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Frank Hovis

Grammar Schools - Why The Opposition?

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A local school is being accused of trying to bring in a grammar school system "by the back door" by having a specialist maths / science facility by examination.

This is being trotted out: by the BBC (of course) and by the NUT (of course).

There is an underlying assumption that a grammar school system is bad and the school's having to deny that it's trying to do this.

I don't understand this entrenched opposition. The resurgence of apprenticeships shows that practical training is desired by employees and employers. So why this "one size fits all" approach to schools as a holy grail.

I spent a few years in a comprehensive school and the internal streaming system effectively meant there were two schools operating separately under the same roof. IIRC you were either science & language (grammar) or social & practical (secondary modern).

So the difference between this and a grammar / secondary modern system was the lack of separate buildings and senior staff having to administer the dual school. But if these were dealt with in separate buildings people would have gone loopy.

I know some areas still have grammars but there is a bar on new ones which a Kent school has been accused of trying to "subvert" by expanding.

So why are grammars a bad thing? The dual system seems ideally suited to preparing people for the available jobs IMO. Somebody who's going to be a builder would view double maths as cruel and unusual torture and my efforts in woodwork and metalwork were of little value for anybody.

Though on my list now is to do a welding course; I just wasn't interested then.

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I went to a "technical school". Sort of a grammar school, but I got to play with lathes, and welders. I didn't want to go to the local "proper" grammar school, as their outfits were the "wrong colour", even though I was offered a place!

Actually I thought the teaching was really good there.

After a while it was "amalgamated" with the local cretin zoo school up the road, and became "comprehensive", which meant I had to learn to be a "hard nut" very early. :blink:

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Because we want to hold back the brightest of the proles.

The argument is that all the rich people tutor their kids to get to grammar school thus reducing the number of places for the poor kids.

The only way to do it would be to judge children's abilities over a wider base rather than make them take a test.

A teacher can probably work out who would benefit from grammar school education without doing a test.

I went to a grammar school and it was fantastic. A wonderful school with lovely teachers.

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Even streaming within year groups is actively discouraged, my kids school used to stream their 3 class year groups for both Maths and Literacy, but have recently been stopped from doing so by the LEA (apparently). It must make it very hard for the teachers. There are kids in my 6 year old son's class who are fairly adept at arithmetic, can add and subtract 5 digit numbers, know all the their times tables up to 12 and can apply them to multiplication and division questions. There are others who cannot even form the numbers 1-9 in legible handwriting. How does one person teach a class of 30 6 year olds of such varying capability without utterly failing almost all of them?

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How does one person teach a class of 30 6 year olds of such varying capability without utterly failing almost all of them?

You don't.

But if they made going up a year at school based on passing various markers then that'd work.

And no child should leave primary school until they can read and write to the required standard.

Even if that means there are teenagers at primary school.

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Won't work will it? There has to be streaming. :blink: Not sure whether that is un PC or not. But it makes sense to me.

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The argument is that all the rich people tutor their kids to get to grammar school thus reducing the number of places for the poor kids.

The only way to do it would be to judge children's abilities over a wider base rather than make them take a test.

A teacher can probably work out who would benefit from grammar school education without doing a test.

I went to a grammar school and it was fantastic. A wonderful school with lovely teachers.

There is coaching going on, but there is probably a public sector against private entrepreneurial parental bias, not rich v poor. I know one millionaire that was quite happy for his kids to leave school at 16 because that was his root to wealth, his kids are doing well in proper productive jobs. Equally I know school teachers that are stony broke that believed the education education mantra, the kids did the Russell group thing and are left disappointed by doing non-jobs in Marketing etc.

At the end of the day parents will encourage kids to go down the root they chose. In life those that turned to university and had the dream but not the natural drive will end up disappointed.

Second generation Uni-ites / grammar school kids are likely to be there by parental pushing as opposed to natural ability.

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Competition and attainment is healthy. Who'd have thought Darwin was a Brit.

