Are Grammar Schools the Best Solution

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rov1100 | 13:14 Sat 31st Mar 2012 | News
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With a clamour for more Grammar Schools are we not just turning the clock back before we had Comprehensives. Is there not a better solution?

For instance instead of creaming off the best 10% of pupils leaving the other 90% in the failure rate why not cream of the bottom 10% to study elsewhere?
Misbehaving students could also be added to this 10%.


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American schools are much more "ruthess" in streaming - my younger is in an "Ivy League" track, aged 10, identified at a very young age. They do the same work as the mainstream but then are given projects to stretch them. As they get older, this can involve some innovate mentoring such as working on NASA projects if Physics etc is your thing, or some leading Doctor ré the Medical sciences.....Arts too are sponsored.

It is not about 90% failing as you imply, rov, infact there is also a lot of coaching that they are called on to the main class as well......Perhaps it is this "failure" attitude that besets our system.
I was fortunate enough to be educated in a very good, direct-grant grammar school. There is a need to provide different education for children of different academic abilities. Many people say that age eleven is too young to make that differentiation. I would disagree. By that age it should be clear which children are capable of dealing with a more challenging secondary education and which children are not. (And by the way, rov, grammar schools in the 1960s provided places for about 25% of children, not 10%).

Grammar schools were (and in some places still are) an ideal means of providing an academically challenging education to children whose parents could not afford private education and the State should provide such opportunities for such children. In Kent (which has the highest number of grammar schools in the country and where the latest news story has its origin) there is huge demand for grammar school places. It’s what many parents want for their children because they know it gives them the best opportunity for a sound education. At the moment, secondary education is not only selective in Kent, it is “super-selective”. Because of the demand for places grammar schools can choose only the children with the topmost marks in their eleven-plus exam and those who pass but get lower marks often have to travel huge distances to attend a grammar school.

It is all very well for the teaching unions and other academics to suggest that the State should concentrate on improving the standards of all schools and to use this to oppose selective education. It is quite true that it should. But there is still a need to provide different types of education and at the moment superior education is secured by way of financial advantage – either by paying for education privately or by buying property in the catchment area of superior schools. The Guardianistas need to swallow their philosophical opposition to selective education and the teaching profession needs to concentrate on providing excellent education – of different types – in all State schools. Many parents want grammar school education for their children and their wishes should be fulfilled.
I agree entirely with New Judge. Personally I think Comprehensives, in general, fail children - at both ends of the spectrum. Grammar schools are the best thing that can happen to bright children from poorer families - and I speak from personal experience. Every day of my life I silently thank my school for the education and for the opportunities it provided. Far from turning the clock back, a countrywide return to Grammar schools would be a step in the right direction.
I went to a grammar school in the 60s, I couldn't get on with it at all, I transferred to the local sec mod alternative which I left in the mid 60s with the best exam results they had seen at the time at O and A level. I just could not get on with the Grammers teaching methods, they were just too far up their own b4cks1des.
What is a Grammar school? How does it differ from any other school?

Wolf - childless (apart from my lovely furrybairns) and Scottish - it that explains why I don't know.
Even though I had 11 plus, I went to a PS on a bursary. Overall the education was good but boy did they have weaknesses. I got their very first Grade 1 and A at Geog, the O level a disgrace as the master was a JP and regularly buqqered off, leaving us a taped address.......French was also appalling and I could have easily passed that at prep school - ending up with an average grade. Their Physics was terrible, their Chemistry and Maths brilliant, 90% of us at G 1 or 2.

What Naomi will appreciate is that I won the Middle School prize in Divinity and failed the O level. Being on the same day as Ad Maths, I decided at that young age, I wasn't going to be a bishop....actually the prize was for comparative religion - I couldn't hack the tedium and lack of logic of the Bible.
Is not the answer to have comprehensive schools, thereby avoiding the objection that we have a two tier system, but stream out all the brightest chidren for selective education that the old grammar schools provided ? The same streaming system could cater for the other children according to their needs and abilities. If comprehensives don't do this, they are failing all of us.

Like NJ, I was at a direct grant grammar school. At least half my classmates were from 'ordinary' families, some the sons or farm workers, for whom being there meant they had hope far beyond that which their parents had, the prospect of Cambridge or other universities. In my village there were older people who should have had such education; intelligent, well-read men and women; whose talents had been completely lost to the world of science, law, medicine etc simply because they had never had the opportunity which grammar schools would have provided them..
The first thing that happens in Sec.Mod and Comps, is streaming in key subjects like Maths and Science. This does not cause massive trauma in the children , they know who is bright and where they stand in the class. It is the parents who can't accept that their child is not in the top 20%. The same thing happens when a child is below average . It is never just lack of intelligence . There has to be a reason such as autism which is more acceptable . I know an autistic centre that was set up because of the pressure exerted by one pushy parent who would not accept the fact her son had " learning difficulties " to use modern parlance. As a result the child did not get the appropriate teaching for his condition.
The bottom 10% (those who persisently truant or disrupt classes) are already "creamed off" - to pupil referral units, where more is spent on them than on the average LA school pupil.
what a pity we had to leave primary
> Every day of my life I silently thank my school for the education and for the opportunities it provided.

