Grammar School Selection – some absurd recent history

Theresa May’s party activist pleasing aim to create more grammar schools generated a lot of debate last week.

I thought I would share the absurdity of the Kent Test, which I sat to go to grammar school in 1991.  It is fair to say that Conservative-run Kent administered selection in a very odd way at that time.

In those days:

Your test could be given someone else’s mark

a) You took, at the start of Year 6, three tests.  But the marks you were given was usually not your own.  This was not an administration error but was intentional policy.

Primary Schools had to rank pupils in order of ability before the test.  This ranking was kept secret.  It was pre-FoI, pre-DPA and pupils and parents were never allowed to know where they were ranked or why. You then took the test.  The best mark scored by anyone in the school was assigned to the person the school had ranked top.  The second best mark to the next person and so on, even if the student had actually scored a different mark in the test.

This effectively created selection according to someone’s ability but not necessarily your own ability.  Undoubtedly some pushy, influential, self-important parents, lobbied their child’s headteacher to go up the unaccountable ranking.

We took an English test that did not count

b) The tests (written exams) were in English, Maths and Critical Reasoning but in my year the English marks were not counted.  Part of the English test involved an unseen extract from a story which you had to analyse and write a continuation.  The story chosen for my year was about a polar bear who considered the most beautiful animal by all the others because she was pristinely white.  Some people took the view that to equate whiteness with beauty was racist and this made the test unfair as it might have upset some pupils and affected their performance.

I have doubts about this reasoning.  Anyone can see that to say white human skin being inherently more beautiful than other colours of skin is wrong.  But it is a different thing to say that a polar bear’s white fur is pleasing to look at.  In any event, that is just the opinion of the writer.  Children should be exposed at any early age, and definitely by year 6, to the idea that a writer (or any other communicator) can express an opinion, which may or may not be right.  Which you may or may not agree with.  Which might give you an emotional reaction or event upset you.  Good art makes you feel something.  I expect some of the children wrote a continuation of the story where another animal was even more beautiful.  I expect some wrote a continuation where the animals learned that that your inner qualities matter more than the way you look.

It says a lot that the County was so negligent to set a test that it would later decide it was unsuitable.

It says even more about Selection that the English test could be set aside and the system still presented as having integrity.  If the English test was not integral, why was it required in the first place? The whole thing was a farce.

You could appeal, and they would test your parents

c) If you were not offered a grammar school place after the test you could appeal up to 3 times.  The appeal was by your parents being interviewed.  You crossed your fingers that your parents did okay.  The main questions was “how are you going to support your child if they are at grammar school and find it hard?”  By this stage it could not be clearer that it was as much about social selection as academic selection.

The system was so absurd it would be amusing if people’s life chance were not affected by it.

Today, selection in Kent remains flawed and often socially discriminatory, as Kent County Council recently admitted, but in different ways.  There is more need than ever for reform.

A real issue in Kent is the decision over many, many decades by the County Council to give schools less investment than other counties.  Conservative councillors in Kent have frequently been people who take funds away from our schools while buying places and privilege for their own children at private schools.

I don’t mind people sending their children to private schools, but don’t do it if you are going to cut funds from the schools that 93% of us go to and will send our children to.

 

* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

Read more by .
This entry was posted in education.
Advert

87 Comments

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '16 - 3:04pm

    Would three more unitary authorities make the system better or worse?

  • Alastair Thomson 15th Aug '16 - 4:04pm

    I too am against selective secondary education but a critique of how it operated 25 yrs ago perhaps not the best way to argue against it’s reappearance. I found Chris Cook’s recent BBC piece ( http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-36662965 … ) more helpful – and it includes evidence from Kent and Medway.

  • Kay Kirkham 15th Aug '16 - 4:10pm

    When I took my 11+ I made a mistake in the arithmetic test. Arithmetic was not my strong point anyway but I couldn’t understand why the teacher who was invigilating kept coming back to my desk and touching the paper. Eventually I worked out that he/she was trying to point out my error. I made the necessary change and passed the test. I even got a Maths O level five years later and am now proud to announce that my grammar school eductaion means that by using my fingers and a calculator I can work out the % Lib Dem vote at any election count.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Aug '16 - 7:05pm

    My brother failed the eleven plus exam but passed the thirteen plus and changed schools. Would that be possible now?
    At my school some of us had passed the eleven plus, others had not, but remained.

  • Polar bear skin is black and the fur is transparent. Trufax.

  • Stevan Rose 15th Aug '16 - 9:20pm

    And yet the grammar school supporting Tories and UKIP councillors make up 60 of the 84 seats on the council. Go figure. I don’t recall my 11+ but there were only 3 of us at my cross-border primary that took it and we all passed and all ended up at the same grammar. There would have been no point interviewing my parents as they had no interest in our education at all. I agree there’s a need for reform but primarily in the way pupils are assessed in a fair and transparent manner to give each child the education best suited to their aptitude and ambitions not to remove choice. While Lib Dems and Labour campaign against Grammars in Kent and promise to get rid of them neither will ever run the council.

  • Stephen Hesketh 16th Aug '16 - 7:43am

    Antony, thank you for sharing and bringing to light such procedures. Quite shocking!

    Stevan Rose 15th Aug ’16 – 9:20pm
    “To give each child the education best suited to their aptitude and ambitions not to remove choice.”

    So that would be heavily biasing a young person’s future life chances based on (tutored) aptitude and (usually parental) ambitions at the age of 11. Such a system does not sound very liberal or socially democratic to me.

    The long term party policy, recently restated by Tim Farron and John Pugh, both of whom have professional experience as educators, is the correct one. And absolutely the correct one for a 21st century Social Liberal party.

  • AC Trussell 16th Aug '16 - 9:57am

    I failed 11+ and became a member of Mensa 30yrs later- it is wrong on all accounts. Listen to “More or Less” on R4 it is really wrong! It is just Tory Ideology. Will any “Media” explain this- I think not!

  • Stevan Rose: “To give every child the education best suited to their aptitude and ambitions..” Correct, but that is precisely why it is wrong to divide them crudely into 2 types at age 11. Aptitudes and abilities are so complex and variable among children and can change from age to age that only continuous monitoring by teachers and parents through each stage can assess their individual needs. A good school keeps all the varying approaches and paces of learning, adapting to suit the children; non-selection is NOT about teaching them all the same. It’s about variety of learning, variety of development and treating them as whole persons with individuality and social interaction. There is sometimes a problem in some schools with a small number of children who are so bright they are not stretched enough, but that can be dealt with by cooperation between teachers in neighbouring schools.

  • I took the 11 + in the early 50s in my rural primary school. There was no funny business and I was not aware that I had an examination until the evening before when my father asked me to go to bed early as I had an important day ahead. The invigilator was not a teacher but what I assume was a farmer dressed in rather old fashioned clothes who sat and watched but did not intervene in any way whatsoever. Everything seemed to be done according to the rules. Although my parents were very interested in my education I had no private tutor and, as far as I know, nor did anyone else. Eight of us went to the local grammar school which for me meant quite a long day as I went on the local bus. I was not obsessed with school work but did what was asked and got 8 O levels and 3 A levels. Most of us were from working class backgrounds. When I read the comments above it makes me feel sad.

