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Grammar Schools

(143 Posts)
NanKate Sat 31-Jan-15 15:05:50

I am fortunate to live in a county that has some great grammar schools. They gave DS a good education that we could not have afforded via private education, which has helped him achieve the career he wanted.

A friend recently said how she did not approve of the grammar school system, which really surprised me.

Academically gifted children need to be stretched whatever background they come from.

Our local comprehensive has produced some excellent results too, including one Olympian. So why shouldn't children get the education that suits their academic ability?

thatbags Sat 31-Jan-15 16:48:39

Re your last sentence, I think that was supposed to have been the idea behind comprehensive schools: each child given the same opportunities and lessons suited to their particular stengths.

I'm at a oint in my life where I now wince when I read about children being stretched. Children don't need to be stretched; they need to be well taught how to learn and how to make the most of their intelligence. Just a detail. Just saying. The word grates is all.

hildajenniJ Sat 31-Jan-15 17:09:37

When I went to school we had to sit the eleven plus. I failed but all the girls I was friendly with passed and went to the Grammar School. We all lived in the same small town and I used to meet them outside school,^they never spoke to me again^. I had to make a whole set of new friends. For a long time I was very bewildered about why I was no longer regarded as a friend to the grammar school girls. As it happens, of the girls I managed to keep in touch with, I had the best career, training to be a mental nurse and gaining my registration, which I still keep. I don't think that I would be where I am now if I'd gone to grammar school. I would have struggled with the curriculum and probably failed to get any GCE's. Then I would have regarded myself as a failure and taken a dead end job. Whereas going to secondary modern and being "trained" for a trade or vocation gave me the incentive to make something of my life.

Mishap Sat 31-Jan-15 17:16:16

Grammar schools are good for those with academic skills and I for one benefited hugely from my grammar school education.

The problem lies in the undervaluing of skills that are not academic, and those for whom an academic career is not appropriate running the risk of feeling inferior. The 11 plus became pass or fail rather than an instrument to ensure that horses went to the right courses. Comprehensive schools were an attempt to get round that, educating all children together, focusing on their particular skills. I am not sure how well this has worked either as a tool for social cohesion or as a means of improving education.

NotTooOld Sat 31-Jan-15 17:41:30

Good post, Mishap. I also passed the 11 plus and went to a grammar school. I didn't do very well there, certainly didn't fulfil the promise I'm told I showed at junior school, but it did give me confidence and also looked good on my CV for the whole of my working life. I have since gained many qualifications, including a degree, and perhaps I would not have had the confidence to apply myself to getting those post-school qualifications had I not had a grammar school background. However, I am sympathetic to the idea of comprehensive schools - much less socially divisive - but regrettably they mostly seem to cater for the lowest common denominator which was not the original idea. Education has always been a political football and, like the NHS, it is too important for that.

TriciaF Sat 31-Jan-15 19:05:33

At one time when there were grammar schools there were also secondary modern schools which offered vocational courses such as motor mechanics, carpentry etc, for those who weren't "academic". They don't seem to exist now. In France there are specialist secondary schools for training in agriculture etc.
Comprehensive schools need to have more options for vocational training.

Ana Sat 31-Jan-15 19:15:25

I'm pleasantly surprised by the balanced views expressed on this thread - I fully expected the OP to be deluged by posts decrying the Grammar School system and saying how wonderful comprehensive schools are.

Of course no system is perfect, but I agree with those who think that the comprehensive system has somehow lost its way, and children are being let down.

merlotgran Sat 31-Jan-15 19:26:14

Although DH went to a grammar school he reckons he would have done just as well if not better at a technical school. We tend to forget that there was a three school system and not just grammars and secondary moderns.

The 'techs' offered a good mix of an academic and practical education

Ana Sat 31-Jan-15 19:33:39

We didn't have that three school system where I lived in the 50s/60s merlot (South Manchester/Cheshire). It was Grammar or Secondary Modern.

annsixty Sat 31-Jan-15 20:06:51

My secondary education started in 1948 probably before many of you were born I passed the scholarship as it was then called and went to the local Grammar school.I didn't do as well as expected as my home life fell apart when I had been there for 5 months when my Father died and things became extremely difficult in many ways. However what I experienced and learned from people from different walks of life,very good and experienced teachers and socially, was invaluable and was a wonderful grounding for my life and I feel very lucky to have had that opportunity.I would have liked the same for my DC and DGC as I don't think,certainly the latter, have had such a well rounded education

merlotgran Sat 31-Jan-15 20:37:06

Sorry, Ana I assumed they were country wide. They had them in the Home Counties when I was at school and in Yorkshire where DH went to school.

durhamjen Sat 31-Jan-15 20:47:58

The comprehensive system has not let people down. There are so many different types of school that there is no such thing as a comprehensive system. A comprehensive system means that it takes pupils from all social strata. As long as the public school and grammar school systems continue, the intake cannot be comprehensive.

durhamjen Sat 31-Jan-15 20:49:39

An excellent book to read on the subject is "School Wars" by Melissa Benn.

