As a former teacher and Chair of Education, this is why I think grammar schools are so wrong

I  am writing to state my fundamental opposition to the re-introduction of grammar schools.  I say this on the basis of  my long career in education.

I was in teacher education for 20 years being a Head of Department at the Maria Grey College and Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee in Education at London University. I was Chair of Education in Devon.

At Maria Grey I lectured in the History of Education and The English Educational System, These are some of the points I made in my lectures:

Education in England is like a nubile Cinderella, sparsely dressed and much interfered with.” (Spoken by the Headmaster in the film IF by Lindsay Anderson.

Social class has been the basis of English Education –  see Newcastle Commission on The Great Schools (Public Schools) where they referred to schools in different categories for the sons of the aristocracy; sons of gentlemen; and the sons of traders.

In 1870, Forster’s education act began to provide universal elementary education in order to give a supply of clerks for British Industry and Commerce. In due course this became compulsory.  Up till 1870 we had had to import them from Germany which had a good elementary education system.

The 1926 Hadow report on the education of the adolescent anticipated a school leaving age of 15 with a least three years of post primary education with 11 to become the age for beginning secondary education.  This had no bearing on children’s development.

The 1943 Norwood report on examination’s and the curriculum was the basis for the Tripartite system by dividing young people into those who  (A) liked abstract ideas, those who (B)  liked working with their hands, and  (C) the hewers of wood and carriers of water.

My current thoughts on education are:

All children should be provided with a good Kindergarten education from 3 to 7 including learning a foreign language since it has been shown that this improves ones own language which is especially beneficial to children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

From 7 to 14 children should attend a common school, continuing at 14 with the opportunity to choose an academic or vocational course.

I also believe very strongly that apart from the teaching of basic skills that schools have a duty to find out one thing that a child is good at and this may be the same as a consuming interest such that of people who for instance kept homing pigeons and had other hobbies which sustained them during the worst periods of unemployment in the 1930’s.

In the North East this is being implemented at the present time.

* Margaret Rogers was a Liberal Democrat councillor in East Devon for 20 years. She is 87 years old and now lives in Harrogate.

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  • Peter Watson 16th Sep '16 - 8:23pm

    I’ve nothing to add, but I just wanted to say that I enjoyed this excellent article and agree with the points being made. I particularly like the final point about the value of helping a child to find something at which they can excel and enjoy.

  • Stephen Cook 30th Jun '17 - 10:02pm

    I was one of Margaret Roger’s students at Maria Grey College, 1970-73. Then, as now, someone to be listened to. She helped shape the British education system by giving her students a clear understanding of what education was about. Sadly, successive governments have ignored what this remarkable lady had, and has, to say. I am now retired, and will be ever thankful that Margaret was a key part of my life in education.

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