Tim Farron on grammar schools

 

The Sunday Telegraph has revealed that Theresa May is planning to introduce new grammar schools in England. (Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are responsible for their own education systems.) The original ban on new grammar schools was brought in by Tony Blair around 20 years ago, although he did not make it easy to close existing ones.

Tim Farron has responded:

The Liberal Democrats are the party of education and I am utterly opposed to any plan that will bring back grammar schools.

I am happy to work with people on all sides, from modernising Conservatives to the opposition parties, to block this retrograde plan.

The government’s majority is tiny – Theresa May needs to see the danger signs. I am committed to making sure this issue is Theresa May’s first U-turn as Prime Minister.

Grammar schools segregate children. By 11, when children typically sit the test for grammar schools, only three quarters of the poorest children reach the government’s expected level of attainment in education, compared to 97 per cent of the wealthiest kids. The Sutton Trust found that only 3% of children at grammar schools were on free school lunches, compared with 20% across the country, so grammar schools do not help social mobility.

A new generation of grammar schools would help a very small number of the richest children while ignoring the needs of millions more children who are already suffering from underfunded schools. Even some Conservatives will agree with me that this simply wouldn’t be right.

Grammar schools should never been seen in isolation – they are one part of a selective system which only works if most children are assigned to schools that are not grammar schools. These used to be known as secondary modern schools, but the more anodyne term ‘non-selective school’ tends to be used today. Unfortunately that term masks the very real difference between schools in areas which do not use selection – that is, comprehensive schools – and those schools in which all the pupils have been rejected by the grammar schools.

Selective systems still exist in a number of areas; in fact, according to the BBC, there are 163 grammar schools in England and a further 69 in Northern Ireland, all of which use some form of 11 plus testing to identify the pupils they admit, plus the complementary non-selective schools that take the pupils who are not admitted to the grammar schools. The latter are often the forgotten children in the debate about grammar schools.

Earlier Conservative Governments made it progressively more difficult for local authorities and the parents within them to dismantle a local selective system, and Blair did not change the rules either. There was, technically, a mechanism to do this via a parental petition and ballot – but this was a scandalously biased process which only allowed a parent to sign the petition or vote if their child attended a primary school that sent a high percentage of pupils to the grammar school. Parents in schools that sent a high percentage to the non-selective schools were not allowed to vote, even though the system affected them just as much. The local authority, and the local councillors, were also banned from involvement in any way in the petition or the decision.

Not surprisingly, not one grammar school was closed through a parental vote. That explains the anomaly that saw both Sutton and Kingston upon Thames powerless to implement comprehensive systems in their boroughs under Liberal Democrat control. As a former portfolio-holder for Education in Kingston I can’t begin to tell you how deeply ironic and frustrating that was.

So by bringing back grammar schools the Prime Minister will be endorsing a system that – for all its claims to the contrary – does not enhance social mobility, but entrenches old class distinctions, as demonstrated by dozens of longitudinal studies over many years.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames and is a member of Federal Conference Committee.

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252 Comments

  • Jayne Mansfield 8th Aug '16 - 10:48am

    At last, something that I can whole-heartedly agree with.

  • I am absolutely in the minority when it comes to Grammars in the Lib Dems, because I am for them in principle.

    Opening new Grammars when most kids need better comprehensives is not right, but in a well funded system which already works well, Grammars aid in pushing up academic standards.

    Focusing on Grammars at a time when we need to be focusing on making teachers happier, teaching children more useful skills and investing heavily in schools in poor areas is a very bad idea. That doesn’t mean that a reasonably small number of Grammars to compliment a strong Comprehensive system by ensuring a free route to education tailored to children that have much higher than average academic ability for their age is also a bad idea. Anything but! We need lots of different kinds of schools to cater for lots of different kinds of students.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Aug '16 - 11:27am

    @Huw Dawson:

    “a well funded system which already works well, Grammars aid in pushing up academic standards.”

    Forgetting for one moment the dubious factual base of that conditional premise, when have we had a well-funded educational system which already works well.

    Surely, we should enforce Theresa May toembark on a campaign to re-introduce ‘secondary modern schools’. Or perhaps a-la-‘academies’, she could re-name them ‘secondary archaic schools’?

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Aug '16 - 11:40am

    TO address a grey area – There are a limited number of areas – such as SE Berks, where I grew up, where there are what could be termed ‘partially dismantled’ grammar systems – whereby grammars were not outruled per se but individual schools by their own choice in the 70s and 80s opted out of the grammar system, usually going into the church-controlled route, which has a (variable) element of selection but not on academic grounds.

  • John Samuel 8th Aug '16 - 12:01pm

    Grammar schools create second rate secondary moderns.

  • I am in favour of grammar schools. There is no reason that non-selective schools cannot be good schools in a grammar school area – see for example Trafford.

    The argument that only 3/4 of poorer kids are at the governments levels of attainment compared with 97% of rich kids is not an argument against grammar schools. It is one in favour of investing in education.

  • Peter Watson 8th Aug '16 - 12:14pm
  • Peter Watson 8th Aug '16 - 12:17pm

    @Iain “There is no reason that non-selective schools cannot be good schools in a grammar school area – see for example Trafford.”
    Apologies for the bad netiquette, but quoting myself from an older thread:
    Grammar schools do not operate in a two-tier vacuum within their council area, and I would be interested to know if there are data on the populations in Trafford schools.
    Grammar schools in Trafford, particularly faith schools, draw in children from far outside their local area (I personally know several children who travel almost 20 miles from my village in Cheshire). Consequently, it would not surprise me if the non-selective schools in Trafford have children who were displaced from the grammar schools they might otherwise have entered and are not representative of the sort of secondary moderns that would otherwise exist.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Aug '16 - 12:45pm

    Mary writes convincingly about something she knows about from different perspectives and I agree with her and Tim in the quotes referred to.

    I am from the early generation of comprehensive schools , but , sensibly , the Catholic schools I attended made use of the right all schools have , but too few adopt , for streaming and setting within the school , especially for subject areas. They used to make you sit an eleven plus style exam to decide the classes you would be in.In my primary school it meant I knew at eleven ,I would have been grammar school standard , other friends not discovering that though were not written off as we all could get into the same school as they did not turn away on the basis of academic ability .This is the Liberal solution .Under this internal system , the school allows each individual child to develop according to ability in subjects , to improve and move group.I was lousy at science , mediocre at maths , good in languages,and particularly excelled in arts , humanities and social sciences.There is no stigma to being with fellow science “duds” for a while , as you feel the confidence of knowing where you are terrific !

    The trouble with the era I grew up in was , in the later 1970s and through the 80s , the politically correct ethos that equality means we are all the same ,which we most definitely are not , rather than all different but with most things regarding basic needs , in common. It led to the disaster of across the board mixed ability teaching , for all subjects , and all ages.Even thinking this does not hold people back , and that means most in some subjects , is absurd.

    Two things are the wrong solution.The return of grammar schools. And the continuation of mixed ability in all classes in all comprehensives.

    We are all equal. And all equally different!

  • Andrew McCaig 8th Aug '16 - 1:06pm

    Well, I have always been a supporter of grammar schools too. But there has never been much point in arguing about it in this Party… the comprehensive system is one of the main reasons for tge extreme segregation that now exists in our cities between middle and working class..

    However, anyone who wants to abolish grammar schools on grounds of fairness surely has to be in favour of banning private schools, which are far more iniquitous and damaging to our society… why is that not our policy???

  • Paul Pettinger 8th Aug '16 - 1:16pm

    It is pedagogically crazy to divide children by ability between different schools at age 11, when children still have such enormous capacity for change and to develop. Grammar schools don’t lead to greater inequality and higher standards but greater inequality and, overall, undermine the school system. The best school systems – such in Finland and South Korea – are comprehensive. There is also a natural benefit to community cohesion when children from different backgrounds grow up together. Good to see the leadership being unambiguous on this issue.

  • @Andrew “However, anyone who wants to abolish grammar schools on grounds of fairness surely has to be in favour of banning private schools, which are far more iniquitous and damaging to our society”

    There are two big issues with your proposed ban on private schools for politicians!

    The first concerns funding, by bringing the private schools into the state sector there will be an immediate funding shortfall which would require either the raising of taxes or a substantive reduction in the per pupil funding level…

    The second is that parent’s who have been motivated to actually secure a “good education” for their children and are willing to pay for it out of their own pockets are highly likely to be a very vocal and critical group of people who will demand a massive increase in the quality of teachers, educational standard’s and facilities and per pupil spend in state schools…

    In some respect bring it on! But I doubt this is really practical or desirable given the upheaval in children’s education that would take decades to resolve.

  • Phil Beesley 8th Aug '16 - 1:38pm

    Grammar schools represent one way for (largely) middle class parents to game the system to send children to schools with better than average outcomes. You can measure outcome in overall exam results or in individual improvement, and grammar schools usually succeed at both.

    Let’s be honest to ourselves. One reason why grammar schools deliver good results is that they have a critical mass of motivated parents and pupils. The first generation of academies succeeded for the same reason; Jas learned the flute at age eight and Tom took up chess, in order to meet the “special interest” (i.e. admission dependent on tutoring) requirements of early academies.

    And we have to consider the results in some standard comprehensive schools. Motivated parents and pupils create good schools in conjunction with motivated teachers; “success” is a feedback system.

  • Grammar Schools “do not enhance social mobility”. I am torn about the whole topic and would question the quote.
    I went to a Grammar School in an inner London poor working class area. There were 3 state Grammar schools for the borough without about 1100 places at any one time plus two other “better” Grammar schools that had a form of selection but from 2 -3 ajoining boroughs as well, all poor and working class, up to another 250 places for the borough I was from.
    I was always against the system although I benfitted from it. It was the 11 plus exam that worried me. However the London County Council operated a 3 tier system, Grammar, Central and Secondry Modern. There was movement between the three and I recall new arrivals from the Central system, two years after their 11 plus, ie later developers.
    In my view Grammar Schools in those localities dramtically assisted social mobility. Kids with the ability were able to move smoothly into the professions, civil service and management. They were not left behind. However those in the Sec Moderns had much less opportunity but still find work etc. This seems contrary to the situation in those similair type of areas today.

    Therefore looking at the whole topic in a fully objective manner my view has mellowed.
    Working in the Criminal Justice and Social Support sectors most of my career I have witnessed the steady growth of low opportunity for those kids until the stage that has been reached at the present time.
    I agree elitisism applied, going for jobs, comments such as “Grammar School boy you,ll be okay” etc enhanced this and Grammar schools payed other Grammars London wide at sports, but as I say on the other hand opportunities were available for those for whom they may well be denied today.
    In my view there is no blanket answer I remain torn.

  • Can I just add the word that I think for Lib Dems is the elephant in the room here – localism. If you look at what May is saying I assume it is about devolving power to local authorities to decide for themselves. I had no idea about this ballot system but is it not possible for local authorities to just get rid of them if they wish? Or is this balloting issue legally binding?

    If so it is a truly bizarre fudge. LAs are banned from setting up new grammars and it’s also very hard for them to abolish. So basically every area is stuck by its own history.

  • Theakes – ‘late developers’ was a fiction to cover up the serious errors made by the 11+. In my gap year (in the 1960s) I worked for a research team on a couple of educational longitudinal studies. The thing that shocked me most was seeing how inaccurate and blatantly unfair the 11+ results were, compared with the 100 or so measures that we had on the children throughout their primary school years. That alone is enough reason not to rely on it to divide the population into two groups who will be offered substantially different educational opportunities.

    But it is worse than that. The 11+ was built on the myth of fixed, measurable IQ. We now know that it doesn’t exist, and moreover that performance under test conditions depends on all kinds of unrelated factors such as emotional maturity, self-confidence and parental encouragement. In addition, middle class parents with their eyes on grammar school places almost universally employ tutors.

  • Paul Griffiths 8th Aug '16 - 2:52pm

    Grammar schools do not in fact select by ability (even if they sincerely believe that they do) but rather by docility (using the original meaning of the word; i.e. “ready to learn, easy to teach”).

  • The really Liberal solution would be to end state control of education. Let all schools become independent and decide who, how and what they want to teach. Give parents vouchers to spend on the school of their choice email.

    J S Mill summarised the issue in Chapter V of “On Liberty”

    If the government would make up its mind to require for every child a good education, it might save itself the trouble of providing one. It might leave to parents to obtain the education where and how they pleased, and content itself with helping to pay the school fees of the poorer classes of children, and defraying the entire school expenses of those who have no one else to pay for them …
    The objections which are urged with reason against State education, do not apply to the enforcement of education by the State, but to the State’s taking upon itself to direct that education: which is a totally different thing. That the whole or any large part of the education of the people should be in State hands, I go as far as any one in deprecating. All that has been said of the importance of individuality of character, and diversity in opinions and modes of conduct, involves, as of the same unspeakable importance, diversity of education. A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another: and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government …
    But in general, if the country contains a sufficient number of persons qualified to provide education under government auspices, the same persons would be able and willing to give an equally good education on the voluntary principle, under the assurance of remuneration afforded by a law rendering education compulsory, combined with State aid to those unable to defray the expense.”

  • Jenny Barnes 8th Aug '16 - 2:59pm

    Social mobility is a concept that is used to justify structural disadvantage. If you have ended up unemployed or in a poor paying job, but there is “social mobility” it’s clearly your own fault, as some people in similar circumstances may have been lucky enough to be in good jobs. When grammar schools were in vogue there was a huge expansion in better paid middle class type jobs; so more people moved up. Correlation is not causation. And people never talk about social mobility downwards, which would have to exist for social mobility upwards to work. Why not?

    It’s still the case that the best predictor of someone’s life income/ chances is their parents income.

  • Somehow the stray word “email” crept into my post above. Please ignore it

  • Simon Shaw makes good points, but overall, so called proponents of Grammar Schools, hardly ever argue for a return to a Grammar School system. They merely support introducing schools that can cherry pick, yet if they were so convinced by a system of Grammar Schools and relabeled Secondary Mods. they would be arguing for systematic selective education.

    As undoubtedly wonderful as some Grammar schools are, arguments for them seem to be variants on calls for everyone to be above average, but you would need to be the sort of innumerate politician who does not want to hear from experts to maintain that sort of thing.

  • Barry Snelson 8th Aug '16 - 3:45pm

    Grammar schools were indefensible when the 11+ was compulsory. A generation of children were told that had ‘failed the 11+’.

    However, selection is now voluntary. The simple way to avoid failing the test = don’t take it.

    But I can’t see the justification for attacks on grammars in the current system. Are all the comprehensively educated children in a grammar school district receiving an inferior education because of what happens in a school five miles away? Are the academically gifted childen actually wanted for social engineering in that they somehow ‘infect’ the less interested ones with ‘work ethic’? The teachers in a comp can’t be ‘inferior’ in any way to grammar school teachers. They will be equally talented and I’m sure they treat their charges as unique individuals to be educated differently from all other children and not as a herd of cattle.
    Isn’t the problem invidious league tables and the ranking of schools as though they are manufacturing a ‘product’ and not preparing human beings for their whole lives?

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Aug '16 - 3:49pm

    Lorenzo Cherin

    I am from the early generation of comprehensive schools , but , sensibly , the Catholic schools I attended made use of the right all schools have , but too few adopt , for streaming and setting within the school , especially for subject areas.

    What do you mean by “too few”?

    If you believe or are trying to suggest that most comprehensives have completely mixed ability classes throughout, you are wrong. Setting and streaming are now universal practices in comprehensive schools in this country. When you read media commentary that suggests otherwise, that shows how out-of-touch most media commentators are with real life: they went to private schools, they send their children to private schools, everyone they knw does the same, so they just carry on with this false assumption because they know no better.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Aug '16 - 3:55pm

    Barry Snelson

    But I can’t see the justification for attacks on grammars in the current system. Are all the comprehensively educated children in a grammar school district receiving an inferior education because of what happens in a school five miles away?

    Try asking that question to those whose children have to go to those schools because they failed the 11+.

  • Barry Snelson 8th Aug '16 - 4:08pm

    Matthew,
    I confess I didn’t understand your response. You can only fail the 11+ if you take it?

    There can’t be any logic in claiming unique child A must have an inferior educational experience because unique child B isn’t in the same class.

  • Matthew Huntbach 8th Aug '16 - 4:09pm

    theakes

    Grammar Schools “do not enhance social mobility”. I am torn about the whole topic and would question the quote.

    If grammar schools did enhance social mobility, you would find the top ranks of society stuffed with people working class backgrounds in Kent, as Kent has kept the selective school system. A number of other places have well, but Kent is surely large enough to test the hypothesis. Do you have a wonderful egalitarian society in Kent, so much different from other parts of the country? No.

    The problem in this country is not how well we educate those at the top. We do quite a good job with that. It’s how well we educate those in the middle and lower down. If those who push for selective education knew what they were talking about, they would talk about this. But they don’t.

    It’s another distraction issue. Blaming increasing inequality on the abolition of selective education in most parts of the country distracts attention from other more likely causes.