Ana Sat 31-Jan-15 21:12:11

It's a matter of opinion as to whether the comprehensive system has let pupils down, durhamjen. I think it has. You are entitled to your view, of course.

thatbags Sat 31-Jan-15 21:15:56

Why do you think it has, ana? I don't feel it has let my kids down.

thatbags Sat 31-Jan-15 21:16:34

I dn't think it's just a matter of opinion, btw. I think facts and evidence come into it too.

Retiredguy Sat 31-Jan-15 21:29:39

We had Grammars and Secondary Moderns in North Manchester back in the 60s.
Mrs Retiredguy and I were at the same (gender segregated) Grammar School but didn't know each other back then.
Neither of us especially enjoyed the experience.
One thing folk forget about Grammar Schools is that only a small proportion of pupils progressed into the 6th form.
Most left after GCEs aged 16 for commercial or vocational work.
Far more young people progress into Higher Education from Comprehensives than ever did from Grammar Schools.

annsixty Sat 31-Jan-15 21:31:22

I think we are not talking about the system I was referring to and it all changed when secondary schools became comprehensives. In my day you passed or you failed.When my DC were at that age,first one,1976, you went to comprehensive, unless your parents were prepared to buy a private education even if you passed the entrance exam. With one bright and one not so bright we could not differentiate so they both went to comprehensive.The bright one went ahead and did well,gaining a good degree. But I don't feel she had such a wide ranging and fulfilling education as I did at Grammar school.

grumppa Sat 31-Jan-15 22:01:59

To work as intended and offer social cohesion and a full range of educational services to a community, comprehensives needed to be big enough to take all the pupils in the community. This meant closing existing small schools and building much bigger ones to replace them. Neither the will nor the money was forthcoming. They hardly stood a chance.

thatbags Sat 31-Jan-15 22:04:28

Comprehensive schools have worked for a long time in Scotland. Maybe because the will was there. There was (still is) a lot of resistance to them in parts of England.

merlotgran Sat 31-Jan-15 22:12:03

Retiredguy, Back in the 60's, pupils who left grammar schools after taking 'O'levels had the chance of going on to further education where it was highly likely there would be a job at the end of it.

It's true that these days more students go on to higher education from comprehensive schools but how does that benefit them if they can't get a job at the end of it?

Penstemmon Sat 31-Jan-15 22:18:51

I also failed my 11+ and went to a school that was called 'bi-lateral' which meant it had a 'grammar stream'. This is because there were (are) insufficient places for all children who were (are) capable of passing the 11+ and managing the curriculum at the grammar school. Comprehensive schools were designed to meet the full range of academic /technical /vocational education and enable children to have greater flexibility to access different courses.
Unfortunately we are so academically 'snobby' in the UK that we don't value the creative/technical/ artisan/vocational skills as much as academic skills so we undervalue the work of secondary/comprehensive/technical schools and he people who work in them. This is the majority of young people!
As a society we give higher value to doctors/lawyers etc. than we do to joiners, carpenters, mechanics, IT workers, plumbers etc. but we need all these skilled people to keep society functioning.

Wheniwasyourage Sat 31-Jan-15 22:18:59

When comprehensives came in, schools in Scotland kept their previous names, and so a lot of our schools are still Academies, Grammar Schools and High Schools (I don't think that happened in England, but please correct me if I'm wrong). DH went to an Academy, our DC went to the local Grammar School and some of the DGC will go to a High School, but they are all comprehensives.

granjura Sat 31-Jan-15 22:20:26

Parts of England only. I lived, did my teacher training and then taught, in Leicestershire- one of the first counties to go fully comp (apart from private schools). Our daughters were both very bright and talented, and I don't think they could have done any better at Grammar Schools. And many of my Comprehensive school students have been hugely successful, in som many different ways.

Students in comprehensive schools are not all thrown together you know! But are setted according to ability for all the main subjects- so taught with students of more or less level. Sometimes I wonder if some of the people who criticise comprehensive schools have ever been in one, and have any idea of the reality on the ground.

annsixty Sat 31-Jan-15 22:29:57

Both DH and I had to leave Grammar school at 16 due to family circumstances.We both then went on to achieve professional qualifications at college and DH went on to a fellowship in his chosen field. I don't think either of us would have done this without a Grammar school education as it opened up a world for us our respective parents could never have encouraged us to follow. It was our wider experience that opened up that world and we are very grateful for that.