar, which failed):

What do MNetters think?

[takes cover now]

Tortu Tue 24-May-11 20:12:01

Oooooo how interesting. I went to one of these and my brother went to the other! Hmmm. Personally, I quite disliked my school and the teaching, which I assumed was normal at the time, became a running joke on my PGCE course. I was frequently asked to retell stories on how we learnt dictation etc. It was, at that point, a safe haven for lazy teachers who knew they didn't have to work as most of the girls could have been locked in a cupboard for five years and still come out with decent grades.

Pre birth of my baby (oh I'm such a hypocrite) I was completely against grammar schools as in the case of many of them, the reason why children do so well is purely because they are mixing only with bright children and so their norm is changed in terms of motivation and competition. I saw the impact of this when I later went to work in one of the local comprehensives- in effect, the top set had been creamed off to go to the grammar school, leaving the rest of the students to sink.

Grammar schools are hideous places and can no longer be credited with lifting poor children up into the middle classes, as they sometimes get portrayed by the Tories or nostalgic baby-boomers. They isolate a select few from reality and create a situation in which other children think they are failures at the age of 11. Kendrick and Reading are really good examples of this, as only around half the kids in my year had actually been to a state primary and of the ones who had, they were also in fairly elite areas. In the two local private girls' school, I bet there are very few girls who didn't sit the Kendrick exam first and fail.

Would I send my boy there? Oh yeah! I'd love him to be in an elite educational establishment. Such a hypocrite. I hate myself.

bubblecoral Tue 24-May-11 20:46:14

My son has just got into Reading on appeal (long story, but he has been proved to be capable of the standard) and I am delighted to be able to send my child there. He has come from state education, and the state primary he goes to send children to Reading or Kendrick every year. I do not believe for a second that the local comps will have been robbed of their brightest children, these two grammar schools are the the only ones in the area and with such a limited number of places at them, and a huge catchment area, it is ridiculous to suggest that the other local schools do not contain students of the same standard.

Anyway, back to the original question! I can understand parents from the Reading area being frustrated that there are children from neighbouring boroughs being educated in Reading when it won't be long before there aren't enough secondary places in Reading for children that live there. But if you take a closer look at the figures, there are just as many Reading children being educated in Wokingham as there ae Wokingham children being educated in Reading. And the money comes from the borough in which the child lives, it's not like Reading council tax payers are funding students from other areas.

We are lucky to have schools like Reading and Kendrick in the area. As long as some children are benefitting from it, I don't see the problem. If there are too many privately educated in primary children getting into the grammars then something should be done to change that. But that is another thread and something that has been debated on here already more than once.

The way this ballot is being conducted at the moment, is quite frankly, bollocks. My childrens primary counts as one of the feeder schools, so I am entitled to a vote. So is my ex (dc's Dad), but only if we opt in by giving our names and adresses, which of course, the school already has. And it wasn't even mentioned until I asked that their Dad got a separate vote. You would think that as I opted in on behalf of my children, my co parent would also automatically be given a vote. The letter that got sent out was incredibly confusing and has left many parents not really having a clue what is going on. Which will lead to people not using their votes, and this is wrong. I think they may be addressing this though because there have been complaints.

From what I know, this whole thing was started by just 10 disgruntled parents. Hardly a reason to change a system that hundreds of parents have been happy with for years, and hundreds more have tried to get their children into.

Wow, long post! Can you tell this is quite close to home? grin

YummyHoney Tue 24-May-11 20:55:31

Well said Bubblecoral!

I don't know these schools, but I was lucky enough to be the ONLY child in my year to go to a grammar school - and a top one at that, from a working class area.

Now my 2 middle class DDs are going to grammar schools and I'm absolutely thrilled about it.

bubblecoral Tue 24-May-11 21:05:29

Thank you! Well done Yummy's dd's! smile

Part of the reason I think GS's are important is because at leats bright children have some sort of a fighting chance, even if their parents can't afford private. What's wrong is that there aren't enough grammar school places for every child that would suit that type of education.