  • Andrew McCaig 8th Aug '16 - 4:10pm

    Phil Beasley,
    Correct. Middle class parents are obsessed with education and it is no surprise that when you have a number of grammar schools insufficient to satisfy demand, they are dominated by middle class children. Comprehensive schools also represent an excellent way for middle class parents to game the system, by spending more on housing than the competition..
    When someone on here admits they would be perfectly happy to send their beloved children to a school with 10% 5A-C at GCSE and would not move to avoid it, I will be impressed. The reality is that comprehensive schools in disadvantaged areas are no different from the secondary moderns they replaced..

    BTW I would not close private schools, although I would remove their charitable status… and I certainly would not close the excellent Heckmondwike Grammar school near where I live (which Jo Cox went to, if you want an example of social mobility)

  • you would find the top ranks of society stuffed with people working class backgrounds in Kent, as Kent has kept the selective school system

    Is it not possible that that is because educational ability is mostly inherited, so those who go to the selective schools will be mostly the children of those in the last generation who were good enough to go to grammar schools, and who then in their turn become middle-class and have more educationally able children of their own, compared to those who were not good enough to go to the grammar schools?

    (An effect likely increased by the increased assortative mating caused by increased numbers, and more even sex balance, in universities, making breeding couples more likely to both come from the same intelligence-level than would have happened in previous generations, thus increasing the ‘inherited intelligence’ effect).

  • David Allen 8th Aug '16 - 4:50pm

    On a tangent – What electoral mandate has this brand new government got for its brand new policies? Grammar schools weren’t in any manifesto. Nor was climate change denial. Nor of course was the enthusiastic embrace of hard Brexit. Nor was the demise of austerity and the introduction of an industrial strategy.

    Are the Tories planning to gradually phase out democracy? Step 1, fix the term at its maximum, and emasculate local government so that it’s hardly worth voting. Step 2, Brexit, get rid of MEP elections. Step 3, boundary “reform”, to eliminate meaningful geographical constituencies and shrink the elected Commons, while growing the appointed Lords.

    What next? Whatever they can get away with next, is the answer.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Aug '16 - 5:10pm

    Why does anyone quote Terafford as a place for successful non-grammar schools? Yes, there are some but I would also point out that there is considerable migration to Trafford grammar schools from outside the Borough thus increasing the overall performance ratio of the kids at Trafford schools and also, what about the three schools in the M41 postcode (ie within a spit of each other)?
    St Antony’s Catholic College, M41 9PD, Ofsted rating of : 3 Requires Improvement (Last inspection: 27 March 2015); Urmston Grammar Academy, Newton Road, Manchester, M41 5UG, Ofsted rating: 1 Outstanding (Last inspection: 06 November 2008); Wellacre Technology Academy, Irlam Road, Manchester, M41 6AP Ofsted rating: 3 Requires Improvement (Last inspection: 21 May 2015).
    One good, two bad. Doesn’t look too hot to me.

  • Tony Dawson 8th Aug '16 - 5:14pm

    @Andrew McCaig:

    The reality is that comprehensive schools in disadvantaged areas are no different from the secondary moderns they replaced.

    Where are these ‘disadvantaged areas’ outside of London which are big enough to provide a whole secondary school catchment? The various comprehensive schools around where I live go up and down the league tables – none of them is particularly bad. No one in their right mind would move house to get into any of their catchments as the leagues vary too much year-on-year – they all send kids off to Oxbridge and to get award-winning redbrick firsts.

  • Barry Snelson 8th Aug '16 - 6:40pm

    The longer this debate continues the more convinced I am that this is all about the teaching profession, the reputation of schools and of league tables.
    It clearly has nothing to to do with the children and their welfare and prospects. They could not count less.
    A school could send half its pupils to Oxford and still be a terrible place to prepare for life. Another could not send a single one and still provide the finest foundation for all of its unique and individual children on their first steps in life.
    I would pefer educationalists to concentrate on what’s best for childen, one by one, rather than support a fight between school managements for status and bragging rights.

  • Andrew McCaig 8th Aug '16 - 6:43pm

    Tony Dawson,
    Just look for constituencies where the Labour vote is over 60%. If you live south of Birmingham there are very few, and the comprehensive system may work reasonably well

  • Tim is right – and as someone who campained for the end of the 11 plus in Kendal backj in the 70’s. I need no convincing.

    But sadly if the usual suspects on LDV are any reflection of the party as a whole, the Lib Dems are all over the place.

    We even have a proposal from a Mike Jay that we should go back to 1869, get rid of all state education, and worship at the shrine of J.S. Mill : “The really Liberal solution would be to end state control of education. Let all schools become independent and decide who, how and what they want to teach. Give parents vouchers to spend on the school of their choice email. J S Mill summarised the issue in Chapter V of “On Liberty”.

    Personally I prefer another J.S. Mill quote which still has the ring of truth and which I wish Clegg/Laws/Alexander et al had mugged up on in 2010,

    “I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative.”

  • Mary 14.43;
    Gosh your critique of the 11+. Do you think that might just be professional over analysis.
    My memory was 1955. I had a broken arm (greenstick fracture) from football 3 months previous. The arm was in a full length heavy cast in a sling. I completed the papers using the weight of the cast to hold the paper whilst I wrote with the other. I had been absent for most of the November following the accident and had to attend hospital 4 times a week each morning. They offered a delayed exam but I declined I wanted it out of the way. You did not really think about emotional maturity you just had to do it and got on with it.
    The questions were just that questions with answers. The only area that I recall required individualistic thinking was the essay. We simply had straight questions to answer ie simple language, maths etc. You either knew the answer or you did not.

    What I was trying to say was that it did provide a means of escape for poor working class with the ability to break out, go to University. take A Levels for a 20 – 30 each year taken a year early at last 16 or 17, get into a profession etc. Are they there now? In that situation there were no middle class parents. It was not that area.
    That does not mean that it was right, perfect or even fair. BUT those criteria apply to todays system however much it may have changed on paper. An anecdote, my recent personal experience of several large comprehensives is that they tend to concentrate on the brightest and do not chase those who have fallen behind or seem out of the successful cohort of students who are gioing to get the high pass mark.
    In the end everything has positives and everything has negatives,

    I think we need to keep our options open and remember that kid are kids, some will do well some will not. Competition is the way of life. 11+ and Grammars are not the solution, but neither is the present mess which seems to discriminate against the poor.
    Grammar Schools did not, they were the same everywhere, rich or poor areas.
    I have not got the ideal answer, I suspect neither has Tim or yourself, who has, but we should in my submission recognise the benefits as well as the defects of each.
    Having put my head over the parapet it is probably time to duck down again!

  • This is bizarre.

    If you are running a football academy trying to find and nurture the cream of an aera’s footballing talent for your team, clearly you would be selective: you would run trials, pick the most promising kids, and ensure that they received the best coaching in order to maximise the chances of the best becoming truly great.

    Why is what is obvious, that selection is not just desirable but essential, when the topic is football not also obvious when the topic is academic ability?

  • Same if you’re running a stage school: you’d do auditions, right?

    There’s no point in letting in someone who is tone deaf, can’t dance, can’t act: the resources would be wasted on them.

    So you select.

    The 11+ is just an academic audition.

  • Matt (Bristol) 8th Aug '16 - 8:12pm

    Can I come late to the party and point out that we almost certainly won’t be talking about the ‘return of grammar schools’ ie a U-turn the the 70s when May’s government’s full proposals are known?

    State grammars were still (afaik) under local authority control.

    I strongly suggest that these will be state-funded, privately run, selective academies / free schools (depending on what model is chosen — I refer you all to the fact that May’s husband helped run the free schools programme) and therefore very unlikely to be accountable to local government in any way shape or form.

    Anybody who believes otherwise, please explain why.

  • Stevan Rose 8th Aug '16 - 10:41pm

    Grammar schools made it possible for anyone in society regardless of birth to receive an education that enabled them to compete with public school educated politicians and leaders in the military and business on a level pegging. In the 60s and 70s and 80s and the early 90s there was substantial social mobility and for over 30 years our PMs came from grammar schools along with substantial numbers of their cabinets. Callaghan was a secondary modern boy extending social mobility further. To me it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that as the effect of grammar schools has waned so has social mobility with the Cameron cabinet dominated once again by public school products. So I would want to see an expansion of grammar schools, however that is achieved.

    But that should not mean as may sometimes have been in the past, that pupils in other types of school are largely written off. As Callaghan proved, that wasn’t entirely true anyway. There are people who thrive in the academic environment of a grammar. My brother went to a school that selected on technical aptitude and output large numbers of engineers. Locally we have specialist language and sports academies. It makes absolute sense to me to try an match aptitude to the type of education provided for most kids. As long as you don’t restrict their choices by giving them too narrow an education. I completely disagree with the idea of a one size fits all comprehensive education across the board. So grammar schools as part of an overall policy of excellence with a range of schools geared to the needs of pupils with a remit to once again advance social mobility.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 8th Aug '16 - 11:31pm

    Mike Jay

    Mill is my hero , and is to many , and your quotes fit well with my post above , but not your solution, which does not work as we need a degree, of leadership today from government . Perhaps not too much admittedly , but in a media obsessed and led era, but sink or swim would result if we did not have that.

    Matthew Huntbach

    I do see your point but the commentary I made was applicable to my era , starting secondary school through the later seventies through to mid eighties, when there was far more mixed ability teaching in most classes, or more than in the sort of Catholic state schools I knew.

  • Just to throw in a googly – are you all aware of the discrimination against girls in the 11+?

    Girls, on average, score more highly than boys at age 11. Most areas with grammar schools offer an equal number of places to girls and to boys. That means that there are always a number of girls who are not offered places at grammar schools but who score more highly than some boys who do have places. This anomaly is usually masked by normalising the scores by gender.

    The alternative would be to offer places to all children who get a raw score above a certain level, regardless of gender. But that would mean that more girls than boys would be offered a grammar school education ….

  • Theakes – “Mary 14.43;
    Gosh your critique of the 11+. Do you think that might just be professional over analysis.”

    No, it isn’t. There are plenty of longitudinal studies of children which demonstrate that the 11+ is a crude instrument – both in terms of its effectiveness in assessing current ability and even less in its predictive value. Even if you take it at face value it is grossly unfair to a large number of individuals because of the large margin of error.

    Most 11+ tests don’t include the essay paper that you mention, but are combinations of verbal and non-verbal reasoning tests, which were the traditional ways of measuring IQ. And the assumptions behind IQ testing – that IQ is some fixed quality within each of us and that it correlates very well with academic achievement – are now largely discredited.

    The liberal response to all this must be that all children should be offered an education that maximises their potential and suits their personalities. That can only be achieved in a system where opportunities are open throughout a child’s education, and not closed off by institutional channeling. And that applies as much to the grammar school pupil who is directed away from ‘non-academic’ interests such as cookery or fashion, as to pupils in non-selective schools who are assumed to be incapable of attending a Russell Group University.

  • Parents will like the idea of grammar schools until their kids fail the 11+ which well over 70% will do. In truth they were and are not actually that successful at delivering social mobility. Mostly they appeal to former grammar school pupils and cap doffers.

  • In her first speech, Theresa May said “we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us”. For the present, I am prepared to take her at her word. Therefore, if she feels the need to re-introduce Grammar schools, we Lib Dems should examine why, and not just jerk our knees in opposition (I do not the same way about some other Tories that support grammar schools!).

    I went to a grammar school in Kent, but my father was the head of a secondary modern, which enabled me to see both sides of the system (in fact, there were three or four sides, because there were also a technical and a church school). My school, with three form entry, had six specialist science teachers with six well equipped labs. That helped me to go on to a career in engineering – a profession in which there is a severe shortage in the UK.

    Previous commenters have made a large number of valid comments about the shortcomings in the current grammar school system, but these are about the way that it is implemented, not the principle of having different types of school for people with different aptitudes. After all, few people complain about special schools for music.

    Therefore, the Lib Dems need to do more than complain about the unfairness of grammar schools; we need to develop policies for the comprehensive system that make it impossible to make a reasoned case for them. Here are a few from me:

    – There can be no true freedom for all pupils to make their choice of secondary school unless there are more places than pupils – i.e. some schools will have empty places. We must accept the extra cost that this will entail.

    – We should discourage the current fashion for schools to become ‘specialist schools’ in particular subjects, because this disadvantages children with interests in other subjects. What proportion of the population is within easy travelling distance of a specialist science or maths school?

    – We need to ensure that all schools have the facilities and staff to teach the specialist subjects that would be available in a grammar school – to the same standard.

    However, I think that we should also examine with an open mind whether a properly designed system with different types of school catering for different needs might not have advantages.

    The test of success will be when estate agents no longer find it worthwhile to state the school catchment area for the houses that they market!

  • @ Simon Pike
    “In her first speech, Theresa May said “we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us”. You go on….” For the present, I am prepared to take her at her word. Therefore, if she feels the need to re-introduce Grammar schools, we Lib Dems should examine why”

    The key phrase is ‘not for a privileged few, but every one of us’………. and I’m afraid Grammar Schools don’t do that

    What they do do is set up a post code lottery. Their size determines the percentage of pupils to be admitted. Hence back in the old eleven plus days in the 1960’s the percentage of admissions varied across the country from only 2% in Bury to over 30% in other areas depending on the size of the Grammar School. This was even reflected in gender discrimination when there were separate boys and girls schools of different sizes.

    The other consideration back in those days was that a Grammar School can coast along in a complacent way knowing it will get ‘reasonable’ results’ because of its privileged pool of ability.

    The priority for Liberals ought to be to improve standards in all schools rather than to reinforce what is still a class structured society.

    What Mrs May is peddling is a bit of nostalgic urban myth. As a former Head I have to say the Tories have a shocking record of constantly interfering and experimenting with the education service going back to the days of Keith Joseph (as did Blair). Oddly enough Margaret Thatcher, as Education Secretary, introduced more Comprehensive Schools than anyone else before she got the scent of power as PM……

  • There’s an enormous amount of evidence about the effects of selective education: those selected gain at the expense of those not selected. Those selected tend to be the children of the privileged. This is surely a case where the freedom to select harms others, and the liberal position is to oppose it for pre-university education.

    I strongly endorse the point above that rather than opposing grammar schools, the right thing to oppose politically is their inevitable consequence, the secondary modern.

    This is a clear example of where classical liberal thinking was incomplete because it didn’t encompass the whole system. Mill was working in a time when education was for the few and, to the best of my knowledge, he never considered the effects of selection on the non-selected. Comparisons to sport or theatre auditions are odd. We’re taking about the life chances of every individual here, not an effort to top the Olympic medal table.

    Anyway, I strongly support Tim Farron’s position. I hope he can express it as opposition to the secondary modern in future.

  • Wow this one is a bear trap that I can see Tim falling in to. Grammars are a huge distraction the original system under which they existed was terrible their existence in the current system isn’t great but not on the same scale.

    I would advise against the assumption that they are somehow good for the bright kid who just needs to be pushed. Private schools near grammar schools areas still survive and do have bright children who left to attend Grammars return as they way they work doesn’t suit the child.

    The fact is that they are popular among the public partly because the old system is a hazy memory now so the worse of it has been forgotten, however part of it is that many other things have been tried and education is still considered inadequate.

    I think Tim doesn’t understand the view of the party among most people when he says “The Liberal Democrats are the party of education” that is undoubtedly how the party likes to see itself, not so much how others do.

    Meeting the proposals for more grammar schools with straight opposition will upset those who strongly favour them and have little impact on those who oppose them (or would if they gave it much thought). It also makes a mockery of the LibDems claims to favour Localism as it looks like that is the principle until the LibDems don’t like the local decision. There needs to be a well-articulated alternative approach.

    I did find Mary Reid’s comment reminded me of a post from a few weeks back: https://www.libdemvoice.org/report-of-federal-policy-committee-meeting-13-july-2016-51307.html

  • Mary: All I am saying is that my lifetimes experience, particuarly professional, leaves me more open minded about the subject than I was back in the 70’s. I was then as adamant as yourself but now I am far less certain. I am very concerned that those in my perhaps fortunate group who attended Grammar School were able to get out of the social deprivation of the area where we lived because of that system. Nowadays I am not sure that would be replicated. Hence my objectivity on the subject.
    Could I just mention Just one small factor, it seems the number of barristers from working class areas has fallen since the 60’s and 70’s, I suspect other professions may be the same. Whatever system we choose there seems to be a lot of work required, not least in recapturing some lost ground.

  • @ Psi You seem to want the party to become some sort of marshmallow and to be all things to all men (and women).

    It suffered from that sort of image (and reality) from 2010 and look where that got us…….. Looking at some of the posts on LDV that would suit some people… but as to being an evidence based party ?

  • Stevan Rose makes a very good argument that I agree with. It seems this is one of those issues where the politically active could be out of step with the wider public – as with the EU referendum. It is absolutely crucial that the voices of children and parents are heard and valued whether they reflect the evidence of the teaching profession or not. Increasingly it seems that the opinion of anyone outside the teaching profession is deemed invalid.