    It seems that those in the education industry have very fixed ideas and dislike notions such as parental ambitions. I assume they prefer the sort of students whose parents are uninterested in their children’s future so that they can mould them into their own way of thinking. One thing the grammar school taught me was to question received wisdom and conventional ideas but that attitude seems to have been completely lost. Every day I hear supposedly educated people parroting ideas that have no basis in fact but have become common currency because of some dodgy statistics that they did not study carefully or did not understand. Yet these are the people who denounce learning by rote, something which I never had to do except for the mathematical tables which people no longer learn. It would be funny if it was not so sad.

    Human beings all differ. It is wrong to pigeon hole them in some sort of uniformity. We have different needs. I was very intrigued when I discovered that my Communist friend at grammar school who benefitted enormously but never ceased to denounce the system , sent one of his daughters to a fee paying school because she told him that the local comprehensives was unbearable. He admitted that this was true and did as she asked.

    I do not think there are enough academics and comprehensive school teachers to give the Liberal Democrat party a majority in Parliament so it is time for them to look at the wider picture and seek support from further afield

  • Nigel Jones; Do teachers in neighbouring schools cooperate ? This seems a very hit and miss approach for dealing with the needs of children. You have a very optimistic idea of schools. I hope that your view is correct but I am not entirely convinced. So often everything seems to be done for what is considered normal because it is much easier. I have seen this even in courts where people’s lives and reputations can be wrecked because of lack of care and laziness.

  • Peter Watson 16th Aug '16 - 12:43pm

    @nvelope2003 ” I assume they prefer the sort of students whose parents are uninterested in their children’s future so that they can mould them into their own way of thinking.”
    A horrible assumption to make. It would be better to assume that they want to make sure that a child’s chances in life are not destroyed by parents who are uninterested in their future.
    It is not about penalising pushy middle-class parents (we will always make the most of whatever system is presented to us), but about ensuring that we do not unfairly deprive others of the same opportunities.

  • grahame lamb 16th Aug '16 - 12:58pm

    Grammar schools gave (and in 163 cases continue to give) boys and girls from less well off backgrounds an opportunity to excel and achieve. Most of our current politicians received good educations in the independent sector because their parents could afford it. I have no objection to this but I do object to the denying of life chances for the 93% of the population who might have the ability and aptitude to benefit from a grammar school education. If Liberal Democrats object to social mobility they are not in my view Liberals. The Liberal Democrat Party has no future if it stands against excellence, achievement and social mobility. Unfortunately there is no evidence that the Party leadership is taking notice. They won’t be reading any of this discussion I suspect. Don’t expect a comment from Tim Farron or Sal Brinton. Or even Nick Clegg (thank you for fielding my questions on Call Clegg) or Norman Lamb (no relation). Paddy perhaps ?

  • Rightsaidfredfan 16th Aug '16 - 1:01pm

    What do the lib dems want, equality of opportunity or equality of outcome?

    Surely grammar schools give bright children from poor background chances that the might not get otherwise?

    Should those with the ability to do so not rise above their peers simply because they can? Or is that unfair and non-inclusive?

  • Jayne Mansfield 16th Aug '16 - 1:21pm

    @ graham lamb,
    Hopefully the liberal democrat leadership will be spending their their time wisely, looking at the evidence.

    Lib Dem Voice is not the best place to look if one is searching for referenced, peer reviewed research.

  • Peter Watson 16th Aug '16 - 1:33pm

    @grahame lamb
    @rightsaidfredfan
    In a parallel thread (https://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farron-on-grammar-schools-51542.html) evidence is presented that a selective system can lower the overall performance of the most and the least academic groups, and that selection reinforces social inequality.
    So while I echo your points that Lib Dems should favour equality of opportunity and social mobility, these are reasons for opposing grammar schools.

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Aug '16 - 1:34pm

    grahame lamb

    If you believe in social mobility for children then simply look at the facts and oppose the resurrection of grammars. Remember, for every new grammar school there are created several secondary modern equivalents.

    And we now know that IQ is not fixed.

    The 11 plus is not a definitive proof of ability, as the many parents who pay for their children to be tutored in order to pass the 11 plus should but won’t admit.

    https://fullfact.org/education/grammar-schools-and-social-mobility-whats-evidence/

  • Tony Dawson 16th Aug '16 - 3:04pm

    I passed the 11 plus in Harwich in 1965 then my parents decided (without consultation!) to move off somewhere where it didn’t count but they still selected at 11. So I ended up in the local technical grammar school ‘on ability’ however that got determined. Thankfully, the entry in which my brother joined the school three years later was the last such.

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Aug '16 - 4:26pm

    Am I alone in thinking that everyone reacting to May’s ‘I’m thinking of something like this…’ vagueness by recycling their memories of childhood is exactly what the Tories want?

    I don’t think the modern DfE or the Tories want to bring back traditional grammars, but it sounds good to their followers, many of whom just voted for a referendum which – arguably, for some people – could be sold on the basis of returning things to how they were before the 70s.

    So here we have another policy that can – on the surface of it – be sold as undoing the work of the last 50 years.

    But we don’t know that. We know that May wants more selective schools. We don’t know whether these schools will be accountable to LAs, how they will be run, whether they will be academised, how many of them there will be, what funding will be allocated to them…

    We only have the insinuation that they will be a return to the past. Which is not a fact, but spin.

    NO LIB DEM WHATSOEVER – whether any of us are for or against more selection, whether we liked out childhoods or didn’t – be participating in that spin because we are validating it, even those trying to point out the failures of past policies.

    I strongly suspect that what will eventuate will be innovation, not conservatism, and badly thought-out, at that. Possibly even as bad as the previous ‘academies for everyone’ policy. Possibly even the SAME policy under slightly tweaked clothing.

    We should be asking hard, hard questions of the Tories about exactly what it is they are trying to sell to their support-base in nostalgic terms, who benefits (May’s husband? maybes?) and where the money is coming from.

    Rant over.

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Aug '16 - 4:56pm

    Apologies for the caps. A bit OTT. I’ll go and have a lie-down.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '16 - 5:12pm

    nvelope2003

    One thing the grammar school taught me was to question received wisdom and conventional ideas but that attitude seems to have been completely lost.

    Why do you suggest that only grammar schools can do this?

    Human beings all differ. It is wrong to pigeon hole them in some sort of uniformity.

    Isn’t that precisely what you want to do – pigeonhole children based on a short test taken at the age of 10 or 11?

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '16 - 5:38pm

    grahame lamb

    I have no objection to this but I do object to the denying of life chances for the 93% of the population who might have the ability and aptitude to benefit from a grammar school education.

    I came from a less well off background (father an unskilled manual worker, was on free school meals for much of my schooldays), went to a comprehensive school, got top grade A-levels and went on to a top university.

    By your argument, I don’t exist. Can you clarify?

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Aug '16 - 6:02pm

    AC Trussell

    I failed 11+ and became a member of Mensa 30yrs later- it is wrong on all accounts.

    My mother was denied the chance even to take the 11+. It was only after she saw me and my sisters (who all went to comprehensive school) take A-levels and go on to university that she did the same herself as a mature student.

    Why is it that people like grahame lamb, Rightsaidfredfan, nvelope2003, all ignore the many cases like this?

    One of the key aspects of liberalism is to be able to see and understand both sides of an argument. Being so dogmatic that you assume your opinion is correct and go on as if it is the truth, completely ignoring the opinions of those who disagree, is not how a liberal should behave.

