Opinion: The impact of the Budget on students

 

George Gideon Osborne. Feared and distrusted by the left, the sensible and reasonable portions of his own party. And now he has given university students yet another reason to distrust him. In the Conservative majority budget issued on July 8 2015, the Chancellor introduced a barrage of attention-grabbing measures, many of which present disappointing news to youths – particularly university undergraduates.

The speculation that the first Tory budget since 1996 will be unforgiving for the young and the unemployed have, sadly, been realised. The National Living Wage (set to £7.20 by next April and £9 by 2020) is all very well for workers over 25, but will not apply to those under 25, who will still have to contend with a £6.50 minimum wage. This means that young people who have just left university will have to make their earnings stretch further to cover the rising cost of living that will result from a more robust economy, which will result from reduction in bank levies and cuts in corporation tax.

Things are looking even gloomier for future university students. In the last government, the Liberal Democrats fought hard against uncapped tuition fees to cap them at £9,000. The new budget will abandon this limit. Osborne calls for limitless tuition fees that will adjust accordingly with inflation, leaving hints of more favourable tuition fees for STEM subjects in the future. Student maintenance grants will be scrapped, further tightening the aforedescribed financial strain on students.

But how will Osborne’s pro-business reforms affect job prospects for finalists? The Budget will lowered corporation tax from 20% to 18% by 2020. This may be very attractive for multi-national companies, but this benefit is tenuous at best. Cameron’s pledge for the EU referendum by 2017 has already resulted in hesitation from big Chinese and Indian investors who fear the implications of the Brexit.

In an interview on the evening of July 8, William Keegan described Osborne’s budget as an ‘assault on the poor’. I would like to elaborate on that – it is an assault on the young and the poor. With an estimated voter turnout rate of 43% for 18-24 year olds in the General Elections in May, one may hope that this and the next four budgets will bring a higher proportion of young people and students to the ballot boxes in 2020 to prevent another five years of disappointing cuts.

* G K Teh is a Lib Dem member

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120 Comments

  • “Student maintenance grants will be scrapped, further tightening the aforedescribed financial strain on students.”

    How?

    It moves from a system where a few students got “given” taxpayer’s money for maintenance, to one where all students are able to borrow taxpayer’s money and only have to pay it back if they eventually earn over a certain threshold.

    In the new system more people have access to maintenance money than before, which means they don’t have to rely on taking on part time work or the bank of mum and dad (many of whom can probably ill afford it).

    There are many several charges that could be laid at the door of this change, but increasing the financial strain on students isn’t one of them.

  • Good article. Nice picture of the LSE – I went there 30 years ago, the ninth child of a bricklayer. I wonder how many bricklayers’ children go there now?

  • Nick Collins 13th Jul '15 - 1:36pm

    Oh,Ruth, we just missed each other! I was a member of the Liberal Society (among other things) there sixty years ago.

    I guess the answer to your question is “not a lot”.

  • @Ruth Bright and @Nick Collins but perhaps the more pertinent question is how many bricklayer’s children went there then?

    Between the 1940s and 1970s a brick-layer’s child had the opportunity to go to a school that would prepare them for gaining entrance to a top University.

    It is, of course, possible that bricklayers nowadays earn the sort of wages that permit them to buy property in the catchment area of the best state schools. If they don’t however, they are likely to attend the sort of comprehensive that will never see their University aspirations realised.

  • Nick Collins 13th Jul '15 - 1:50pm

    They seem to have cleaned the facade up since I was there. Perhaps some of the tuition fees (and/or the “Annual Fund”) have been spent on contract cleaners..

  • Bill le Breton 13th Jul '15 - 2:03pm

    I split the difference between Ruth and Nick – 45 years.

  • Peter Watson 13th Jul '15 - 2:52pm

    “In the last government, the Liberal Democrats fought hard against uncapped tuition fees to cap them at £9,000.”
    The way that the tuition fees increase was presented and defended – by Lib Dems – means that the cap is a pretty irrelevant thing to claim as a success. If the lowest earners will not pay back fees of £9000 then they will not pay back fees of £20000, so if anything the cap benefits the wealthiest students and the highest earning graduates who will pay it back in full, and is one way that the scheme is unlike a graduate tax.
    Some accounting sleight-of-hand means that the tuition fees go from the state to the universities without appearing in the deficit, and may or may not be repaid at a sufficient level by graduates in the future with potential problems down the line , so in a strange way the level of tuition fees is both very important and irrelevant at the same time, and toxic for the Lib Dems either way.

  • Sammy O'Neill 13th Jul '15 - 3:03pm

    “But how will Osborne’s pro-business reforms affect job prospects for finalists?”- It’ll increase the chances of the economy remaining in some degree of prosperity. Graduate jobs are absolutely decimated in recessions- I think it’s often overlooked how graduating in the “wrong” year can put you at such a massive disadvantage compared to other years.

    “Student maintenance grants will be scrapped, further tightening the aforedescribed financial strain on students.”- actually, no it won’t. What it means is loads of kids with divorced parents, retired parents or parents who own businesses so are able to distort their incomes will no longer be getting sacks full of free cash from the state. The previous situation was ridiculous. What this move towards much larger loans does is a) remove the incentive for this and b) helps those in the middle who previously got no grants and a pathetically low loan.

    Realistically something needs to be done about the numbers of students enrolling on pointless courses at terrible universities which offer no reasonable chance of employment at the end of it. The reason the cost of higher education has risen so much in the past decade is because you have tens of thousands of students with C, D and E grades being herded onto these courses. Why should the taxpayer have to fund such madness?

  • Peter Watson 13th Jul '15 - 3:07pm

    Much as I would like to, I cannot agree with the line the author has taken here, namely blaming the Tories for the student funding system and exonerating the Lib Dems. Everything that Osborne has done or hinted at, whether that is scrapping grants, raising the cap on fees, tinkering with repayment thresholds, etc., is a logical and pretty inevitable extension of the measures that Lib Dems enthusiastically endorsed in government.
    I find myself in the uncomfortable position of agreeing with TCO (at 11:49, not 1:46), although my own view is a bit like the apocryphal directions that “I wouldn’t start from here” but we do have to start from where Lib Dems in government left us and the direction it was travelling when they were thrown out of the car.

  • Nick Collins 13th Jul '15 - 3:15pm

    “Between the 1940s and 1970s a brick-layer’s child had the opportunity to go to a school that would prepare them for gaining entrance to a top University.”: If he (and in the 1960s, it was much more likely to be a he) was lucky.

    As my tutor at LSE once remarked, by far the best predictor of a child’s chances of getting into a good (some were far better than others) grammar school , and of doing sufficiently well there to go on to university, was the social class (and educational attainment) of its parents; so much so that the terrors of the “eleven plus” examination were , for all practical purposes, an unnecessary charade.

    Sneer at the much-maligned comprehensive schools if you must but, if you are going to advocate the reinvention of the grammar schools, please be honest enough to admit that what you are also advocating, for all but the “chosen few”, is the reinvention of the “secondary moderns”. Perhaps you will need to think up a new name for those.

  • @Nick Collins ” if you are going to advocate the reinvention of the grammar schools, please be honest enough to admit that what you are also advocating, for all but the “chosen few”, is the reinvention of the “secondary moderns”. Perhaps you will need to think up a new name for those.”

    We already have these new Secondary Moderns – they are the sink comprehensives in the poor parts of our towns and cities. The only trouble is that the less well off can no longer escape them by passing the 11 Plus exam.

    What you and supporters of the “comprehensive” system are advocating is a system analogous to that which you disparage, namely “a child’s chances of getting into a good [comprehensive school], and of doing sufficiently well there to go on to university, [is] the social class (and educational attainment) of its parents [and their ability to afford to either buy a house in the catchment area of a decent school or scam the religious admissions system in some way].

    At least under the old system the poor but bright had some meritocratic means of escaping their situation – your chosen system entrenches privilege.

  • Ruth Bright 13th Jul '15 - 4:29pm

    (Re LSE – what a shame we weren’t all there at the same time!) Although I hate to agree with TCO he/she is spot on about my own route. My guess though is that it s far more complicated than the old grammar/secondary modern debate.

    Thirty years ago I was well prepared academically for university but socially not prepared at all. Looking at my own kids at state schools it may well be that for them it will be the other way around. They are far more confident and streetwise than kids 30 years ago but learn Latin or Greek in an ordinary school? These days? Dream on!

  • TWO people agreeing me in the same thread???

    My work here is done 😀

  • @Ruth Bright “Looking at my own kids at state schools it may well be that for them it will be the other way around. They are far more confident and streetwise than kids 30 years ago ”

    But they won’t on average be as well versed in the soft skills as the children who attend the sorts of schools that used to be open to all through the Direct Grant or Assisted Places schemes. And whilst to a certain extent the Universities can and do mitigate against this lack of polish, they can’t if they don’t apply in the first place.

  • Michael Wear 13th Jul '15 - 4:56pm

    The presence of an unfettered Tory Government lays directly in the hands of Liberal Democrat voters. If you examine the voting patterns, you will notice that the swing towards the Conservatives was minuscule. Labour was a failure. An unpopular government with unpopular policies should have been a victory for them, but it wasn’t, and you cant blame the SNP as even if they had kept their old seats, Cameron would still have won. Coalition means compromise and too many Lib Dem voters, used to opposition couldn’t face the reality of getting their hands dirty through making tough decisions. Rather then act for moderation, they didn’t vote, thus allowing an uncontrolled and unprincipled conservative government free reign. This Tory government is due to LibDems not voting, it is as plain and simple as that. Now, with the Labour leadership election underway, There are two possibilities. One a Labour leader unacceptable to the country as a whole, leaving the way clear for the next conservative govt, who are preying for a Corbyn victory, or two, a leader unacceptable to the left meaning constant undermining. The choice is up to the LibDems for 2020. Either a Conservative Government or another Coalition.

  • Nick Collins 13th Jul '15 - 5:09pm

    @ TCO. What “sink comprehensives”? Haven’t your friends in the Tory Party now turned them all into Academies?

    You really must not allow the reversion of the LibDems’ representation in the House of Commons to a level similar to that “enjoyed” by the Liberals in the 1950s and ’60s to cause you to view through rose-coloured spectacles all other facets of that era..

