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Greening opens way for new grammar schools

Discussion in 'Education news' started by FrankWolley, Jul 17, 2016.

  1. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter


    Greening opens way for new grammar schools
    A new prime minister, particularly one promising a meritocracy, will always raise the hopes of campaigners that projects put on ice by her predecessor get another hearing - with grammar schools top of the list for many Tories.

    There are strong indications that Theresa May will allow new schools that focus on academic selection as part of the education mix. Justine Greening, the new education secretary, is due on the Andrew Marr show this morning. In her first interview in the job, with The Sunday Times, she has left the door open to the extension of grammar schools, emphasising that different sorts of schools should be allowed to thrive. Greening — the first education secretary to have had a completely comprehensive secondary education — said she was willing to consider all options.

    "I am not going to set hares running but I'm going to look at absolutely everything," she said. "I'm interested in what works. I recognise that children thrive in different environments. That's why academies have made a difference because they have allowed different kinds of schools that work for children who learn in different sorts of settings."

    May's most influential policy adviser, Nick Timothy, recently wrote a piece backing grammar schools where there is parental demand, saying the rules banning new ones are arbitrary. Timothy went to a grammar school (full disclosure: as did I) and always saw this as a blind spot for the Cameroons. His views are seized on by the Sunday Telegraph, the Sunday Express and the Sun this morning.

    (From The Times, Red Box, today)
  2. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    As an ex-grammar school student, I don't have an issue with grammar schools expanding: it saved my life. However, the system by which students are selected needs to be fairer so that a wider mix of children attend and it is actually a genuinely fair process. In the 90s, my grammar school was open from Year 9-13 and there was no entry test or exam; students were selected on the basis of teacher recommendation (you had to be academic but also hard-working and able to cope with the work) and there was a real mix of backgrounds, races and parental income. A few years after I started they changed to an entrance exam and the mix suddenly became almost entirely white and middle-class as parents had their children tutored to get in.
    HelenREMfan likes this.
  3. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    In the grammar schools I worked in, entrance was solely by exam ( parental interviews were illegal) - but they mostly used Verbal Reasoning (& sometimes Non Verbal Reasoning as well) - which is difficult/impossible to 'coach' pupils for (doing a few practice papers bought from WH Smiths helped, but just for familiarisation). In addition some schools/LSa used Mathematics as well (which can, I'd say, be 'coached') and a few English (which can be coached).

    I'd support more use of VR/ Non VR tests to make coaching less relevant.

    Of course middle class children may have an advantage simply because of the ethos towards learning in their homes. (FWIW two selective schools I worked in - very successful ones - were 80+% from ethnic minority families, largely Asian; white children were a small minority).
  4. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    I have no objection to new publically funded Grammar schools, but would like to see the enforced use of the new Yr 6 tests as the entrance "exam." That way all pupils get the same exam, no coaching for a separate exam, no chance to adjust the exam to suit a particular style or background. And i would imagine most would feel the new exam is trough enough to sort the wheat from the chaff.
  5. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    I can see the logic here, but the counter argument would be that this would discriminate against pupils unlucky enough to be at a poor/RI/Special Measures Primary school...And those at 'good' primary schools may well be from the famous 'sharp elbowed' middle class parents.

    HTs in selective schools I knew always wanted to discover able pupils from poor schools or families with less education too.
    JosieWhitehead and wanet like this.
  6. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    would they have a better chance with special "Grammar school" tests? No expert, never used them!
  7. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    I would welcome the return of the grammar schools. It has been a lifelong belief for me. I have no time at all for the apologists who seem to have endured a lifetime of guilt at feeling that by receiving a grammar school education they were so highly advantaged over others. The grammar schools gave the children of the working class a fighting chance of an academic education they were well capable of.
    However - a Tory government is highly likely to promote and to build grammar schools in leafy Tory shires so bringing to their core voters a standard of academic education denied to the cannon fodder especially in the north ( and saving them the indy school fees!)
  8. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    That was certainly the idea - independently produced tests (from the NFER, for example) that require little or no background factual knowledge (to try and avoid filling the school with well educated middle class pupils).
  9. SteveKindle

    SteveKindle Occasional commenter

    I went to a grammar school and it failed me miserably.