    From personal experience, I found comprehensive education frustrating and boring as I had to sit through the same material over and over again waiting for the less able to grasp ideas. I have also supported an able child through comprehensive education. That child was labelled problematic because she became disruptive. No extra resources were available because she was able to pass tests and remain in the top 10% of her class regardless of only paying attention for a tiny amount of her lessons. Only children falling behind received extra funding and resources. She chose to leave education at the soonest opportunity. We do not serve anyone by keeping able students sitting around waiting.

    I am well aware that teachers will respond with arguments about the value of peers helping peers and the politically active will use this as an argument for better teaching or more investment, but it simply isn’t possible for one system to best serve all. Some children are more academic; others stronger in other areas and the system needs to offer different education opportunities to meet these different needs, otherwise I believe that the number of parents choosing to exercise their perfectly legal right to educate their own children according to their child’s specific abilities, aptitudes and interests through home education will only increase.

    It really is crucial to reach out to parents who aren’t politically active. If we fail to do so, any policy is likely to be deeply flawed.

  • Nigel Jones 9th Aug '16 - 11:39am

    Yesterday, Nick Timothy, the prime minister’s joint chief of staff, is reported saying that if the grammar school he went to had been abolished by Labour, then he would have been denied opportunity. That is utter nonsense, since many comprehensive schools cater really well for the high ability youngsters. Likewise, you can no longer justify grammar schools on the basis of a small number of people being lifted out of poor backgrounds, when now it is essential that all youngsters get the best education possible. For the sake not only of individuals, but also our economy and our democracy, it is essential that everyone reaches their potential in knowledge, skills and personal development.
    The fundamental argument against selection at 11, even if it were possible to do it in a fair way, is its crudeness and labelling. It is wrong to divide young people into two types, when they have such a huge variety of abilities and aptitudes and instead of reinforcing the divide between academic and vocational/practical, our system needs to further blurr that very distinction.

  • Nick Timothy, the prime minister’s joint chief of staff, said……………….

    “Well, that’s another brownie point towards my knighthood in the next dissolution honours list”.

    As a former Grammar School boy myself, I congratulate him on his career planning.

  • David Evans 9th Aug '16 - 11:59am

    There may have been dozens of longtitudinal studies over the years, but the facts are that since the near abolition of grammar schools, elite public schools have tightened their grip once again on so many life chances and social mobility has plummeted. Just look at the cabinet under Cameron. It was more diverse under Thatcher and that is a sad tale to tell.

    Bright kids in poor neighbourhoods have a much poorer chance than they did, and those in the bottom half of society are well trodden down. That’s a real life study. That is the evidence we should be looking at.

  • David Allen 9th Aug '16 - 12:33pm

    It’s just as well our party does not get the level of public scrutiny that Labour get, isn’t it? If it did, I fear that we might make Corbyn versus Smith look like a rational debate between people whose views are sufficiently similar to enable an effective compromise!

    People have talked about Tim and bear traps to fall into. Well, of course, if a leader adopts a clear position and exerts leadership, there is the risk of alienating those who don’t agree. On the other hand, if a leader just waffles and fudges, he/she risks alienating everybody!

    I think there are three key points. First, if you support grammar schools, then as night follows day, you support a second-rate education for everyone else. It really doesn’t really matter whether you call that second-rate education “secondary modern”, or “comp”, or “bog standard”, or even whether you seek to muddy the waters by lamenting that “technical” schools never happened. You have divided sheep from goats, end of story.

    Second, let’s not talk nonsense about social mobility. Yes, grammars mix in a few bright poor kids with the mass of bright-ish richer kids. Big deal. On the whole, comps in fact mix the social classes a little bit more than grammars do, depending on admissions policies. Those who want grammars aren’t genuinely crusading for increased mobility. They’ve just found a stick with which to beat the cat.

    Third point, however, is to listen to what intelligent people like Lyn (above) say about the downsides of comprehensives, and figure out some valid answers. Within a universal framework, make sure there is also effective setting, differentiation, competition, opportunity to rise.

    The rich and/or the bright shouldn’t grab all privilege (the Right’s answer). Nor should they be dragged back to imposed equality (the Left’s answer). Couldn’t we unite on that? Or are we just a small disunited rabble for the news media to ignore?

  • David Allen 9th Aug '16 - 12:50pm

    Laura Kuenssberg last night taught us all about a new political phenomenon, the Phoney Red. The Leave campaign deliberately chose a deep crimson battlebus to appeal to all those who wanted to strike a blow for the downtrodden working class. Millions, who had been successively frustrated by dour Gordon Brown, wimpish Ed Miliband and ineffectual Jeremy Corbyn, were delighted at the opportunity to vote for a real good strong Red. The fact that their hammers and sickles were actually being wielded in support of a bunch of maverick millionaires and hedge-funders passed them by.

    Now we have Phoney Red Theresa talking about social mobility, promoting grammar school privilege by painting it Red, and creating the Cameron-Osborne legacy as its Phoney Posh Whipping Boy. Is there no limit to Conmanship?

  • @Paul Pettinger “There is also a natural benefit to community cohesion when children from different backgrounds grow up together. Good to see the leadership being unambiguous on this issue.”

    This is not borne out by the facts.

    Under our current system, communities are not cohesive and children from different backgrounds do not grow up together.

    Because school selection is based on geographical area, in the 50 years since the introduction of the catchment-based comprehensive, areas have become far more socially divided. The price premium around a good “comprehensive” puts it out of reach for the poorest in our society, no matter what their ability.

    Our towns and cities have similar housing stock with massive price differentials and its all due to the presence or absence of a “good” school.

    All comprehensivisation has done is create ghettoes of middle class and very poor people.

  • @David Evans “Just look at the cabinet under Cameron. It was more diverse under Thatcher and that is a sad tale to tell.

    Bright kids in poor neighbourhoods have a much poorer chance than they did, and those in the bottom half of society are well trodden down. That’s a real life study. That is the evidence we should be looking at.”

    Totally agree David.

    If we want a meritocratic society we have to provide access to the schools that the welathiest use for anyone regardless of parental funds, and we have to provide similar schools that compete with the private schools – ie grammar schools – that our brightest children can benefit from.

  • @Lyn “I am well aware that teachers will respond with arguments about the value of peers helping peers and the politically active will use this as an argument for better teaching or more investment, but it simply isn’t possible for one system to best serve all. Some children are more academic; others stronger in other areas and the system needs to offer different education opportunities to meet these different needs, otherwise I believe that the number of parents choosing to exercise their perfectly legal right to educate their own children according to their child’s specific abilities, aptitudes and interests through home education will only increase. ”

    Totally agree Lyn.

    Comprehensives are a one-size-fits-all socialist solution that goes against our Preamble promise to ensure none shall be enslaved by ignorance or conformity.

    Different children need educating in different ways; for some being in a school where the majority of pupils match their abilities is what they need but for most areas of the country they are denied this unless their parents can afford to educate them privately.

  • John Nicholson 9th Aug '16 - 1:07pm

    A little aside: Nick Timothy said that the grammar school he went to had been abolished by Labour. Mine was abolished by the Conservatives, the Education Secretary at the time being someone called Margaret Thatcher. Whatever happened to her?

  • David Raw

    “You seem to want the party to become some sort of marshmallow and to be all things to all men”

    Become? I think you have missed the direction of my comment, I am saying the LibDems ARE a marshmallow on education, nothing to anyone.

    The LibDems complain when the LEA loses powers over schools but complains when the centre lifts a centrally imposed ban on opening a type of school. LibDems in Sutton want to close Grammars locally but ban Kent from opening more.

    On a national level the response is “down with this sort of thing” not “here is the better idea.” There was a time when the LibDems used to complain that other parties used to steal their polices, how would that even happen now? I would be very happy to see no Grammars but I would want that to be due to other better approaches having demonstrated that they are a worse way of educating. My point was that if you are going t bother to annoy those who strongly support Grammars, which is perfectly ok, then you need to have something to offer for those who will be indifferent to your opposition but may be motivated if you are for something else.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Aug '16 - 1:23pm

    @John Probert.

    Most comments on here are opposed to the expansion of grammars.

    Research shows that in areas where grammars still exist social mobility is depressed in comparison to areas where there is full comprehensive education. Trafford is a good example of stalled social mobility across the cohort of children.

    As for the call for the re-introduction of technical schools, this belies a mentality which assumes that children can be divided by an arbitrary test at 11 so determining their abilities and potential for life. This is iniquitous and illberal.

    The 11 plus fails far more children than it helps, because it is based on the assumption that there is a fixed IQ (as Mary Reid pointed out earlier).

    As we know IQ can be changed – and of course many middle class parents prove the point every year by hiring tutors for their children to get through the 11 plus exam. They do this so their children can reap the perceived advantages of a selective education away from other ‘types’ of children.

    The grammar/secondary modern divide is a state-structured way of setting up children without resources and pushy parents to fail.

    So pleased that Tim is leading the charge against the reintroduction of a failed system.

  • Well said, Nigel Jones.

  • David Evans 9th Aug '16 - 2:34pm

    David Allen re your “three key points”
    First – You are wrong, I don’t support a second rate education for the rest. Unlike you I don’t believe it is inevitable.
    Second – You are wrong, I have fought for improved social mobility for decades. You seem to prefer to ignore the severe failings in the current arrangement.
    Third – I have listened and note how much some people want to decry an older approach that worked with very limited resources, while pretending the new expensive system’s failings just need fixing.

    Evidence based policy making takes more than just looking for a chosen set of research papers that agree with the solution you want.

  • Sue Sutherland 9th Aug '16 - 3:35pm

    I think as Lib Dems we need to take a step back from the existing system and see how each child can be taught in a way that suits them best and can take up subjects that will allow them to become the best adult they are capable of being. A system that meets those Liberal values would need to be very different from the present one because it would have to be very flexible, possibly involving moving between different buildings to find the subjects they need. A timetablers nightmare.
    We need the brightest children to be stretched academically, we need those with potential for sport, the arts, dance, theatre, for those who can be entrepreneurs, astronauts, technological innovators, therapists to be given the chance to develop those abilities at school and through life. My memories of Grammar school is that so many skills were regarded as suitable for hobbies not real life and that the curriculum was very narrow.
    We now have the knowledge about how people learn to provide a variety of methods but it seems to me that the latest fashion in learning tends to be imposed on all children. I remember boredom at school but I was academic so luckily I benefitted from Grammar school education but in my adult life I have realised that the world of work requires creativity as much as analysis, which seemed to be the approved method of learning at school and university. It also requires inter personal skills which are ignored at school.
    At the moment I believe the education system may be still be pushing a lot of round children into square holes, to their detriment and to that of society as a whole. If you want individualism then it’s only the Lib Dems who are likely to come up with a solution.

  • Mmm, evidence based policy. That would be policy based on the opinions of experts then. Have we learnt nothing? The population of our country has sent us a resounding message regarding their feelings about the expert view being placed above all others. Yes, policy should be shaped by evidence but we should not be slaves to it. Our policy should be evidence-led, rather than evidence-based so that when the average family on the street say ‘this does not work for me in my life’, we don’t dismiss their lived experience as irrelevant because it doesn’t fit the research.

    I’m afraid that concern for the poorer child down the street disappears for most parents if they feel that that child is having a detrimental effect on their own. That, in itself, causes fractures within our communities. This pressure to gain educational advantage is only going to increase when we factor in two things:

    1. Most parents are motivated to see their children attain a level of comfort that at least equals their own, and,
    2. The reality that many parents of young children now suspect that 1 will not be possible in a world of less job security, longer working lives, more expensive housing, etc.

    In my humble opinion, we simply must give equal weight to the quality of lived experience over the “rightness” of expert research.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Aug '16 - 4:03pm

    Sue Sutherland superb !

  • Tom Papworth 9th Aug '16 - 4:06pm

    The problem with the system in England and Wales pre-comprehensive education wasn’t grammar schools as such but how we treated secondary moderns. Or, to put it another way, the UK was (is) just too hierarchical/classist to make the system work.

    In Germany there was no stigma to going to (the equivalent of) a secondary modern and preparing for the world of work, as opposed to going to (the equivalent of) a grammar and preparing for university. In the UK it was treated more like the upper-stream and lower-stream, and permanently labelled kids who weren’t able to pass the 11+ as inferior.

    Add to that the fact that we never actually created the third leg of the system (“Secondary Technicals”), which would literally teach a trade) and the system failed to achieve the equality-of-opportunity that was promised.

    Anyway, a two-size-fits-all solution is not fundamentally better than a one-size-fits all solution. What we really need is a far less uniform approach, with more experimentation among education providers and more choice for education consumers (both parents and pupils). But that’s far too 21st century for the Conservatives, and far too liberal for either the Tories or Labour.

  • Totally agree with you Sue Sutherland.

  • Neil Sandison 9th Aug '16 - 4:30pm

    Agree with Sue .Time the education system fitted the childrens needs not the child fitting into the system most favoured by the minister of the day.

  • Helen Tedcastle 9th Aug '16 - 4:39pm

    Sue Sutherland

    ‘At the moment I believe the education system may be still be pushing a lot of round children into square holes, to their detriment and to that of society as a whole. If you want individualism then it’s only the Lib Dems who are likely to come up with a solution.’

    Personalised learning and pupil profiling has in fact been going on in school for along time. In fact I remember this being discussed and implemented in a school I worked in in 1990. Individual learning is a good thing within the context of a community of shared values and expectations.

    There really is nothing new under the sun.

    The trouble with education in England is that every one has an opinion on it because they once went to school and most have children either of school age or who were once at school.

    They do not, as a rule, like to leave education to people who know something about it or who have experience working in it.

    Therefore, we tend to fall back on mantras such as ‘when I was at school it was like this’ and ‘it didn’t do me any harm’, neglecting to consider that teaching and learning acquires new knowledge and methods all the time. It’s a dynamic subject even if at its core pedagogy is the same as it has always been.

    As we have seen with the recent Brexit fiasco, we can certainly ignore ‘experts’ in haste but then we end up repenting at leisure.

  • Helen, that is quite a paternalistic attitude there. I believe it could be simplified and put into the ‘Only teachers know anything about teaching camp.’ Teacher training in reality is quite narrow in itself and leaves out as much educational philosophy as it includes. It’s focus is overwhelmingly based on the needs of teaching within the educational institutions as they have existed since their conception. I’m afraid that personalised learning within a nationally set curriculum and comprehensive system is simply tinkering around the edges. Still, I am aware that as I am not a teacher I am not deemed to have a valid opinion on educational matters and as it is not in the interests of the teaching profession to make any radical changes to the system, we are stuck with what we have, whether it works for our children or not. Any proposals, grammar school or not, are at the mercy of the teaching unions, so it seems the first challenge is to weaken those.

  • @David Evans – respect, sir. We have often crossed swords but you are 100% correct on this.

    @Tom Papworth and @Sue Sutherland – exactly. The solution is to let 1000 flowers bloom; different types of schools for different types of pupils. Highly academic hothouse schools suit a few pupils; those that it does suit should not be denied it due to economic circumstances.

  • david franks 9th Aug '16 - 6:18pm

    I have never heard anybody arguing for the reintroduction of secondary modern schools. That is what you get, whatever you decide to call them, if you go back to grammar schools.

  • An interesting and lively discussion…

    Many commenters have referred to the importance of evidence, but none so far have actually provided any – on either side of the argument. In this field, evidence can only come from studying real situations from the past, and nobody is suggesting that the secondary moderns of the past were ideal. In addition, most studies are relatively small, and can only provide aggregate results for average performance. These average results can hide shortcomings for particular types of children, or for certain subjects.

    I think that there is one thing on which everyone agrees – that the school system in England is capable of improvement. Let us have a rational discussion on how to do this – without preconceptions or sacred cows.

  • Stevan Rose 9th Aug '16 - 11:12pm

    @Helen Tadcastle

    “leave education to people who know something about it or who have experience working in it.”

    I reckon 12 to 17 years direct experience of being at school and working as a student gives you a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t in education and teaching techniques. Parenting adds to that. I had a superb education for the most part and I wouldn’t want that opportunity denied to anyone else. Coming from working class poor stock grammar school gave me access to University and economic mobility. There are “experts” on both sides of this debate and you will inevitably select the expert opinion that supports your own experience and thoughts. You also mentioned pushy parents earlier. Do you mean parents that actually care a great deal about the quality of their children’s education? But expressed as a negative trait.

    It strikes me that there is a great deal of agreement, even amongst opponents of grammar schools, that they provided and still provide in some areas an excellent academic education. The main plank of opposition seems to be that it automatically generates secondary modern sink schools. Are we that devoid of imagination and ingenuity that we have to destroy excellence and bring some down a level to raise others up. That this seems to be a view held by many so-called educational experts does not fill me with confidence. Perhaps their research funds might be better spent finding ways that Grammar schools that benefit many can co-exist alongside other types of school that are geared towards the needs of other aptitudes. Some children are clearly academic, or musically gifted, or exceptional at linguistics, or sporting, or love science by the age of 11. Others need more time. Is it not possible to have a system flexible enough to deal with changing aptitudes and preferences. Selection does not need to be an IQ test. Evidence for the benefits of selection according to aptitude… The BRIT School and the Birmingham Ormiston Academy.