Children are not all the same. They will go on to have vastly different jobs, whay are we so fixated in this country with children all being given exactly the same education? They should all be able to access what is right for them, whether it be based on academia or more vocational. One is not better than the other, it's about what is right for the individual.

YummyHoney Tue 24-May-11 21:10:41

Exactly! There are lots of bright DC in comps. because the GSs are so oversubscribed. It doesn't take rocket science to work out that we need MORE grammar schools and not the abolition of them. smile

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Tue 24-May-11 22:59:13

Bubble - but DCs in comps don't get exactly the same education, most are streamed from the word go.

When I was at a comp I had several friends who started off in bottom streams but started to take off at age 13 and ended up with top grades in "O" and "A" levels, then got good degrees at RG universities. Never would have had that opportunity with a GS/sec mod system.

Kez100 Wed 25-May-11 07:16:56

I'm not against grammars but they are not essential. Good comprehensives can provide very well for bright children.

What annoys me is the league tables for comprehensives which don't tell the underlying truth. We have a very good comprehensive with a grammar a long way away. Some years a lot of children go there (parents tend to get together to buy tutor time and arrange travel) or other years almost none do. The comprehensive picks up all the local children who want to go there. So, unless you look atCVA which many parents do not, we can easily have 10% of our cohort almost a guaranteed 5 A to C EM disappear for a year group and so year on year results are not comparable. Locally everyone just thinks the school have done badly!

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Wed 25-May-11 08:33:40

Its been said before, but it would stand being repeated:

A lot of parents are keen on grammar schools as long as they think their DCs will get in.

Not so keen on the system if their DCs are likely to go to the secondary moderns.

Selection at 11 to send DCs to different schools was discredited a long time ago as it assumes abilities and academic performance are totally fixed by age 11. Any mother of teenagers (especially boys) will know this is nonsense.

Butterbur Wed 25-May-11 09:18:17

Sadly that's true, Carrots. And as, at the most, 30% of children go to grammar schools, (in our area, which still has a full grammar/secondary modern system) that means 70% of parents are disgruntled, and in the end, they will have their way.

If comps are so great, why do so many parents fight tooth and nail to get their children into grammars?

YummyHoney Wed 25-May-11 09:31:22

Carrots I agree. The reason I'm for grammar schools is that my DDs can go to school and be keen, work hard, maybe even be a bit geeky, and not be teased about it.

There are many, many bright DC in comps, but, usually, it's not regarded as cool to be studious in those schools.

At DDs grammar school you are cool if you get consistently high grades.

IME that's the biggest difference between comps and grammars. Lots of lovely, bright DC, but different ethos in schools = different results.

bubblecoral Wed 25-May-11 13:19:09

I agree that the ethos is very different in most grammar schools to that in comps. Our local comp is a very good one that I would be very happy with, and I think academically my child would be able to get the same results. I'm happier having him in GS though because it's half the size and is able to offer excellent pastoral care to all it's students. My ds has aspergers, and in a comp he would be in the special group of 'vulnerable students', and he simply wouldn't cope with the environment as well. He would be lost in it, and many of the fantastic things they offer just wouldn't benefit him at all. That's why I fought to get him into the GS.

I also agree with Carrots about the grammar versus secondary modern situation, but it doesn't have to be like that. 11 is too young to be determining a child's academic future.

There really aren't many areas left that cream off the brightest children for GS, and it certainly isn't the case with the two grammar schools mentioned in the OP. They only take 100 day pupils each a year, but the boys GS has a catchment that spans three counties. This year they have accepted boys from 68 primaries. There is no way that this school is leaving all others in the area with a shortage of intelligent children and making their results lower than they should be.