    I have not seen any clear evidence that a selective school system provides more social mobility as a whole. Picking out one or two individuals who benefited from it, while ignoring all those who lost out, is done time and time again by those arguing for a selective system. If they want to make their point seriously, they need to provide proper objective evidence.

    So, go on you lot – do it.

  • Graham Evans 16th Aug '16 - 11:33pm

    I think the argument over grammar schools is essentially trivial compared to asking the much tougher question as to why so many young people of average ability and intelligence are failed by our primary and secondary school system. Even the concept of the pupil premium was to some extent a way of avoiding addressing the fact that the parents of many children either lack the capability or inclination to give their offspring the support they need to come out of school with at least reasonable skill in English and arithmetic, and well as the more subtle skills needed to build a successful and fulfilling life.

    Incidentally, if any form of academic selection at 11 is so wrong, why is it acceptable to try to identify kids with special musical or sporting skills at a young age, and follow this up with training denied your average youngster? Indeed why do we allow selection at 18 in order to pursue a university course, if according to Helen Tedcastle IQ is not fixed?

  • grahame lamb 17th Aug '16 - 8:08am

    I am inclined to think (and taking note of all the preceding contributions) that the issue of grammar schools in particular and how we educate our young is coming back into focus. I am not at all sure that there will be any return to the old tripartite system of 1944. But I do think that parents want the best for their children. And if you pay taxes then you have a say. And that means “appropriate”. The recipient of the education is the child -not the parent. Which is the best and most appropriate school for the child? We can have a diversity of provision. In the independent sector Eton provides a traditional or classic education. (David Cameron I know attended Eton). Stowe specialises in sport. (Richard Branson I think attended Stowe) In a Liberal society which recognises (and perhaps even celebrates) diversity and a range of different successes we can surely welcome different kinds of opportunities. Schools can specialise. One size does not fit all.

    Perhaps there will be a major announcement at the Conservative Party Conference in October.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '16 - 8:51am

    Graham Evans

    I think the argument over grammar schools is essentially trivial compared to asking the much tougher question as to why so many young people of average ability and intelligence are failed by our primary and secondary school system.

    Yes, and if the point was being put, with arguments and data supporting it, that the way to improve the performance of young people of average ability and intelligence was to separate them at an early age from children of high ability and intelligence, then the case for selection would be being made properly.

    But it isn’t, is it? The argument is always put in terms of grammar schools, as if they are the only schools that matter. The argument is always put in terms which argue that children of high ability and intelligence should be separated out and given all the attention, and in effect the rest should be left to rot, not bothered with because they don’t matter.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '16 - 8:54am

    grahame lamb

    But I do think that parents want the best for their children. And if you pay taxes then you have a say. And that means “appropriate”.

    Yes, so where are all the parents arguing that what their children need is to be separated out from the most able and intelligent and put into schools which teach children only of average and below average ability? If what you said was correct, there would be more of those than there would be those arguing for special school for the most able.

  • Katerina Porter 17th Aug '16 - 9:01am

    The argument seems to be whether children are taught under one roof or not. After all comprehensives are pretty large places. Setting deals with this in the best way, taking into account that someone good at history might be lousy at maths. Indeed why should artists have to get good grades at maths at all? At a parents day at the comprehensive I have mentioned the little black boy and brilliant violinist told me that he had wanted to be a footballer if he had not started music. That evenings canapes were made by the cookery glass. In England damaging segregation of different social groups remains, has lately been increased, and starts in childhood.

  • grahame lamb 17th Aug '16 - 9:29am

    Matthew Huntbach

    The Newsom Report of 1963 (“Half Our Future”) whilst recognising that not all children were of equal ability (and definitely not their fault: just fortune or misfortune) nonetheless advocated that ALL children should be given the best possible chances in schools which were established to provide an appropriate education. This gives children the best chance of surviving in a world in which people will be “selected” or not selected for jobs or promotions or pay rises on the the basis of ability. Selection is the real world – like it or not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '16 - 9:35am

    Graham Evans

    Incidentally, if any form of academic selection at 11 is so wrong, why is it acceptable to try to identify kids with special musical or sporting skills at a young age, and follow this up with training denied your average youngster? Indeed why do we allow selection at 18 in order to pursue a university course, if according to Helen Tedcastle IQ is not fixed?

    No-one is arguing that there should be no form of academic selection. It is now generally accepted that there needs to be selection to form separate classes so that children get the education most appropriate for them. The issue is at what point does the education become so specialist that it has to be done in a separate institution rather than in classes within one school.

    I can see the argument that music and sports require special facilities that need to be concentrated in one institution. General school education up to the age of 16 does not seem to me to need this degree of specialisation. When we come to 16, we do have specialisation, as children choose A-levels or vocational qualifications or to leave school and go out to work. Selection for these is based on GCSE results, and I don’t oppose that.

    The point then is to what extent is post-16 education so specialised that it is not appropriate to have a general institution which covers all of it. I think this is more so with vocational qualifications than A-levels.

  • Katerina Porter 17th Aug '16 - 10:43am

    In the old ILEA (abolished by Mrs Thatcher) one comprehensive specialised in music and children went to it from all over London but most of the pupils there were not specialising.

  • “The long term party policy, recently restated by Tim Farron and John Pugh, both of whom have professional experience as educators, is the correct one. ”

    In your opinion, in their opinion, in the opinion of the majority of those who make policy in this party but not tested in a vote if all members. Definitely not in the opinion of a majority of voters, a group that includes many educators, and definitely an impediment to taking control of Tory councils where this party should have a chance

    “So that would be heavily biasing a young person’s future life chances based on (tutored) aptitude and (usually parental) ambitions at the age of 11. Such a system does not sound very liberal or socially democratic to me. ”

    That’s your flawed interpretation based on your own bias. If at aged 11 a child can be clearly assessed as having an aptitude and enthusiasm for a specialist education, be that sports, languages, music, performing arts, or academic, then in my opinion, and that of the majority of voters, and all those excellent educators that work in Grammars and specialist academies, it is a good thing to offer the option. Assessment can be designed to take account of tutoring and unreasonable parental influence but you have to be very careful. You seem to almost be suggesting discrimination against parents who take a keen interest in the education of their children. For children who have not yet found what they excel at and motivates them there should be an excellent more broad based comprehensive education. With ample opportunity to transfer within the system.

    The policy of this party and it’s leadership seems to be to force all kids down a single one size fits all system. All that does is encourage those parents who can, often with a struggle, to switch to a private education or towards free schools that would doubtless convert to independent if they had to. Alternatively the child gets an education that does not bring out the best in them, that holds them back. To me that sounds a truly spiteful policy.

  • Phil Beesley 17th Aug '16 - 1:54pm

    @Matthew Huntbach: “General school education up to the age of 16 does not seem to me to need this degree of specialisation. When we come to 16, we do have specialisation, as children choose A-levels or vocational qualifications or to leave school and go out to work.”

    I’m not convinced that GCSE Combined Science is a robust base for A Level Physics. Maybe, if it is combined with A Level Maths (with applied maths).

    Secondary school pupils need to be able to study some GCSE subjects — maths and physics — to a higher “intensity” than others where self-learning works well, in order to do well at A Level.

