Tag Archives: grammar schools

Sunak and Truss on Grammar Schools

Yesterday Rishi Sunak agreed that he wanted to bring back grammar schools. Earlier Liz Truss had said that she wanted to end the ban on new grammar schools.

I find this profoundly depressing.

No-one should talk about grammar schools in isolation from the rest of the education system. They are one aspect of a selective system which sees all children placed in either a selective grammar school or a non-selective school. Each new grammar school generates, by default, at least two other schools designed for those who don’t attend grammar schools.

Such a system is based on three questionable assumptions.

  1. Bright children are not served well by comprehensive schools. (Odd then that Liz Truss got into Oxford from a comprehensive, even though she now chooses to denigrate her old school.)
  2. A child’s educational potential is fixed and can be identified at the age of 11. (This has been thoroughly debunked.)
  3. Selective systems benefit all children and society at large. (Ah, where do we start?)

I was a product of the selective system – as indeed were many people who are still in positions of influence and power, who believe that Grammar Schools gave them a good start in life. At the time it didn’t feel right to me. I went to a Grammar School where I was expected to take O levels and A levels while some of my friends were channelled into Secondary Modern Schools where they were forced to leave at 15 without any qualifications. I knew that they were being educationally disadvantaged and that it would have an impact across the whole of their lives.

In 1965 just 20% of pupils gained 5 or more O Level passes in England and Wales – and they would have all been studying at Grammar Schools. By 1975 the majority of local authorities had moved to a comprehensive system, and improvements in attainments started appearing in the 1980s. Over the years the percentage of pupils gaining what is now known as a Level 2 qualification (5 or more GCSEs with A* to C grades, or equivalent) has risen steadily.  By 1988 it stood at 30%, but by 2015 it was 86% (although it has dropped back a few points since then).  So no-one can argue that outcomes were better under a selective system – it was comprehensive schools that overwhelmingly delivered these results.

And of course there is plenty of research which shows that selection favoured the middle classes. Indeed my feelings of unease solidified when I spent some months in my gap year working for a renowned team who were researching just that.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 32 Comments

Book review: Diane Reay’s “Miseducation – Inequality, Education and the Working Classes”

Embed from Getty Images

I had been seeing a friend and was on my way out when she picked up a book and said – you must read this. I found it a shocking revelation.

Diane Reay published Miseducation Inequality, and the working classes in 2017. The eldest of eight children, her father a miner, she is now an Emeritus Professor at Cambridge and visitor professor at the London School of Economics.

Diane writes that her book is intended to provide an understanding of the working class experience of education together with her sadness and need to make sense of the resulting damage. There is fascinating research, the facts with full details. The book finally comes to a survey by Andy Green on the rise of education systems in England, France and the US, and singles out England as “the most blatant example of the use of schooling by a dominant class to secure control over subordinate group”.

There was that idea from the beginning. The state Education Act of 1870 was due and in 1867 Robert Lowe wrote:

If the lower classes must now be educated they must be educated that they may appreciate and defer to a higher civilisation when they meet it.

Posted in Books | Also tagged and | 23 Comments

LibLink: David Laws: It’s time for Theresa May to ditch grammar school plans

David Laws, our former Schools Minister now heading up the Education Policy Institute (which used to be the CentreForum think tank) has been writing for the Observer. He’s driven a coach and horses through the Government’s case for grammar schools, which he says even fails to convince Education Secretary Justine Greening.

It is one of the worst kept secrets in Westminster that education secretary Justine Greening is not the biggest supporter of the policy that is now the social mobility “flagship” of Theresa May’s government – expanding the number of grammar schools.

Greening must be aware of the clear UK and international evidence that selective education both fails to raise overall standards, and undermines the prospects of poor children. Education Policy Institute researchers last year analysed the government’s own schools data and drew two key conclusions. First, that almost no children on free school meals get into grammar schools – a risible 4,000 out of more than eight million pupils in the whole of England. Second, that although there is a small benefit for pupils who are admitted to selective schools, this is offset by the worse results for other pupils in areas with a significant number of grammar places.

He outlines how he poorest children will be the worst affected by the move to grammar schools:

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 12 Comments

Young people and grammar schools

 

This is the slightly edited text of the speech to party conference on Sunday 18th September, moving the motion with the same title. The text of the motion can be seen here.

We believe in social mobility, but social mobility is more than simply plucking a few from disadvantaged backgrounds, by unreliable assessment and unfair procedures, at the age of 11.

In any case, all-embracing division at age 11 sends a damaging message about how we value each young person.

Actually, we believe in more than social mobility; we want even people who choose to stay in particular social groups to be better educated and better off. Not only is that good for them, it is necessary for our economy.

Gone are the days when unqualified youngsters from secondary modern schools could walk into a good job.