The ballot mentioned in the OP, as far as I know, is more about the number of students coming from neigbouring boroughs to take a place in the GS than it is about the grammar system in general. I don't know that though, as I don't know the parents that signed the petition so I can't say what their motives are. But I should think that if they were able to get their children into the grammar school, they probably wouldn't be bothering to do this.

joencaitlinsmum Wed 25-May-11 13:33:08

The secondary school are not robbed of the brightest children because the intake for both Kendrick & Reading Boys are largely made up of children that are in private education and have also been coached to get them through the entrance exams.

What makes me angry is that these parents opt to pay for private education for their children during their early years as state education is "not good enough" then when the fees become higher for secondary education they opt back into the state system therefore denying bright working class children of grammar places.

I am all for grammar schools but think there should be a fairer ratio of intake from state primarys.

wait to be flamed!

joencaitlinsmum Wed 25-May-11 13:43:32

Bubble I was interested on your take on how your child with aspergers will do better at a GS, my DS also has aspergers and is high functioning yet our view and that of the professionals was that a GS would put too much pressure on him to conform.

Even statmented children in secondary schools are educated alongside fellow pupils they are not put into "vulnerable groups", in most schools you wouldnt realise that some children have special needs!

bubblecoral Wed 25-May-11 14:25:04

I agree with you that there should be a fairer intake to take away the advantage that is had privately educated children, and those who have parents that can afford tutoring.

I can only speak for my ds, but aspergers takes many forms, and for him, the GS is undoubtably going to be a better environment. He will thrive on the extra pressure applied at the GS, I'm sure, and his teachers agree it would be a suitable environment for him. I don't think he would do badly at the comp in terms of academic achievement, but socially it would be much more of a struggle for him. The comp told me that he would go on the vulnerable childrens register.

One of the aspergers traits that my ds has is that he needs to see the point of everything that he does. if he went to the comp I'd worry that he would think 'I'm in the top set already, why do you want me to try harder with my work?' He is quite competative, and I think that the fact that he will no longer be at the top of the class, and the challenge that will give him will be a positive thing. It will encourage him to really achieve his potential, rather than settle for being in the top set.

For us, it's about what's right for my ds, not what's right for a child with aspergers.

joencaitlinsmum Wed 25-May-11 14:39:01

Being on the vulnerable childrens register does not mean they get treated that differently or labled the register is there to help children smile

I agree that you must do what is best for your DS as argubly that is why I also appealed against the school we were given. Our arguement was also for our DS to achieve his potential in surrondings he feel comfy with, he is also very black and white in his outlook and wants to be the best at everything he does lol although knowing him that wouldnt change where ever we sent him smile His infant head did suggest I put him in for the reading exam but I know with the high anxiety issues he has it would have been too much pressure!

I sincerley hope that your DS thrives and enjoys his new school, maybe we could "hold hands" come september as I for one am not looking forward to it!

timmysamba Wed 25-May-11 18:59:28

Ooohh I don't like grammar schools. I went to one myself and tolerated it. Children do not need to be split up at the age of 11 and taught in different schools.

Fortunately now live in an area where there are no gs. Ds1 goes to an excellent comp. They are streamed in the main subjects from the beginning.

As carrots said people love them until their child doesn't get in. My brother raved about gs when his first son got in, second son didn't get in and suddenly he isn't so keen on the system.

Don't see why privately educated children should have that held against them in the 11 plus. So many people pay for private tutoring so that pretty much equals it out doesn't it. When I went to my gs most of the children were from state primary schools.

confidence Thu 26-May-11 00:43:36


Selection at 11 to send DCs to different schools was discredited a long time ago as it assumes abilities and academic performance are totally fixed by age 11.

No it doesn't.

It puts children into different kinds of schools for the next five year. After that some of them who didn't get into grammar will be able to transfer to grammar sixth forms. Some who did get into grammar will not be able to continue due to not getting the grades. Some from both cohorts will go university. And then there's life...

This idea of the 11+ as fixing a set idea about children forever in an invention. Of course if people choose to see it that way, it perpetuates the invention.

confidence Thu 26-May-11 00:48:41


I was completely against grammar schools as in the case of many of them, the reason why children do so well is purely because they are mixing only with bright children and so their norm is changed in terms of motivation and competition.