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '15 - 5:20pm

    TCO

    It is, of course, possible that bricklayers nowadays earn the sort of wages that permit them to buy property in the catchment area of the best state schools. If they don’t however, they are likely to attend the sort of comprehensive that will never see their University aspirations realised.

    I am involved with admissions at a Russell Group university. Plenty of our students come from comprehensive schools, plenty of those we don’t get because they go to higher ranked universities also come from comprehensive schools, and that includes schools which don’t have an overall wonderful record. From my position I see their grades and I see where they go to.

    The assertion of you and many others that it’s impossible to go from a standard comprehensive school to a top ranking university is just plain wrong. I’m not saying there are no problems, there are plenty. I don’t think all the problems, or even most of them, however, come down to them being comprehensive schools as opposed to other aspects. Given that the proportion of children from poor backgrounds who made it to grammar school was poor, and the class discrimination they faced when they got to grammar school was big, overall I don’t see the chances have changed that much.

  • A Social Liberal 13th Jul '15 - 5:30pm

    So the amount a student from a poor background will in future have to pay back even more for the privilage of being educated, bringing their total owed up to around £54,000. This will only act to put off students who had received free school meals. And before anyone tries to gainsay me on the previous sentence, the UCAS report does not mention free school meals – it doesn’t even mention students from a deprived background (despite what the press releases say) but instead talks of students from deprived areas.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '15 - 5:32pm

    Ruth Bright

    They are far more confident and streetwise than kids 30 years ago but learn Latin or Greek in an ordinary school?

    There’s nothing intrinsic to a comprehensive school which would stop them teaching such subjects.

    The argument here seems to be that if you merge a grammar school and a secondary modern to make a comprehensive, suddenly the things that were taught in the grammar school will stop being taught. Why should that be so?

    Of course, part of the problem is the shortage of people able and willing to teach these subjects, and things like Maths and Further Maths as well. But why do people suppose that reintroducing selection will magically make such teachers appear?

    By the way, the formal teaching of grammar in the classical languages is highly useful for my subject, Computer Science, I’d always take someone with a Latin A-level over someone with an ICT A-level.

    I don’t agree that kids these days are more confident and streetwise than kids 30 years ago. In my experience, kids now are much more childish and lacking in world knowledge, and dependent on mum and dad than was the case 30 years ago. The brashness some of them may exhibit which can be interpreted as confidence and street wisdom is actually an aspect of childishness.

    I went to university on my own in London age the age of 17. No way does this happen today. Applicants for interview and new undergraduates turn up to university taxied by their parents, and we in London can’t recruit from the sort of place I grew up in, as kids there now are far too childish and scared to cope with the prospect of moving to London.

  • @Nick Collins “@ TCO. What “sink comprehensives”? Haven’t your friends in the Tory Party now turned them all into Academies?”

    Ah – the “reversion to ad hominem because you’ve lost the argument” tactic 😉

  • @Matthew Huntbach “The assertion of you and many others that it’s impossible to go from a standard comprehensive school to a top ranking university is just plain wrong. ”

    It’s also an assertion that I haven’t made – and why would I, given its what I did?

    But the fact remains that those who do make it are the lucky few who have factors accidentally in their favour (in my case a sixth form with a teach ratio of <10:1 and a couple of ex-Oxbridge altruists who actively encouraged application).

    Grammar schools provide a structured virtuous circle of positive aspiration, academic rigour and excellence, soft skills and counter to anti-intellectualism all to present in our society that enable those without the right background to flourish.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “The argument here seems to be that if you merge a grammar school and a secondary modern to make a comprehensive, suddenly the things that were taught in the grammar school will stop being taught. Why should that be so?

    Of course, part of the problem is the shortage of people able and willing to teach these subjects, and things like Maths and Further Maths as well. But why do people suppose that reintroducing selection will magically make such teachers appear?”

    It isn’t a necessary event but it’s a fact that it did happen. What state schools offer Latin and Greek A-Level?

    Such subjects are offered at independent schools and are popular. The teachers who are qualified have to go there if they want to teach the subject as they are not able to teach it in state schools because those schools don’t want to offer it. Furthermore, they will find intelligent, well motivated pupils and a classroom unencumbered with disruption which presumably make it far more enjoyable than dealing with 4F on a wet Wednesday.

  • @A Social Liberal “So the amount a student from a poor background will in future have to pay back even more for the privilege of being educated, bringing their total owed up to around £54,000. This will only act to put off students who had received free school meals.”

    Why will it put them off? They don’t have to pay off the loan at all if they remain poor. If their University education equips them with the wherewithal for a better-paid career, then they will pay it off proportionate to their earning power, and they will still have escaped their poor background.

    The only reason they will be put off is if they fail to understand the mechanism by which the system works – meaning that (a) they probably don’t have the intellectual capacity to cope with a University education or, as is more likely, (b) they have had the system wilfully misrepresented to them by those with a political axe to grind.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “Study of ancient Greek at A-level might be abandoned at what teachers think is the last non-selective state school in England to offer the exam in the subject.

    Governors at Camden School for Girls in north London, which has a co-ed sixth form, are considering the move while senior staff are said to have looked too at whether GCSE might be offered as an “enrichment activity” if parents pay for their children to do it.

    Though ancient Greek is not essential when students apply to study classics at university, the loss of the subject at such a flagship non-denominational state school would bolster the perception it was the preserve of fee-paying or selective schools.”

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/11/camden-school-girls-last-non-selective-state-school-ancient-greek-considers-ditching-it

  • A Social Liberal 13th Jul '15 - 6:10pm

    Oops
    my grammar seems to have gone to hell in a handcart.

    “So the amount a student from a poor background will in future have to pay back even more for the privilage of being educated”, should have read, ‘So the amount a student from a poor background will in future have to pay back for the privilage of being educated goes up even more . . . . ‘

  • I studied Latin at a comprehensive school in Falkirk (we lived on a council estate) in the early 80s, then continued it at a comprehensive in Croydon (not the leafy parts) and my daughter studied Latin up to four years ago at her comprehensive school in the North of England. Our next door neighbour teaches it.

    Perhaps we are rarities but wherever we have moved in the country, Latin has been on the curriculum and available to ‘Higher’ or ‘A’ Level at the local comp. Though not Greek any longer.

    Sadly I am not an alumna of the LSE.

  • Little Jackie Paper 13th Jul '15 - 6:39pm

    I am rather surprised that this topic has not provoked any mention of the ringfences in spending. For all the talk about fiscal consolidation and cuts there are protected budgets – big ones. In a fiscal consolidation any protections for areas of spend means deeper cuts elsewhere. That is inescapable. Similarly the various guarantees not to touch certain taxes means that all other means of revenue-raising come into play even more. I suspect that tighter student loan repayment terms are on the horizon.

    I am continually surprised by how little debate some of the ringfences attract – both under Coalition and Conservatives. The pension triple lock in particular is a very heavy burden indeed at a time of minimal inflation. I am yet to hear any compelling reason why the NHS should be carte blanche protected. Why should we borrow £2bn+ for fuel payments?

    What is going on with students is symptom, not cause. Now, of course, these ringfences and the like are decisions that are political and for government to make and be judged on. But the lack of debate is something I find surprising.

  • Little Jackie Paper 13th Jul '15 - 6:52pm

    Huntbach – ‘In my experience, kids now are much more childish and lacking in world knowledge, and dependent on mum and dad than was the case 30 years ago. The brashness some of them may exhibit which can be interpreted as confidence and street wisdom is actually an aspect of childishness.’

    Whilst this is hyperbole, I think that there’s something in this. But there is a part of me that has to ask why this is. 30 years ago the risks of, ‘rebellion,’ (and in this context I mean rebellion against parents and striking out on one’s own) were considerably lower. What we have now is the worst of all worlds – the internet offering a faux sense of community, devalued labour in an unfriendly labour market, staggeringly costly housing…the list goes on. I cant find the link now but I came across an interesting article recently about the large drop-off in the number of young drivers because of the costs. And if you take out of the number of young drivers the number driving on parents insurance the numbers look really scary.

    So yes, by all means point to the infantilisation and faux brashness. But to my mind that is the product of a society that has prioritised that infantilised lifestyle. In 1972 my Dad was paying the mortgage on a 3 bed semi (with double digit interest rates), driving a car and raising a family on a SINGLE wage. Those are the conditions where adulthood becomes more meaningful. If we don’t like the extended adolescence we have seen, and I certainly don’t like it, then we need to acknowledge why it is that the trappings of and transition to a meaningful independent adulthood are ever more out of reach. And all this is before we get to pensions and saving.

    And before you go off on one, to avoid doubt I would emphasise that I think I agree with you much more than I disagree.

  • Sammy O'Neill 13th Jul '15 - 6:54pm

    @TCO

    My former state Grammar (164 still exist) offered Latin & Greek alongside some other more niche academic subjects like Geology, Astronomy & Anthropology. When one year unable to find a suitable replacement teacher to teach Greek, the school advertised in South Africa and Australia for a replacement and ended up with dozens of applications. The other subjects were offered because the teachers had a real passion for the areas, but were originally hired to teach other similar subjects. The difference is the school encouraged staff to branch out and offer unique and useful subjects, providing support where necessary. The interests of the students were always put first. At most Comprehensives you simply wouldn’t get that support. My partner is a teacher at such a school and has faced ridiculous levels of opposition to offering Alevel Politics on the basis that “we can’t be focusing on a course that will appeal only to a few of the more academic students, it doesn’t look good”. Plenty of cash for Media Studies, none for anything academic.

    I support Grammar Schools 100% and would love a day where the Lib Dems adopt their expansion as a policy. Contrary to the propaganda about them being rammed full of middle class kids, this working class girl with no family history of educational achievement found a lot of people just like her there as well. The public mostly support Grammars, yet no party (aside from UKIP depressingly) has the guts/willingness to actually provide what they want.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '15 - 6:58pm

    TCO

    @Matthew Huntbach “The assertion of you and many others that it’s impossible to go from a standard comprehensive school to a top ranking university is just plain wrong. ”

    It’s also an assertion that I haven’t made – and why would I, given its what I did?