  • Matt (Bristol)

    I’m inclined to agree with you that this does look like a balloon sent up over silly season, the expectations that Labour and the LibDems will go on about it, drive those who will be strongly motivated in favour of it towards the Tories before they have given any detail (those strongly against will mainly be anti-tory anyway).

    The old system was terrible (I haven’t looked at the detail for several years now) with unfair finding and distribution etc. that is before you even start to ask if the system was even appropriate for the children. There are many early bloomers who don’t excel in the style of old Grammar Schools either. But this is all redundant as there is no substance to debate.

    If The LibDems had a policy that they could argue in favour of, utilising this opening then there would be a great opportunity. But instead we have people thrashing the strawman of the old system.

    Best not to play the Tories game, get a decent (coherent) LibDem policy sorted then wait for the opening to bang on about it when someone in the Government has to explain what they are planning on doing.

    And a quick last plug for why the issue of how to mop up those who are failed by the system pass through and left on the scrap heap post compulsory education?

  • Helen Tedcastle 17th Aug '16 - 3:45pm

    grahame lamb
    ‘ ALL children should be given the best possible chances in schools which were established to provide an appropriate education. ‘
    ‘Selection is the real world – like it or not.’

    Two points stand out for me from this comment. Firstly, that all children should have an ‘appropriate education.’ What does this mean? What is appropriate for child A that is not appropriate for child B? The separation of children into ‘types’ is exactly the kind of rigid, inflexible education the country had in the post war era. It failed the majority of young people because its essential determinism failed to provide the kind of broad and balanced education worthy of children living in a liberal society. In essence, it underestimated the children of this country.

    ‘Selection is the real world.’

    Liberal Democrats do not believe that education is equivalent to ‘survival of the fittest.’ This is a reductionist mindset which leads to the development of an educational model which does not focus on the needs of the child but on the needs of mass society.

    Is education simply provided by the state for the production of drones or is it there to provide to produce rounded young adults ready to take their place and contribute to a civilised society? If the latter, then a general, liberal broad education is essential up to the age of at least sixteen, when more specialism can take place.

    Graham Evans
    ‘ Incidentally, if any form of academic selection at 11 is so wrong, why is it acceptable to try to identify kids with special musical or sporting skills at a young age, and follow this up with training denied your average youngster? ‘

    The answer is simply that having a skill like playing a musical instrument is not the same as receiving a broad, general educational grounding to a required standard. Schools follow a curriculum which is broad and balanced until the age of sixteen. Some students have specialist skills in one or two areas and they can be developed but they are not typical of the general population.

    If IQ was fixed and determined then there would be no real point in allowing mature students to pursue a degree course. After all if they didn’t get selected for university at 18 then they are clearly not capable of doing a degree. As this is palpable nonsense, it’s clear we can do quite a lot to improve ourselves intellectually through cognitive effort.

  • Matt (Bristol) 17th Aug '16 - 4:55pm

    Thanks, Psi — glad someone was reading.

    ‘And a quick last plug for why the issue of how to mop up those who are failed by the system pass through and left on the scrap heap post compulsory education?’

    YES.

    There is a real issue with how much people need to retrain, swap careers, take second chances, from 20 on to 40 and 50 and higher.

    In a world where life expectancy for some is up and up, whilst average length of job is down and down, why do we still nurture a system based on penalties for those who don’t ‘get it right first time’ in their careers/education and don’t have the (inherited) money to try again after 18?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '16 - 6:56pm

    Phil Beesley

    Secondary school pupils need to be able to study some GCSE subjects — maths and physics — to a higher “intensity” than others where self-learning works well, in order to do well at A Level.

    Yes, and what relevance has this to my argument? There is no reason why comprehensive schools should not teach GCSE Physics. I did O-level physics in the comprehensive school I attended. If you are trying to say that a comprehensive school cannot teach GCSE Physics, then surely that applies even more to a school that teaches only those who failed to qualified for a grammar school. What if someone failed to get into a grammar school because their English language skills were not that good, but they were good at maths and physics. That person would then be denied the chance to take GCSE Physics by the selective system.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '16 - 7:21pm

    Stevan Rose

    The policy of this party and it’s leadership seems to be to force all kids down a single one size fits all system.

    Grammar – correct spelling here should be its. The spelling it’s is only used when it’s short for “it is”.

    As I keep saying, I would take the line you and others are using seriously if you were saying at least as much about the benefit of non-grammar schools to the less academic as you are about the benefit of grammar schools to those who demonstrate good academic ability at age 11. But you aren’t.

    It is you who want to restrict freedom and choice, by forcing kids into particular sort of schools at an early age. To me, a comprehensive school should offer everything that a grammar school offers, as well as education for those who cannot cope with that. I’ve no problem with some sort of internal selection, contrary to grahame lamb’s suggestion, so that there are specialist classes for the more academically able. However, it should be on a subject by subject basis and done every year. That opens up chances to those who would be denied them in a selective system.

    All I am seeing here is people like you making false assumptions, and then arguing on the basis that those assumptions are undisputed truths. So we are seeing the completely false assumptions that all comprehensive schools have completely mixed ability teaching, that comprehensive schools cannot teach certain subjects, that for most comprehensive schools it is impossible to get a good university place if you went to them.

    It is like Brexit – ridiculous falsehoods pushed as truths, and the backing of the propaganda press helping those who push those falsehoods get taken seriously, and the right-wing elite who push those falsehoods pretending to be on the side of the people.

  • nvelope2003 17th Aug '16 - 9:10pm

    Peter Watson: I was referring to Stephen Hesketh’s comment about heavily biasing a young person’s life chances based on (usually parental ) ambitions.

    One thing which has not been given much attention is the tendency for those who can afford it to move house so as to be in the catchment area of one of those special comprehensive schools which cater for those people like MPs who do not wish to be seen sending their children to Independent schools.

    If selection is wrong why have there been no proposals to deal with independent schools. I am not advocating closing them down but requiring them to admit all children in the locality. I do find it puzzling that advocates of a fully comprehensive system seem to be strongly opposed to any changes to the position of independent schools but perhaps it is not so puzzling really.

    I have said before that I am not against comprehensive schools, indeed I worked in one, but in favour of permitting a limited number of grammar schools where local conditions warrant it – that is all I ask. In my view there is no need to retain the 11+ . I do rather resent the attempts of people on this site to stigmatise those who disagree with them.

  • nvelope2003 17th Aug '16 - 9:20pm

    Matthew Huntbach: I did not suggest that only grammar schools could encourage the questioning of received wisdom. I suggested that there seemed little evidence of such questioning among younger people who tend to parrot the current buzz words but maybe they always did.

    My own mother was unable to attend the High School because her parents could not give the required undertaking to keep her there until she was 16 or pay for the extra uniforms, games kits etc which she would have needed but I was not forced to go to the grammar school. My parents were kindly and just wanted to encourage us to do our best. I am sorry that there efforts seem to have resulted in my being pilloried and insulted for not holding conventional views.

  • nvelope2003 17th Aug '16 - 9:22pm

    sorry “there” should read “their”. I am tired and need to go to bed !

  • Peter Watson 17th Aug '16 - 10:01pm

    @nvelope2003 “One thing which has not been given much attention is the tendency for those who can afford it to move house so as to be in the catchment area of one of those special comprehensive schools”
    Or the tendency for those who can afford to move house so as to be in the catchment area for a good primary school years before their child sits an 11+. Or that a child at a grammar school is more likely to have been to a private primary school than to be entitled to free school meals. Where is the evidence that grammar schools are or were great social levellers?