And that's a problem why? Because they shouldn't be allowed to do this, but should be forced to endure belittlement and bullying from less motivated children who set the agenda instead?

I saw the impact of this when I later went to work in one of the local comprehensives- in effect, the top set had been creamed off to go to the grammar school, leaving the rest of the students to sink....

... or swim, on their own.

This to me is one of the worst arguments against grammar schools: the idea that it's somehow the most motivated kids' duty to make the education of the less motivated ones better despite their own unwillingness to do so.

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Thu 26-May-11 09:41:55


No, sorry, I don't agree with you.

Why on earth would they be sent off to separate schools at age 11 if it was thought that their aptitudes were still fluid and that there was every likelihood that their performance could be completely different in a couple of years?

As you say, DCs are in completely different schools for five years. No chance whatsoever of joining those who have gone off to GSs if at age 12 their abilities rise enough to merit this. There are no places for them.

So they must have been separated off in the assumption that their performance at age 11 will define their academic performance until after they take their GCSEs.

Either that or no-one cares that there may be children who raise their game at later ages but will have no chance to work with DCs of similar ability at that age.

Also the exam choices available at sec moderns are likely to be aimed at the less academically able so DCs there whose abilities improve after 11 will not get access to GCSE options that are appropriate to them, eg 3 separate sciences may not be offered.

I know it is not as bad as the old days when sec modern pupils were not even allowed to take "O" levels (or matriculation as it was way back) but choices are more likely to be limited.

I do believe that a good comp, with proper, well-monitored and fluid setting and its full complement of bright local kids, gives the best chance to all DCs.

YummyHoney Thu 26-May-11 10:04:05

Carrots it doesn't give the 'best chance' to bright DC. It doesn't allow them to thrive, academically, because it's not cool to be studious in a local comp.

I do think we put an awful lot of resources (rightly so) in helping less able DC and, so, it's not unreasonable to provide for the bright ones.

And Confidence, I totally agree with the last paragraph of your post - I think you've really hit the nail on the head.

zeolite Thu 26-May-11 10:07:36

When we looked, we found grammars where we thought DCs could thrive and others which were an absolute turn-off. Same for comprehensives, independents, etc. For us, it was never as easy as one type better, another less so.

Many other parents also seem to be pragmatic about schools, though it's harder if you live somewhere with few acceptable options. However, Reading doesn't strike me as a place which has bad alternatives to the schools in question.

The Ripon ballot tested community cohesion, and no one's tried another until now. Let's hope for Reading that this one is settled with the minimum of fuss, whatever the result.

CarrotsAreNotTheOnlyVegetables Thu 26-May-11 10:21:40

Yummy, don't agree.

Neighbours DDs go to local good comp with very active streaming.

They have to work very hard to stay in top stream, lots of very bright girls vying for their spots.

At their school it is very cool indeed to be studious. Those in bottom stream are referred to disparagingly as "chavs". So clearly not cool to be bottom!

If they have managed this then surely others can do it too.

I don't know why so many of you are so scared of their DCs attending the same school as those who are not as bright. It is not infectious! As long as good active streaming is used they will be taught with those of similar ability and it is possible to have a school filled with DCs with a positive attitude to learning.

Look at the individual school and don't generalise so much.

Hattiehoo Thu 26-May-11 15:50:07

joencaitlinsmum, I just wanted to make the point that Reading School and Kendrick School are not "largely made up of private school children who have also been tutored". My son is at Reading School and is one of only 3 previously privately educated boys in his class of 27. Far from private school backgrounds being the norm, he is often mildly and affectionately teased by being called "posh boy". As for tutoring, most parents I know tutored their children for the exam themselves,as did I.

YummyHoney Thu 26-May-11 16:29:34

Carrots, your local comp. sounds like a very good school indeed and if all comps. were like that it would be wonderful - parents wouldn't suffer the angst they feel about the whole 11+ process.

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