    These are the words you wrote and I quoted: “If they don’t however, they are likely to attend the sort of comprehensive that will never see their University aspirations realised.” There you were making just the assertion you now claim you haven’t made.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jul '15 - 7:06pm

    Little Jackie Paper

    And before you go off on one, to avoid doubt I would emphasise that I think I agree with you much more than I disagree.

    Well I don’t see why you think I should “go off one one” or why you feel you have to emphasise “that I think I agree with you much more than I disagree”, because you just seem to be saying what I said, and giving the sort of explanation for it I would have given myself. Or at least, that’s part of the explanation. I very much agree with you that we have a society which has prioritised an infantilised lifestyle.

    On hyperbole, well, with just a short time and no room for “ifs and buts”, sure, it has to be written in that way to get the point across. Quite obviously, if I were writing an academic paper making that sort of point, it would be somewhat different.

  • Little Jackie Paper 13th Jul '15 - 7:22pm

    Huntbach – ‘Or at least, that’s part of the explanation. I very much agree with you that we have a society which has prioritised an infantilised lifestyle.’

    Oh sure, talkboards are not exactly the best forum for nuanced communication. Perhaps unintentionally your initial post, for me at least, came across as a bit close to blaming the kids. I don’t think I disagree with you – but if we are to start making the comparisons to 30 years ago then that has to accept that 30 years ago was a much easier environment to strike out in. It’s not the kids fault that labour has been devalued and so on. Of course a return to grammar schools would change nothing.

    What I find far more worrying is the low horizons in terms of politics that the young seem to have now. At the moment youth politics seems to be about what I would think of as kid’s stuff – online music access, heal the world ecology and the like. Vote down the triple lock pension, severe restrictions on BTL, winding in free movement where it affects the young – that is youth politics. 30 years ago we had the right to buy – is that really any crazier than the idea of writing off student loans?

    So yes – criticise the young for their low horizons, but not for the environment that has conditioned those horizons. The young have an extended adolescence largely because adulthood is now rather more distant.

    ‘Quite obviously, if I were writing an academic paper making that sort of point, it would be somewhat different.’

    I have to admit that it was not obvious to me.

  • Little Jackie Paper 13th Jul '15 - 7:39pm

    Sammy O’Neill – ‘My partner is a teacher at such a school and has faced ridiculous levels of opposition to offering Alevel Politics on the basis that “we can’t be focusing on a course that will appeal only to a few of the more academic students, it doesn’t look good”. Plenty of cash for Media Studies, none for anything academic.’

    Where is this out of interest?

  • Peter Watson 13th Jul '15 - 8:41pm

    @Sammy O’Neill “Contrary to the propaganda about them being rammed full of middle class kids …”
    When you say “propaganda”, do you really mean “evidence”? e.g. http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2005/10/1RatesOfEligibilityforFreeSchoolMealsattheTopStateSchools.pdf or http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/poor-grammar-entry-grammar-schools-disadvantaged-pupils-england/

  • Sammy O'Neill 13th Jul '15 - 11:11pm

    @PeterWatson

    Free School Meals are a terrible measure of disadvantage- going on that you only treat kids from families heavily reliant on welfare/with incomes sub £16,000 as poor. In what world is a child from a household on £20,000 treated as middle class? Seemingly in yours and the Sutton Trust’s… The Sutton Trust pushes sensationalist claims based on picking the statistical measures that suit them most- hence the love of FSM as their baseline for everything. It does say a great deal about the desperation of the anti-Grammar school movement though that they are forced into such ludicrous classifications to try to defend their ideology.

    Plus it should be noted that Grammar Schools are often now only found in economically prosperous areas, as it was usually only Conservative councils (a few honourable Labour ones too, and others where Liberal support also helped) that resisted the Comprehensive system. You should expect the figures to be different to the rest of the country if you don’t have Grammars everywhere. Within Selective areas you also have incredible variations in wealth/demographics. Take Buckinghamshire or Slough for example. Most of it is very wealthy, hence the schools reflect that. But then you get individual schools in the disadvantaged areas of that LEA where the demographics are wildly different. If you have a school in an area full of working class kids, the Grammars reflect that. The schools in Redbridge are interesting examples of this.

  • Sammy O'Neill 13th Jul '15 - 11:13pm

    @Little Jackie Paper

    West London.

  • @Matthew Huntbach you referred to standard comprehensives; I referred to sink comprehensives. There is a subtle but very important distinction.

    @Sammy O’Neill perhaps we should start a Lib Dems 4 Grammars group; there’s one for pretty much any other cause you could mention!

    @Peter Watson when you limit the total number of Grammar Schools to 164 is it any wonder they are full of children who’s parents are seeking to avoid paying school fees? When a third of pupils went to grammar schools this wasn’t an issue.

  • Peter Watson 13th Jul '15 - 11:26pm

    @Sammy O’Neill “You should expect the figures to be different to the rest of the country if you don’t have Grammars everywhere.”
    The Sutton Trust report, “The research also shows that in local authorities that operate the grammar system, children who are not eligible for free school meals have a much greater chance of attending a grammar school than similarly high achieving children (as measured by their Key Stage 2 test scores) who are eligible for free school meals.” (http://www.suttontrust.com/newsarchive/sutton-trust-prep-schools-provide-four-times-grammar-school-entrants-fsm-pupils/)
    Where is the evidence to support your claim that they are wrong and biased? Where is the evidence that social background is less of a factor in gaining entry to a grammar school than ability?

    @TCO “when you limit the total number of Grammar Schools to 164 is it any wonder they are full of children who’s parents are seeking to avoid paying school fees?” When you and Sammy are forming Lib Dems 4 Grammars, perhaps you should agree on whether or not they are full of middle-class kids.

  • @Peter Watson you still haven’t addressed the fundamental point that the so-called “comprehensive” system has schools in leafy suburbs that are denied to poorer pupils because their parents can’t afford to buy a house in the catchment area.

    In my own town there are 6 comps. I can’t afford to buy a house in catchment for the best one. There are three which are reasonable and 2 that no-one in their right mind would send their children to. These schools are worse than the worse secondary moderns and the bright children who are forced to attend them because they live in catchment are being denied an education more suited to their abilities.

  • @Peter Watson you should read this – http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/natcengrammars.pdf

    It shows that the biggest barriers to entry for children from poorer backgrounds getting into grammar schools is (I) the lack of aspiration of their parents and (ii) the lack of encouragement from the feeder primary schools who were either idealogically opposed to selection or were performing social selection in encouraging who they thought should sit the exam.

  • @Peter Watson

    I think you will find that the comprehensive schools located in leafy suburbs also have below average proportions of pupils getting free school meals, and that these are the variety of “bog-standard” comprehensive school most likely to be sending pupils to Russell Group universities.

    I would be the first to agree that the grammar school system favoured (and still favours, where it exists) the sons and daughters of middle class parents, but lets not pretend that the comprehensive system does anything different. The only difference is that the middle class parents spend their money on more expensive houses in the right catchment area rather than on tuition for their children. If voting patterns are anything to go by, the comprehensive system has increased class divisions in northern cities like Leeds and Sheffield, where it was common for the Tories to win inner city wards in the 60’s and 70’s.

    I did very well in a grammar school, where my geekiness was quite normal…. I expect I would have done fine in a nice middle class comprehensive school. But I shudder to think what would have happened to me in the “average” comprehensive school in a northern city like Leeds or Sheffield, both of which cities I know well (let alone the “sink” schools where < 20% are passing maths and English GCSE)

  • Peter Watson 14th Jul '15 - 1:10am

    @Andrew & TCO
    The quote from the Sutton Trust suggests that grammar schools add to “selection by postcode” rather than compensate for it: “The research also shows that in local authorities that operate the grammar system, children who are not eligible for free school meals have a much greater chance of attending a grammar school than similarly high achieving children (as measured by their Key Stage 2 test scores) who are eligible for free school meals. For example, in selective local authorities, 66% of children who achieve level 5 in both English and Maths at Key Stage 2 who are not eligible for free school meals go to a grammar school compared with 40% of similarly high achieving children who are eligible for free school meals.” (http://www.suttontrust.com/researcharchive/poor-grammar-entry-grammar-schools-disadvantaged-pupils-england/)

    @TCO The report link to does not appear to quantify its findings so the two barriers you list might not be the biggest. The report also describes financial barriers and the effect of additional coaching and tuition that is more readily available to wealthier parents, again suggesting that grammar schools can reinforce selection by wealth rather than compensate for it.

  • Sammy O'Neill 14th Jul '15 - 1:22am

    @TCO

    We should- we’re probably the only party without some form of group. Even Labour used to have one (not sure if it’s still going).

    @PeterWatson
    Why are we surprised that the very poorest -and that is what kids on FSM are, the very very poorest- children do not achieve as well academically as those from families with household incomes over £16,200? That is not an argument against grammar schools at all, as the top comprehensives suffer from exactly the same failing.

    Others have dealt with your points regarding social background well in their posts, but I would also put it to you that the comprehensive system has introduced the very worst form of selection- i.e. wealthy parents being able to buy their way into the catchment areas of good schools. Whilst imperfect, the grammar school system as it exists in some LEA’s today provides some reasonable hope to genuinely poor/ordinary children of an academic route to improving their lot. I know that first hand and will never forget it.

    The reality is many comprehensives fail their brightest children by simply making no provision for their interests/aspirations. There are no secondary schools in my area that even offer further maths at Alevel or triple science at GCSE. So if I had a child who was academically gifted and wanted to consider further study or a career in anything science/maths linked they would be massively disadvantaged from the off. You won’t find a grammar that doesn’t offer those subjects. What difference does that ultimately make? So many doors remain open for the grammar educated kids, many are much harder to open for the comprehensive kid.

