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Is selective education being reintroduced by the back door?

(88 Posts)
Granddaughter Tue 01-Mar-16 09:09:40

According to the Guardian and the Mail the Government plan to introduce selective education into what is currently a comprehensive area, by establishing an annexe to a grammar school in neighbouring (fully selective) Buckinghamshire, has so enraged a group of local residents that they are gearing up for a fight. The revival of the 11-plus, which proved so divisive throughout the 60s and 70s, may turn out to be more contentious than Morgan realises.
At the heart of the campaign in Windsor and Maidenhead is grandfather and local businessman Peter Prior, who failed the 11-plus and is determined to challenge the case for a new grammar school. “I was so angry when I read about the plan that I wrote to the local paper urging people who felt the same way to get in touch with me,” he says. “I was devastated by failing the 11-plus test myself. My parents were wealthy enough to educate me privately but it certainly had a negative impact on myaspirations.

“I have never found that children do better because you tell them they are failures. To categorise 85% of children at age 11 is wrong, especially as they develop at such different rates, and I don’t think it is good to keep children with different abilities apart. It is not a constructive or fair way to approacheducation.”

Granddaughters comments:
Having had a grammar school education, I became well aware by the time I was 16 that many of my friends who had failed their 11 plus were far better suited than me for an academic education, fortunately comprehensive education did opened those doors for them.

Alea Tue 01-Mar-16 11:24:46

Bucks is only partly selective (Aylesbury Vale) the other (MK) end has had comprehensive education for the last 40+ years.

Your point is?

daphnedill Tue 01-Mar-16 14:10:48

Milton Keynes is a unitary authority, whose schools haven't been controlled by Bucks County Council for about 20 years. I don't understand why that's relevant. The rest of Buckinghamshire is selective.

The point is that the government has promised not to reintroduce selection, but is allowing existing grammar schools to expand, eg Kent by building 'annexes', which are effectively new grammar schools. All a tad hypocritical!

Alea Tue 01-Mar-16 14:29:00

I don't really see your objection if there is one.
Having taught in North Bucks /Milton Keynes since 1987, my point was merely that to imply all of the administrative county as fully selective Buckinghamshire is misleading. As you say, "the rest of Bucks is selective" so are we/how are we in disagreement?

Elrel Tue 01-Mar-16 14:48:50

Children 'devastated' at not having been selected have most likely been hyped up by their parents. Since the man mentioned was privately educated and became a success in business one wonders what his (or his parents') aspirations at 11 were.
If parents didn't build children up to worry about the 11+ but presented it as an option they would not feel they had 'failed'.

daphnedill Tue 01-Mar-16 15:12:59

Bucks is fully selective. Milton Keynes is not part of Bucks County Council. Howeve, I don't see how that's relevant. The point is that Berkshire want to open a grammar school and have asked a Bucks school to open an annex, so that it can get round the prohibition on opening new grammar schools.

daphnedill Tue 01-Mar-16 15:17:07

Sorry, Elrel, I don't think 11 year olds are that daft. When they see their friends being tutored to go to a school which is regarded as superior, of course they'll be devastated to think they're not good enough. As they go through school, they'll realise that the grammars schools get better results, have a better reputation, etc. Going to grammar school is not an option for the majority of pupils.

Alea Tue 01-Mar-16 15:34:56

Well pardon me for not realising that I do not live in Bucks. It is amazing that I manage to find my way home as I clearly do not know where I live. confused
The historical geographical county is what I and many understand by "Bucks," and I did not say Bucks County Council, but I defer to your superior knowledge.
I still think it is misleading to describe "Bucks" as "fully selective".

Jalima Tue 01-Mar-16 15:53:25

I used to live in Middlesex.
That could get very confusing trying to find my way home. wink

As they go through school, they'll realise that the grammars schools get better results, have a better reputation, etc.
That's why a lot of parents love them.

Peter Prior doesn't sound as if not passing the 11+ has held him back at all.

Iam64 Tue 01-Mar-16 19:47:32

I was unfortunate enough to move many times during my school years. I arrived at my 6th primary school just before the ll plus. I'd had no preparation and failed. I must have only just failed because the head teacher (we moved again) at the sec.mod I went to put me straight into the A stream and said I should have been at the grammar school. My parents hadn't made a big deal of the ll plus Eirel and didn't make a big deal of me failing, other than to tell me I could do anything I wanted.
The first week at that school, my class was in detention because of being noisy in the corridor. The student teacher who put us into detention spent some time explaining to us that we were failures, that we'd never achieve anything and the most we could hope for was to have unskilled jobs. He pointed to the grammar school across the road and told us, that's where the successful people will be.