  • Peter Watson 9th Aug '16 - 11:44pm

    @Stevan Rose “Is it not possible to have a system flexible enough to deal with changing aptitudes and preferences?”
    Like a comprehensive school?

  • David Allen 9th Aug '16 - 11:45pm

    Sue Sutherland said: “I think as Lib Dems we need to take a step back from the existing system …. A system that meets those Liberal values would need to be very different from the present one because it would have to be very flexible, possibly involving moving between different buildings to find the subjects they need. A timetablers nightmare.”

    Yes, I have chosen a very selective quotation. The rest of Sue’s post contained many inspirational ideas. The trouble is, bright ideas are the easy bit! Creating a new idea that works, especially when taken away from its inspiring originators and rolled out to all the other people in education who didn’t invent that idea and probably have little faith in it, is the hard bit. It’s all too easy to end up with a “nightmare”.

    There are also many inspirational populists in health. Because that subject has a fairly stong scientific basis, many (not all) of those populists end up discredited. Education, being more subjective, allows the peddlers of meretricious, impractical or half-formed ideas more scope.

    Bt the way I am not in education. Teachers get plenty wrong, too, and should not be unduly sure they know best. Duff ideas from amateurs have the unintended effect of reinforcing excessive self-belief amongst professionals.

    The worst duff ideas around right now come from that supreme incompetent amateur, Michael Gove. Six-year-olds are being tyrannised by a bastardised, over-complex grammatical scheme of instruction dimly resembling what Gove remembers being taught in prep school a generation ago. It is wrecking British schools and it has to go.

  • @Peter Watson – re: “ “Is it not possible to have a system flexible enough to deal with changing aptitudes and preferences?”
    Like a comprehensive school?”

    I think in this exchange you have quite neatly captured the issue, everyone is talking about individual schools and framing their response based wholly on their school experience – typically from the 60’s~80’s.

    I think we can agree and see that it has and is the norm to judge schools against each other and to require children to attend a named school and thus create a culture of one school being ‘better’ in a snobbish way, than another. However, there is no real reason why this is the only way to look at schooling.

    Some background to give context to my point. Looking back at the secondary school I attended for seven years. For the last four years I also attended classes/courses at my local FE college for subjects the school didn’t have staff and/or facilities for, additionally, the school joined together with two other local schools to offer a greater range of sports and social activities. Working in start-ups, I learnt that the organisation chart wasn’t a pure hierarchy, but more of a network of equals, with each person contributing a particular set of skills to enable the delivery of our shared vision.

    Looking at secondary education today, where every school is trying to cover a growing range of subjects and cater for the needs of individuals, it would seem obvious that some specialisation by individual schools along with some networking would be beneficial. Particularly as in many towns there isn’t just one secondary school, but several within reasonably short distances of each other, each being slightly different: girls, arts, science, church etc. so including a tradition ‘grammar’/academic subjects focused school into the mix isn’t really such a big deal; the big deal being the perceived ‘status’ baggage we as a society have over such schools and their pupils.

    The big obstacle I can see with treating the schools within an area as a cluster is, that it is totally alien to the ethos that has been created which has encouraged schools to consider themselves standalone businesses who are in competition with the neighbouring schools rather than working with them to deliver the best education for all children within the catchment.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '16 - 9:45am

    Tim

    If you are running a football academy trying to find and nurture the cream of an aera’s footballing talent for your team, clearly you would be selective

    Why is what is obvious, that selection is not just desirable but essential, when the topic is football not also obvious when the topic is academic ability?

    But we are not running a football academy, we are running (or at least talking about running) a country.

    If you are running a football team, would the best way of doing that being to pick the two or three most skilled players, invest all your time and effort in training them, and ignore the rest?

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '16 - 9:54am

    Stevan Rose

    Is it not possible to have a system flexible enough to deal with changing aptitudes and preferences.

    Yes, it is called “comprehensive” education. That is, you do not have a rigid division of children into separate schools at the age of 11, but have schools that are flexible so that children can be moved around within them to the most appropriate classes for their aptitudes as they develop.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '16 - 10:07am

    Stevan Rose

    It strikes me that there is a great deal of agreement, even amongst opponents of grammar schools, that they provided and still provide in some areas an excellent academic education.

    There is an oxymoron here. You have a school which is able to pick only the most academically able and you say “Look, that is a good school, its pupils are academically able”. Suppose you had a school that was able to pick pupils on the basis of their height. Then when they leave you say “Look at what that school does, it turns out all these tall school-leavers”. Well, yes, but is that because of something special the school does or because of who it picks in the first place?

  • Nonconformistradical 10th Aug '16 - 10:08am

    “you do not have a rigid division of children into separate schools at the age of 11, but have schools that are flexible so that children can be moved around within them to the most appropriate classes for their aptitudes as they develop.”

    And perhaps without a defined school leaving age so that those needing more time to develop might stay longer in school? i.e. do away with the concept of chidren all being expected to achieve a particular standard at a predefined fixed age.

  • It seems we are stuck in the mindset of schools being places where children sit in classrooms with a teacher at the front splurging information which children absorb. I’m not convinced that grammar schools are the right answer, but they are the right answer for some so we should allow people the choice to attend if it is right for them. The argument against them seems predicated on the Lib Dems principle of dispersing power e.g. grammar schools help to consolidate another powerful class.

    However, on the other hand, we say policy should be evidence based. Well, research is an academic activity. So in requiring policy to be evidence based, we restrict policy making to individuals who have the time, funding, skills and access to data that enables them to provide their data-driven pseudo-scientific research. We essentially consolidate power within the government, civil service and teaching profession – who are mainly privately and grammar school educated. In doing so, we exclude the views of parents and young people themselves and we, myself included, really do recognise this and are becoming increasingly (quietly) angry about the life experiences of our children being ignored and dismissed.

    Evidence based policy is patriarchal, it holds us hostage to history and it actively goes against the declared Lib Dem aim of dispersing power. All of us need to set these attitudes aside and think again. Human endeavour placed a man on the moon. I’m sure we can develop an educational system that values all of our children for their unique talents and gives them the opportunity to develop a life full of intrinsic satisfaction from them. This will not be achieved by restricting ourselves to the usual suspects and data from the past.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '16 - 10:33am

    Sue Sutherland

    We need the brightest children to be stretched academically, we need those with potential for sport, the arts, dance, theatre, for those who can be entrepreneurs, astronauts, technological innovators, therapists to be given the chance to develop those abilities at school and through life.

    The number of jobs going as professional sportspeople, dancers, actors, and so on is rather limited. And how many children are really going to become astronauts?

    It seems to me that we have a big problem of giving children unrealistic expectations about their future, and they end up not understanding and picking up the more practical skills that are more widely needed.

    We have this problem that children grow up with a very skewed picture of the world, seeing it as portrayed by the media, so certain roles get grossly exaggerated in terms of possible future, and most others hardly noticed.

    It also seems to be leading to a society where everyone acts as just a self-publicist for themselves, supposing the only way to succeed is to develop a pushy personality. As someone who does university admissions, I see this all the time: UCAS applications with rubbishy personal statements that just make the applicant seem like a stupid narcissist, and don’t tell me what I really need to know, which is their actual technical skills and understanding. Yet it seems they are actually encouraged to write that sort of personal statement.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    There is a lot of truth in your post. It would surely be better to help children develop their innate abilities, aptitudes and interests so that they can be connected to a working role that provides the intrinsic satisfaction that will carry them through an increasingly long and insecure working life. Another good reason for allowing access to grammar school for those whom it suits.

  • If you are running a football team, would the best way of doing that being to pick the two or three most skilled players, invest all your time and effort in training them, and ignore the rest?

    If you’re running a football team and you only have 11 people to choose from in total, then you may as well give up.

    But if you have a few thousand, then yes, of course you pick the best fifty or so, spend all your time training them, and ignore the rest.

    Then you take the best twenty or so out of those and make your team out of them.

    What is the point of investing resources in those who are never going to be more than mediocre?

  • @David Franks – what is intrinsically wrong with Secondary Modern Schools, other than the somewhat snobbish attitude you display to them?

  • @Roland I fully agree that we need to encourage schools to specialise within clusters – what a great idea. That would provide much needed flexibility and allow for later specialistion and cross fertilisation, whilst allowing a particular ethos and the development of excellence.

  • @ Tim “What is the point of investing resources in those who are never going to be more than mediocre?”

    And, dear Time, which group would you put yourself in ?

  • And, dear Time, which group would you put yourself in ?

    Oh, I am resolutely mediocre in all respects. That is why I am sitting here, and not in the Rio sun.

  • David Evans 10th Aug '16 - 1:05pm

    Matthew,

    I think it’s a tautology, not an oxymoron. 😉

  • Phil Beesley 10th Aug '16 - 1:08pm

    @Matthew Huntbach: “That is, you do not have a rigid division of children into separate schools at the age of 11, but have schools that are flexible so that children can be moved around within them to the most appropriate classes for their aptitudes as they develop.”

    One of the problems with comprehensive schools — one that I hope I don’t have to explain to liberals — is that they are too big. The theoretical advantages of a big school are never achieved. The challenge is to deliver choice and flexibility in smaller schools without significantly greater cost (or to accept/explain less choice in exchange for other benefits).

    A grammar school boy myself in the 1970s, I believe that the school delivered a good education that was right for me. I’m not convinced that 2016 grammar schools provide the same opportunities for a council estate kid with ambitious parents, my background.

    As liberals, we can’t dismiss parents who choose to use “free schools”, grammars, the first academies or private education. We should be arguing for different sorts of comprehensive schools.

  • Phil Beesley 10th Aug '16 - 1:40pm

    @Stevan Rose: “I reckon 12 to 17 years direct experience of being at school and working as a student gives you a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t in education and teaching techniques. Parenting adds to that.”

    I met Kevin (aged four, like me at the time) at a bus stop where our mums were chatting. Kevin and I went to the same church Sunday school, then infant school and primary school. We ended up at the same grammar school (in different forms) and in sixth form (again, different groups). Independently, we chose the same degree course at the same university. I went through education with Kevin for 18 years.

    Kevin and I were mates, but alike as chalk and cheese. If you were to ask us about our educational experiences, we might identify the same inspirational teachers. But we’d disagree about our experience of less talented ones or the merit of A Level General Studies. We were two lads from similar backgrounds with a common experience, with different perceptions of the education we received.

  • Phil Beesley – agreed. Size is used to justify economies of scale but in practice just makes the place inhuman. c800 – the size of most private schools – seems to be about right.

  • nvelope2003 10th Aug '16 - 3:21pm

    Did the Liberal Party win its historic victory in 1906 by advocating unpopular policies ? No it did not.

    Did that Government threaten to use the unelected House of Lords to override the wishes of the elected House of Commons ? No it did not.

    Opinion surveys indicate that between 70% and 84% of the people support the return of grammar schools. Since the evidence of their value does not seem to be adverse a democratic society should respect the wishes of the people.

    The left and left of centre claim to want to uphold democratic values but in practice reject them when it does not suit their ideology. Not surprisingly the voters have turned against those groups, apart from the hard line socialist supporters of Jeremy Corbyn who have flocked to join the party but not apparently in sufficient numbers to improve their poll ratings despite a few by election successes.

    Although the Liberal Democrats have won some local council by elections in selected areas, mostly in the South West and South of England they have made no significant advances in opinion surveys since the electoral disaster of May 2015, almost certainly due to their failure to respect popular opinion and devise policies which appeal to ordinary voters outside their centre left bubble. Even their support for UK membership of the EU has failed to improve their position, probably because not many people feel strongly about it and only supported Remain in the referendum because of fear of change and government horror stories. Only 29% want a rerun of the referendum.

    It is interesting that the strongest support for comprehensive schools comes from parents who went to independent fee paying schools or grammar schools and send their own children to them. As one of them said to me ” why should someone from a council estate have a free education when I have paid thousands to educate my child who will then have to compete for a job with someone whose parents paid nothing”.

    I notice that those politicians who oppose grammar schools are careful to conceal the school which they themselves attended. I wonder why.

    Is it any wonder that people have become utterly cynical about politics. It is time to embrace the truth and stop insulting people’s intelligence. Only then will the party make any real and sustained advance. I am not very confident of this happening but live in hope.

  • Phil Beesley 10th Aug '16 - 4:26pm

    nvelope2003: “It is interesting that the strongest support for comprehensive schools comes from parents who went to independent fee paying schools or grammar schools and send their own children to them.”

    And “I notice that those politicians who oppose grammar schools are careful to conceal the school which they themselves attended.”

    No. The strongest support for comprehensives has come from posh mum and dads who have made the local secondary school “effective” because that is where they sent their children. Some of them moved house to get children into a school (one may ask whether they should have stayed still and payed for a tutor).

    Middle class gaming of secondary school admission is a factor to be considered when considering “equality” everywhere.

    nvelope2003: “As one of them said to me ” why should someone from a council estate have a free education when I have paid thousands to educate my child who will then have to compete for a job with someone whose parents paid nothing”.”

    It is not about “paying” or “duty”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '16 - 5:50pm

    David Evans

    Matthew,

    I think it’s a tautology, not an oxymoron.

    Yes, ok, I got the wrong word there (see, I can admit I get it wrong if someone really can show it).

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '16 - 5:58pm

    nvelope2003

    Opinion surveys indicate that between 70% and 84% of the people support the return of grammar schools. Since the evidence of their value does not seem to be adverse a democratic society should respect the wishes of the people.

    Well, make every school a grammar school then. Problem solved.

    Seriously, we don’t live in the sort of society now that the grammar/sec-mod system was designed for i.e. 80% of the population doing manual labour jobs, 20% requiring academic education. It is more like the other way round.

    I teach and do admissions for a Russell Group university. We get plenty of applicants from comprehensive schools (in fact most of our applicants), and plenty of them get places. The idea that if you go to a comprehensive school you can’t get a good university place is wrong.

    I can assure you from my position, actually dealing with school-leavers, the big problem is NOT with those who would go to grammar school if the 20:80 division was still in place. The biggest problem is with those lower down. So going on and on and on about better schools for the top 20% and ignoring the rest, is just silly.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Aug '16 - 6:03pm

    Tim

    But if you have a few thousand, then yes, of course you pick the best fifty or so, spend all your time training them, and ignore the rest.

    And here you prove my point just made in the last sentence of my last message in reply
    to “nvelope2003”.

    What you are saying here is that we should have an education system that educates just a tiny proportion of the population, and ignores all the rest. Do you think that will lead to a successful economy? Or to a happy population?

  • Phil Beesley 10th Aug '16 - 6:29pm

    @Matthew Huntbach: “Seriously, we don’t live in the sort of society now that the grammar/sec-mod system was designed for i.e. 80% of the population doing manual labour jobs, 20% requiring academic education. It is more like the other way round.”

    It is not all about your description, Matthew. I think we have missed some people.

  • Do you think that will lead to a successful economy?

    As people keep pointing out, the modern economy requires high-skill, high-intelligence workers.

    So yes, I think picking out the people who have the potential to be such as early as possible, and focusing resources on them, and not wasting effort on those who will never be able to repay the investment, will pay dividends is terms of a successful economy.

    Do you not think so?

    Or to a happy population?

    It is not the job of the education system to make people happy.

  • @ Tim “It is not the job of the education system to make people happy”.

    And there was I thinking that Mr Squeers of Dotheboys Hall was long gone. Try reading Nicholas Nickleby, Master Tim.

  • And there was I thinking that Mr Squeers of Dotheboys Hall was long gone

    Thank you; I never got on with Dickens (his wonderful sentences don’t, I think, balance out his long, turgid paragraphs) so I didn’t actually know who the Hardthrashers, Sternbeaters, and Whackwallops were taking off. Now I do.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 2:18am

    Much of the argument for grammar schools in this thread seems to be based on “Let’s ignore evidence and experts” and “Things were better in the 1950s”.
    Not really what I would want Lib Dems to have learnt from the Brexit campaign! 😉

  • @Peter Watson – no, it’s that people can see 1) bored and or bullied pupils are ill served by all-ability schools, 2) selecting pupils by wealth based on the house prices of where they live is illiberal and 3) attempting to educate people in comprehensive schools that deliver ignorance and conformity is against our constitution.

  • @Matthew Hunt Bach you and several other posters on this thread postulate that all non-grammar schools are and will be bad yet offer no evidence or rationale for this.

    There is no necessary connection there.

  • @Peter Watson

    You seem to be cherry picking from the comments there in your summary. I have reached further than this forum to go and look at teaching forums and forums for parents.

    There is overwhelming support for grammar schools on the parent forums with the condition that there are quotas to ensure that middle class parents don’t game poorer children out of the provision.