    All the anti-grammar school movement has achieved is prevent tens of thousands of kids in the poorest parts of the country having a good opportunity to achieve their potential. You should have a read of Additional tables KS5: OSR13/2012 from the below report, and look at how few young people are making it to Oxbridge and Russell Group unis in most of the country. Are you really telling me that if Hackney had Grammar schools it wouldn’t manage more than 3% getting in to Russell Group Universities and 0% into Oxbridge? Sorry, I simply don’t believe you.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/destinations-of-key-stage-4-and-key-stage-5-pupils-academic-year-2009-to-2010

  • Peter Watson 14th Jul '15 - 1:43am

    @TCO & Sammy & Andrew
    What concerns me most about some of the comments is that it appears to be about wanting to rescue bright kids (or at least those who can pass a particular test at the age of 10-11, which might not be a great way of identifying the brightest children) from their peers, and diverting funds from elsewhere to allow them to be taught classics, while leaving everybody else to … goodness only knows what.
    It seems uncertain that grammar schools raise the performance of those who are capable of doing well in a comprehensive school anyway, and what about those children whose performance is improved by being able to learn alongside those brighter students?
    I recall that someone posting as “Charlie” on LDV has often made interesting comments about alternatives to what otherwise seems to be presented as a binary system of grammar school or scrap heap.

  • Peter Watson 14th Jul '15 - 2:10am

    @Sammy O’Neill
    ” I would also put it to you that the comprehensive system has introduced the very worst form of selection- i.e. wealthy parents being able to buy their way into the catchment areas of good schools”
    That does not disappear when there are grammar schools, people are still able to buy houses near the best schools. Grammar schools risk compounding the problem by adding an additional way that those who can afford additional coaching and tuition for the 11-plus can exclude those with fewer resources. It currently appears to be the case that where there are both grammar schools and comprehensives in the same area, capable kids from poorer backgrounds are under-represented in the grammar schools.

    “There are no secondary schools in my area that even offer further maths at Alevel or triple science at GCSE.”
    How does simply segregating children create the teachers of those subjects or the money to pay them?
    Do you think it is acceptable for somebody who failed their 11-plus to be denied the opportunity to study those subjects?

  • @Peter Watson whatever happened to “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity”? Because that is what you are advocating with your support of comprehensives for all.

    The current system that you support gives us:

    – an elite made up almost exclusively of the ranks of the independently educated which cannot be broken into because non-selective state schools are unable to challenge their output
    – the best state schools being dominated by those who can afford to buy property within the catchment area, promoting social apartheid in our towns and cities
    – those poorest in our society with academic aptitude being abandoned in schools which cannot and never will cater for their needs

    The single argument that you advance for your case is that those with educational aspiration (the “middle class”, whatever that is) are “over-represented” in grammar schools indicating social selection is at play.

    Your sole determinant for under-representation, eligibility for free school meals, is a poor indicator, and we have demonstrated that the factors that lead to social exclusion – namely the attitudes of parents and feeder schools in failing to put poorer children forward for the exam – can be far more easily dealt with through the sort of outreach programmes we see for the Russell Group Universities, than can those parents ever be able to afford to relocate to a “good” catchment area.

    Other arguments advanced against grammar schools – one chance of selection at 11, what about secondary moderns etc – are also easily dealt with. Independent schools have increasing year-group size going up through the school and entry points at later years. A similar system could be employed for grammars. Other schools could focus on different specialities (as some do already – with the notable exception of academic excellence) to cater for those whose talents lie in other areas.

    Other countries (notably Germany) don’t struggle with this concept, that the academically able experience a powerful reinforcing effect by being educated together.

    You seem to content to accept the status quo whereby a self-selecting independently-educated elite moves further and further away from the rest of us, unchallenged by the state education system. This might suit Labour and Conservative, acting as it does to prefer their client groups of the wealthy and the social underclass; but I would hope that Liberals could and should do better.

  • @Peter Watson “[the very worst form of selection- i.e. wealthy parents being able to buy their way into the catchment areas of good schools] does not disappear when there are grammar schools, people are still able to buy houses near the best schools.”

    Yes they are – but unlike in the comprehensive system, buying a house in catchment is not the sole entry criteria to a grammar school.

    In fact it is quite the opposite; grammar schools take children from a very broad catchment which means that those who live in the leafy suburbs are far more likely to rub shoulders with those from less well-heeled areas (and vice versa) than where the leafy-suburbans only go to their local school.

    You will notice that over the last 40 years certain parts of our towns and cities have quite ordinary houses that have inflated massively in value – and there is but one reason for that: a “good” local comprehensive.

    And this is the system you defend?

  • @Peter Watson “How does simply segregating children create the teachers of those subjects or the money to pay them? Do you think it is acceptable for somebody who failed their 11-plus to be denied the opportunity to study those subjects?”

    At present EVERYONE (outside of selective or independent schools) is denied the opportunity to study these subjects.

    Creation of grammar schools creates a concentration of those with an interest in studying the more academic and esoteric subjects like Latin and Greek. This has two effects.

    Firstly, it becomes economically viable to hire a teacher to teach the subject, because they will have full classes rather than 2 or 3 pupils.

    Secondly, there is a positive reinforcing effect within the pupils negating the “that’s not cool” aspect of so much of the anti-intellectual culture we find in our schools, meaning those classes are likely to grow in size rather than shrink.
    Firstly

  • Nick Collins 14th Jul '15 - 11:13am

    @ TCO If you think my comment was “ad hominem” perhaps your Latin scholarship needs refreshing.

  • It is my strong belief that quite soon with the selling off the Student Loan Book the current rules will be ripped up. Wait for the outstanding loans to be chased and demand for payments, I also see that even the parents may be chased for it. Does anyone honestly think a private company will not do this aided by their Tory shareholders?

  • @Nick Collins “ad hominem” means an attack on the person’s character rather than their argument. You accused me of having “Tory friends” which most reasonable people would, especially given the person making the charge, deem to be an attack on my character.

    Being educated at a comprehensive school I was never given the opportunity to learn Latin – so I’m an auto-didact in that respect.

  • @Anne “It is my strong belief that quite soon with the selling off the Student Loan Book the current rules will be ripped up. ”

    It may be your strong belief, but the Student Loan is a Contract under Law so as I understand it the terms of the contract, once signed, cannot be varied subsequently without the agreement of both parties.

    http://www.sfengland.slc.co.uk/media/666045/sfe_t_c_guide_1415_d.pdf

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jul '15 - 12:37pm

    TCO
    ‘ We already have these new Secondary Moderns – they are the sink comprehensives in the poor parts of our towns and cities. The only trouble is that the less well off can no longer escape them by passing the 11 Plus exam.’

    That is not true. The secondary modern system did not always give children the opportunities to study O levels. Instead they did CSEs, which in themselves were not bad qualifications but were regarded as second-class to the O level. Those children felt a failure the moment they failed the 11 plus ie: most children.

    ‘At least under the old system the poor but bright had some meritocratic means of escaping their situation – your chosen system entrenches privilege.’

    ‘Escaping their situation’? Do you understand eve n o for one moment how patronising that is? Most children who went to comprehensives were not imprisoned in poverty of deprivation. They were ordinary lower middle class or working class children whose parents were working. They lived in peaceful neighbourhoods. Why would they want to ‘escape’? What is wrong with coming from an ordinary background?

    Remember, middle class kids who failed the 11 plus went to private schools.

    The comprehensive system does not entrench privilege. What has entrenched privilege is the fact that comfortable middle class parents believe the propaganda of the Tories about state schools and pay for a private education – away from the hoi poloi.

    The reality is that state schools send more children to university than ever was dreamed of in previous generations. I went to university in 1984. I was one of around 8%. Now it is nearer 50%.

    The Tories like yourself wish to turn the clock back – you have partially succeeded in doing so by entrenching privilege in a cartel, the Russell Group and by narrowing the curriculum – some want it narrowed still further. Another five years of this policy will succeed no doubt in returning us to a two-tier education system not just implicitly but explicitly – into definite winners and definite losers.

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jul '15 - 12:47pm

    TCO
    ‘ Creation of grammar schools creates a concentration of those with an interest in studying the more academic and esoteric subjects like Latin and Greek. This has two effects.’

    ‘Firstly, it becomes economically viable to hire a teacher to teach the subject, because they will have full classes rather than 2 or 3 pupils.’

    You do realise that the numbers of people training to teach these subjects is pitifully small. Tell me – how do you propose to attract and then train the thousands of Latin and Greek teachers without any new money in the system? Which subjects shouldn’t be taught? I would be fascinated to know your view.

    ‘Secondly, there is a positive reinforcing effect within the pupils negating the “that’s not cool” aspect of so much of the anti-intellectual culture we find in our schools, meaning those classes are likely to grow in size rather than shrink.’

    This is a complete assertion. Where is your evidence of the anti-intellectual culture? Again. Evidence please.

    Finally, if we take your claim that there is an anti-intellectual culture in most schools outside of selective schools, why do you think teaching the hoi poloi Latin and Greek will create an intellectual culture lacking, you claim, at the moment?

    Or is Latin and Greek only for the select few who have escaped their terrible lives in ordinary neighbourhoods – to embrace the superior lifestyle of the comfortable middle classes?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '15 - 12:52pm

    TCO

    @Matthew Huntbach you referred to standard comprehensives; I referred to sink comprehensives. There is a subtle but very important distinction.

    I go back to your comment of 13th July 1.46pm, here it is again:

    It is, of course, possible that bricklayers nowadays earn the sort of wages that permit them to buy property in the catchment area of the best state schools. If they don’t however, they are likely to attend the sort of comprehensive that will never see their University aspirations realised.

    It is quite obvious here that you are not just pointing to problems in a few “sink schools”, but instead suggesting that most comprehensive schools are the sort whose pupils never get to high-ranking universities. The sort of school that someone from a skilled and fairly well-paid manual occupation is likely to have their children go to is very much going to be a “standard” comprehensive, and you are saying that sort of school is one where they will “never see their University aspirations realised”. Not “have less chance”, no, you wrote “never”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '15 - 12:55pm

    TCO

    Creation of grammar schools creates a concentration of those with an interest in studying the more academic and esoteric subjects like Latin and Greek. This has two effects.

    Firstly, it becomes economically viable to hire a teacher to teach the subject, because they will have full classes rather than 2 or 3 pupils.

    This is nonsense. If there are 20-30 pupils willing and interested to take these subjects why do you suppose that they will vanish because they are in a school which has others who aren’t willing or interested?