Last week I caught up with an old friend, now ged 67. We drove past our old sec.mod and she began to talk about the sense of failure she had when all the other girls on the avenue she grew up on, went to the grammar school and she didn't. She said she always felt ashamed walking to school in her uniform.

I feel so strongly about this. It is wrong on every level to treat large numbers of children as 'failures' at 11. Who could justify returning to a system where a small number of children benefit from an excellent education whilst the majority are given sub standard opportunities.

Jalima Tue 01-Mar-16 19:52:39

That is dreadful Iam64; that person should not have been teaching.

My friends who went to the Secondary Modern School seemed to have done very well and achieved success in their careers later on.
We had teachers (mistresses!) at the High School who made us feel like failures, told us we had brains like sieves and if we did not want to teach we might as well be on the scrap heap!

It was an era when children were not allowed to get 'too big for their boots' or conceited.

Leticia Tue 01-Mar-16 22:19:50

That simply isn't true Eirel - I am still upset by having failed some 63 years later - I feel that we were thrown on the scrap heap. One day you can be anything and the next people say 'can you still do that?' as if you have to change your ambitions when you are only 10 or 11 years old!! I didn't change my ambitions and I got there in the end,but it was hampered by not being sent to the grammar school in the first place.
Parents will never agree in Maidenhead because 3/4 of them will get a secondary modern.
I will believe in a selective system the day that people clamour for 'bring back the secondary moderns' but they are never mentioned!

Leticia Tue 01-Mar-16 22:27:44

I agree Iam64 . It is the most unfair system. I was borderline and my marks would have got me a place in the next town, or if I were a boy. My primary Head immediately got me a resit but there were 2 places and I was 4th.
It irritates me no end that the people who want them assume their child will get a place and don't care about the rest. If a secondary modern isn't good enough for their child how dare they think it is good enough for other people's children?
It is far too young at 10/11 years.

Leticia Tue 01-Mar-16 22:30:04

All it can do is a crude divide between top and bottom, but in the middle you have to draw a line between children of equal ability.

Leticia Tue 01-Mar-16 22:32:44

These days it is far worse as money buys a place- competition is so intense that even the brightest will disadvantaged if they haven't had tutors.

Fran0251 Wed 02-Mar-16 10:08:20

I do hope selective education is being re-introduced. The bright & not so bright being taught side by side is a big problem for the teacher. She/he will not be fast enough for the bright so they are bord and above the head of the not so bright so they are lost.

I know of a comprehensive that needed rebuilding and three teaching blocks were built + IT/design block. One teaching block was openly called the grammer stream and the other two mixed. Transfer between blocks is possible and done.

Exam results have improved, so has moral and achievement. Comprehensive education is a wonderful idea, but it doesn't work. The bright get frustrated and the slow learners are left behind. Teachers have to teach to the average. Are we advocating deliberately having to ignore our bright or slow learners. Both have special needs.

Please do consider this.

HthrEdmndsn Wed 02-Mar-16 10:08:23

My father, who died last year aged 80, was still embittered as, even though he passed the 11+, was denied a place at the Grammar School as 'some officials' decided his mother wouldn't be able to afford the uniform. (His father had died when he was three). He spent his secondary education in the school next door to the grammar. He used to snort with derision when anyone spoke about Grammar Schools offering opportunity to those who could not afford private education. He eventually got an Open University degree in the 1980s.

Teacher11 Wed 02-Mar-16 10:39:35

I feel ambivalent about grammar schools as I taught in state comprehensives and paid for prep schools and and used single sex state grammar schools for my own children.

My view is that grammar schools are unfair, yes, but they are transparently so and 'do what they say on the tin', offer a fast paced, academic education to those who are equipped to deal with it. Comprehensives are supposed to be fair but they are opaque and biased. Those outside the system do not see how the comprehensive system is gamed by insiders:- the middle classes and teachers. Private tutoring, exam resits and remarks, appeals, financial donations and direct debit contributions and extra classes and activities all ensure that the top sets are packed with Emilys, Sebastians and Krishnas and the bottom sets with Kais, Chardonnays and Mohammeds. Teachers mark their own kids' coursework or do a swap arrangement with colleagues and the teachers' favourites get the 'killer personal statement' and 'word on the side' for university entrance.

Grammar schools give bright children of any social class the chance to learn, study and shine. Often in comprehensives it is the teacher's favourites or those the state has identified as 'special' and more deserving than the rest who are prioritised. In this respect grammars are far fairer.

Another point in favour of grammars is that bright children need fast paced and stretching education. If those in the bottom sets can be catered for individually then so can the able. Think what a disaster it would be for the country if the potential Nobel prize winner or the cancer curer were idling in a mixed ability set where discipline was poor.