    The overwhelming resistance to grammar schools from teachers seems to be that creaming off the top pupils creates a remaining cohort that no-one wants to teach, that teachers consider unteachable and that aren’t supported as well at home.

    This ‘listen to the experts’ cry is simply trying to tell parents ‘we know best, sit down and do as you are told’ and it is fake, teachers simply want to protect their performance related pay and the quality of their own working life by keeping the best students in their classrooms. It is particularly hypocritical when it comes from older teachers who attended grammar school and then received a university education for free on top. If teachers really cared about the most able students they would want them to have the chance to fly regardless of its cost to teachers and holding back the best students to somehow prop up the less able is unacceptable. If the non-grammar cohort is problematic, sort it out. Don’t punish bright children with supportive families.

  • Nonconformistradical 11th Aug '16 - 8:04am

    @Tim

    “As people keep pointing out, the modern economy requires high-skill, high-intelligence workers.

    So yes, I think picking out the people who have the potential to be such as early as possible, and focusing resources on them, and not wasting effort on those who will never be able to repay the investment, will pay dividends is terms of a successful economy.”

    So are you saying you are happy to leave the rest – probably a significant proportion – of the population devoid of any real means of earning a living in a world of declining numbers of unskilled jobs – where these peoples’ very inability to fill skilled job vacancies will result either in an increase in immigration of better-skilled people to fill those vacancies or a decline in the UK economy?

    “It is not the job of the education system to make people happy.”

    Irrespective of that – I certainly see the job of the education system as enabling as many people as possible to minimise their dependence on the state. That implies educating the maximum proportion to enable them to leave seocndary education basically able compete for available jobs – equipped with soft job skills and willingness to continue learning – and equipped for life e.g. ability to manage their financial affairs etc.

  • @nonconformist while I don’t agree with everything that Tim has to say or the way he says it, one thing remains true – teachers cannot argue for an education system that holds anyone back. It simply isn’t right to argue that more able students should be held back because their presence helps, or more accurately ‘masks’, less able students. It isn’t the job of more able students to help less able. That is a teachers job. This kind of cohesion disappears once it is not enforced. Do you really think once adults that they will not resent being held back? How helpful do you think they will be to the poorer in society then? It’s a great principle that leads to a completely different reality.

  • It would be helpful if the pro Grammar School lobby defined numerically what percentage of young people they would select for a Grammar School Education. Is it 30%, 20%, 10% or less. Conversely, it would help if they defined the percentage ‘not suitable’ for such and education system.

    Without such information it is impossible to have any sort of meaningful discussion or polcy..

    All we have at the moment is a series of slogans.

  • @David Raw – that’s the first time I’ve ever been called part of a lobby. That’s quite funny. It is not my role to implement policy, I’m not a civil servant. How would I know where you should place the bar for entry to grammar school. That would involve me having access to the data which I do not, otherwise I would be plucking a figure out of the air which would not be helpful. My task, as a parent who is passionate about education, is to make sure the voice of parents like myself is heard in policy making.

  • Peter Watson: I do not know if things were all better in the 1950’s, but there is little doubt that Grammar Schools, whatever the defects there then were in the system, did assist poor working class kids to move out of their situation much better than the present sytem appears to do. I think that segment of the Education debate is irrefutable.
    Whether that alone justfies their recall I do not know but you have to agree it has some persuasion.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '16 - 9:13am

    nvelope2003

    I notice that those politicians who oppose grammar schools are careful to conceal the school which they themselves attended. I wonder why.

    I passed the 11+ but chose to go to a comprehensive school.

    Is it any wonder that people have become utterly cynical about politics. It is time to embrace the truth and stop insulting people’s intelligence.

    Truth? What we have here again, like Brexit, is right-wing elitist propagandists pushing untruths using their domination of the press and pretending to be on the side of the people.

    The truth is that there are significant parts of the country where the selective school system remains, such as Kent, and what happens there disproves the claim of you propaganda merchants that this system increases social mobility.

    What we see the media propagandists push is outrageous untruths, such as the suggestion that it is normal practice in most comprehensive schools to have completely mixed education in all classes, whereas the real truth is that streaming in almost universal.

    The media propagandists have no clue about what a normal comprehensive school is like because they come from private school backgrounds and so does everyone they know and they send their children to private schools. They have a fixed image of what a comprehensive school is like, based on assuming all are like the worst sort that exist in the metropolitan places where they live.

    As a university lecturer in a Russell Group university who deals with admissions, and very much wants to see high quality education in the students I take in, and I have dealt with thousands of them over my career, I do know what I am talking about. The right-wing propaganda that people like you seem to believe is nonsense, and it outrages me when I see it constantly repeated, and then you have the cheek to claim that you are in the side of truth and those of us who know what we are talking about are not.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '16 - 9:19am

    Lyn Newman

    It simply isn’t right to argue that more able students should be held back because their presence helps, or more accurately ‘masks’, less able students.

    Who is arguing that? I don’t see anyone here arguing for deliberately holding back the more able students.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '16 - 9:27am

    Lyn Newman

    It is not my role to implement policy, I’m not a civil servant. How would I know where you should place the bar for entry to grammar school. That would involve me having access to the data which I do not, otherwise I would be plucking a figure out of the air which would not be helpful.

    Oh, here we go, like Brexit again. We have a group of people pushing for some policy, arguing how wonderful it is, but when you ask them for practical details on how it wold actually work they can’t reply, it’s just “Der, dunno, that’s not my job”.

    My task, as a parent who is passionate about education, is to make sure the voice of parents like myself is heard in policy making.

    As a university lecturer who teaches computer programming, with the students I teach going out and getting well paid jobs (in a few year they get more than I get paid) thanks to what I taught them, I am most certainly passionate about education. And, yes, what I know works best for the students I teach is traditional style education, the most valuable qualification for it is A-level Maths, and A-level Latin is also a good way of training for the general skills it gives. Vocational “Information Technology” education is almost useless for it.

  • @Matthew huntbach more able pupils are held back in comprehensive schools; sometimes unintentionally through pace, sometimes because these pupils are bullied or the prevailing culture denigrated academic achievement, sometimes because there are no role models for the brighter pupil to learn from.

  • @Matthew Huntbach

    No people aren’t outright lying arguing that but they are saying that the introduction of grammar schools for the most able means a return to secondary moderns for everyone else. It amounts to the same argument.

    But I see that some people, not necessarily yourself have, in the absence of convincing arguments, resorted to name calling so this debate is effectively over.

    For the record, I was born on a council estate and live on a council estate. Had my local grammar school not being forced into becoming a comprehensive, I would have reached the level to attend it. Luckily, I am passionate about learning and education, because I assure you, the education I gained was despite the comprehensive school I attended, not because of it.

  • @Matthew Huntbach grammar schools were introduced to teach Latin; very few non selective schools teach it and none teach Greek

  • @Matthew Huntbach – the truth is that the better “comprehensive” schools you refer to are overwhelmingly in areas with expensive house prices where the intake has been selected by wealth. They are socislly exclusiveschoold, a situation compounded when faith is brought into the equation.

    Pupils from poor background’s live in poor areas with bad schools.

    This, in my view, is a far worse situation than selecting by ability. Given selection will take place, better to make it on pupil merit not parental wealth.

  • @ Lyn Newman I’m sorry, Lyn, but if you want to be taken seriously and for “the voice of parents like myself is heard in policy making” you have to do a bit better than that.

    Empty froth is no basis for policy making.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '16 - 9:58am

    @ Peter Watson,
    It is all rather concerning isn’t it? I am reminded of the words of a character in a George Bernard Shaw play:-

    ‘All professions are conspiracies against the laity’.

    However, it seems that teachers and educationalists are not to be credited as having a body of professional knowledge and expertise in the first place.

    I fear for my grandchildren.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 10:12am

    @Matthew Huntbach “A-level Latin is also a good way of training for the general skills it gives”
    Apologies for going off-topic (especially such an important topic about which I have strong feelings) but for personal reasons (I’m a chemical engineer working in software development and the father of school/university-age children) I’m fascinated by this point about A-level Latin and computer programming, and would welcome a bit more detail.

  • @David Raw and @Jane Mansfield are you teachers?

    Parents with financial wherewithall are voting with their wallets – either buying a house in catchment of a middle class school or going private.

  • @Peter Watson Latin is highly rule based but also creative, like programming

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 10:17am

    @Jayne Mansfield “it seems that teachers and educationalists are not to be credited as having a body of professional knowledge and expertise in the first place.”
    This does sadden me, and feels like something that has worsened over the years.

  • @Matthew hunt Bach you refer to right wing propaganda; left wing propaganda would have it that all comprehensives are uniformly excellent. This is manifestly not the case and the worst are in the poorest areas.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 10:21am

    @Lyn Newman “This ‘listen to the experts’ cry is simply trying to tell parents ‘we know best, sit down and do as you are told’ and it is fake”
    We should not forget that many teachers have children of their own and are both experts and parents.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 10:41am

    Sticking with software development a little longer, there is an approach called Extreme Programming (XP) which identifies elements of best practice and takes them to the extreme.
    In the case of academic selection, if separating children by ability is a good thing, then taking this further, we should do this on a subject-by-subject basis with multiple performance levels and revisit the basis for segregation regularly with fine tuning by moving children up and down as appropriate. So perhaps comprehensive education is the XP version of the grammar school system.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '16 - 11:34am

    @ TCO,
    Am I a teacher? I would never describe myself as such.

    I’m a mother, a former parent governor and grandmother. I have experience of caring for children who had been placed in care , including one who attended a school for children classed as ESN, as well as ‘full time ‘children who attended comprehensives and gained places on over -subscribed courses at Russell Group Universities. Basically my husband and I have watched over the development of children with a wide spread of abilities and had dealings with quite a lot of teachers.

    The third phase of my life was spent working abroad for stints, and although my main profession is not that of teacher, I gathered a PGCEA in order to better teach my profession to other adults. As relaxation, I spent any spare time I had teaching children art and handicraft in schools or resource centres set up by magnificent people to tackle the problems of lack of formal education and social exclusion in a holistic way, but it was very much as an enthusiastic amateur.

    I have never had dealings with a teacher who wanted to hold a child back rather than help him or her achieve their full potential. Common sense tells me that, as in very profession, there will be a minority who have made the wrong career choice. As responsible professionals whatever our profession, we all do our best to guide them to something more suited to their talents in the quickest possible time.

    Does that answer your question and anything that might lie beneath it?

  • This debate of a return to a Grammar & Secondary Modern system always seems to attract a lot of debate. There are always commentators who say that such a system led to a lot of people from poorer backgrounds getting a thorough education that led to good jobs. But society and the economy has changed immensely since the c.1945 to c.1975 period when the Grammar & Secondary Modern system was widespread. In those decades, the economy was growing immensely following decades of war, political turmoil and depression. There was a growing need for more medics, architects, lawyers, teachers etc. to service the expanding state provision and the changing technology of the time but there was still an extensive need for manual labourers and craftspeople. Unemployment was low and organised labour was powerful. It’s possible that generational experience of war and poverty, widespread military service, unprecedented developments in technology (from balloons to moon landings in one lifetime) and political activism (political parties and unions had massive membership figures) did as much to help poorer people develop as selective education ever did. The 20/80% selective system might have fitted those econmic times well but now there is decreasing need for manual labour, many “middle” jobs have been hollowed out, skilled technical jobs are very sought after and knowledge of modern technology is essential for everyone. We need an education system that fits these modern times rather then going back to a system that might have suited the economic needs of the past. Lastly, everyone has a right to be given the chance to learn for learnings sake, to be exposed to arts and culture, to learn languages, geography and history rather than education just being something that prepares a person for paid employment.

  • @Peter Watson @Jayne Mansfield

    I am well aware that some teachers are parents. I am also aware that many of them become more critical of the current system once they become so.

    I am not against teachers. Teachers are extremely skilled and knowledgable in delivering the national curriculum, classroom management and administration of the system. They have to work extremely long hours in preparation and schools will be a far better place when they are a better support teachers. They are experts in those areas. There are, however, many other disciplines including educational psychology that provide evidence for better ways of educating our children. To claim that only teachers are experts in education is simply to overstate their expertise. I know that because I have gone to the trouble of speaking to teacher trainers on what is left out.

    Quite simply, if you want to convince parents that grammar schools are not the way forward, provide evidence that they don’t work for the people who attend them.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 12:04pm

    @Lyn Newman “Quite simply, if you want to convince parents that grammar schools are not the way forward, provide evidence that they don’t work for the people who attend them.”
    <1 minute on Google (not yet read the article though!): http://www.independent.co.uk/news/brightest-do-better-at-comprehensive-schools-1121931.html

  • @Peter Watson Stories in newspapers are not good evidence. I’m surprised I have to tell you that.

  • I am quite serious. I am open minded and always willing to learn new things. If you can provide me with two pieces of robust evidence that prove that grammar schools do not perform for those who attend them, then you will change my mind.

    I need to see the full research – methodology and funding information so I can be sure they are not cherry picked and come from institutions/individuals with opposing vested interests.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 12:25pm

    @Peter Watson “<1 minute on Google"
    A more thorough meta-study (2008) is reported here: https://www.gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=97485&p=0 (and includes the research described in the Independent article).
    I've not read this yet either(!) but the executive summary includes these interesting points about a possible grammar school "effect":
    "In terms of raw KS4 (GCSE) results, it is clear that pupils in grammar schools do much better. This advantage remains, although the difference is smaller, if consideration is limited to pupils who achieved level 5 or higher in each of mathematics, English and science at KS2"
    "Most of these analyses suggest that pupils in grammar schools do a little better than similar pupils in other schools, with the difference somewhere between zero and three-quarters of a GCSE grade per subject. In general, the more factors introduced into the model, the smaller the difference. In particular, the inclusion of school composition variables reduces the grammar school advantage considerably."
    "Although these analyses indicate that grammar school pupils appear to make greater progress from KS2 to KS4 than other pupils, we also find that these same pupils were already making more progress from KS1 to KS2 (ie in their primary school). This suggests that there may be important but unmeasured differences between grammar and non-grammar school pupils and somewhat undermines our confidence in these estimates of a ‘grammar school effect’"
    "Overall, therefore, we find that although many of our analyses identify a small positive advantage in GCSE achievement for pupils at grammar schools, there are good reasons to be cautious of describing this as a grammar school ‘effect’. At least a part of this difference is likely to be a result of inadequate data and bias in the evaluation designs available to us."

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 12:39pm

    The conclusion of a piece of EU-wide research (2005 http://esr.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/02/18/esr.jcu040.short?rss=1) includes the point:

    The results suggest that early tracking increases educational inequality. While less clear, there is also a tendency for early tracking to reduce mean performance.

    and in terms of social mobility:

    We find descriptive evidence that institutional parameters that foster freedom in education, such as an early selection with numerous tracks of study, a great significance of public selective schools, as well as of private schools with fees, jointly amplify socioeconomic inequalities in performances between students essentially by magnifying the effect of schools’ social composition on students’ competences.

    i.e. something like a grammar school worsens social mobility rather than improves it, since “in early differentiated systems rather than comprehensive ones, primary effects of social origin express less within schools and more between schools”

  • Lyn Newman:
    Quite simply, if you want to convince parents that grammar schools are not the way forward, provide evidence that they don’t work for the people who attend them

    Peter Watson:
    The results suggest that early tracking increases educational inequality

    ‘Increasing education inequality’ means that the best do better, and the worse do worse, right.

    So doesn’t that prove that grammar schools do work for those who attend them? As the whole point of grammar schools is to make the best do better.

  • It may assist some posters to consider the research done by Stirling University on the consequences of the 11 plus. There is a PDF downloadable at the following link :

    Date of birth, family background, and the 11 plus … – University of Stirling
    https://www.stir.ac.uk/media/schools

    @ TCO You ask, am I a teacher ? I would be happy to discuss my personal details if you stopped sheltering behind anonymity when you propagate your right wing opinions. Maybe you can tell us what qualifications are.

    @ Simon Shaw Good to be able to agree with the thrust of your comments – and of your connection with my old fried R.W.

  • Thank you for taking the time to find those. I’m going to read them properly, not skim them so it may take me a few days to fit it around my schedule and consider it properly. I’m sure everyone will have moved on by then, but I just want you to know that I am asking the time to look at it properly out of respect for your time and effort.

  • *taking* sorry, not asking. Autocorrect.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 12:57pm

    There are some interesting points about the importance of the opinion of parents.
    However, it strikes me that in my role as a “parent”, I am concerned about my children, but I don’t give a fig about anybody else’s. My ideal education system would involve directing unlimited resources towards my children, exposing them to a network of “good” children who would be suitable friends while shielding them from “bad” children who might lead them astray. If it can stop my daughter from meeting a boy until she is 21, then so much the better. Fortunately(?), just being a parent is not enough to allow me to impose that on the country!