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '15 - 12:59pm

    TCO

    You will notice that over the last 40 years certain parts of our towns and cities have quite ordinary houses that have inflated massively in value – and there is but one reason for that: a “good” local comprehensive.

    Oh, what rubbish, what nonsense. House prices across London and the south-easy have inflated massively in value, even in places where the local comprehensive schools have a poor reputation. To say that there is “but one reason” for these house price rises reveals you as someone who is unable to put together a coherent argument.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '15 - 1:02pm

    Sammy O’Neill

    Are you really telling me that if Hackney had Grammar schools it wouldn’t manage more than 3% getting in to Russell Group Universities and 0% into Oxbridge?

    And is TCO telling us that because of this houses in Hackney are dirt cheap?

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jul '15 - 1:06pm

    Sammy O’ Neill
    ‘All the anti-grammar school movement has achieved is prevent tens of thousands of kids in the poorest parts of the country having a good opportunity to achieve their potential.’

    All the anti-grammar school movement has done has enabled pupils to take the same qualifications as everyone else – not the case under the grammar/secondary modern system and removed the entrenched failure given to most children under the 11 plus system.

    I don’t know how old you are but I lived through that system and it loaded privilege on a select few who passed a test at 11 and wrote off thousands more. It passed on an enormous sense of failure – life-long – to those who failed. Those who passed were deemed automatically to be clever. These labels stuck.

    Your comment on the Russell Group holds only for about the last five years. Up until 2010, few people certainly in sixth forms differentiated between those universities on the league table and the rest. Universities were judged on individual performance not on a mission group brand.Thanks to Gove’s changes to the performance league tables, the Russell Group is favoured – even though there are top universities not in that group. A university only gets in if invited by other vice-chancellors. In other words, it’s a club or let’s say, a cartel.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '15 - 1:10pm

    Helen Tedcastle

    This is a complete assertion. Where is your evidence of the anti-intellectual culture? Again. Evidence please.

    I think there is a problem with damaging social attitudes leading to poor performance in schools. I certainly remember it when I was young, and younger relatives confirm it was much the same years later: this pressure to be what is called “cool”, the abuse and insults that tends to be aimed at you if you are a kid and into being quiet and studying and not following the latest fashions.

    The issue, however, is that pulling a few kids out and putting them in a special hot-house environment isn’t going to solve this problem more widely. That’s where I disagree with TCO. People likeTCO simply are not tackling the real problem.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jul '15 - 1:15pm

    Little Jackie Paper

    ‘Quite obviously, if I were writing an academic paper making that sort of point, it would be somewhat different.’

    I have to admit that it was not obvious to me.

    Oh, well please take it from me now, something I write here in a few minutes is going to be very different in style from something I write as part of my profession as an academic. As an academic, I know full well that any statement one makes in professional writing has to be backed up with experimental evidence and references and full of “ifs and buts” disclaimers.

  • @Helen Tedcastle “Remember, middle class kids who failed the 11 plus went to private schools.”

    Really? All of them? I find that surprising given that the percentage of pupils at fee-paying schools is around 7%.

    No – one of the reasons why grammar schools were killed off was demand from middle class parents for a system that guaranteed them entrance to the best schools (via house prices and catchment area) rather than having to submit to the vagueries of a test that their offspring might fail.

  • This:

    “Realistically something needs to be done about the numbers of students enrolling on pointless courses at terrible universities which offer no reasonable chance of employment at the end of it. The reason the cost of higher education has risen so much in the past decade is because you have tens of thousands of students with C, D and E grades being herded onto these courses. Why should the taxpayer have to fund such madness?”

    has anyone answered this point anywhere in the thread?

  • @Helen Tedcastle “not the case under the grammar/secondary modern system and removed the entrenched failure given to most children under the 11 plus system.”

    By most I presume you mean the 2/3 (66%) who went to Secondary Moderns. As opposed to the 93% who are branded as failures by going to comprehensives nowadays. That’s real progress.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “The issue, however, is that pulling a few kids out and putting them in a special hot-house environment isn’t going to solve this problem more widely.”

    Except, Matthew, it’s not “a few” is it? It’s a third. Which is a damn sight more than it is at present, given 93% of pupils are at state schools.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “House prices across London and the south-easy have inflated massively in value, even in places where the local comprehensive schools have a poor reputation. ”

    Whereas this comment reveals you as someone who unable to lift their nose up outside of the South East bubble. London behaves very differently because of the influx of money from Asia, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

    Get out and about and go and visit towns and cities away from this bubble. I’ve lived in several Northern towns and cities and there is a strong link between house prices and proximity to a “good” school.

  • @David B – it was a huge mistake turning the Polytechnics into Universities.

  • @Helen Tedcastle “Your comment on the Russell Group holds only for about the last five years. Up until 2010, few people certainly in sixth forms differentiated between those universities on the league table and the rest. ”

    This is incorrect. Even when I was choosing Universities in the 1980s there was a pecking order that went, roughly, Oxbridge / UL / Redbricks / New Universities. All the Russell Group did was formalise what was already there.

  • @Helen Tedcastle “You do realise that the numbers of people training to teach these subjects is pitifully small. Tell me – how do you propose to attract and then train the thousands of Latin and Greek teachers without any new money in the system? Which subjects shouldn’t be taught? I would be fascinated to know your view.”

    Helen, if you thought about this you’d answer your own question.

    Given the same number of pupils, and the same number of hours in the day, any increase in teaching for one subject is matched with a corresponding reduction in teaching for other subjects. Hence more teachers for Greek and Latin would require fewer teachers for other subjects.

    As to where these teachers may come from, well, Sammy has already given you an answer.

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jul '15 - 3:25pm

    TCO
    ‘ As opposed to the 93% who are branded as failures by going to comprehensives nowadays. That’s real progress.’

    Under the policy of Michael Gove, teaching and learning alone became the criteria for establishing the performance of a school, not its contribution to the community or its contribution towards social cohesion.

    Under this system, Ofsted judge 8/10 state schools as good or outstanding. That is in sharp contrast to your blatant and erroneous assertion that state schools, pupils and teachers, are failures.

    ‘ Even when I was choosing Universities in the 1980s there was a pecking order that went, roughly, Oxbridge / UL / Redbricks / New Universities. All the Russell Group did was formalise what was already there.’

    No it didn’t. In the 1980s – also a time when I went to university – there was pecking order butnot the same pecking order that we have now. It’s strange. Some of the Russell Group are not redbrick eg: Warwick and Exeter. Also some universities were not in the RG from the start like LSE and Durham but were invited in by the vice-chancellors.

    In fact Durham applied a couple of times to join the RG but was rejected. Four universities have only been admitted in the last two years. Does that mean they were no good before they joined? No. It means the VCs in the Russell Group felt the universities admitted chimed in with their brand-vision. I know at least two universities which are doing well in the Shanghai tables for research excellence and are not in the RG, even though they are above at least one of their number.

    Now why is that if the Russell Group is only about merit and excellence?

  • @Helen Tedcastle the Russell Group is primarily about lobbying government for the largest share of the research grant pie.

    The original grouping was put together on the basis of research rating not undergraduate prestige, which is why some universities from without the social prestige ranking were included and others weren’t.

  • Helen Tedcastle 14th Jul '15 - 5:29pm

    TCO

    ‘ The original grouping was put together on the basis of research rating not undergraduate prestige, which is why some universities from without the social prestige ranking were included and others weren’t.’

    No. The original group was set up to advance the interests of larger research institutions such as the redbricks in big cities. Oxbridge also went on board which boosted its prestige considerably. Not included were universities like the LSE and Durham, so clearly it was set up not primarily based on research excellence.

    These universities set up a rival mission group called the 1994 Group, made up of research intensive universities not in the Russell Group. This scenario remained until 2012 after the moves by the Tory-led government to alter university funding and student fees.

    The new landscape has led to the boosting of the Russell Group within the performance league tables – deliberately set up by Gove – to exclude other universities. This was to push schools to sending their students to these particular institutions.

    This is why Durham was desperate to get into the RG – to maintain its ‘elite’ status. The 1994 Group has now broken up. Four more universities from that mission group have been invited by the vice chancellors to join their club. Other high performing research institutions have not been invited, even when they out-perform universities like Queens Belfast or Cardiff in table after table. The entry criteria are opaque, shifting and known only to the vice chancellors of the Russell Group. Hence I call it a cartel.

  • @Helen Tedcastle and your point is? For the most part they are high-performing Universities and a good measure of success for the output of the different types of schools. Exact composition doesn’t really matter.

  • Richard Underhill 14th Jul '15 - 7:32pm

    This thread seems to avoid the reputation of universities as marriage bueaux, which seems to be understood by parents. Nothing new in that, as the obituary for the late wife of Tory former Chancellor Ken Clarke shows in the Times today.
    The lead singer in the “Ugly Rumours” wrote that he was “taught to think”, in his first job, as a junior barrister.
    Why not at university?
    Why not at school?
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Journey

  • Helen,

    I agree with you actually about the Russell Group being a bit of a cartel, but it is also far from being a homogeneous organisation. The main problem I see is that obsession with arbitrary league tables dominates thinking, especially on admissions… (rather like in schools…). My institution (Leeds) is in the Russell Group but is far from being an elite institution. Or not in my mind anyway! But of course compared to many of the new universities it is… There is an illusion of “eliteness” caused by the ever increasing A-level grades required but somehow the students with AAB today do not seem to be any better equipped for University (on average) than the ones we used to take with CCD.

    I also agree with TCO that making the polytechnics into universities was a big mistake. They did a very different and very useful job and had dedicated staff who were not expected to do “research”

    However I think you should have a look at Cardiff’s performance in the 2014 REF! They came 6th…

  • TCO “At present EVERYONE (outside of selective or independent schools) is denied the opportunity to study these subjects. [Further Maths and Triple Science]”.

    Simply untrue. Our local comp offers both those and also Latin, (but not Greek). It has pupils from a variety of backgrounds, not just middle-class but also kids from generations of unemployed miners.

  • Andrew “I also agree with TCO that making the polytechnics into universities was a big mistake. They did a very different and very useful job and had dedicated staff who were not expected to do “research””

    Yes I agree too.