Also, there is a lot of 'hard cheese' talk amongst those who failed their eleven plus and use it to blame and excuse everything they don't like about life forever more. My husband failed his eleven plus and he's one of the brightest people I know. He didn't mope about it but got on with life and did very well indeed. He got the A level grades for Durham and would have gone to university had his parents agreed to him going.

Here in Buckinghamshire where most of the county has grammars the overall A-C GCSE rate is ten per cent above surrounding counties which do not and this is because everyone does better whether they are in the grammars or secondaries. Selection ups everyone's game.

Finally, if we don't like our schools how is it going to help to target the best ones with the best results? Better to have some terrific schools with able, well motivated children and good, academic subject teaching than none.

maryEJB Wed 02-Mar-16 11:29:03

Well I don't agree with teacher 11, having gone both to a mediocre public school and a mediocre grammar school in the 1950s and 1960s. The results at my grammar school were appalling; very few girls stayed on the the 6th form to do Alevels or went to university. My husband and I both taught in comprehensives, and the standard of teaching was hugely higher than in either of my secondary schools. All 3 of our children went to comprehensives and they all got strings of As at GCSEs and at A level. My eldest son got a first at Sheffiled, my other son and daughter went to Oxford, and my daughter also went on to get a PhD. In what way was my education superior to theirs? At my husbands school (where he taught and our children attended) a far greater proportion of children got high results than in either of the grammar schools we went to as children. No way do teachers teach to the average - there are usually 'sets' in each subject, so that a pupil who is good at English but not at maths, say, can be in the appropriate groups. Movement between groups is easy and frequent from year to year.

I appreciate that there are poor comprehensives with bad behaviour etc, but there are plenty of poor private schools too. There are good and bad in all sectors. My husband worked as a sort of trouble shooter in both sectors after his retirement and was appalled by some of the private schools he visited. He found many grammar school teachers to be arrogant or complacent. It's much easier to get good results if you select the brightest in the first place. The question is would those children have done equally well in a comprehensive? I think they would, and also be more rounded people with an appreciation of all walks of society instead of a superior attitude.

We have several friends in their 70s like us who failed the 11 plus but managed to do well in life despite this, but ALL are very conscious of being classed as failures at 11.

I think the 11 plus is divisive and a retrograde step. Whether you pass or fail is dependent on the numer of grammar school places available not on your ability- people who fail in one area would pass in another. I feel very strongly about this!!

BBbevan Wed 02-Mar-16 12:21:07

MaryEJB, you say that now you could pass 11+ in one area and not another. Does that mean that the examination has changed? I passed the 11+ many years ago in S. Wales and had a definite place at a grammar school Before I could take it up we moved. My father got a teaching job in Hertfordshire. I was given a place at the local grammar school straight away.
Is it all different now then?

maryEJB Wed 02-Mar-16 12:52:11

I think that was alwAys the case. But if youve been told youve passed they havevto give you a place. the same gappwned to me: inpassed in derbyshire but was sent to avprivate school. When my parents realised how rubbish it was they took me away. By that rime we had moved to hampshire and i was offerred a placw at the local grammar which was certainly better than my boarding school (academically) but still not as goid as many of the comprehensives ive taught in. Though they do vary of course! I myst say i loved boarding school but was WAY behind when i transferred to the grammar.

maryEJB Wed 02-Mar-16 12:54:27

Sorry lots of typos sbove - forgot to check. I meAnt the same APPLIED to me! My fingers are too fat to type on my iphone! I can write properly really!

BBbevan Wed 02-Mar-16 13:53:43

Thank you. Just interested as my GD1 may do 11+ next year

Leticia Wed 02-Mar-16 14:03:10

Why on earth would you have mixed ability in the same class Fran0251? In the comprehensive you set and someone can be in the top set for Maths but a lower set in English etc and there is movement up and down the sets so that children can be taught at the correct level for them. That level is not static.
Grammar schools go by the number of places and it is quite possible that the marks someone gets one year would be a failure the next.
I moved away from an 11+ area before my eldest was 11yrs and it was the best thing that I did. The comprehensive served all 3 of my children well and they wouldn't have done better anywhere.
I know hoards of 'failures' who have done very well in careers despite their poor start - much better than many of the 'passes' who wasted their place by leaving at 16 yrs.

Ana Wed 02-Mar-16 14:09:48

Goodness, the Grammar School I attended never made pupils think they had 'wasted' their place if they left at 16!

Not everyone in those days wanted to go to university (and indeed, only a minority went from my year, even though it was a very good school), and there was an excellent College of FE nearby for those who decided to purue vocational training.

I don't believe a good education is ever 'wasted', however many years it lasts.