  • Matthew Huntbach 17th Aug '16 - 10:23pm

    nvelope2003

    I do find it puzzling that advocates of a fully comprehensive system seem to be strongly opposed to any changes to the position of independent schools but perhaps it is not so puzzling really.

    Where is your evidence for this? I have been arguing the case for comprehensive schools here, so where I am shouting out in some strong way “But independent schools must be allowed to select as they wish” or similar words? Where is anyone else who has put the case for comprehensive schools shouted out such words?

  • Peter Watson 17th Aug '16 - 10:26pm

    @Psi “get a decent (coherent) LibDem policy sorted then wait for the opening to bang on about it”
    Completely agree. The 2015 manifesto seems very waffly and vague on education.

    “And a quick last plug for why the issue of how to mop up those who are failed by the system pass through and left on the scrap heap post compulsory education?”
    I agree that this is a very important issue (and I also agree with Matt(Bristol)’s point about “how much people need to retrain, swap careers, take second chances, from 20 on to 40 and 50 and higher”). Which is why it is so sad that Lib Dems were part of a government that led to a significant reduction in the numbers of mature and part-time students. I benefited from learning with the Open University to help move my career in a different direction but I am concerned about the future of that institution.

  • @Matthew Huntbach. Autocorrect can sometimes produce undesired grammatical errors and I need no lessons in the use of apostrophes thanks. Well done for pointing out the obvious. I’ll write a letter to Lenovo and let them know how clever you are. Honestly, I’m not really interested in you taking me seriously since you’re just repeating the same misrepresentations, and then you throw Brexit in for good measure but little relevance. You’re not really adding anything constructive to the debate so I’ll pass on addressing anything you said.

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Aug '16 - 1:41am

    Stevan Rose

    @Matthew Huntbach. Autocorrect can sometimes produce undesired grammatical errors and I need no lessons in the use of apostrophes thanks. Well done for pointing out the obvious. I’ll write a letter to Lenovo and let them know how clever you are.

    Lenovo manufacture the hardware you use, not the software. I am not aware that Liberal Democrat Voice uses software that includes auto-correction for its website. The software does underline mis-spelt words in red, but does not auto-correct them. I am not aware of any software that would change its to it’s, and if there was it would do it with grammatical checks, and I cannot see anything in what you wrote that could possibly cause software to get that wrong.

    I take it from what you wrote that you know I am right and you have no real answer to my points. You and others who go on about grammar schools just can’t prove with actual evidence the points you are making. The reality is that the evidence show the selective system overall damages social mobility rather than improves it.

  • grahame lamb 18th Aug '16 - 8:55am

    Helen Tadcastle asks a very good question if I may so. The Fisher Education Act of 1871 (if I recall correctly) provided for the first time in English history opportunities for children from poor backgrounds (“disadvantaged” might be today’s word) to acquire some useful skills in the “real world”. Literacy and numeracy for example. The opposing (although not perhaps contradictory) view was that the intention was to turn out clerks for industry. Either way it was progress.

    What do we need today? I suggest numeracy and literacy (including IT literacy) and life or “soft” skills such as team-working, inter-personal relationships and communication skills. Also self-starting skills such as independent research and independent thinking. But why not also develop other skills and talents such as art, drama, the performing arts, science, history, literature (a very good way of understanding human relationships, morals, ideas etc). I recall reading Thomas Hardy’s “Far From the Madding Crowd” as a schoolboy. The Chapter headed “The Hiring” has stayed with me. Is it not unlike the issue of zero hours contracts today? Let me know what you think.

  • Katerina Porter 18th Aug '16 - 10:04am

    Why can’t we look at what works in other countries? eg Finland. After “learn through play” kindergarten all comprehensive from the age of 7, very focused on the individual child, no outside testing, no league tables, tough exams at 18, either academic or vocational. At the top or near the top of OECD tables. Sweden, on the other hand, has slipped down these tables since they started free schools. British children in Independent schools must be a diminishing percentage in the country though there are a lot of foreign pupils. I went to a public school and there would have been no way for my parents to have paid for this at present day rates.

  • Graham Evans 18th Aug '16 - 11:23am

    At the risk of repeating an earlier point I made, can those who are such strong supporters of the comprehensive system, and to a lesser extent those who support grammar schools, answer the simple question: Why do you devote so much attention to what happens in state secondary schools when most children’s fate is determined by the education they receive, and the attitudes fostered, at primary school? And for those who claim that a comprehensive school can offer all the facilities needed for those children of potentially high academic ability, what about the issue that this can only be achieved in a large school, and for many children the social benefits of small and medium-sized schools is equally important? Even at 18 many young people find the anonymity of our large universities difficult to cope with. How much more difficult that must be at 11.

  • Graham Evans 18th Aug '16 - 11:46am

    @ Katherine Porter: I know education systems change over the decades but cultures and attitudes to education probably less so, so it is interesting that for countries with a population over 5 million the number of Nobel Prizes won per capita by Sweden far exceeds those won by Finland. Moreover if you look at large countries with populations over 20 million the UK far exceeds it’s nearest rival Germany (both of which far exceed Finland). This might suggest that the UK is actually much better at educating the intellectually brightest in society than most other countries (rather like we’re now rather good at winning Olympic medals).

  • Matthew Huntbach 18th Aug '16 - 11:46am

    Graham Evans

    Why do you devote so much attention to what happens in state secondary schools when most children’s fate is determined by the education they receive, and the attitudes fostered, at primary school?

    I am commenting here precisely because I disagree with the notion that bringing back grammar schools is the main thing that would improve education in this country overall.

    On the matter of large schools, sure I get your point. There are techniques that can deal with this, various ways of breaking the school into smaller units, and making sure there are designated personal tutors.

  • Graham Evans 18th Aug '16 - 11:55am

    @ Matthew Huntbach But by getting so involved in a debate about the merits or otherwise of grammar schools the Party, and our leader, are allowing the Tories to set the educational agenda.

  • Peter Watson 18th Aug '16 - 12:31pm

    @Graham Evans
    “Why do you devote so much attention to what happens in state secondary schools when most children’s fate is determined by the education they receive, and the attitudes fostered, at primary school?”
    And before school-age. And outside school hours. As you say later, concentrating solely on grammar schools allows the Tories to set the educational agenda, and to do so in a way that suits them by focusing on a narrow topic.

    “what about the issue that this can only be achieved in a large school, and for many children the social benefits of small and medium-sized schools is equally important?”
    I think there is a real dilemma here. A large school can be intimidating but a lot of smaller schools scattered around introduces other problems. If they are comprehensive then we can end up with de facto selection by post code (unless entry is not by geographical catchment area). If they are specialised or selective, then transferring between schools (rather than sets or streams) as abilities and aptitudes develop might be very difficult and off-putting for children and their families.
    As Matthew Huntbach points out, there are ways to break down large schools into smaller units and to provide appropriate support for children. We should also recognise that what appears big and frightening at first can soon feel claustrophobic, so perhaps a First -> Middle -> Secondary school approach would make the transition between schools less of a step-change than the Primary -> Secondary school leap.