Me too. My grammar school "went comp" as I entered the 5th form. The best example I can give to illustrate the difference is that, before the change, "doing well" (i.e. what or American cousins would call 'getting good grades') was something to be respected and aimed for but when the school became a comprehensive, the "clever" kids were bullied and derided...
And so it remains, Mark. Learning is not “cool”. Being bright is showing off. Demonstrating knowledge is being big headed. Children whose parents encourage them to learn (and who would be likely to gain most benefit from a grammar school education) are proud of their children’s achievements and encourage them to be proud of themselves. No such stigma is attached to their erudition.

It was Anthony Crosland who, as Education Secretary, was famously alleged to have told his wife “"If it's the last thing I do, I'm going to destroy every f**king grammar school in England. And Wales and Northern Ireland". Whether or not Crosland (who attended Sir Roger Cholmeley's School at Highgate and then Trinity College Oxford, natch) said such a thing is open to conjecture. But he did almost achieve his aim and in doing so denied successive generations of children the opportunity of a challenging academic education.

The philosophy that brought this about has grown and grown since the 1960s and it is now commonplace to believe that, unless everybody can have the best then nobody can. So it is with education. Not surprisingly the abolition of grammar schools did not result in the education of all children miraculously being upgraded. Quite the reverse occurred and those children capable of academic excellence find themselves trundling along at the pace of the slower (and, dare I say it, the less co-operative) of their classmates. Such children and their parents require and deserve better and the State education system as currently organised is singularly incapable of providing an improvement.
I am another product of the direct grant grammar school, abolished in the mid 70s. Had it not been for grammar schools I would never have been introduced to Latin and Greek and my education would have been the poorer as a result.
Comprehensives were supposed to be the better solution, oh! What a mistake that was. The better solution is to go back to Grammar schools.
I could go on forever, but i'll bite my lip.
Everybody who likes the grammar school system seems to be associated with grammar schools and not secondry moderns - funny that!

Find us someone who's kids are at a secodry modern who thinks the system is good and maybe people will take you seriously.

I live in Buckinghamshire where there is a grammar school system and I can certainly say the system is devisive and really poor.

Not only for the children but teachers as well.

It's particularly difficult for bright kids who don't get much support at home to compete with those from better off famillies who do - they can't afford tutors for the 11 plus and so the decks are stacked against them from the age of 10.

Consequentially the system ends up with bright middle class kids in Grammar schools with a sprinkling of only the very cleverest from poorer backgrounds.

The rest of the better off kids are educated in the local private schools and the secondry modern gets the rest.

It's no way to run an education system
yes far better to have everyone's education destroyed on the alter of socialist ideology eh jake?
That's exactly what happens round here JTP. I do absolutely agree with grammar schools and I certainly think there should be more of them, as there are so few the places are mostly taken up by the richer in society, two couples I know send their children to private primary school, they have been told that their children will be taught how to fly though the 11+ to secure a place at grammar school. Whether this works in theory or not I don't know but they fully expect their offspring to secure a place. If there were more places then it would be easier for brighter children of poorer backgounds to succeed, so more grammars need to be built.
Jake, //Everybody who likes the grammar school system seems to be associated with grammar schools and not secondry moderns - funny that! //

What’s funny about it? Unlike people who go to Secondary Moderns, we know what Grammar schools offer.

//Find us someone who's kids are at a secodry modern who thinks the system is good and maybe people will take you seriously.//

How many of those parents would turn down the opportunity if their children proved themselves bright enough? Your philosophy mirrors exactly what NJ said. //unless everybody can have the best then nobody can//.

//It's particularly difficult for bright kids who don't get much support at home to compete with those from better off famillies who do - they can't afford tutors for the 11 plus //

I didn’t have tutors to get me through the 11 plus – and frankly, in my experience, those who do flounder at Grammar school where they are expected to achieve on their own ability. As any sensible parent knows, you can’t buy brains, and those who try are doing their children a great disservice, because kids who scrape through the exam are like fish out of water at a Grammar school, and often stay no longer than a year or two. An acquaintance of mine did something similar. Brought tutors in to get his daughter into university. She dropped out after a year because she, and I quote, ‘didn’t know what ‘they’ were talking about’!

//and so the decks are stacked against them from the age of 10.//

The odds are stacked against them? Why? Surely you’re contradicting your own argument. They have the Comprehensive system, which seems to be your preferred choice.
I was so grateful that my kids passed the test to get into Grammar school, I was prepared if necessary to fund private education rather that send them to the local asbo academy. Over 600 kids did the test, every one of their parents would have been desparate for them to get through. Left wing idelogy has destroyed education in this country. The truly horrific thing is though that those that hate grammar schools out of some misplaced ideology send their own children to private schools while they destroy any chance for bright poor kids.

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