You may realise by now that I have some strong views on education and the ways schools are run in general. I take a dim view of the way the Department for Education operates and with that a dim view of how some school operate. But, I can’t stand the fact that state-funded grammar school still exist today.
What Is A Grammar School
A grammar school is a state secondary (11 and upwards) school to which pupils are admitted on the basis of ability. Since 1965 most have been absorbed into the comprehensive school system.
For Every Grammar School There Is A Poor Neighbour
I know of a North Yorkshire grammar school that is graded as Ofsted “outstanding”. As a selective grammar school entry is offered to those that pass the entrance exam at 11 years of age. Yet over the road, and I mean literally across the road, is the local non-selective secondary school (an academt) that I’m led to understand doesn’t have the best of reputations locally – yet when I checked this is also an Ofsted “outstanding” school. I have no personal experience of either school but chose this as a prime example of a two-tier class system in our state education.
There are other examples where the more academically able (I will not refer to them as better) children get into a grammar school. This then means that those less able (at the testing age of 11 that is) go to the “standard” secondary school down the road. How is this fair?
We recently looked at an alternative secondary school for our girls. Their current school has strict ability sets in maths and English (called streaming) yet at the other school, they believe in mixed ability groups as they find this helps all the students. It’s the same with having the ablest going to a separate school to those seen as less able – mixing them together in the same establishment would be better for them all.
Ability Should Not Limit Opportunity
I came up with this phrase whilst at a recent year-8 GCSE options talk. It came to be as certain things were being said that I didn’t agree with. Yet this is exactly what the grammar school system does – it limits the opportunities to those perceived to be less able.
But, does testing a child at 11 years old truly test their ability. Does their inability to reach a specific mark on these entrance tests truly measure their ability? Academic ability is just one piece of the jigsaw that makes up a child. Our Grace might not be the most academically able child at her school, but she is damned good with her hands – she can craft other under the table. Add to this the fact she is the most caring and loving soul who will do anything for anyone and I have a child I am immensely proud of. Would I prefer a brat of an A* (sorry grade 9) student for a daughter and C/D “just get’s by” happy, loving and caring daughter? I know it’s the latter.
But why should a test at the age of 11 define your opportunities in life? It shouldn’t, should it? It’s an abhorrent abuse of our young people that a test just 11 years after they are born limits their life’s opportunities.
Stating The Obvious
I decided to write this piece after reading this article on the BBC news site here. I was only on paragraph (aka the second sentence when it comes to BBC News) when I had to stop and laugh my ass off!
Grammar schools perform no better than non-selective state schools, once their pupils’ higher ability and wealth is taken into account, a study suggests.
Academics at Durham University found the “apparent success” of these wholly selective schools was down to their brighter and more advantaged pupils.
Well, no shit Sherlock! How much are these academics paid to come up with such insightful statements like this? If a school is permitted to test entrants and only take the best then, of course, they are going to look better.
But the report also points out that non-selective state schools are no worse when the ability and wealth of those attending a selective school are taken into account. What? And your point is? If parents have the funds to send a child to a private school then they may do as they wish – that is a privilege. But a state-funded school should not be allowed to take the best students and leave the rest.
I refer back to the point I made about streaming, putting students in sets based on ability rather than mixed ability groups. This report on the TES website highlights a key point. It points out that schools still do this despite that this can be detrimental to lower-ability pupils’ results. Isn’t the selective school approach the same principle on a much larger scale?
Let Them Flourish
My view is testing ability at 11 is plain wrong. It’s too young and frankly is no better measure than selecting only the top 25 percentile of students based on height. A short student may have a growth spurt at 14 and be in the top 10 percentile group by the time they leave school. That’s a metaphor for the fact that a student can learn and grow and develop over time given the right surroundings an encouragement.
“Teach them well and let them lead the way”. Whiney Housten had it right there. Teach Them well – Them being all children and not just the best at 11 years old.
I just wanted to make clear that despite my views on grammar schools I don’t have any issues with parents who send their children to one or the children themselves. It natural to want the best education for your kids and therefore if you have the chance to get them into a perceived better school then why wouldn’t you? My issues is that this two-tier system exists in the modern age. My issue is that I belive education as a whole would be better for ALL children without these supposed better schools.