  • Sammy O'Neill 14th Jul '15 - 11:45pm

    @Peter Watson

    Incredible logic there, we should leave the bright kids to underachieve in the hope they drag up some of the others. Nice that we treat them so well and don’t view them as useful tools to help teachers do their job.

    As for teaching classics, I don’t think anyone has argued Grammars should receive superior funding. They never actually have, and today receive far far less funding per pupil. I have no inherent opposition to that and don’t see how allowing kids a properly academic education is beyond the financial means of this country.

    I note you ignored all of my other points, particularly the date on Hackney. I think that says a lot.

    @Helen Tedcastle

    I’m in my early 20’s and grew up in an area which still had Grammar schools.

  • Sammy O'Neill 14th Jul '15 - 11:51pm

    @Peter (again)
    “That does not disappear when there are grammar schools, people are still able to buy houses near the best schools.”
    Untrue for the Grammars, they had massive catchment areas. The effect is far less than under the Comp system.

    “Grammar schools risk compounding the problem by adding an additional way that those who can afford additional coaching and tuition for the 11-plus can exclude those with fewer resources. It currently appears to be the case that where there are both grammar schools and comprehensives in the same area, capable kids from poorer backgrounds are under-represented in the grammar schools.”- many ways of mitigating this. Constant re-designing of the tests (Buckinghamshire now does this to a degree), greater role given to teacher assessment (I strongly support this), minimum level of free tuition given to all kids (some LEA’s do this already), have each school have a different test to make it harder for parents to use tuition. Difficulties with the 11+ are not an argument against selection, they are an argument that the 11+ needs reform.

    “Do you think it is acceptable for somebody who failed their 11-plus to be denied the opportunity to study those subjects?”

    Every Grammar I am aware of reserves places in its 6th form for kids from comprehensives who performed well at GCSE. They would therefore have access to those subjects at Alevel. As for GCSE, I would like everyone to be able to do them but with the obsession with league tables many schools would never put kids in for the harder options like triple science. The attitude is too often “just get them some C’s and we’re doing fine”. Awful.

  • Sammy O'Neill 14th Jul '15 - 11:58pm

    @Helen

    I’m in my 20’s and lived in an area with a selective system. It still exists in many areas.

    The argument of failure is a weak one in my eyes. It is effectively a rallying cry to hold everyone back to the lowest standard just to save a few feelings. I do wonder if your reasoning applies to other areas of life. Do you think we should ban sports days because it leaves the kids who are bad at sport with a reoccuring sense of failure? Should we abolish Oxbridge so the thousands of disappointed applicants each year do not spend the rest of their life feeling an enormous sense of failure? Where do we draw the line?

    I personally believe selection should be more fluid than it has been in the past. So if each year a child is deemed to have progressed so that a grammar school would be more suitable for them, a view should be taken on moving them to such a school. This already happens at 6th form, I don’t see what it cann’t happen at younger ages.

    As for your views on Russell Group universities, whilst I agree there are some excellent ones like St Andrew’s outside of the group, I don’t accept the rest of your claims. The best universities in the UK are mostly those in the Russell Group. Schools (at least those giving good advice to their students) have always encouraged students to aim for these universities over alternatives for a reason.

  • Sammy O'Neill 15th Jul '15 - 12:00am

    @TCO

    ” it was a huge mistake turning the Polytechnics into Universities.”

    Absolutely agree. It has been a disaster.

  • Ruth Bright 15th Jul '15 - 8:29am

    Sammy et al. Genuine question – what do you all think about streaming within comprehensives? Does streamimg negate the “need” for a big split at 11?

  • @Ruth Bright “what do you all think about streaming within comprehensives?”

    There are two problems with streaming as I see it:

    – it does not provide the “economies of scale” to hire teachers of less popular subject
    – you lose the positive reinforcing effect that congregating intellectually talented pupils together in a single school brings
    – it just provides a means of identification for bright pupils to be picked on if the critical mass in the school is “anti-intellectual”

  • @Sammy O’Neill “I personally believe selection should be more fluid than it has been in the past. So if each year a child is deemed to have progressed so that a grammar school would be more suitable for them, a view should be taken on moving them to such a school. This already happens at 6th form, I don’t see what it cann’t happen at younger ages.”

    The two charges always made by the anti-Grammar lobby are (I) a single test at 11 determines your future and (ii) secondary moderns were underfunded.

    There are straightforward solutions to both issues. Fluid transition/multiple transition points is one (this is managed successfully in the independent sector who have large intakes at 11, 13 and 16 and smaller ones inbetween); the other is to have a variety of specialist schools of which grammars are but one. We already have this to a certain extent with the specialist colleges.

  • Helen Tedcastle 15th Jul '15 - 4:00pm

    Andrew

    Yes, you are right there is the illusion of eliteness around the Russell Group as a whole because it flatters some universities and actively excludes others. For instance at least seven universities not in the Russell Group are in the top 24 universities REF 2014, with some large redbricks below them. Yet the school performance table records numbers of pupils sent by schools to the Russell Group. That makes no sense and smacks of a distinct preference by the government for one set of universities. The criteria for joining this apparently elite group are opaque because membership does not seem to depend on research excellence – otherwise St Andrews, Sussex, Royal Holloway, Lancaster for example, would be members.

    ‘ However I think you should have a look at Cardiff’s performance in the 2014 REF! They came 6th…’

    And in 2008, they came 22nd.

  • @Helen Tedcastle we can argue the merits of inclusion (or not) for particular universities, but the general principle that the Russell Group tends to represent the better universities remains. Employers tend to look to these Universities as a quality benchmark for graduate output, and comprehensive school pupils are under-represented in their intake.

  • Sammy O'Neill 15th Jul '15 - 4:38pm

    @ Ruth Bright

    I agree with TCO’s points and would add

    1. Bullying/social stigma of academic kids/those with more “nerdy” interests is a serious issue. In a grammar, where you’ll have large numbers of such children congregated together, there’s usually less of a problem with this. In a comprehensive with streaming the lessons themselves will be streamed, but things like breaktimes, school buses (if applicable) and non-academic subjects like PE or Art will not be.

    2. In a a small comprehensive there are unlikely to be enough children at the top of the ability band to make a separate stream within just that 1 school feasible.

    3. There is more to grammar schools than simply being selective. For the most part they are more traditional, adopt a firmer line on discipline/uniform and encourage aspiration. They have positive cultures/attitudes which have been built up over time. You don’t instantly gain that by introducing streaming to a comprehensive school. It is interesting how many of the very best comprehensives are former grammar schools which have kept their ethos/traditional approach despite losing the status. Good examples being the London Oratory & both Watford Grammars (albeit with minor selection at the latter still).

  • Wow, I’m late to this party.

    This discussion is much more polarised than it needs to be. There is some truth on each side.

    Polytechnics

    Interestingly I don’t see anyone disagreeing with the mistake that “converting” Poly’s was, it shows the issue with a snobby attitude that politicians saw them as “lesser” and therefore they were being “promoted” rather than “different” and therefore serving a distinct purpose. They appear to have left a weight that FE has tried to pick up along with its other burdens while being the poor relation in education.

    Russell Group

    Whether it is a cartel (personally I think it is) and the fact that is is not universally “the best” institutions seems to be irellevant to the discussion being had, and I’m not sure people are actually disagreeing with each other on substance.

    TCO

    I think it is important to separate the impact o fhte merger of Grammar Schools and Secondary Moderns in to Comprehensives from other things that happened at the same time. There were some wacky ideas that were pushed hard at the same time that gained traction in some areas (and equally not others) that were very damaging. Also the belief in “new” lead to dropping some subjects when they would not be in other areas.

    Helen Tedcastle

    “This is a complete assertion. Where is your evidence of the anti-intellectual culture?”

    Like Matthew Huntbach I think the evidence will all be anecdotal, but there is plenty of anecdotes out there. The culture is out there and created by the pupils themselves. I would say that it is a more complex problem though. Some Private Schools have the “effortless” culture where to be seen to “need to work” is “uncool” so pressurising the hard working types to take longer to get it.

    TCO (again)

    On the culture I think the greater cultural issue is the one you allude to of the “border chasing” schools, those at GCSE care about the potential A* pupils (look at these pupils who got 11/12/13 A*s…) or those who are in the D camp but with potential to get over the C boundary (X% of students got 5 A* to C), but focus less on the cruising high C who would could easily be pushed to a B or with a bit more work to an A.

    Helen Tedcastle (also again)

    “Which subjects shouldn’t be taught”

    There are quite a few that could be given up with little loss, I’ll start by suggesting ICT.

  • @Sammy O’Neill you raise/reinforce some excellent points. Teenagers are very big on conforming to social norms, and those at either end of the ability spectrum tend to suffer in mixed ability schools as a result. Rightly, special needs education is given serious attention and resources but the other end of the spectrum less so. I can only imagine the joy some pupils must find on entering a grammar school to finally realise that they are “normal” after all and can share and develop their passions without having to hide them or suffer for it.

    Your final point is well worth exploring further. I remember reading an article by Robert Peston, I think, where he lamented the cultural “year zero” approach taken to many schools both at the point of comprehensivisation, or subsequently, where the name, traditions and ethos of the school was totally wiped out. Alumni and alumnae of these institutions have no link to their old school, so they are unable to leverage the cultural capital of these former pupils in the way that the longer-established schools which have retained their history can and do.

    Finally – if you’re interested in exploring this topic further drop Joe Otten a line and he will put you in touch with me. I am a party member but use a pseudonym on the public site for professional reasons.

  • @Psi welcome to the party, it’s an interesting discussion (but a little frustrating for me as I’m on permanent naughty step so can’t respond quickly).

    Regarding your point about the introduction of new ideas and the dropping of old subjects, I note that in the small city in which I live the “best” Comprehensive offers no classical studies and no far-eastern languages.

    By new ideas do you mean mixed ability teaching?

  • Helen Tedcastle 15th Jul '15 - 7:32pm

    Sammy O’Neill
    ‘ The argument of failure is a weak one in my eyes. It is effectively a rallying cry to hold everyone back to the lowest standard just to save a few feelings. ‘

    Not really. The comprehensive system may not be perfect but it has had the effect of allowing greater opportunities for social mobility and less social inequality than under the old two-tier system. Research backs up the view that abolition of the grammar/Sec. Mods. was the right decision.