When I was at school there was active competition to be among the top 3 of the class at the end of the school year and certainly not among the bottom three. The bottom 3 got relegated to the stream below and the top three got promoted to the stream above for the next year. This made the streams look like as if they were a scale from boffins to dunces.

Being in the two top streams separated the science/arts classes from the two 'bottom' technical classes. And herein probably lies the problem. Some perceive the streams as 'top' and 'bottom', as I described them, when in fact they were just different courses for different horses.

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Seems like they want schools to try to be good and specialised at everything other than academic ability now, which is just bonkers. I really don't see how mixing pupils of all abilities benefits anyone at all. The "throw the resources at the best and leave the rest hung out to dry" argument sounds like it might have a little more merit to it but then that's a "one extreme or the other" approach, and the response should be to improve the teaching at the bottom, not to drag it down at the top.

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But why the entrenched opposition? The use of words like "grammar schools by the back door" as though they were somehow shameful.

As an example one piece of language that you won't hear on the BBC these days is "self-confessed homosexual" which certainly used to be heard. The very words convey the clear message that homosexuality is a bad thing that you confess to; and stories on grammar schools are now being presented in the same way. "He is a self-confessed advocate of the grammar school system."

I would say BBC bias but the NUT are worse if anything. Bring on an education minister who will actually take on the teaching unions to improve education.

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There is coaching going on, but there is probably a public sector against private entrepreneurial parental bias, not rich v poor.

But it is one of the deepest flaws of the grammar school system.

For a given middle-of-road student:

  • If you enter the 11+ exam without any preparation you'll fail
  • If you kind of have some preparation (from parents) you've got a chance
  • If you've had paid for tutoring by an expert at passing 11+ you've got a better chance
  • If you've been in prep school for the previous 5 years preparing for the 11+ you've got a very good chance.

As with most general intelligence tests, the 11+ primarily tests the ability to pass 11+ exams.

Of course, it does actually test some deeper ability, but at the very front end you have to be able to understand how the tests work, have taken past-papers, have studied the areas which they'll test you on.

If everyone in primary school spent a day a week in their final year preparing for the 11+ then it might be a bit more even, but seeing as they don't it isn't a fair fight.

[other than that, the main problem with the grammar vs secondary system is that not all students are ready for that intensity of education at about 11 - many do really pick up at 12/13 but by then it would be too late for them]

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The Government are always tinkling with education, which is why I joined one school, and left another. All the curriculum was changed, and I could no longer do A levels there. The one good thing is we got was a smashing language teacher from the "Other school" and I learned German. :wacko:

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I passed 11+ with a rather good score. I had no preparation. However I think this is too young, as people develop at different rates.

The kid that looked "a bit remedial" at ten, might be very good at thirteen.

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The Grammar system was very good...for pupils like me. In fact they were so good, every parent's first choice (outside the Eton/Rugby sort of level) was to try and get in the local Grammar first and if that failed, to then go to private if one could afford it.

The game today is about locating close to the best schools....typically in the richest areas.

Trouble was it was only available to less than 5% of pupils in our area. I don't think in a democratic society that is tenable.

Personally, what I would do is simply to bring the democratic equation the other way and designate c. 60% of school places as being 'Grammar' (after all c. 50% go to higher education these days) and the remaining 40% as for 'Practical' and 'Remedial' (%split unknown) to both encourage practical skills but also to stop those practical skills from being infected with problem (of all types) kids.

I think that would address most peoples concerns and would create the most 'happiness' for most people.

EDIT: On the practising for test thing, we never had that at my junior but when I got to the Grammar, there was an inordinate number of kids from a particular CofE school. They had apparently been coached and they dropped to the bottom end of results steadily over time.

And that is what has replaced it.

Is this "good school" open to everybody? Yes if their parents can afford a half million pound house. No if you live in a council house.

Most of the anti-arguments can be resolved with an opportunity for the most academic to transfer at the end of each year; and anybody wanting the practical subjects to also swap.

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Perhaps just allocate each primary school in the catchment of the grammar school as set number of places (say 20% of the total # of pupils). Leave it up to the school to decide who goes taking into account attendance / behaviour / exam results etc over the past 4 years.