    When I think if the high standard if adulation bright students get at my high school, I shudder to think about the resurrection of the grammar.
    bonkers 704 and JosieWhitehead like this.
  10. markuss

    markuss Occasional commenter

    "Sort the wheat from the chaff" is a telling expression above.
    Is that how we are going to see children - the good stuff and the rubbish?
    chelsea2, bonkers 704 and needabreak like this.
  11. itgeek

    itgeek New commenter

    Geat idea but is anybody talking about the re-introduction of good secondary modern schools for the majority who are not academic(who are the one's who are most likely to get left behind), lets not forget the provision of modern facilities for carpentry, catering and metalwork to name but a few is far more expensive than an academic classroom.
    delnon likes this.
  12. Doitforfree

    Doitforfree Star commenter

    It never ceases to amaze me that people who supposedly benefited from a grammar school education can have such a poor grasp of statistics and be so weak at analysis. They almost always seem to believe that their positive experience means that it was a good system, being apparently unaware of the perils of making decisions according to anecdote. Did this allegedly beneficial system teach them nothing?

    There are so many downsides to selection that it's almost impossible to list them all. But, for example, how do you select 'fairly'? There will always be a fat borderlione who could have gone either way. How is this 'fair'? How do you ensure a rigorous and frequent movement between the grammar and whatever other school you provide, so that anaomalies in your selection can be corrected? Would this be 'fair' if you could do it?

    But the real bottom line is that comprehensives, for all their weaknesses, have improved education overall. It's always seemed to me more logical that if you were to select anyone it would the bottom ten percent, in terms of behaviour and achievement. Give them the extra leg up they need. Without their presence the rest would be fine all together and everyone might have a better chance.

    I don't understand why any of the few grammars in our county get so many poor grades at GCSE. You'd expect the odd one, but if their selection of the top twenty percent were really any good, you would expect almost all GCSEs to be As and A*s. Their actual results, while the best in the county (duh) are very far from this. It seems the schools have failed rather than done well.
    chelsea2 and JosieWhitehead like this.
  13. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    When you consider how much help and support is given to less able children in schools - rightly so imo - but the same investment is not put into the academically bright, able kids. So the able middle class children tend to cope and do well because of the home support and backing but this doesn't always happen for children from poorer families. The grammar schools served them well.
    I wish my girls had received the education I did.
    wanet and FrankWolley like this.
  14. FrankWolley

    FrankWolley Star commenter

    Have comprehensives improved social mobility?
    HelenREMfan likes this.
  15. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    Where is the evidence that comprehensives have done so very well for education? I feel that everyone falls between the stools.
    We lost some excellent special schools because of Blunkett's crusade - I know of many kids who would have done better had they been the "big fish in small ponds" instead of being left to survive in "mainstream " education - kids who most certainly weren't "mainstream". How many of us have seen less able children left with TAs rather then the special schools' specialist trained teachers?
    The comprehensive system is a lottery for most children. We have been systematically shoving children through sausage machines ever since the demise of the grammar schools. I quite agree that too many secondary modern schools did not offer the quality of education the pupils deserved - whether it was from lack of resources or to Sec Mod heads keeping hold of pupils who maybe developed late and who would have benefitted/thrived from a transfer to the grammar school. It stems from the all hallowed view that every child has to be academic ergo only academia should be valued.
    This followed through to the creation of every post 18 facility being made into a "university" and the proliferation of ridiculous "degree" courses. This again did many students no favours - saddled them with debt with a dubious and none too valuable a degree.
    I agree that selection for post 11 education needed change. We had and have far too much rigidity in our education system. One thing I think the Americans have got right is for kids to be able to/have to repeat a year if they don't reach a certain standard. For some it would be an aspirational target they would very much wish to achieve and would maybe ease up on the pressure on UK teachers to try to get some kids to learn. Summer schools too don't seem to do them any harm either.
    People forget that under the triumvirate system, schools tended to be smaller, more personal, and I have yet to see any evidence as to the "greater choice" we were promised on the advent of comprehensives. Please don't denigrate the grammar school system just because those who saw them removed relished the cost cutting opportunities of shoving all into large, impersonal concrete factories. Is there anyone who really thinks the demise of special schools and the grammar schools wasn't anything other than cost cutting?
    ViolaClef, delnon and wanet like this.
  16. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    I did fantastically well from my comprehensive school which gave me a wealth of chances and opportunities to develop a broad education. I spent 3 decades working to give the same sorts of chances to the pupils in the comprehensive schools in which I worked, and feel that until fairly recently, the opportunities were there for children who wanted to take them.
    I do not think that the abolition of grammar schools was a cost cutting mechanism.
    I do know that my friends who lived in selective areas were driven to expensive and inconvenient lengths when their children failed (or were likely to fail) the 11+, because they did not trust the unselective schools to give their children the opportunities they needed.
    The reform of the selective system happened because too many voters realised their children were not getting the elite opportunities.
    I do agree that the current system is a lottery - in Peterborough near there seem to be considerable inequalities. I am not sure of the way round this, but formalising the inequalities with exams is not necessarily the way forward.
  17. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    I cannot agree with the above. The "reform" came about because it was voiced that a comprehensive system would be fair and would bring more choice.