    Have a read of this article by Prof. Danny Dorling of Oxford University. To quote from his findings:

    ‘ Social mobility is lowest where local “choice” in education superficially appears to be highest. Another study last year named Trafford in Greater Manchester as having the highest level of educational social segregation. This is due to secondary moderns and grammar schools being retained there as well as private school provision being high. When confronted with the evidence that government education policy was reducing social mobility in such areas, a spokesman for the education department said it did not wish to comment on the report.’

    http://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/feb/04/education-system-polarises-people-economic-inequality

    ‘ As for your views on Russell Group universities, whilst I agree there are some excellent ones like St Andrew’s outside of the group, I don’t accept the rest of your claims. The best universities in the UK are mostly those in the Russell Group.’

    Yes, 24 out of around 30 of the UK’s best universities are in the RG. I didn’t dispute that. What I wrote was that not all of the top universities are in this group – not my guess. It’s factual.

    At least seven universities are regularly in the top twenty four universities for high performance in all league tables, yet they are not in the RG (the group favoured by this government, which schools are now told to accept, are the elite institutions). It is not clear how to join this group as it is obviously not based on merit.

    It’s interesting you pick St Andrews and miss out other high performing research universities not in the RG. Could this be that ‘social prestige’ is also a factor – unsaid of course in polite company – and not actual results or performance or actual merit? Maybe you have inadvertently stumbled on the answer to the cartel question.

  • Helen Tedcastle 15th Jul '15 - 7:43pm

    TCO

    ‘@Helen Tedcastle we can argue the merits of inclusion (or not) for particular universities, but the general principle that the Russell Group tends to represent the better universities remains. Employers tend to look to these Universities as a quality benchmark for graduate output, and comprehensive school pupils are under-represented in their intake.’

    With respect that is not the point. If people think the RG represents the best universities then it’s a bit odd to say the least that it does not include all of the best. It’s even odder that entry to the group is purely and only at the discretion of the vice chancellors of existing members. That is not transparent and it is not meritocratic.

    Why are employers in top firms going to the RG to recruit when there are so many top universities not present in it? That seems incredibly unfair and discriminatory. It’s even odder when I can think of at least two top universities where there is a high proportion of state educated pupils and both universities are in the top ten best universities in the UK – yet not in the Russell group (Sussex and Lancaster). This fact alone should cause people to ask serious questions of this university mission group – it strikes me that ‘other factors’ are at play, as they always have been in the English education system.

  • Helen Tedcastle

    I think the Russell Group matter was one of just picking a proxy for ‘good’ not suggesting it is a perfect proxy (or that its cartel like nature isn’t something that should worry us). I think it is secondary to the point being made.

  • TCO

    “By new ideas do you mean mixed ability teaching?”

    I would see mixed ability teaching as a very old idea, the sort of thing you have to do when you have very scattered population and bad transport.

    I was thinking in terms of some of the ‘Marxist’ ideas in education that were trendy for a while in the last century, including some popularity during the gradual comprehensivisation. Ideas like subjects being structured as they catered to the elite and other such nonsense. I someone who trained as a teacher in the 70s who gave the ideas credit for being interesting if you were studdying education from an academic point of view but utterly bonkers if you were going to rely on them when organising education.

    There was the mistakes some school s made in merging with addopting an “anti-elite” stance getting rid of subjects like Latin. I know of one school who despite being the school formed from the Grammar in the town, it seemed to have set out to antagonised most middle class parents, developing a reputation as ‘to be avoided’ which stuck until the early 90’s. So ideology could be quite toxic.

    Thankfully mistakes were patchy as were successes. The problem was when people start a ‘revolution’ in something often it is the time when people start to lever in their personal pet projects and some of those can be bonkers. Gradual change is often better.

    Remember when Harold Willson started to promote the national comprehensive push he described it as “Grammar School for all” but many tried to move away from the Grammar. More clarity about an intended destination in policy is needed in any change.

  • Personally I would not favour a return to the Grammar system, partly because I fear the poor expectations that exist in some comprehensives now would, as they did in the secondary modern just lead to a slide in expectations which drags down standards.

    I think the opotunity with Academies and particularly the accademy chains is being missed. Where in some cases they are simply taking over a minor role filled previously by LEAs. But that is a longer post.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '15 - 9:17pm

    TCO

    Whereas this comment reveals you as someone who unable to lift their nose up outside of the South East bubble. London behaves very differently because of the influx of money from Asia, Saudi Arabia and Russia.

    Get out and about and go and visit towns and cities away from this bubble.

    Er, sorry, no there is no big influx of money from Asia, Saudi Arabia and Russia in the London borough where I live. Nor is there in the places in Sussex where the rest of my family exist. Certainly not in the council estate where I was brought up.

    You, like many northerners, seem to have a view of London and the south-east, as it is composed entirely of the wealthy central London boroughs and the posh Surrey commuter belt.

    The worst are those northerners who get top executive, media and political jobs in London, move down south, mix only with their own type, and think that IS “the south”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '15 - 9:28pm

    TCO

    @Matthew Huntbach “The issue, however, is that pulling a few kids out and putting them in a special hot-house environment isn’t going to solve this problem more widely.”

    Except, Matthew, it’s not “a few” is it? It’s a third. Which is a damn sight more than it is at present, given 93% of pupils are at state schools.

    For an alternative point of view, which unlike yours is at least backed up with actual statistics, see :

    http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/03/eleven-grammar-school-myths-and-the-actual-facts/

    My recollection was that it was somewhat less than a third of the cohort who went to grammar school. Plus, if that’s a third overall, while at the top end of the social scale there was a high chance of getting into grammar school, that means at the lower end there was a much smaller chance. So, I am quite correct when I write of it as “pulling a few kids out”, when you are putting it in terms of social progression.

    In any case, you are missing my point. I’ve acknowledged the issue of an anti-education culture that holds children from poorer backgrounds back. I remember it very well from my childhood. I broke away from it only because I was a very quiet kid who did not mix much with my peers. However, I think it is THAT which you need to tackle, rather than just letting it go on and just pulling a few kids out of it.

  • it is interesting how very different the education systems are in the top few countries worldwide. Finland is certainly a success, but I suspect that says more about Finland than the school system.

    Nevertheless, despite having the best PISA results in the world, they are amazingly about to change it! http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/finland-schools-subjects-are-out-and-topics-are-in-as-country-reforms-its-education-system-10123911.html

    I must say that these reforms look amazingly similar to Salter’s chemistry, where the unstructured approach put both my children off chemistry for life! http://www.ocr.org.uk/qualifications/as-a-level-gce-chemistry-b-salters-h035-h435/

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '15 - 9:40pm

    Attending federal conference allows folks to
    “Get out and about and go and visit towns and cities away from this bubble.”

    but Reykavik is interesting, so is New Delhi, climbing the Tower of Pisa is not allowed now, opportunities must be taken.

    When in Strasbourg look at the outside of the cathedral. When in York visit the shambles. When in Brighton check out the speed limits. I have felt safer in Belfast city centee on a Saturday night than in Croydon on the day of an England-Scotland football match.

    A councillor fro Pendle referred to “leafy Tunbridge Wells” and got the reply “formerly of north Watford”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '15 - 9:42pm

    Psi

    TCO

    “By new ideas do you mean mixed ability teaching?”

    I would see mixed ability teaching as a very old idea, the sort of thing you have to do when you have very scattered population and bad transport.

    Indeed. This really is part of the problem with people like TCO. They think that certain ideas that once were fashionable and tried out in a few comprehensive schools are a necessary and essential aspect of all comprehensive schools, and are universally practiced now whereas the reality is that they have long gone. For example, internal selection within schools is now universal, I do not think there is any comprehensive school which does not practice it, yet people like TCO often write as if comprehensives are organised in a way where all classes have completely mixed ability teaching.

    The problem is that than as they insist on “bring back grammar schools” as a panacea, they ignore the real issue – that the big problem in terms of poor skills and attitude is NOT with those who would go to grammar school if selection was brought back, but those who wouldn’t. It’s those at the bottom and middle that Britain is doing a bad job with, not those at the top.

    I’m not denying there are problems in many state schools. It’s something that I have a big professional concern over myself, things like poor choice of subject, lack of discipline and the like. However, if that is the problem, tackle THAT problem, and tackle it throughout. Don’t just write it off and let it continue and think that creating a few hot-house schools which have different attitudes is enough.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jul '15 - 9:52pm

    Richard Underhill

    When in Brighton check out the speed limits

    And don’t think the tourist and trendy bit in the centre is all there is to Brighton.

    Here is an account of the sort of place I grew up in. Oh, it’s a bit prejudiced and stereotypical, to be sure. And the bloke who wrote is says he’s pleased to live in Hove – huh, perhaps he never visited any of the Hove council estates. Not that the centre of Hove is any better, as the big houses were mostly turned into cramped multi-occupied slums. But I do sort of recognise what he is saying, …

  • Richard Underhill 15th Jul '15 - 10:49pm

    I sat in my car on the seafront in Hove and listened to a minister defending the bedroom tax.
    Than I had to rush to the loo.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jul '15 - 11:54pm

    @TCO “As opposed to the 93% who are branded as failures by going to comprehensives nowadays.”
    As somebody who went to a comprehensive school, and whose children are going / have been through the comprehensive system, I have to say that’s probably the most obnoxious comment I’ve heard from a Lib Dem.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jul '15 - 11:55pm

    @Sammy O’Neill
    Apologies in advance that my next batch of posts might appear to target you as I respond to some of your points. It’s nothing personal, and I know that TCO has made similar arguments (so I’m sort of replying to both of you). This is a very interesting and important area of debate that has forced me to think a lot more about these issues than I have done before. I’m quite enjoying coming out of my comfort zone as I’m much more familiar with drier technical topics in my day job. Anyway, here we go … 😉

  • Peter Watson 15th Jul '15 - 11:56pm

    @Sammy O’Neill “I note you ignored all of my other points, particularly the date on Hackney. I think that says a lot.”
    Not sure it says much at all.
    The data seems to show that children from a poor area tend not to go to Oxbridge. Sad, but not a surprise. That was often the case when there were more grammar schools (http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2014/may/20/grammar-schools-university-students-oxford-cambridge)
    I don’t know Hackney, but happily by 2011 it seems that children from a comprehensive school there were being offered places at Cambridge (http://www.theguardian.com/education/2011/jan/23/mossbourne-academy-cambridge-university-offers).