This would have the interesting effect of some parents choosing a 'lesser' school since the competition for grammar places would be much tougher in the area's best school.

I wouldn't allocate any places to private schools. (or maybe just 5%)

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I think that's right Frank. Some people are better at welding than Latin. Some of my best chums came from the "also ran" school we were combined with. Bright people but they didn't shine at the age of 11, in some rather constructed test. Came on song a bit later, and were succesful!

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I passed 11+ with a rather good score. I had no preparation. However I think this is too young, as people develop at different rates.

The kid that looked "a bit remedial" at ten, might be very good at thirteen.

I've heard of many stories whereby 11 year old kids have been left absolutely screwed up by failing the 11+...It can be for the rest of their life..."Sorry, you're a bit shit, off you to the comp"...

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The whole education system needs shaking up. And why such short days and long holidays?

It is not as if they prepare them for real work anymore, is it?

To a vast extent the schools fulfil the function of cheap child care from the age of five so that the parents can work.

They're only preparing children for work in the sense that they are socialised, disciplined enough to get up, dress and go to school every day on time, plus basic maths and english.

I really liked school but it was more a case of indulging my interests rather than anything (bar the above) that prepared me for work. My first job was a big grad entry with the vast majority having "non-relevant" degrees. So you have spent 16 years (5-21) doing a load of academic work that (bar the basic maths and english) is entirely irrelevant to your job. Fortunately I wasn't paying it for myself unlike today's undergrads.

Even the ones who had relevant degrees found that this didn't help them because the degrees had approached an intensely practical subject (finance / accounting) in an academic way.

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I think that's right Frank. Some people are better at welding than Latin. Some of my best chums came from the "also ran" school we were combined with. Bright people but they didn't shine at the age of 11, in some rather constructed test. Came on song a bit later, and were succesful!

I've heard of many stories whereby 11 year old kids have been left absolutely screwed up by failing the 11+...It can be for the rest of their life..."Sorry, you're a bit shit, off you to the comp"...

Indeed, so you have a post 11 transfer option. The opposition to grammar is based upon a narrow and outdated view of what it is. Which is IMHO streaming so that teaching is appropriate to the pupils.

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To a vast extent the schools fulfil the function of cheap child care from the age of five so that the parents can work.

They're only preparing children for work in the sense that they are socialised, disciplined enough to get up, dress and go to school every day on time, plus basic maths and english.

I really liked school but it was more a case of indulging my interests rather than anything (bar the above) that prepared me for work. My first job was a big grad entry with the vast majority having "non-relevant" degrees. So you have spent 16 years (5-21) doing a load of academic work that (bar the basic maths and english) is entirely irrelevant to your job. Fortunately I wasn't paying it for myself unlike today's undergrads.

Even the ones who had relevant degrees found that this didn't help them because the degrees had approached an intensely practical subject (finance / accounting) in an academic way.

Only one thing for it then ...

old-amos-then-and-now.jpg

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I've heard of many stories whereby 11 year old kids have been left absolutely screwed up by failing the 11+...It can be for the rest of their life..."Sorry, you're a bit shit, off you to the comp"...

Yes, that is my argument too! It's a bit of a lottery. One of my mates struggled with reading at primary school. Eventually he went on to do an English degree, and really is a bright chap, although pompous and annoying! :blink:

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I've heard of many stories whereby 11 year old kids have been left absolutely screwed up by failing the 11+...It can be for the rest of their life..."Sorry, you're a bit shit, off you to the comp"...

More like overbearing parents instilled that sense of failure in them.

You'll be a supporter of the new test them at 6 then, otherwise these precious snowflakes will have to wait til GCSE mocks to fold under the first hint of adversity.

An argument l heard for abolishing grammar schools is that these pupils should be mixing with the rest in a comp system to inspire and bring them up. What l expect happens is these pupils lose any chance of a good education (a prop of social mobility for the poorer sections) while the rest of the comp denizens get some ephemeral benefit l doubt you could distinguish from statistical sampling error.

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