  • Graham Evans 18th Aug '16 - 2:55pm

    @ Peter Watson “so perhaps a First -> Middle -> Secondary school approach would make the transition between schools less of a step-change than the Primary -> Secondary school leap.” There are, or were, some LEAs where this operated but no one seems to talk much about their experiences. I imagine this works best in small towns where one school can serve the whole community. In medium size towns I presume you would have to resort to bussing to get a cross section of the community. Didn’t Brighton try this with allocation based on random selection? What has been the outcome? Ironically this might work best in London with good transport links and free transport for all children, though you might have to recreate a sort of ILEA for the GLA, since no matter what system you adopted all the schools in places like Barking & Dagenham would be filled with pupils from a low socio-economic background.

  • Matthew Huntbach 17.0916 at 7.21pm – You have mixed up a lot of different points and seek to accuse everyone who does not agree with you of telling lies. I do agree with your point about Brexit in the last paragraph but I have said several times that I am against abolishing comprehensive schools, I did not say that they all have mixed ability teaching because I know they do not, nor did I say that you cannot get a good university place because I know that is untrue.

    17.0816 at 10.23 pm You may not have mentioned independent schools but one or two others who support your views have said that independent schools must be left alone. However I was referring to public figures such as MPs, who, whenever they are challenged about this, which is not often, claim that it is irrelevant and that rich people should be able to use their wealth in whatever way they like , including gaining special privileges for their children. Well I am not very comfortable with it and to be honest I think grammar schools were abolished because they gave the children of the less well off the chance of getting a decent education and competing with children from independent or public schools for the best jobs. Those who had spent thousands sending their children to public schools did not like it and were determined to put a stop to it and people like you helped them every step of the way, no doubt for the noblest of motives. A few grammar schools were preserved in and around the London area for the children of MPs who could not afford independent school fees, like the Roman Catholic chapels which were protected for the favoured few while Roman Catholic priest were being hanged drawn and quartered in less favoured places during the Reformation. I do know something about the ways of the ruling elite.

  • Just heard a programme on Radio 4 about this issue. The usual establishment figures were giving the usual line but they were strangely muted about the benefits of grammar schools when it was found that they did indeed improve the chances of children.
    Now really bright people will get on whatever the system but the able ones who are not at the very top need a helping hand just as much as those who are less able. And no I am not going to demand the closure of every ……g Comprehensive school as it was so elegantly put by one of Britain’s leading intellectuals.

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Aug '16 - 12:33am

    nvelope 2003: “they were strangely muted about the benefits of grammar schools when it was found that they did indeed improve the chances of children” – what, ‘strangely muted’ on a radio programme? Do you think radio editors’ decisions constitute some sort of proof of what you believe about grammar schools?

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '16 - 7:26am

    nvelope2003

    Well I am not very comfortable with it and to be honest I think grammar schools were abolished because they gave the children of the less well off the chance of getting a decent education and competing with children from independent or public schools for the best jobs.

    Well, you may think that, but the actual reason was the exact opposite. When I was growing up the grammar school was in an area with large semi-detached houses, and the secondary modern was in a council estate. It was very obvious which one you were meant to go to, and by and large that’s how it went.

    The point is that not particularly intelligent children from a background where their parents are well-educated, wealthy and in top jobs can almost always get into grammar schools, because their family background gave them enough to pass the 11+. Intelligent children who did not have that background often failed the 11+ because they did not have the knowledge, encouragement, accent and so on that the privileged background gives that helps pass the 11+.

    Just the other day I was talking to someone who was telling me how she was giving her son careful tutoring to help pass the 11+ (I live not far from Kent where they still have the selective system) which will take place just after he goes back to school. Other children who go back to school then from backgrounds where the families wouldn’t do that sort of thing are quite obviously going to be at a serious disadvantage.

  • Graham Evans 19th Aug '16 - 10:31am

    @ Matthew Huntbach But you still haven’t addressed the issue that the sort of parents who pay for their children to have private tuition to pass the 11 plus (or send their children to a private primary school for the same reason) when there’s no grammar school available instead move to the catchment area of a comprehensive full of other middle class children like their own. Do you agree with random placement and bussing, which is the only way to address this issue? And in London would you create a Greater London Education Authority because otherwise it would be impossible to prevent selection by post code in the Capital? And, perhaps more importantly, do you think the Party should go down this route?

  • Malcolm Todd: Oh for heaven’s sake you sound like a public school pseudo leftist on those totally unfunny BBC comedy programmes which have mercifully mostly been moved to a time when I am in bed. The tone was muted not the sound.
    No I was just reporting what they said. I do not expect to hear people like the BBC expressing opinions based on any objective in depth study of any issue, any more than I would expect it on LDV.

  • nvelope2003 19th Aug '16 - 1:00pm

    Matthew Huntbach: Middle class people will do the best they can for their children, whatever the system but because there are so few grammar schools now they will be tempted to take things much further by tutoring. Should they be blamed because some parents are not interested in their children’s education ? Obviously you think so.

    My former grammar school which had new buildings in 1939 was demolished a few years ago and you will be pleased to know the land is now a housing estate .

    Why do you assume that wealthy middle class people are not particularly intelligent ? The very few wealthy middle class people I have met seemed very intelligent and so did their children. The one or two aristocrats that I have encountered who were alleged to be dim were actually both charming and intelligent but I do not think they would appear so to you with your prejudices against them.

    When I consider which was the worst of the great state sponsored acts of vandalism in our history I am torn between the destruction of the monasteries ( I was born about 3 miles from what was considered the greatest of them), that of the historic grammar schools or the closure of half of the railway system in the 1960s. I suppose we could restore some of the railways and possibly the grammar schools although the latter is unlikely. We cannot repair the loss to those who have been denied the chance of that form of education.

    Would you now please address the issue of fee paying independent schools as this is by far the most important matter because those who have attended them have become utterly dominant in all the best jobs to the exclusion of ordinary people ?

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Aug '16 - 4:30pm

    ‘nvelope2003’

    ‘ We cannot repair the loss to those who have been denied the chance of that form of education.’

    Yes we can and we did. The damage of the two tier system was repaired by the comprehensive school.

    As an example, in the 1950s, both my parents went to secondary moderns and both did not take O Levels – it just wasn’t expected of them. They were expected to go into ‘technical jobs’. They grew up thinking they were not academic because they did not pass a random IQ test at 11 years of age.

    The fact that my father has exceptional written and communication skills is owed not to the schooling he received, because he wasn’t pushed. He had to go to night school.

    Those who keep banging on about the merits of the grammar system are invariably the beneficiaries and they rarely take time to consider the effects on the majority who didn’t go.

    Maybe we should go back to the days when ‘everyone knew their place’ or maybe that kind of approach should be consigned to history. The comprehensive school by contrast, gives every child an opportunity to learn and develop their potential.

    Contrary to right-wing propaganda, children are streamed across subjects according to their aptitudes, and there is flexibility to move up or down.

    Another example. Under the old system, my nephew would have been written off as ‘practical’ and not given the chance to sit GCSEs/O Levels. No doubt, he would have been put in for CSEs across the board based on his report and scores at aged 11.

    The fact that he actually got six GCSEs at grade C or above at 16, including maths, English and a science is an example, one among many, that the comprehensive model, is a success. Unlike the old system, it does not write millions of children off at the age of 11 by narrowing the horizons of what they can achieve.