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 1:43pm

    @Dav “‘The results suggest that early tracking increases educational inequality’ … So doesn’t that prove that grammar schools do work for those who attend them?”
    Sorry, I mixed my references up earlier (https://www.libdemvoice.org/tim-farron-on-grammar-schools-51542.html#comment-412375). The quote about inequality comes from 2005 http://www.nber.org/papers/w11124. (The other quote and reference is from 2014).

    The paper referenced poses the same question: “Given that comprehensive schooling systems seem to reduce inequality, the question arises whether this effect is achieved by improving the lowest performers or by holding back the best performers.”
    It finds: “In all pairs, we see a clear tendency for countries which performed better on average in primary school to also perform better in secondary school. The impact of early tracking is, however, inconsistent across subjects and tests. The two reading comparisons indicate a statistically significant lower achievement associated with early tracking. Similarly, the mathematics results are always lower with early tracking, although the result is statistically significant at the 10 percent level or better in only one of the three comparisons. For science, however, two of the three estimates indicate positive achievement effects from early tracking (and one is statistically significant at the 5 percent level).”
    This is about a reduction in overall mean performance, but despite this, are there still winners and losers?
    The study finds, “the increased inequality and decreased mean performance in tracked systems detected in the PISA 2003-PIRLS pair come from the lower percentiles losing more than the upper ones, even though each of the four percentiles loses a statistically significant amount”. Perhaps surprisingly, this suggests that the brightest children fare less well in a selective system but the effect is worse for less capable children.
    Overall, the study concluded,

    From a policy perspective, it seems incumbent on those advocating early tracking in schools to identify the potential gains from this. These preliminary results suggest that countries lose in terms of the distribution of outcomes, and possibly also in levels of outcomes, by pursuing such policies.

  • Peter Watson 11th Aug '16 - 2:04pm

    @Lyn Newman “Thank you for taking the time to find those.”
    As a caveat, I am no educational expert (just a parent and former pupil/student) so I am will be guilty of a lack of rigour as well as unconscious bias and accidental misinterpretation of references I hastily come across.

    I think that it is important to remember that everybody, regardless of their opinion of grammar schools, wants the best possible education system. Personally, I believe that reintroducing grammar schools is likely to solve nothing and to bring about the sort of problems described by others in this thread. But that is largely because they seem to be a very crude, clumsy and inflexible form of selection, supposedly on academic grounds but in practice socioeconomic, and they do not address the problems that lead to inequality at a younger age, particularly in primary school.

    Perhaps there is value in early academic selection of the very very very very brightest children. We already have academic selection at 16 and at 18, and perhaps there is scope for it a little earlier, as part of a redesigned system that values both academic and vocational education and maintains equality of opportunity for as long as possible. It is a vision of the structure of that education system that is required, and the debate over grammar schools seems an unnecessary distraction.

  • I think that it is important to remember that everybody, regardless of their opinion of grammar schools, wants the best possible education system

    Of course they do — it’s just that people disagree about what ‘best’ means.

    (But then, if we all agreed what was best there’d be no need for politics)

  • @Peter Watson No worries, Peter, I will use what you have offered as a starting point.

    It is fair to question vested interests, especially when, on both sides, we are claiming to uncover those of others. In the past I might have benefited from a grammar school education, as might my eldest daughter, but that water is a long way down river. Personally, I have spent months pouring over research, particularly in education psychology, from institutions such as Harvard and the University of Birmingham to ensure that the educational programme I devise to meet my own younger children’s needs is exemplary. It is because of this that I have a newfound and unreserved respect for the sheer amount of time and effort teachers spend doing that for 30 plus children who aren’t their own. It is extraordinarily hard work when done properly. They do give up so much of their own lives. So, I’m not in this debate for my own kids. I’m not sure they would want to go to grammar, even if they could. It doesn’t matter to us, our children will get an education tailored specifically for them regardless of what the state does.

  • From the comments it would seem that many hold viewpoints that are based on highly questionable claims, specifically:

    “so grammar schools do not help social mobility.”
    “Pupils from poor background’s live in poor areas with bad schools.”

    Lets first take social mobility, what does this really mean in the context of education? clearly from the comments here it doesn’t mean that people who grew up on council estates etc. and hence were ‘poor’, but landed on their feet and so were able to move out to ‘better’ areas and so give their children a “better opportunity” in life. So as I noted before on LDV, there are many young people from “work class”/traditional Labour backgrounds who having been to university are now finding themselves being sneered at for being “middle class”.

    Which brings us on to the second claim, which I also suggest is a highly questionable generalisation, namely what exactly is a “poor background”? Whilst in the metropolis poor neighbourhoods may extend over large areas, in many parts of the country the poor area is too small or fragmented to have a school who’s catchment is wholly within the poor area. In fact in my area the really outstanding school is located in a deprived neighbourhood, yet it has problems attracting children from it’s immediate local area… Furthermore, building on my first observation, it is obvious that children from parents who may have grown up on council estates and who’s parents (and grand parents) are now paying for those children to go to private school, aren’t from “poor backgrounds”…

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '16 - 4:09pm

    @ Lynn Newman,
    You and your eldest daughter may have benefitted from a grammar school, but you may not have done so.

    May I recommend to you an article, ‘Eleven Grammar School Myths and the actual facts’. You might find it a good starting point to dig deeper into the reports mentioned and then reach your own conclusion about the ‘golden age of grammars’.

    I admit to not having a neutral position on this. The separation of children into ‘Sheep and Goats’ on the basis of an exam at aged 11, which took no account of home background, or the fact that some of us had been familiarised with exam papers in 3 books that our teacher recommended our parent buy, and which they gave their time to supervise and mark, still makes me burn with the injustice of it all.

    Good luck.

  • @ Lyn Newman

    Can I take it from your comments that your children don’t go to school but are home educated by yourself ?

  • David Allen 11th Aug '16 - 4:28pm

    Dav said:

    ” ‘Increasing education inequality’ means that the best do better, and the worse do worse, right.
    So doesn’t that prove that grammar schools do work for those who attend them? As the whole point of grammar schools is to make the best do better.”

    This sounds very logical, but in fact is not true. “The Spirit Level” showed that in a wide range of fields, including education and also life expectancy, greater equality benefits not only the poor, but also the rich.

    It’s simplest to illustrate their results in terms of life expectancy. Let’s suppose Ruritania is a Western country with fairly high income inequality: its average life expectancy is 75 years, while its life expectancy figures for the richest 50% and poorest 50% are 67 and 83 respectively. Now, Stentoria is another Western country with the same average income, but greater equality. In Stentoria the poorest 50% therefore have a somewhat better average life expectancy, 71 years. What might be the average life expectancy for the richest 50% of Stentorians?

    Is it 79 years? You might guess that, if you thought that equality produces a gain for the poor and a balancing loss for the rich. Or is it 81 years? You might guess that, if you recognised that the rich are (for example) still pretty well-fed in more-equal Stentoria, while the poor might really gain a lot from getting a decent diet in more-equal Stentoria.

    But both of these guesses are wrong. The right answer, as shown by numerous studies, would be something more like 84 or 85. In other words, greater inequality actually brings the rich a modest improvement in life expectancy – alongside a greater improvement for the poor.

    Why? Nobody quite knows. Perhaps a more equal society is less conflicted, so healthier. Anyway, the greater average life expectancy in more equal (Westernised) societies is a general fact. The same applies to educational inequality and educational attainment.

    Read The Spirit Level, it changed my politics and it might change yours!
    https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/the-spirit-level

  • Why? Nobody quite knows. Perhaps a more equal society is less conflicted, so healthier.

    Or perhaps correlation is not causation…

  • Neil Sandison 11th Aug '16 - 5:55pm

    Have we learned nothing from Brexit ?.We cant beat romantic or nostalgic thoughts of a time that never was. So why waste column inches or miles trying to do so. Why don’t be bold and come forward with our own model of a modern secondary school ?
    My preference would be a set stream school where children are both supported and encouraged based on their ability but the twist would be additional funding based on measurable results .We could call them Challenger Schools both existing academies ,grammar and free schools could apply for challenger funding but it would be based on consultation with local communities and oversight by local education authorities.

  • David Allen 11th Aug '16 - 6:59pm

    Dav, indeed correlation does not prove causation. It could be the other way round. It could be that in nations with longer life expectancy, that in itself somehow causes income inequality to be reduced. In theory that’s a possibility. Can’t think of a mechanism which would achieve that, though!

    It could even be that a similar “reverse causation” model also applies to education – that the better the educational attainment of a nation, the more likely is that nation to achieve greater equality. Now, maybe that’s the teentsiest little bit more plausible?

    More equal societies also have less violent crime. How are we going to “reverse causation” explain that one? Maybe it’s that all the richest people in an unequal Westernised nation got rich through violent crime? You can invent reverse causation explanations till the cows come home, if you are desperate to avoid believing the obvious – which is that more equal societies work better for all of their people!

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '16 - 7:23pm

    Peter Watson

    Apologies for going off-topic (especially such an important topic about which I have strong feelings) but for personal reasons (I’m a chemical engineer working in software development and the father of school/university-age children) I’m fascinated by this point about A-level Latin and computer programming, and would welcome a bit more detail.

    Latin is generally taught with a formal approach to grammar. Being able to use formal notation for knowledge representation is a key aspect of computer programming. Learning a language, and doing it in a formal way rather than conversationally, when that language has a different way of structuring to represent meaning actually helps people a lot with these general ideas when it comes to computer programming. As a simple example, in English the role of a word in a sentence depends on its position, whereas in Latin it depends on the ending put on the word whether it is the subject or object.

    The way this opens the mind to appreciating general principles of knowledge representation is more useful in building it up to the skills needed for computer programming than what schools call “Information Technology”, which tends to mean in practice rote memorisation of outdated semi-facts and principles without any deep understanding.

    Children who have been brought up to think of learning as memorisation have often been irretrievably damaged when it comes to picking up real practical skills which involve thought and consideration, such as computer programming. So many times I come across students who just can’t get out of the habit they were taught at school that to pass tests they need to memorise and mind dump. I would say that, after laziness, it is the most common cause of failure in my subject.

  • @Jayne Mansfield There is one simple problem with the moral outrage approach. You burn with the injustice of some children not being given a chance (those who failed the 11 plus) and I burn with the injustice of some children not being given a chance (those who would pass).

    Your argument centres on the increased inequality of a system that includes grammars. As another poster has said, this would suggest that they work for those who attend them, so it would seem that we DO penalise children who would meet the standard by not allowing them the opportunity to attend a grammar school. If we weren’t penalising them, those children would continue to perform as well in the comprehensive system and the inequality would also persist.

    It is complex and I can understand why people struggle to understand that in arguing against grammar schools on the grounds of equality, you are also arguing for bright children being held back. That is the flip side of your argument. Equality is attained at the expense of the more able. That doesn’t sound very liberal to me.

    In advocating for more advantaged children been given that opportunity, I am not advocating for others being tossed aside as worthless. I am saying that these need to be tackled as two separate issues. If we know grammars work for those who attend, let them attend and then we can all concentrate on the second issue – how do we support less academic children reach their full potential.

    If you have any additional independent rigorous research that prove grammars don’t perform for those who attend them, I am happy to add it to my reading list.

    @David Raw @Jayne Mansfield My comments about any possible benefit to myself and my family were in direct response to the comment preceding mine that identified parents as having vested interests themselves. I have provided enough personal information for you to be able to identify any vested interests I may have. To talk about that anymore would be to go off topic.

    Now, the web system seems to be going into meltdown about letting me comment further. I don’t blame it. As much as I would like to continue, I’m afraid I won’t be allowed to. I look forward to debating with you all again in the future though. I will pick up any links you post even if I can’t reply. Thanks.

  • Jayne Mansfield 11th Aug '16 - 9:40pm

    @ Lyn Newman,
    Well indeed, if someone goes through life constantly expressing moral outrage, they can of course become extremely tedious. But actually, although I was morally outraged at the age of 11, and reading the posts on here brings back that experience, I am more inclined to argue on the basis of evidence, and to do that one has to approach any evidence with an open mind.

    Again I recommend that you google, ‘ Eleven Grammar school myths and the actual facts’. It accords with my experience as a grammar school girl in the ‘golden age of grammar schools’.

    It is not the only article that I have read on the subject over the years but it makes an argument that I would wish to make ,rather succinctly. I have not read any evidence that convinces me that grammar schools past or present, achieve what they claim to achieve.

    For the record, I believe in equality of opportunity so that all children (including the brightest) achieve their full potential in life, and a meritocracy based on genuine merit.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '16 - 9:57pm

    TCO

    @Matthew hunt Bach you refer to right wing propaganda; left wing propaganda would have it that all comprehensives are uniformly excellent.

    Oh, here we go, again very much like the way the Brexiteers behaved. From the Brexiteers, there was this constant claim made against anyone who did not think leaving the EU was a good idea that they thought everything about the EU was super and wonderful. This claim was made again and again, despite the fact that I can’t recall anyone actually holding that position. The position of everyone on the Leave side, so far as I recall, is that the EU was not perfect, but it was better on balance to remain in.

    So too with comprehensive schools. I cannot recall anyone ever holding to the position that all comprehensive schools are uniformly excellent. In the fourth paragraph of my message of 9.13am today, I took a position which explicitly goes against that suggestion. My position on this, as it was with the EU, was based on thinking it the better on balance, and on being put off by the misleading and false claims made by those on the other side. The claim you are making here is one of those off-putting things that turns me against people like you – it indicates you have no interest no real debate and just want to shut it down by saying things like that.

  • Peter Parsons 11th Aug '16 - 10:04pm

    @Lyn Newman “in arguing against grammar schools on the grounds of equality, you are also arguing for bright children being held back.”

    I see no valid connection between these two arguments. One does not imply the other.

    There is nothing inherent in the comprehensive school system which holds bright children back. Those who are academically more able will simply find themselves in the top sets/streams alongside peers of similar academic aptitude. Of course, those peer groups may well be different in different subject areas as not all pupils are equally strong academically in all subjects.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Aug '16 - 10:26pm

    TCO

    @Matthew Huntbach grammar schools were introduced to teach Latin; very few non selective schools teach it and none teach Greek

    So?

    There is nothing intrinsic to the concept of comprehensive schools that says they cannot teach Latin or Greek.

    My position is that I do not believe that a rigid division into separate schools based on an intelligence test at age 10 enhances social mobility, and I do not believe that an education system where all emphasis is placed on having special schools to educate a minority of children selected on their intelligence is the best system for a productive economy or a happy population right now.

    Saying this does not mean I believe current practice in current comprehensive schools is always good. Indeed, I was quite supportive of Michael Gove’s line of pushing for more attention on core subjects in schools. The reason for this is that in my own experience these subjects are by far the best training for future work, this is based on actual analysis of the results if students I taught over the years. It certainly concerned me that over the years I was admissions tutor I rejected literally thousands of applicants because they had taken a poor choice of A-level subjects, and this was far more likely to happen in comprehensive schools. The reason for this was that students who had taken subject like Information Technology, Media Studies, Business Studies and so on at A-level generally performed much worse than students who had taken A-level Maths, and conventional science and arts subjects.

  • Ooh, the system is allowing me to comment, yay.

    @Peter Parsons If comprehensive schools give the same service to our most able students as grammar schools, how do you explain the equality gap that is created (as per the evidence) when those children are taken out to attend selective schools?

    Are you suggesting that less able students suddenly become even less able because their more able peers aren’t around?

  • Peter Parsons 11th Aug '16 - 11:17pm

    @Lyn Newman, I’d recommend re-reading David Allen’s post above on The Spirit Level and the impact of greater inequality on outcomes.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 11th Aug '16 - 11:28pm

    I went to a Catholic comprehensive and learnt Latin !!!

  • Sue Sutherland 11th Aug '16 - 11:41pm

    Some time ago Matthew Huntbach mentioned that from his perspective as an admissions tutor the top 20% of children ie potential grammar school children were fine and the problem is with the rest. I would be very interested if you would go into a bit more detail about this problem.
    I myself don’t see the need for grammar schools because children are setted these days. However, they may not be offered more academic options in the subjects available to them, I’m thinking of single science subjects and indeed of Latin. Isn’t it a waste to have several schools in a locality offering a limited range of subjects when if they cooperated children would have a better choice. The same could be said of art and sport.
    I am interested in the discussion about Latin because I did it at A level. There were only four of us taking it and I can’t help thinking that this wouldn’t be affordable for a school today. I also became a computer programmer and systems analyst because Latin developed my ability to think logically. It also taught me about politics and that human beings have grappled with life’s problems for ever. In these days of high tech there must be ways of teaching pupils remotely to give this kind of flexibility.

    Lyn, I’m sorry you’ve been prevented from commenting further, whatever happened to free speech? I have found your comments very fascinating and would like to say, please, if you aren’t one already, please, please stand as a Councillor in your area. You would be immensely valuable to our party because of your intelligence, ability to argue your case and for your life experience.

  • @Peter Parsons I appreciate your reading suggestion. I have spent many years working in deprived communities supporting disadvantaged people to speak truth to power and I can reassure you that I am fully aware of how desirable equality is and am committed to it.