    From the source you cite, if you can extract the data for areas that have grammar schools, exclude those children who travel in to grammar schools from outside the area, then compare areas with a similar social composition and show that grammar schools make the difference, you might have a point.
    Surely, after 40-50 years, we must have data that shows whether or not children who grew up in those areas that kept grammar schools have done better than those who did not, and if social mobility in those areas is demonstrably greater.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jul '15 - 11:57pm

    @Sammy O’Neill “‘That does not disappear when there are grammar schools, people are still able to buy houses near the best schools.’ Untrue for the Grammars, they had massive catchment areas. The effect is far less than under the Comp system.”
    .. but still present, particularly in the primary schools which feed those secondary schools.
    And the Nuffield data shows that “in local authorities that operate the grammar system, children who are not eligible for free school meals have a much greater chance of attending a grammar school than similarly high achieving children (as measured by their Key Stage 2 test scores) who are eligible for free school meals.” so we don’t appear to be seeing a great levelling of opportunity in those areas despite claims to the contrary. Helen Tedcastle earlier pointed to a study that “named Trafford in Greater Manchester as having the highest level of educational social segregation”
    (N.B. “Why are we surprised that the very poorest -and that is what kids on FSM are, the very very poorest- children do not achieve as well academically as those from families with household incomes over £16,200? “ The data appears to show that the poorest are not getting into grammar schools even when they appear to achieve as well academically as those who are better off.)

  • Peter Watson 15th Jul '15 - 11:57pm

    @Sammy O’Neill & TCO
    Free school meals may be “a terrible measure of disadvantage” but it is a well-known one. I may have missed it, but have either of you produced data that uses another measure to demonstrate that children from disadvantaged backgrounds are fairly represented in grammar schools? TCO seemed to admit that they are “full of children who’s parents are seeking to avoid paying school fees”.
    And yes, there are a host of social factors that reduce children’s chances to chances to enter grammar schools, some intrinsic to selection (e.g. ability to pay for coaching to the test) and some because of attitudes to education. But I don’t think you have made the case for more grammar schools being the magic bullet that can fix all of those problems. The pupil premium is a good way to target funding, and there are plenty of great things like outreach programs or exposing children to careers and opportunities outside their experience and expectations that should be available to all from an early age.

  • Peter Watson 15th Jul '15 - 11:58pm

    @Sammy O’Neill “if each year a child is deemed to have progressed so that a grammar school would be more suitable for them, a view should be taken on moving them to such a school.”
    Presumably this “promotion” should be accompanied by “relegation” of those children whose performance on eleven-plus day was just a flash in the pan (or the result of coaching to the test).
    But moving between schools is a lot less straightforward than moving between sets or streams within a school. As well as the logistics of changing transport arrangements (especially for parents with siblings of differing abilities), etc., we have to persuade a child to leave their friendship groups and fit in at a new school where they will have to catch up in a whole bunch of subjects they were previously considered unworthy of studying.

  • Peter Watson 16th Jul '15 - 12:01am

    @Sammy O’Neill “Difficulties with the 11+ are not an argument against selection, they are an argument that the 11+ needs reform.”
    Is that an admission that the current / previous grammar school system of selection is flawed?
    And if after all these decades we still haven’t managed it, then how feasible is it to come up with a test that fairly assesses 10 year old children whose actual ages vary by a year and whose emotional ages possibly by more; that accurately gauges potential rather than being passed by coaching specifically for the test; that does not penalise children who are capable but come from a diverse range of backgrounds with restricted opportunities to gain general knowledge; that does not penalise those who are strong in one academic area but not another. Indeed, what about children who have a talent in one subject, e.g. maths, but who are weak in another, e.g. English (especially if is not a first language)? If it is so important to separate more able children from less able children, then dare we let them into a grammar school and risk dragging down their peers?

  • Peter Watson 16th Jul '15 - 12:02am

    @Sammy O’Neill “The argument of failure is a weak one in my eyes. It is effectively a rallying cry to hold everyone back to the lowest standard just to save a few feelings.“
    @TCO “whatever happened to “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity”? Because that is what you are advocating with your support of comprehensives for all.”
    I’m not aware of anybody calling for failure, except perhaps those demanding more selection. Supporters of the comprehensive system want to make sure that children are not permanently branded “failures” because of the high school they attend, particularly on the basis of a single test at age 10. Indeed, we want good schools for all in order to ensure that “None shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity”, because at whatever age their abilities develop and no matter what their social background in their early years, we want all children to have the same opportunities to succeed.

  • Peter Watson 16th Jul '15 - 12:04am

    @Matthew Huntbach “I’m not denying there are problems in many state schools. It’s something that I have a big professional concern over myself, things like poor choice of subject, lack of discipline and the like. However, if that is the problem, tackle THAT problem, and tackle it throughout. Don’t just write it off and let it continue and think that creating a few hot-house schools which have different attitudes is enough.”
    Once again, very well said.

  • Peter Watson 16th Jul '15 - 12:06am

    @Peter Watson
    Now, just shut up 😉

  • Matthew Huntbach

    “The problem is that than as they insist on “bring back grammar schools” as a panacea, they ignore the real issue – that the big problem in terms of poor skills and attitude is NOT with those who would go to grammar school if selection was brought back, but those who wouldn’t. It’s those at the bottom and middle that Britain is doing a bad job with, not those at the top.”

    While agree that the biggest problem is the middle and bottom, I think there is still failing in the top quartile too which is why I sympathise with the concerns of those who want to “bring back Grammars” I just am not convinced it will deliver what they hope it will.

    My wider concern is the current model rather than being challenged to look at where constant incremental improvements could be made is constantly under attach to revert to a historic model who’s flaws are known. In particular (more so than those who want to “bring back Grammars”) the teaching unions approach who seem to worship the period during comprehensiveisation. Sadly I see many on in the Lib Dems and Labour who would just go along with the Unions views.

  • @Peter Watson – I wrote a long answer to you that got eaten when I was told it was too long. The nub of it was as follows:

    – non-Grammar schools are only second-rate when people like you call them as such; this seems to me to be misplaced snobbishness and could be easily eradicated. It’s only second rate if its made second rate and, more importantly, called second rate
    – for some pupils academically selective education is the best option for them; why do we permit selective schools in all areas other than this one? Its absurd
    – the independently educated have a near monopoly on the best Universities and careers because, with the exception of the few remaining state grammar schools, the state-educated can’t compete with them. This state of affairs cannot be allowed to persist
    – allowing academic selection will bring people back into the state system, with concomitant buy-in, who currently opt out

    Wilson famously argued that comprehensives would be grammar schools for all; that is actually the wrong approach. We don’t need grammar schools for all; we need well-suited schools for all. For some that is grammar schools; for others its technical schools, sports schools, vocational schools etc. All of equal status. Transferability between all.

  • @Matthew Huntbach “Er, sorry, no there is no big influx of money from Asia, Saudi Arabia and Russia in the London borough where I live. Nor is there in the places in Sussex where the rest of my family exist. Certainly not in the council estate where I was brought up. You, like many northerners, seem to have a view of London and the south-east, as it is composed entirely of the wealthy central London boroughs and the posh Surrey commuter belt.”

    I’m not a northerner, but I’ve lived in the north.

    The point I was making was about what drives house-price inflation in London and the SE apart from school catchment.

    Wealthy people form abroad buying property in central London prices people out of those parts of London, which means they are forced to look for houses in areas they wouldn’t have previously considered, which raises prices in those areas, and so on and so on.

    This oligarch-driven ripple effect is well known and stretches well out into commuter areas.

    School catchment drives social apartheid in our towns and cities so your final point actually supports this.

  • @Matthew Huntbach @Psi

    I seem to recall seeing some evidence that said that part of the problem with poor attitude and skills is caused by having a large spread of abilities in a school – pupils are turned off because they have their inaptitude rubbed in their faces every day.

    Certainly there is powerful evidence that humans cope better with incremental rather than step change – too big a gap and they switch off.

  • @Peter Watson ” Indeed, what about children who have a talent in one subject, e.g. maths, but who are weak in another, e.g. English (especially if is not a first language)? If it is so important to separate more able children from less able children, then dare we let them into a grammar school and risk dragging down their peers?”

    Well according to your theory they will be brilliantly served in their current mixed-ability school so no issue if they’re not moved to a grammar.

  • @Helen Tedcastle “It’s even odder when I can think of at least two top universities where there is a high proportion of state educated pupils and both universities are in the top ten best universities in the UK – yet not in the Russell group (Sussex and Lancaster). This fact alone should cause people to ask serious questions of this university mission group – it strikes me that ‘other factors’ are at play, as they always have been in the English education system.”

    It depends how you determine “top ten”.

    Go to this list and rank by entry standards or graduate prospects and you’ll find neither in the top ten: http://www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk/league-tables/rankings?o=Entry+Standards

  • Peter Watson 17th Jul '15 - 2:05pm

    @TCO “according to your theory they will be brilliantly served in their current mixed-ability school so no issue if they’re not moved to a grammar”
    But in a selective system that mixed ability school would not exist; one that allows, for example, a student to be in top set for maths but a lower set for english. In your selective system would you refuse such a child a place because they were not good at every subject, or would you let them in and accept that mixed ability teaching has a place?

  • Peter Watson 17th Jul '15 - 2:09pm

    @TCO ” We don’t need grammar schools for all; we need well-suited schools for all. For some that is grammar schools; for others its technical schools, sports schools, vocational schools etc. All of equal status. Transferability between all.”
    So let’s build them all on one campus, share administrative costs and resources to avoid redundancy, allow staff to transfer between them as required, allow students to study different subjects within different schools as appropriate, and call it something that reflects its comprehensive nature. 😉

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