Grammar Rules?

Grammar-RulesQuestion: England is to get its first ‘new’ grammar school for 50 years.  In which year did the government ban new selective schools?

Answer: 1998 – Tony Blair’s Labour government introduced the School Standards and Framework Act.

The government has permitted a grammar school in Kent to build an ‘annexe’ in another town.  This has raised fears that many other schools will be allowed to select their pupils by ability, with the Labour Party describing the decision as a ‘hugely backwards step’. But are grammar schools such a bad thing?

Modern grammar schools have their origin in the Education Act of 1944.  This organised schools into two different types: grammar schools, which focussed on academic studies and aimed for most of their pupils to go on to university; and secondary modern schools, which were meant for children who would go on to have manual occupations.

Because of their selection of pupils by ability, many believe that grammar schools are a source of class division. However, it has been shown in studies that schools which choose their pupils by the distance of their homes are bigger social dividers than ones which choose by ability, with poorer families tending to live in different neighbourhoods than wealthier ones.

There are some who think that grammar schools belong in the past. The economy of the nation has changed dramatically since the 1940s-1960s, the heyday of grammar schools, when children’s futures were decided by the 11-plus exam.

In 1966 only 18% of pupils achieved five O-level passes and only 6% achieved the three A-levels necessary for a place at most universities.  Compare this with today’s schools, where 80% of pupils achieve five good GCSEs and over 30% go on to university.  With less than 20% of the workforce in agriculture and industry, there is more call for academic qualifications than there was in the past.

To quote Sir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools In England – “What does the country need more of? Schools that educate only the top 20% of students, 90% of whom get good GCSEs, or schools that educate 100% of students, 80% of whom are capable of getting good GCSEs? I think the answer is pretty obvious.”

Whether your child is at a grammar school or a state school, there’s a lot to know about education. What’s the National Curriculum? How does a progress 8 score work? What’s the best way to revise? You’ll find answers to your education questions in our Knowledge Bank. We have scores of articles packed full of useful information for parents. We also have tips and advice on other aspects of parenting, like keeping children active or ensuring they are safe online. Take a look and see what you can find out today!

What do you think?  Do modern comprehensives get the best out of our children, or would you prefer your child to go to a grammar school?  It might be a subject you’d like to discuss with them – should we give the best education to the brightest children, or should we aim for excellence for all?

6 thoughts on “Grammar Rules?

  1. What I find irritating about these arguments, which, let’s face it, come up over and over again, is the nonsense that everyone is of the same capability. Every child should have the chance to go to a school that is going to get the best out of them. But it’s patent that some children are more academically minded than others. Therefore it seems to me there is room for different types of schools that will cater to different levels of ability. It’s not fair for a bright child to be held back in a class where they are bored and can’t reach their potential. And children who take longer to reach their potential should have the full attention of the teacher. Is dividing up these children a bad thing, only because we are so politically correct and morbidly afraid of claiming that any one person is more capable than another?

    • Liz, no-one is suggesting that children of different abilities should all receive the same education. However, if a child is good at one subject, but not so good at others, then we can have different streams. That way we get the best out of all children, rather than preparing those with slightly less ability for a career in a manual profession even though, if they had been properly educated they may have had much better prospects.

      Why should a child who is more gifted in one area be denied the best education in it, purely because they are less gifted in other areas? I can’t see why anyone would wish to deny all of our children the very best we can give them – unless, of course, it is to deliberately hold some of them back.

    • Liz, I could not have put it better myself! Somewhere along the line “wealth” and “capability” have got inextricably linked in the minds of many people. For all its flaws the 11-Plus system tries its best to segregate children by ability so that they end up at schools where their classmates will be learning at the same speed. For goodness sake, let’s try and take class and politics out of education and instead do what is best for each individual child.

      • I agree with Liz and Colin. Too many people assume that university is the only answer to their lives. We need more vocational training schemes for children who are not academically inclined.
        We are told by government that we are short of skilled workers. Let’s start training them.

  2. It’s certainly an emotive subject. A short novel by Kurt Vonnegut entitled Harrison Bergeron springs to mind – about a time (the year 2081) when everyone is literally equal. Ballerinas have sandbags weighted to them and have to wear face masks in case any of them are prettier or better dancers than the others.

    Taking class and politics out of education sounds ideal – but is it a pipe dream? Taking money out of anything us humans do seems a very tall order. Coincidentally, my Mum wanted to be a ballerina – and the ballet teacher thought she had potential – but her Mum couldn’t afford the lessons week after week and so her dream was lost.

    From what I know of 11-plus style questions (especially non-verbal reasoning), any child who does well in the exam is a smart cookie in my book!

  3. Let’s focus on getting a better education all round where children learn to apply their knowledge. Micheal Gove, et al has set back this country a hundred years by his insistence on written exams only and getting rid of practical things like coursework. When I was teaching although it was arduous, coursework is a test of a student’s ability to apply and that after all is part of learning. There is too much argument about which type of school and not enough about really getting educational standards raised across the board. However I fear that with a government that has reduced many teachers to leaving the profession that things are going in entirely wrong direction and it needs a sea change to make a difference of the right sort.

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