    However, in fact, we are not talking about overall equality here, if we were, we would be talking about abolishing private schools frequented by the upper class. Preventing middle and working class children from accessing grammar school only benefits equality if you pretend the upper class doesn’t exist.

    I am actually interested in your answer to the question I asked.

    There are some students who would pass an academic entrance test and some students who would not pass that test. For the gap between them to widen or narrow, the attainment of one or both of those groups needs to move.

    If the gap grows wider when the able children are placed in selective education and you claim that those same able students are not adversely affected in comprehensive education, then you are claiming that the position of the able students does not change. Their attainment remains as high in either setting.

    There are only two groups so, by default, your argument means that the attainment of the less able students must fall in the absence of the more able.

    Is that what you believe? I am really trying to see what you think I am missing. It would help if you, or anyone saying that able children aren’t held back by comprehensives, answered the question.

    @Sue Sutherland Thank you for your kind words. I’m afraid I lack the tact, diplomacy and desire to be a Councillor. I am far happier and more useful supporting others than being in the limelight myself.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '16 - 7:44am

    Me

    The position of everyone on the Leave side, so far as I recall, is that the EU was not perfect, but it was better on balance to remain in.

    That should be “Remain side”, of course.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '16 - 7:47am

    Sue Sutherland

    Lyn, I’m sorry you’ve been prevented from commenting further, whatever happened to free speech?

    LDV has put on some controls that means it counts the number of messages you have posted, and stops you posting more after you have reached a limit. It’s to stop it being dominated by a small number of people who post loads of messages.

  • Dav, indeed correlation does not prove causation

    This ‘spirit level’ theory has been completely debunked, it seems; its use of statistics is very dodgy, from abusing studies about one think to prove something entirely different, to cherry-picking results, to ignoring other variables (such as culture, or raw poverty) in order to concentrate only on a simple bi-variable analysis.

    See: http://spiritleveldelusion.blogspot.co.uk/

  • @ Matthew Out of more than 170 comments only 20 are mine. I’m not sure that anyone could accuse me of dominating the conversation.

    The logic, perhaps, but not the conversation.

    And my question is still unanswered. I fear it will remain so because, whichever way it is answered, it will reveal a flaw in the argument against grammar schools.

  • Peter Parsons 12th Aug '16 - 9:42am

    @Lyn Newman, worth reading some of the papers by Professor David Jesson on the subject, including those where the statistics show that selection delivers lower overall results for all pupils compared to Comprehensive education, but by more for those in a secondary modern than in a grammar, which explains the increased attainment gap in a selective system.

    On a more personal and anecdotal level, this correlates with my experience. I was someone whose academic abilities had a reasonably wide variance across the subjects at school. Had selection been in place I would have most likely been “grammar school level” for science and maths, but not so for arts, humanities and languages. In a selective system I’d either have spent my time struggling in grammar school classes for those subjects where I was noticeably weaker academically, or in a secondary modern coasting in those subjects where I wouldn’t have been sufficiently challenged academically. Coasting certainly leads to academic underperformance, but so can constant struggling as it affects factors such as self-confidence which can then impact on performance across all subjects. Either way I’m grateful that the Comprehensive system allowed me to be academically challenged where my subject abilities merited it, but also to ensure that the education I had was at an appropriate level in the other subjects where I wasn’t so strong academically.

  • Dav,

    Professional right-wing debunkers, who stand for the wealthy who want to keep their wealth, have indeed tried to debunk the Spirit Level book. Let me just take the first rubbish argument that appears on their miserable little blog:

    “Part of The Spirit Level hypothesis is that teen births and homicide are somehow caused by inequality (chapters 9 and 10). However, Wilkinson and Pickett face a problem insofar as inequality has been rising in most countries for many years while rates of teenage births and murder have been falling.”

    Well, of course W and P didn’t say “caused” by inequality, they said there was a correlation, which there certainly is when you compare the different Westernised countries, and that this indicates that inequality in itself tends to exacerbate the crime problem. That can perfectly well be true, while alongside it, there are also other independent factors operating that act to decrease the overall level of crime as time progresses. This red herring about changes which occur as time passes is supposed to be the debunkers’ leading argument against The Spririt Level. It’s a desperately weak point.

    You suggest that The Spirit Level ignores “raw poverty”. No it doesn’t, it finds that poorer countries follow quite different trends, and in those countries, it is indeed very often the poorest (rather than the most unequal) which face the worst problems. So it deliberately selects only Westernised countries, i.e. those above a fixed average income level, and it then shows that for Westernised countries, it is inequality that matters, while average wealth (when above the threshold level) makes no difference. The book makes this point very clearly. To debunk something by deliberately misrepresenting what it says is disgraceful. The lobbyists for the rich do it, because they need duff arguments. They don’t have any good ones.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Aug '16 - 10:13am

    Neil Carmichael, the Tory MP who chairs the Common’s Education Select Committee, states, rather wisely in my opinion, ” The real danger is that if we get ourselves marooned on the idea that grammar schools are the solution, it is a distraction from what really matters’

  • @Peter Parsons

    I have looked at Professor Jesson’s research as you requested. I may not be able to access the specific report you would like me to consider.

    I accept that he says that the ‘added value’ of selective schools is not as strong as non-selective schools. The children in selective schools start at a high point, and as could be expected, they end at a high point. Less able children in non-selective schools make more progress from their starting point. There is no argument with that.

    “in the spirit of looking towards ‘indicators’ of added value, it would seem that selective schools have no advantage over others in this respect.”

    However, he is quite clear that when able children are grouped together their performance is stronger. He states that the advantage of selective schools comes not from the school itself, but from its entry criteria. Some people may use that as an argument for streaming, but as we know, and as he states, streaming within non-selective schools creates another set of social problems. I’m sure we can all cite anecdotal evidence of the negative impact of mis-streaming. It is an argument for grouping together children of similar ability; it isn’t an argument against grammar schools.

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130401151715/http://www.education.gov.uk/publications/eOrderingDownload/RR6.pdf

  • @ Peter Parsons

    Thank you so much for directing me to Professor Jesson. I have finally found the impartial answer I was looking for:

    “Both the general issue (about the superiority of selective educational systems) and the
    specific (on the impact of this on bright but disadvantaged pupils) has been issues
    which have elicited substantial academic research and partisan publication over the
    past thirty years – but with no conclusive finding justifying one position over another.” http://www.suttontrust.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/grammarsjesson.pdf

    There is no definitive evidence for or against grammar schools. It is purely an ideological choice. On that basis, as Liberal Democrats, we should allow people the option to make their own choice about whether to sit any entrance exam and whether to attend if they pass.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '16 - 12:50pm

    Lyn Newman

    @ Matthew Out of more than 170 comments only 20 are mine. I’m not sure that anyone could accuse me of dominating the conversation.

    Oh, sure. I’m just saying that LDV have set it up to work like that. I can see the point of it, but I think they might have made it a bit too strict.

    I used to contribute a lot more to LDV in the days before they had this system, in fact I think I might be one of the people whose contributions led them to introduce it …

    In contributing to this thread, I too have been hit by the same thing several times, so it’s not just you.

  • nvelope2003 12th Aug '16 - 1:20pm

    Simon Shaw : My parents came from working class backgrounds and left school at 14. Although there were a few children with possibly lower middle class backgrounds at the grammar school the people I knew best also came from working class backgrounds but I suppose I did get my first experience of middle class people so for me going to a grammar school meant I met people from different backgrounds that I would not otherwise have done. I am eternally grateful for this.
    My relatives attended the local secondary modern school but since they had absolutely no interest in academic study they were not disadvantaged and indeed benefitted enormously from the practical subjects which were then taught there and apparently are no longer taught, hence the lack of skilled workers but a surplus of lawyers and “administrators”. One of them was transferred at 13 to a local technical school which provided a grammar school type education in addition to technical subjects but he was very unsuited to this and did not get any O level passes. He had a very good career despite this as did many of those from the secondary modern school but in different spheres.

    The idea that everyone would want a grammar school education is untrue and it appears that many children would prefer a more practical type of learning so I do not have any problem with secondary modern schools provided that they are given adequate resources and staffing.

    When I talked about their school experiences to my younger colleagues they all admitted that they were unhappy at the comprehensive school because of the bullying of those who were good at the subjects taught there by those who were also unhappy as they hated those subjects.

    However the point of my post was that the Liberal Democrats are unlikely to gain popular support if they continue to advocate unpopular policies which make them seem elitist.
    One of the reasons why comprehensive schools are not popular is that they are seen as the pet project of the elite who would for the most part never send their own children to them but prefer independent fee paying schools and claim this as their right. What sort of message does that send to the ordinary people who cannot afford the fees ?

  • @Matthew No worries. I was a bit worried about getting caught in the comments system so soon after joining. Thankfully, I’ve decided to focus my passion and determination on education and rural affairs so I hope not to upset it too often.

  • @Lyn Newman I agree with everything you’ve written.

    It seems the argument is a bit like that for single sex education – on average boys do better in mixed schools and girls do better in single sex ones.

    Comprehensive supporters argue that the less able benefit from the presence of their more able peers, and grammar supporters argue the opposite.

    Actually grammar supporters sometimes put forward a similar argument too, that the positive example set in an academic environment really benefits those bright pupils who do not have a supportive environment.

    At the end of the day it comes down to balance. If the school is sufficiently “middle class” in ethos then the impact of disruptive pupils is lessened (though not eliminated). If not, then they’re able suffer.

    My experience was if the latter type of school – and setting just makes this worse because it clearly identifies the target group.

    But as you say Lyn all options should be available in a liberal society and got the majority without money the selective option is not available.

    This just abandons the upper echelons of society to be the sole preserve of the wealthy and it infuriates me that the comprehensive apologists will not engage with this point.

  • @peter Martin it’s interesting that you can’t see a cultural fit with selective Asian systems but ignore that issue when it comes to the non selective Finnish one. Culture is either an issue or it isn’t and Finland is a very different place with a very different history and culture to the UK

  • @peter Martin your experience is the exception rather than the rule. Speak to any teacher and the vast majority of children will be in similar positions across all subjects when it comes to setting.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '16 - 2:03pm

    Sue Sutherland

    Some time ago Matthew Huntbach mentioned that from his perspective as an admissions tutor the top 20% of children ie potential grammar school children were fine and the problem is with the rest. I would be very interested if you would go into a bit more detail about this problem.

    I work at Queen Mary University of London. I’m still partly involved with admissions for my subject, Computer Science (I’ll be taking some of the Clearing calls next week for example), but it was for the period 1995-2005 that I was the main admissions tutor for the subject. Queen Mary has gone up in the ranks quite a bit since then, and become a Russell group university, although we still struggle because too many students see us as just a fall-back option if they can’t get into Imperial or UCL. However, when I was in charge of CS admissions, we really did struggle to fill our places in Computer Science, and we would take on a fair number of students with D and E grades at A-level, which we wouldn’t now.

    So, I’ve been involved with students who would not have gone to grammar school under the selective system. What I wrote is from this perspective. It seems to me that if we want the best investment to increase the skills levels overall in our society, pulling those in the middle up is what we need to do. Those at the top can mostly get by fine on their own, it is those lower down who need more help to reach their full potential. Investing all our thought and effort into educating the top 20% and not bothering much with the rest, which is what placing all attention to grammar schools means, is not the way to provide what our society really needs for a productive economy.

    With regards to my 12:50pm message, LDV stopped me from posting this next message when I wrote it. It’s been left waiting since then.

  • Matthew Huntbach 12th Aug '16 - 2:31pm

    TCO

    @Matthew Huntbach – the truth is that the better “comprehensive” schools you refer to are overwhelmingly in areas with expensive house prices where the intake has been selected by wealth.

    The students I take in mostly come from schools in London (I would like to get more from the UK but outside London, but few non-Londoners seem to want to come to London to study these days), and actually most of them are not from the “best” schools. I do know what I am talking about. Actually, even schools that have a fairly poor performance overall do turn out some students with good A-levels. Given that the chance of pupils who go to those schools passing the 11+ if it was still in place would be low, overall I do not think there is a big difference in the number who end up with good A-levels.

    I do myself very much take in what you said in your message of 9.30am yesterday, not least because I experienced that myself when I was growing up. Nevertheless, I do not think that taking a tiny proportion of children from poor backgrounds and putting them in schools where they are going to be surrounded by children from wealthy backgrounds is going to solve the more general problem. Part of my concern comes because I see the elite pushing for grammar school and arguing that will help social mobility doing it in order to divert attention from the real causes of inequality.

    The problem of bullying of kids who are quiet and shy (as I was, and also small and clumsy, so I had to develop a good brain as I had nothing else going for me) won’t go away if you just take a very few of them and put them elsewhere. Solve that deeper problem, instead of just putting a sticky plaster on the deep wound.

  • nvelope2003 12th Aug '16 - 3:37pm

    Matthew Huntbach 11.8.16 at 0913 –

    I tried to explain what I meant but it has not yet appeared. I do have some knowledge and I do not rely on the right wing press as I have stopped buying newspapers. We used to read the News Chronicle until it closed. You have your ideas but that does not mean everyone else is wrong.

  • Jayne Mansfield 12th Aug '16 - 5:22pm

    It is Professor Jesson’s research that reinforced my opposition to Grammar schools.

  • Apologies for the delay in releasing comments that had fallen into the moderation trap. Today and over the weekend LDV is struggling to provide cover throughout the day – blame holidays, patchy wi-fi, visiting relatives, work and the Olympics. Please be kind to us!

  • Now I have a clearer idea of the underlying principles, it is easier for me to respond with specific proposals as I was requested to do earlier.

    First, obviously, we aren’t the government and even if our party jumps up and down going ‘no, no, no’, we can’t guarantee it won’t happen. There is no effective opposition and it will be very popular with parents, particularly middle class vocal ones.

    Personally, I would counsel against outright refusal to support the scheme. Young people already feel that older generations have just dumped them out of Europe and the opportunities it offered them. It may not go down well if older people create a furore, based on their own experiences, that prevents young people from accessing another perceived opportunity so soon.

    Personally I would like us to ask for three things:

    1 A cap on the number of pupils from households with incomes/assets above a certain level. In a doctor’s waiting room issue of Tatler, I saw an article about how unaffordable private education was becoming for the rich with a list of good (mainly grammar) schools for them to target. If they can afford to buy a house anywhere, they will continue to pay for the private education of their children if they do not get in.

    2 An ungameable test. They do exist. Potentially at a more appropriate age. I know 13 has been suggested. That’s really a question for educational psychologists.

    3. Admission of the brightest children above the set standard should be prioritised, as it is in a comprehensive, putting looked after children first. Any looked after child in the area who passes the test should get a place. It might even be worth considering a lower benchmark if an educational recommendation (based on their effort and promise) is available from their current school given the often chaotic life circumstances they face. Following that should be those who have no family history of higher education and those eligible for pupil premium. If sibling preference is included at all, it should be at the end of quite a long list.

    If Mrs May wishes to be seen as credible in her claims to be working for everyone, she shouldn’t have any problems with any of those, should she?

  • Peter Watson 12th Aug '16 - 10:18pm

    @Matthew Huntbach “In contributing to this thread, I too have been hit by the same thing several times, so it’s not just you.”
    I was also nobbled by the flood control, but thank you for responding about Latin and programming. The link certainly makes sense, though begs a question about cause and correlation. The best hackers I have met seem to just get it, and have a real passion for coding. None have any background in Latin, but it would be an interesting experiment to persuade them to give it a go!

  • Peter Watson 12th Aug '16 - 10:31pm

    @Peter Parsons “worth reading some of the papers by Professor David Jesson on the subject, including those where the statistics show that selection delivers lower overall results for all pupils compared to Comprehensive education, but by more for those in a secondary modern than in a grammar, which explains the increased attainment gap in a selective system.”
    European-wide evidence that supports your point, i.e. that all groups do worse in a selective system (but less capable children more so) was also presented in the study by Hanushek & Woessmann (2005) that I linked to earlier.

  • Peter Watson 12th Aug '16 - 10:35pm

    @theakes “I do not know if things were all better in the 1950’s, but there is little doubt that Grammar Schools, whatever the defects there then were in the system, did assist poor working class kids to move out of their situation much better than the present sytem appears to do. I think that segment of the Education debate is irrefutable.”
    Actually, I think there are doubts and refutations: http://www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2015/03/eleven-grammar-school-myths-and-the-actual-facts

  • Peter Watson 12th Aug '16 - 11:41pm

    @Lyn Newman “it will be very popular with parents, particularly middle class vocal ones.”
    On that basis we’d be throwing away tax payers’ money providing quackery like homeopathy on the NHS.
    Pardon? We already spend millions each year on it? And the Health Secretary’s a fan? What is the world coming to? If only we had sensible Lib Dems in government to stop that sort of silly waste. Oh.
    😉

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Aug '16 - 12:01am

    Peter Watson

    I was also nobbled by the flood control, but thank you for responding about Latin and programming. The link certainly makes sense, though begs a question about cause and correlation. The best hackers I have met seem to just get it, and have a real passion for coding.