  • Helen Tedcastle 19th Aug '16 - 4:49pm

    David Evans
    ‘@Matthew Huntbach But you still haven’t addressed the issue that the sort of parents who pay for their children to have private tuition to pass the 11 plus (or send their children to a private primary school for the same reason) when there’s no grammar school available instead move to the catchment area of a comprehensive full of other middle class children like their own’

    To add my comment to this point addressed to Matthew Huntbach:

    The sort of parents who pay for private tuition or coaching for their child to help them pass for a grammar school, are also the kind of parents who would send their child to the leafy middle class comprehensive despite there being an outstanding school in an area with council housing. This happens in my area.

    It’s unspoken by Tory ministers but they know full well that school choices are as much about parental comfort and social mixing as they are about the results achieved by a particular school.

    Otherwise, the outstanding school in the more socially mixed poorer area would be full of middle class children and their pro-active parents.

    Needless to say, it isn’t.

  • Phil Beesley 19th Aug '16 - 5:52pm

    @Matthew Huntbach: “Yes, and what relevance has this to my argument?”

    Well, you talked about generalism, and I talked about something else.

    It’s not all about your argument or my argument.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '16 - 8:10pm

    Graham Evans

    But you still haven’t addressed the issue that the sort of parents who pay for their children to have private tuition to pass the 11 plus (or send their children to a private primary school for the same reason) when there’s no grammar school available instead move to the catchment area of a comprehensive full of other middle class children like their own.

    Well, ok and the children in a poorer area go to a poorer school, which is poorer because of the children who go to it. Does taking away a tiny proportion of those poorer children and putting them elsewhere solve the wider problem? No.

    The reality is that we need to tackle the deeper issues of social division rather than just pull out a tiny few like this and wash our hands of the rest.

    No, I don’t support random placement and bussing. It can lead to children having to make long journeys to get to school when there’s one nearby, very un-green given the waste of energy in the transport, also time-consuming and disturbing for the the child.

  • nvelope2003 19th Aug '16 - 9:01pm

    Matthew Huntbach: I do agree with you about bussing as for a time I spent 2 hours a day going to and from school when my parents moved house a few months before A levels but in a rural area bussing is unavoidable for many children whichever school they attend.
    I should be grateful if you would not link my views with others as my reasons for supporting the retention of a few grammar schools are different. As for evidence, whenever I read the reports suggested as evidence it is normally inconclusive, despite claims to the contrary. This point was made on recent BBC programmes so I am not alone in thinking this way.

    There is a place for different systems, not a blanket one size fits all policy. We should not put all our eggs in one basket but you never hear those wise words now. It is all “I am right and you are wrong” and the more they say the more I wonder why.

  • nvelope2003 19th Aug '16 - 9:17pm

    Malcolm Todd: Muted – softened, not loud, harsh or bright (Dictionary definition)
    I do not see why the decisions of BBC editors are any less valid than those of any other professional or indeed of anyone else who has carefully considered the issue but I accept that the type of schooling is never going to cease to be controversial and that people will find reasons to support their personal preferences.

    The silence on the matter of independent schools continues. I can only conclude that there must be great embarrassment among the members of the party about this.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '16 - 9:29pm

    nvelope2003

    Would you now please address the issue of fee paying independent schools as this is by far the most important matter because those who have attended them have become utterly dominant in all the best jobs to the exclusion of ordinary people ?

    Much though I am concerned about their contribution to social inequality, I think it would be against the principle of liberalism to ban them.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '16 - 9:35pm

    nvelope2003

    My former grammar school which had new buildings in 1939 was demolished a few years ago and you will be pleased to know the land is now a housing estate .

    Why would I be “pleased” to know that? There is no reason why I would be. Simply because I think rigid selection at the age of 11 does not on the whole contribute to social equality or to a society which is well educated as a whole does not mean I have anything against any particular buildings.

    The comprehensive school I went to was formed from a merger of a grammar school and a secondary modern school. The part of it that was the grammar school was (and so far as I know still is) a nice looking historical building, and I certainly would not want to see it demolished.

  • Graham Evans 19th Aug '16 - 9:47pm

    @Matthew Huntbach So what would you do at a practical level to address the social divides of society? It’s all very well you and Helen Tedcastle keep repeating that grammar schools are not the answer, but under the present system social mobility has fallen, and those who can afford to educate their children privately will continue to do so because this gives them a major advantage in the higher education and elite jobs market. Moreover, you have come up with no answer to the issue of selection by postcode, and the fact that the major predictor of educational success is the income of parents. It seems to me that you are content to muddle along with the present system, devoting your energies to criticising the Tories’ approach (perhaps quite rightly) but are unable to offer any coherent alternative.

  • nvelope2003 20th Aug '16 - 9:55am

    Matthew Huntbach: I agree that it would be wrong to ban independent schools, particularly as some of them are very good but something needs to be done to deal with the inequality they create. It would not be practical to allow local children to attend them free of charge. The free grammar schools were the easiest way to address the issue but they only exist in a few areas now. A few more around the country is the only way I can see as being fair and in conformity with Liberal Democrat principles of freedom of choice.

  • Helen Tedcastle: In the 1950s the school leaving age had just been raised from 14 to 15 and regrettably some people could not afford to keep their children in school beyond that age. I remember some children who refused to stay beyond 14 because of a loophole which allowed those already at school before the change to still leave at 14.
    O levels were normally taken at 16 and some grammar school children left before then either for economic reasons or because they did not like school. Many young people want to earn money and cannot wait to start work. They may regret it later which is sad.
    You talk about children being “written off as practical”. I find this attitude patronising and absurd. We all have different talents and there is a huge shortage of people trained to do practical jobs, although they are now well paid, because people like you think everyone should do office jobs or be trained in communications skills but there are not enough of those sorts of jobs. If you need a house built – and we do – or something repaired who is going to do it in your world ? Well not enough and hence acute shortages.

    It is all about what you want and not what people want. Opinion polls show that most people, in almost every category, want grammar or selective schools retained. Only Labour supporters are mostly opposed to grammar schools, although just as many of them in total either want more of them or the retention of the existing ones. Even Liberal Democrats wish to keep them. And in every category, including Labour supporters, a majority would send their children to one if they could.

    I understand the concerns about one examination at 11 but surely other ways could be devised to choose, such as a later age. In Germany apparently the parents can decide subject to some constraints though I would be wary of allowing teachers the final say as there might be personality clashes. Germany is not exactly a poor performer .

  • @Matthew
    “Much though I am concerned about their contribution to social inequality, I think it would be against the principle of liberalism to ban them.”

    It’s against the principle of equality of opportunity to keep them. If this conflicts with liberalism then I see this as a negative aspect of liberalism.

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Aug '16 - 2:16pm

    Graham Evans

    ‘ … you have come up with no answer to the issue of selection by postcode’

    In my answer to you earlier, I pointed out than even when an outstanding school exists in a poorer area, middle class parents opt for the school in the leafy area. The question for you is how do politicians alter the behaviour of middle class parents to seek out opportunities for social mixing with poorer children in poorer areas, as a life style move? Good luck with that.

    It’s a class issue and it underpins the central problem with education in England.

    ‘… the fact that the major predictor of educational success is the income of parents.’