    Both incorrect and the typical fodder given out by those who rule.
  18. delnon

    delnon Lead commenter

    The system we had, and which the Germans still have - of technical schools, grammar schools and comprehensive schools - has its merits, provided - and this is the major snag - that the government would fund it properly and stop vandalising "radically reforming" it.
    In Germany the teachers meet at the end of the year and jointly decide the next year for each student, e.g. whether they should change classes/repeat the year etc.
    ViolaClef and HelenREMfan like this.
  19. JosieWhitehead

    JosieWhitehead Star commenter

    As one of the older contributors to these discussions, I remember well the 11 plus exam and what happened to those who failed it - well certainly at the school to which I went. You were made to feel that you were on the scrap-heap and we were told by one teacher, that it was their job to get us through the next four years until we went to work in a shop or factory. I was not only told I was an 11 plus failure, but told by the headmaster that I had to get any idea I had of wanting to teach out of my mind. "The 11 plus," I was told, "is an accurate measurement of your IQ, which will accompany you through your life." I was told that it was impossible for 11 plus failures to do any more than manual work. Hmmmm I left school at 15 with no qualifications and I studied and studied and studied, and was teaching at the age of 21 and I was 100% happy doing this all my working life. I so enjoyed my life as a teacher that I went back into the local school to help one hour a week when retired and was there encouraged by the 5 and 6 year olds to write poems for them over a period of 4 years. I had 344 of my poems published in 2010. I've also learnt 2 languages - German to GCSE level and Italian to A level. I do feel, however, that my most valuable years were wasted at that dreadful school. Rubbish? Yes, we did feel it.
    SteveKindle, chelsea2 and bonkers 704 like this.
  20. nearmiss

    nearmiss Lead commenter

    The new year 6 tests are not an accuarate measure of a child's intelligence or potential. It measures the teacher's skill in drilling. Diligence is not intelligence. Telling is not teaching. Memorising is not learning.
    So having built and opened a grammar school in every town, at whatever expense, how, with a shortage of teachers and no reliable entrance criteria will they be staffed and populated?
    It's not a realistic proposition.
    Out here in East Anglia, with scores of little scattered towns , how can this work?
    Big urban centres can provide a large enough year group cohort for a selected elite having their own school to be financially viable.
    Rural and coastal areas will struggle where kids already commute miles to their local comp. Times have changed. Schools are businesses.
    Sponsors will jump to cherry pick potential leaders, but more likely they won't all be flocking to Lowestoft. The selective system will just benefit those socio economic groups who already enjoy the advantages of living in the home counties, Cheshire and the leafier suburbs of provincial university towns.
    chelsea2 and JosieWhitehead like this.

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