Gone, we hope are the days when an educated elite takes charge of everything and the rest are merely simple-minded servants.

Likewise we need more education for our society and our democracy; local and national governments and voluntary organisations have more complicated decisions to make, requiring greater understanding and participation on the part of all our people.

Posted in Op-eds and Speeches | Also tagged | 28 Comments

Grammar schools are not the answer

The Prime Minister claims that her plans to create more grammar schools will enhance social mobility and will help to bring about a truly meritocratic society. They will, she says, create ‘a country that works for everyone’.

Sure. Because grammar schools proved so good at doing just that the first time around.

What Mrs May’s proposals will do, of course, is appeal hugely to the seething mass of baby-boomer Tory voters who just can’t wait to get us back to the good old days of the 1950s and serve as a temporary distraction from the Government’s shambolic approach to all things Brexit.

We should, I suppose, perhaps be grateful that the Prime Minister is at least talking about introducing selection on the basis of academic ability, rather than the religious faith, parental wealth and ability to move to a more desirable postcode that determine how many schools currently choose their students.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 18 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in News | Also tagged | 2 Comments

Was Michael Gove right?

On 3rd June 2016, Michael Gove drew ridicule when he stated “People in this country have had enough of experts”. However, Theresa May’s announcement that her government are now seeking to actively support1 the reintroduction of selective schools goes against all evidence-based expert opinion.

We mocked Mr Gove but the reintroduction of selective schools may well prove he was right. There appears to widespread support across the right-wing press and the Telegraph website is currently indicating 77% of their readership support the policy.

To make such an argument, I accept that I do need to present credible evidence undermining the case for selective schools. As noted by Branwen Jeffreys, the BBC Education Editor:

Many thought the debate about grammars had become almost irrelevant.

and it is therefore not surprising that recent academic research regarding the impact of selective school’s has been limited. Ironically, I suspect that this may have allowed such an antiquated policy to get its foot in the door.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 39 Comments

Kirsty Williams: Under no circumstances will Wales see an expansion of grammar schools

Kirsty Williams 2There’s a lot of talk of the return of grammar schools in England.

In Wales, however, there is no chance of any expansion. Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams had this to say on the matter:

Wales’ Education Secretary Kirsty Williams ruled out a return to grammars in Wales and said: “It seems that some terrible ideas just won’t go away.

“The Tories in England and Wales seem determined to bang this tired old drum. For them, this is all about dogma and doctrine, rather than looking at what actually works for our young people.

“The facts show that grammar schools do nothing to improve social mobility. The Sutton Trust found that less than 3% of grammar school pupils were on free school lunches, compared with 20% across the country.

“ The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in opportunity for all, which is why under no circumstances will Wales be seeing an expansion of grammar schools.

“As Education Secretary, I will be guided by evidence so that we have a schools system that is modern, innovative and rooted in optimism about the potential of all our children.”

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 4 Comments

Tories’ “obsession with selective schooling is damaging the educational chances of children” – Pugh

The BBC reports:

England is to get its first “new” grammar school for five decades after ministers allowed a grammar school to build an “annexe” in another town.

Posted in News | Also tagged | 134 Comments

Education: 47% of Lib Dems want grammar schools opened up, while clear majorities oppose academies, free schools and for-profit schools

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Some 750 party members responded – thank you – and we’ve been publishing the full results.

(There were a couple of results I ran out of time to publish during the Christmas holiday period – I’m publishing them this week.)

Almost half (47%) Lib Dems call for opening up of grammar schools to all children

Thinking about grammar schools and schools that select pupils by ability, which of the following best reflects your views?

    21%

Posted in LDV Members poll | Also tagged , , and | 80 Comments

Opinion: The grammar school debate – an opportunity for distinctiveness?

Alongside the news that the UK could soon see the establishment of ‘new’ grammar schools in Kent, Devon and elsewhere, and that Labour will be urging the Liberal Democrats to support them in blocking these plans, the Lib Dems should examine the implications – and adopt a distinctive stance – on this disagreement.

The debate has gone over the usual arguments. On one hand, the pro-grammar Telegraph columnists imagine swathes of potential Nobel Laureates and curers of cancer who will irrevocably have their talents and spirits crushed if compelled to attend a comprehensive school.

On the other hand, the anti-side quite rightly …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 18 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • John Roffey
    I am inclined to believe that it is the Party’s lack of commitment to the climate crisis that deters many voters (and explains Labour’s popularity). This...
  • Ernest
    @Gwyn Williams The Independent for Wales movement YesCymru has always believed that it is about having a free Wales that is able to see its way in the world. W...
  • Jenny Barnes
    no worries, here it is https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/619781...
  • Jenny Barnes
    Could we also promote the new Petition calling for an immediate Election ? link please...
  • Joe Bourke
    The ONS does actually attempt to measure wellbeing ...