    That’s your answer. Parental attitudes towards education and employment is the biggest driver in social mobility. At the moment it seems that some on the right of politics believe that bringing back segregation by ability based on an IQ test at 11 is the best way to help those with poor backgrounds.

    Unfortunately, for them, the evidence is against their view: https://fullfact.org/education/grammar-schools-and-social-mobility-whats-evidence/

  • Helen Tedcastle 20th Aug '16 - 2:33pm

    ‘nvelope2003’

    ‘ You talk about children being “written off as practical”. I find this attitude patronising and absurd. We all have different talents and there is a huge shortage of people trained to do practical jobs, although they are now well paid, because people like you think everyone should do office jobs or be trained in communications skills but there are not enough of those sorts of jobs.’

    Incorrect. The point is that comprehensive schools widen opportunities by helping children like my nephew to achieve good qualifications so that he can go on and achieve his ambitions in a subject of his choice?

    Are you saying that school isn’t about achieving your potential but about filling vacancies in the trades? Should he have been told at 11, sorry you are clearly not ‘academic’ and you will never pass any GCSEs. Go and learn a trade or do basic clerical work in the hope you can ‘work your way up.’ The problem will be though that with no degree you will be overlooked for management and you will be paid less than the grammar school boys. Know your place in the pecking order…

    That was how it was before the abolition of the grammar/secondary modern system.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Aug '16 - 4:31pm

    nvelope2003

    Why do you assume that wealthy middle class people are not particularly intelligent ? The very few wealthy middle class people I have met seemed very intelligent and so did their children.

    I have made no such assumption.

  • Peter Watson 21st Aug '16 - 9:54am

    @Graham Evans “you have come up with no answer to the issue of selection by postcode”
    When we refer to “selection by postcode”, generally we are talking about children in one area going to exactly the same sort of school as those from another area, being taught the same subjects with the same curricula by teachers who may be better or worse. The difference is the social and economic background of the families whose children are attending.
    Grammar schools seem to accept this state of affairs but simply allow a few bright poor children to spend time with more affluent children from a different postcode, and there seems to be plenty of evidence that ability to pass an 11+ test is strongly linked to social background so is still de facto “selection by postcode”.
    Perhaps “selection by postcode” can only be really addressed by more radical approaches to removing the link between a child’s address and the educational outcomes of the schools they attend. This could be done by changing the school (e.g. randomly assigning places within a cluster of schools and provide transport) or by changing the educational outcomes (focus on the reasons why children in some areas perform less well than their equally capable peers elsewhere). These are big problems, but are surely more important issues for Lib Dems to address than a narrow focus on grammar schools (which evidence suggests worsens those problems).

  • Helen Tedcastle: No of course he should not have been told at any age that he was clearly not academic and should go and learn a trade. I did not say that as you must well know and I am not arguing for comprehensive schools to be abolished.
    What perturbs me is the implied denigration of practical work by advocates of comprehensive schools and this may account for their unpopularity, especially among people who have an aptitude for that kind of work. Harold Wilson and others who wanted comprehensive schools claimed they would be grammar schools for everybody but many people did not want to go to a grammar school. They wanted to work with their hands but were given the impression that such work was beneath them. How would you feel if you were told plumbing, carpentry or servicing motor vehicles was not fit work for anyone with any self respect ? Not everyone wants to be a manager.
    What is so wrong with doing a practical job to the best of your ability and feeling proud of it ? Our society would not work very well if people just wanted to be lawyers, accountants and adminstrators especially if their car broke down or the heating would not work. At my school we did woodwork, metalwork etc and I was good at the former.
    The problem for the left is that people do not seem to like their policies once they have been implemented although they seem wonderful to their advocates who cannot understand why others do not agree.

  • nvelope2003 22nd Aug '16 - 1:05pm

    The Liberal Democrats seem only interested in advocating unpopular policies then wonder why not many people want to vote for them. Maybe Brexit will blow up in the faces of its advocates but I suspect not and then the Liberal Democrats might gain some support but the Labour Party will most probably be the chief beneficiary despite its leaders equivocations as the voters will just want to punish the Conservatives in the most effective way by electing a Labour Government.

  • Peter Watson 22nd Aug '16 - 1:13pm

    @nvelope2003 “What is so wrong with doing a practical job to the best of your ability and feeling proud of it ?”
    Absolutely nothing.
    Which is yet another reason to dislike a grammar school system that is seemingly designed to divert bright kids from such careers!

  • Katerina Porter 24th Aug '16 - 9:29am

    Certainly Independent schools are a problem. Is there any other country where they play such an important role? Back in the fifties an Austrian diplomat – who was also an aristocrat – saw this as a very important problem for Britain. We all go the same schools he said.
    The Attlee government could have done something but now under Human Rights it is probably impossible.

  • nvelope2003 24th Aug '16 - 2:55pm

    Peter Watson: It is the comprehensives system which diverts people from practical subjects because they pretend to be grammar schols.There are only a tiny number of real grammar schools left.

    I wonder how many secondary modern schools were burned down just before term started ?

  • The whole tone of this article, starting with the head line, is to ridicule anyone who does not agree with 100% comprehensive schools but it does seem to have backfired as so many of the contributions were just plain silly.

  • Graham Evans 26th Aug '16 - 6:54pm

    @ Helen Tadcastle “The question for YOU is how do politicians …” No, this is a question for you, and others who share your views. And you offer not a single idea as to how to address this problem. Matthew Huntbach has already rejected the ideas of bussing and restricting independent schools is some ways. Unless you can come up with some practical proposals you leave the field open to those who suggest that whatever the weaknesses of state grammar schools they do at least offer a small number of academically bright working class children receiving the same sort of education as the children of the rich and powerful. It may not be much, but it’s more than you have on offer.

  • Katerina Porter 26th Aug '16 - 9:48pm

    It has just come back to me that 30 odd years ago state schools had a lot of independence. There was no National Curriculum for instance although a teacher told me that most schools more or less had that framework. But they had flexibility.
    The more successful comprehensives were those where grammar and secondary moderns were combined to make them When secondary moderns alone were put together the staff expected less . One of the reasons some parents with West Indian background sent their children back to school in the West Indies was because here teachers did not expect enough from these children.

  • Katerina Porter 27th Aug '16 - 11:35am

    PS Pupils from comprehensives do go to Oxbridge, and when they do they tend do very well in the finals.

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

If you are a member of the party, you can have the Lib Dem Logo appear next to your comments to           show this. You must be registered for our forum and can then login on this public site with the same username and password.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

*
*
Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?

Advert



Recent Comments

  • Charley
    Bit of a straw man there Mick given at no point was anyone seeking to force their views on anyone else. Asking someone what their views are is not the same as i...
  • Lorenzo Cherin
    Andrew Appreciate your response. I understand. My view though is your opinion and mine, or Mick's, is as valid as any other. Young middle aged, middle aged, ...
  • matt
    As much as I want to see Boris go for his blatant disregard for the rules and failing to stand in solidarity with the Public. And the fact that he is a weak Pr...
  • Andrew Hickey
    Michael Taylor: "FGM could never be tolerated in our party, This clearly violates the harm principle." So does forced pregnancy. So does taking away the rig...
  • Steve Trevethan
    Thanks to Frank W for pointing out the inherent dangers of triumphalism and letting ourselves be distracted by the "showbiz" of politics. Might we work to deve...