Grammar Schools Again?

Looks like people are blaming the downward spiral of pupil behaviour on the closing of Grammar Schools…doesn’t really work when you consider that places like Kent and Lincolnshire have never really stopped having them. I mean I took my eleven-plus as did my classmates who all considered it normal.

(Quick explanation of Grammar Schools for my American readers: all British pupils go to primary school from age four/five to eleven. It used to be nationally but now in some regions in the first and second term of your final year at primary school you can opt to take the ‘eleven-plus test’ which are a series of verbal reasoning tests. The pass mark depends on the catchment area you live in and also how many other pupils do how well, when I took it the pass mark within catchment was 330, because I lived in a rural area most pupils were out of catchment and so I went to school with kids who’d scored into the 400s on that test. If you pass you can choose to go to a ‘grammar school’, ie. a state run school that is academically biased.)

I am in favour of Grammar Schools generally, I realise that this may confuse people who are aware of my left wing tendancies. I do think that selective education helps bright, academic pupils go further, however people’s perception of selective education does not help average and non-academic pupils. I also think that people aren’t taking into account that most grammar schools have smaller class sizes that your average comprehensive. Yes one-size fits all is not a valid way to run an education system, however until you persuade some people and especially some parents that the local comprehensive is not second best or for the ‘thick’ kids then you will always come up against the argument that grammar schools are elitist and snobby.

Lower class sizes across the board, provide individualised education but for gods sakes get rid of the atmosphere that led to friends at parties on being asked what school we went to pretending that we went to the local comprehensive, or just saying ‘Royston Vasey’ leaving the question of whether it was ‘Royston Vasey Grammar School’ out of the question.

NB Again to Americans the place I went to school was not called Royston Vasey Grammar school except on one memorable day when Q-Boy changed the sign, its another referential nickname of mine. Accept it, move on.

Face it state-run education does not need brand spanking new packages that look good on paper and leave teachers cowering behind the paperwork (which my Mother is currently tormenting me with) what it needs are more teachers so that every child is educated in a class of about 25 to 30 pupils any bigger and they get lost and its so much for individualised education.

Get rid of the notion that still permeates among parents and teachers that comprehensive pupils need to have lower aspirations academically that grammar pupils, it’s bollocks, the teaching style just needs to differ not necessarily the objectives. Elitism is about exclusion where as I see combining grammar schools and comprehensives as being about inclusion; including all pupils in an education devised appropriately for them.

8 thoughts on “Grammar Schools Again?

  1. I remember getting into an argument with a guy who wrote an opp-ed piece in my local paper back home about the merits of academic education versus vocational education. A lot of emphasis is put on academic success – pass your exams, do your coursework, do your a-levels, go to uni – while vocational education is left languishing in second place, regarded as being for kids who are seen as, like you put it, ‘thick’.

    We need an attitude shift in this country, to the point where vocational subjects are seen as a valid choice rather than a ‘drop out’ option. People need to accept that different kids respond in different ways to different types of teaching and learning.

    Personally, I’m all for Grammar schools, not for separating the ‘bright’ kids from the ‘thick’, but for separating out kids who respond better to different types of learning and teaching.

    Stick those who flourish in an academic environment into Grammar schools and start testing and pushing their academic abilities according to the teaching methods which have been structured to work in that sort of way for years. It is a case of tried and tested in that sense.

    And conversely, offer a greater range of subjects and types of courses in comprehensive schools. Courses where pass marks and success are not dependent upon exam grades and academic achievements, but where the outcome qualifications are just as important and valuable. After all, we need plumbers, carpenters, builders and electricians as much as we need doctors, lawyers and managers.

    The split should be between academia and vocation, not ‘bright’ and ‘thick’. The only thing that will change that attitude is time.

  2. I agree with you completely! But I think that whilst time will change that attitude we need to push at it to speak in different terms (although I do think the ‘deferred success’ sounds like some sort of political correctness speak).

  3. ‘Deferred Success’ made my hackles rise when I read about it on BBC’s Education site. What a load of nonsense. Maybe there’s a good theory behind it, but it’s not going to work. If there’s no failure option, what motivation is there for the pupils to aim for success?

  4. The deferred success suggestion had a nice idea at its core, that less able pupils should be allowed to work towards success over time, but the way it was proposed was too vague for it to sound practical.

    Basically, a system where pupils earn credits towards qualifications is probably a better idea, even if it means adopting the concept of graduating from high school, with pupils being required to return for a resit year (compulsory, and paid for by the state) if they don’t achieve a certain number of passes at GCSE.

    Yeah, so you’re keeping kids at school for longer (maybe post a cut-off point, if it’s compulsory, otherwise you get thirty-five year olds in school uniforms), but at least they’ll be leaving with basic skills, and not just ending up permanently on the dole.

    Hmm, you’d need to provide them with living costs and everything as well – you can’t force poverty-stricken parents to pay for a child for an extra year or three (20% of UK inhabitants are in poverty).

    And of course, playing truant in your resit years would have to become a criminal offence (defrauding the state of your Pupil’s Benefits).

    Maybe have the resitters at separate schools, basically to separate the adults from the children.

    It’s something that would require a massive cultural shift in attitudes and a brave government to bring it in, but if the flaws could be ironed out, it would ensure that every school leaver had options other than being abandoned by society.

  5. Bring in the idea of a ‘deferred success’ in addition to the threat of failure, and the idea may work. But replacing the latter with the former just strikes me as an incredibly short sighted thing to do.

  6. Yes I do agree that ‘deferred success’ is a damn silly idea instead of failure. And Archangel I really don’t think that you can bring in the sort of thing you’re talking about unless you give people a time limit. You know that people would abuse the right to stay in school as long asd they like. Free education whilst you’re under 18, then some sort of application for government help if you’ve had to take four years to finish your GCSEs and you want to take A-levels.

  7. That was actually the article that started off my little rant…I should have linked to it I guess. Thanks!

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