    Sure, but the real problem is how can you tell in advance who is going to have the real passion for coding. And that has to be proper coding, with an emphasis on abstraction, so they can move on to using recursion and pointers, object orientation with dynamic binding and design patterns, because one of the biggest problems is students who hit a barrier in understanding once it goes beyond programming just in terms of control structures and primitive value variables.

    School information technology qualifications are worse than useless at this, because they simply do not teach or assess this sort of thing, and are too much based on memorising and reproducing facts. So they give a completely false impression as to what our subject is about. You can’t blame the teachers, because in most cases they themselves know no more than that.

    I’m not suggesting those who are already proven good hackers are going to benefit much from going off and learning some Latin. However, if you want to try and pick those who will be good programmers, those who enjoy subjects involving abstraction and logical reasoning, and whose minds have been developed by doing them, are likely to be better than those whose ability to learn has been damaged by taking qualifications based too much on mindless memorisation, even if what they are memorising seems to be more relevant.

    I say all this from actual experience, taking in students, and looking at how their qualifications and what they said in their UCAS personal statements correlate to how they actually did in their degree.

  • http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/grammar-schools-like-the-one-i-went-to-are-good-for-social-mobility-the-public-schools-most-a7178836.html

    “Harold Wilson, like Margaret Thatcher and Ted Heath a high-profile product of a grammar school education (before we went back to get our prime ministers from the ancient public schools), once famously remarked that he would like to see every child get a grammar school education. That was well meant, but wrong, as it simply wouldn’t suit every child, just as life in a comp doesn’t suit some, nor life in a “top” single-sex private boarding school would suit everyone.

    I get angry sometimes because I know there were children born after me whose life chances were blighted, irretrievably, by being deprived of the chances I had through the grammar school. That is just too sad to bear. We need variety, we need different ladders of opportunity, we need to take the best of some older models and modernise them. Modern Grammar Schools would be good for opportunity, good for social mobility, good for equality, and good for the country. “

  • @Peter Watson @ Matthew Huntbach I’m not an expert on testing so I offer this with all kinds of caveats – the strongest being we should ask educational psychologists.

    I remember taking lots of tests and performing strongly on the visual-spatial one that requires the rotation of objects in the mind. I read it is particularly hard to game that test and measures quite a “pure” innate kind of intellectual ability and mental agility. The “pure” definition is not mine so I’m not sure exactly what is meant by it. I was the poster child for IT in my first comprehensive so, obviously, I went on to do a completely useless broad degree in the humanities with minors in sociolinguistics and children’s literature!

    I believe we need more imagination when we think about testing. Does it need to be paper based at all? Should it look more like an assessment centre?

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Aug '16 - 11:42am

    @ TCO,
    I’m sorry, but I would argue that their lives were blighted because of grammar schools.

    I notice that a new group Conservative Voice has been set up to argue that the 11 plus is too restrictive. The group is supported by such as Liam Fox, David Davis and Priti Patel and seems to be a reaction to objections raised by some Conservatives to the reintroduction of the Grammar Schools system. It appears to acknowledge that the 11 plus is too restrictive, that grammar schools do offer social mobility to the poorest etc.

    If children who show themselves to be bright are to be offered the opportunity to move to a grammar school at different ages, 12, 13 , 14, 15, whatever, ( an acknowledgement that IQ and ability are not fixed), why do we need a grammar school system with different schools, why cannot the whole range of ability be educated under the same roof, for example in a comprehensive school where children can be moved between ability bands and taught subjects for example latin or any other subject not already taught?

    If there is a concern about social mobility, why the need for social segregation?

  • Petermartin2001: The reports you refer to state that the Finnish system is losing its edge. Similar systems in Norway and Sweden do not perform particularly well. There are other factors operating here relating to national culture and temperament. Britain trains a lot of teachers but large numbers leave the profession after a relatively short period. One of the reasons is the behaviour of some students and the culture which makes it diffficult or impossible to do anything about it. Maybe we should hand our schools over to Chinese trained teachers like those shown in a recent TV series who achieved excellent results by simply imposing discipline, to the horror of the British head teacher who rightly feared that if this caught on most of his colleagues would soon lose their jobs…..

  • There are vested interests operating here. We should not assume that because someone is a teacher their only concern is the success and welfare of the students.

  • Nigel Jones 13th Aug '16 - 1:19pm

    Good to see this argument still going.
    Further to my previous comment, the most important positive point against grammar schools is the need to have a mix and match approach in all schools, so that youngsters are taught according to their aptitudes and abilities, which are not only hugely complex and varied but can change from year to year. My son went to a comprehensive where he was educated in much the same way as if he had gone to a grammar school, because the school adapted their grouping and teaching to the differences of the youngsters and he was among the more academic ones. I taught at a comprehensive in inner London and I argued strongly against a small number of my fellow teachers who said ‘We are a comprehensive school, therefore we teach them all the same’. For me, the whole ethos of comprehensive education is that we treat them equally in terms of opportunities and social status, but as much as possible as individuals in how and what we teach and the approach to learning. We must not stereotype them into academic and vocational, especially at the age of 11 or even 13.

  • David Allen 13th Aug '16 - 1:30pm

    Mary Reid, “Apologies for the delay in releasing comments that had fallen into the moderation trap. … DV is struggling to provide cover … Please be kind to us!”

    Well I’d like to be – but pre-moderated comments always appear some way back from the end of the thread, and clearly often just get missed by readers, who don’t expect to find new posts except near the end of the thread. That’s a problem.

  • Phil Beesley 13th Aug '16 - 1:59pm

    Five days ago, Stevan Rose commented: “Grammar schools made it possible for anyone in society regardless of birth to receive an education that enabled them to compete with public school educated politicians and leaders in the military and business on a level pegging.”

    Stevan identifies a profound difference between secondary modern and grammar school education — at the time, 40 years ago. In the meanwhile, public schools have changed. I’ve no idea whether classics is a mandatory subject but I do know that they use IT and teach “dodgy” A Levels such as Psychology or Media Studies (both of which are excellent disciplines for understanding the world in which we live, less good for university admission qualification).

    Which attributes would make a grammar school education comparable with public school? If comprehensives teach the same courses for the same exams as public schools, we have to look at the extra things.

    * Public school money and class sizes.
    * Careers and education advice.
    * Sport, music, debating skills.
    * Mentoring.

    Perhaps grammar schools help some pupils with the latter three. I’m sure that many comprehensives and academies strive and succeed to help too. But university admissions tutors need to change their perspectives a bit more. If 40% of young people are entering higher education with limited job/life experience, it’s a completely different world from 10% of grammar school pupils going to polytechnic or university. And whenever you change schools, it is necessary for further and higher education to adjust.

    My thanks to Matthew Huntbach and Peter Watson for the interesting aside about formal language and computer science. Some memoirs from Gary Kildall, a 1970s micro computing pioneer, were recently published, and Kildall touches on the topic.

  • There’s not much point for Liberal Democrats to campaign and strive for a classless society if they support the re-introduction of selective Grammar Schools.

  • A Social Liberal 13th Aug '16 - 8:42pm

    Here is what Helen Barnard, head of analysis at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said in a recent blog about grammar schools :-

    “*There are three times as many ‘losers’ in a grammar school system as there are ‘winners’. The ‘losers’ are disproportionately poorer than the ‘winners’.

    *Children on free school meals are half as likely to get into a grammar school as a better-off child with the same test scores.

    *Children in selective systems who do not get into grammar schools do worse than their equivalents in comprehensive systems.

    *Regions with selective education systems have bigger wage gaps between those at the top and bottom.

    *The OECD finds that countries with selective education systems are more socio-economically segregated that those with comprehensive systems. Nine of the ten best education systems in the world are comprehensive.”

    I would like to throw in my two penneth.

    *Both of the grammar schools in the town I live in only recruit 28% of their cohorts from the catchment area – which being rural is much larger than urban ones.

    *Many of that cohort received tutoring both for their SATS and for the selection into grammar school.

    *Neither of the grammar schools reach the average for grammar schools recruiting children who are on free school meals (an average which, incidentally, is less than 3% anyway).

    Now, if my two grammar schools are representative of the majority – bringing back this iniquitous system would do nothing to raise social mobility.

  • Phil Beesley 13th Aug '16 - 11:31pm

    I think we should be appalled that “free school meals” is used as a measure of pupils — or for teaching success or ability.

  • Malcolm Todd 13th Aug '16 - 11:59pm

    It’s not used as a measure of pupils, Phil, but as a measure of social deprivation. It’s not perfect, but a pretty good proxy.

  • @Jayne Mansfield we have social segregation under the present system because school places are allocated on the basis of the ability to afford houses in catchment. You keep ignoring this fundamentally unfair and illiberal aspect of the do-called comprehensive system; presumably because you have no answer to it.

    The benefits of having specialist schools are several; not least the ability to reap the rewards of economies of scale to offer specialist teaching and infrastructure that it would be impossible to offer in every school.

    It is totally feasible to monitor and retest and move people around at intermediate stages and I would reintroduce middle schools and have final specialisation at 13 or 14 at puberty.

  • @a social liberal your two schools are not representative because they are a scarce resource in a locality. Hence the fierce competition to get in

  • @david Raw liberal democrats don’t base their view on outdated notions of a class struggle. That sort of thinking is more appropriate for Corbyn supporters. Liberal democrats base their assessment of policy in the basis of individual need not on the basis of prescriptive diktat.

  • @phil beesley it is precisely in the softer skills and non-core areas that grammar schools allow state educated pupils to compete effectively with their privately educated peers. It is the exposure to the upper echelons of society that enables these pupils to realise what there even is to compete for. Pupils at comprehensive schools just never come across the high achieving parents of fellow pupils that widen their horizons

  • Peter Watson 14th Aug '16 - 12:40pm

    TCO “we have social segregation under the present system because school places are allocated on the basis of the ability to afford houses in catchment.”
    Introducing grammar schools with academic selection at 10/11 does nothing to address the same social selection in primary schools where perhaps it is amplified by smaller catchment areas. The evidence appears to suggest that grammar school selection increases this segregation by social background.
    Unless you can come up with some form of in utero academic selection, any disadvantage will be ingrained long before children sit an 11+ exam.

  • Peter Watson 14th Aug '16 - 1:25pm

    @Jayne Mansfield “If children who show themselves to be bright are to be offered the opportunity to move to a grammar school at different ages, 12, 13 , 14, 15, whatever”
    As well as acknowledging the unreliability of selection at 11, this approach also seems to downplay the supposed benefits of 4 years of academic hot-housing in a grammar school.

    “why cannot the whole range of ability be educated under the same roof”
    I agree – moving between sets/streams within a school is less disruptive to the child and their family than moving to a different school in a different place, it can take place at any time, and it can be upwards and downwards as appropriate with more refinement on a subject-by-subject basis.

  • Peter Watson 14th Aug '16 - 1:28pm

    A significant problem with this debate is that often we are imagining an idealised comprehensive system or an idealised grammar school system. In practice there are problems with both and social problems that neither addresses, and often our opinions seem to be coloured by how happy we were at our own schools or our lives since. But so far (in my not unbiased opinion!), the case for grammar schools and selection seems to be based more on anecdote, ideology and wishful thinking than quantitative evidence than the case for comprehensive education. Indeed, those calling for academic selection at 11 seem to be accepting the value of comprehensive education before that magic age.

    However, the specific topic raised in this article is not about overhauling the whole education system, it is about a Tory proposal to allow a few more grammar schools. And if the question is about how to best we can improve the education of all of our children, that does not seem to be any sort of answer.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '16 - 1:39pm

    Phil Beesley

    But university admissions tutors need to change their perspectives a bit more. If 40% of young people are entering higher education with limited job/life experience, it’s a completely different world from 10% of grammar school pupils going to polytechnic or university.

    Er, do you really think what I did as a university admissions tutor was to set a rigid qualifications requirement and take however many or few reached it (and weren’t offered a place elsewhere they chose in preference)?

    If I’d done that, I’d have lost my job and so would half my colleagues, because we wouldn’t have been able to recruit enough students. Ideally I’d want all our students to have A-level Maths, for example, but if I’d insisted on that we would have come nowhere near filling all our places as not enough students take it. I’m serious here – other departments that did require A-level Maths did get closed down because they did not recruit enough students. As I said, the university where I work isn’t right at the top of the table, so we don’t have first pick.

    How it actually works is that you have a fixed quota in terms of numbers of students to fill, and you have to fill it with the best of whoever applies and doesn’t choose to go elsewhere. So I very much did have to look at alternative ways of choosing who might end up suitable for my subject than the most obvious.

    However, it is not just a matter of innate ability. Appropriate training helps. What schools taught as “Information Technology” was not appropriate training for Computer Science, but they often thought it was.

  • Stevan Rose 14th Aug '16 - 6:33pm

    Well over 200 comments must be something of a record. I wonder though if it has changed anyone’s mind even one iota. What is interesting for me is that I had assumed I must be in a minority of 1 in this party when it comes to grammar schools, and I’m not.

    I don’t think I used a tautology earlier. Grammars provide an excellent education for those with an academic aptitude but a pretty poor one for someone who wants to be more creative. That’s only a problem if children with different aptitudes don’t get an excellent education designed for them, whether that’s a sports or language academy, the BRIT School, technical high schools or comprehensive schools for all-rounders. You can’t use the secondary modern argument against grammars any more, because there can be education tailored to individual aptitude. And I would select on assessment rather than an 11 plus exam.

  • @Peter Watson “Unless you can come up with some form of in utero academic selection, any disadvantage will be ingrained long before children sit an 11+ exam.”

    Isn’t that an argument in favour of grammar schools?

    @Stevan Rose ” You can’t use the secondary modern argument against grammars any more, because there can be education tailored to individual aptitude. And I would select on assessment rather than an 11 plus exam.”

    Totally agree. The arguments trotted out by the anti grammar brigade hark back to problems of fifty years ago. Easily fixed by what you propose.

  • @Peter Watson “I agree – moving between sets/streams within a school is less disruptive to the child and their family than moving to a different school in a different place, it can take place at any time, and it can be upwards and downwards as appropriate with more refinement on a subject-by-subject basis.”

    It still doesn’t cure the problem of the culture in the school.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Aug '16 - 8:36pm

    nvelope2003

    Maybe we should hand our schools over to Chinese trained teachers like those shown in a recent TV series who achieved excellent results by simply imposing discipline, to the horror of the British head teacher who rightly feared that if this caught on most of his colleagues would soon lose their jobs…..

    My university has an arrangement with a university in Beijing, which means we do some teaching over there. So I have experience of teaching Chinese school-leavers. I don’t think that much of Chinese school teaching from what I see, it seems to be very much based on memorisation as opposed to real learning, and I have a real struggle to get the Chinese students I teach out of that way of thinking.

    On discipline, yes, I do think there is an issue here, I would like to see British children grow up with a more disciplined attitude. However, by this I mean self-disciplined, rather than just mindlessly obedient to control. I do think at present we have a culture where we over-indulge children, and as I said in an earlier message in this thread, give the impression that all that matters in life is to have a pushy narcissistic personality.

  • nvelope2003 14th Aug '16 - 9:07pm

    I was not much good at memorisation so it was just as well I understood the subject but as must be obvious to anyone who is observant most students have to memorise things or they would not get any qualifications. Chinese students are just the same – I have been there often enough. The difference is that they have a completely different mind set and culture to British students brought up on ideas of freedom and democracy. The state and their parents tell them what to think and only a few deviate from that. A very nice Chinese man told me the Dalai Lama was a crazy man. He simply could not understand that someone who was not Chinese might not like to be ruled by them. But it seems to be getting more and more like that here especially among young people – you only have to listen to the followers of the Pied Piper of Islington

  • nvelope2003 14th Aug '16 - 9:11pm

    93% of children are educated in state schools but only 63% of those attending Cambridge University come from state schools – even less in some places like Bristol. Why is this ?

  • Peter Watson 14th Aug '16 - 9:20pm

    @TCO
    “any disadvantage will be ingrained long before children sit an 11+ exam.”
    Isn’t that an argument in favour of grammar schools?”
    No. Or do you have an in utero selection test ready to go? (The obvious one is middle-class parents I suppose, which seems to be a great predictor for grammar schools).

    “The arguments trotted out by the anti grammar brigade hark back to problems of fifty years ago. Easily fixed by what you propose.”
    The reports presented above about the adverse effects of a selective system are based upon data from the last decade. Conversely, support for the grammar school system seems to be based upon a yearning for a golden age that never was. If the shortcomings are “easily fixed”, then a few more details would be helpful, since “education tailored to individual aptitude” seems to be more apt in the context of comprehensive education e.g. streaming by subject, moving up and down throughout the academic year, etc..

    “It [streaming] still doesn’t cure the problem of the culture in the school.”
    Removing the most academic kids will probably worsen any problems with the culture in a school.

  • @Nvelope2003 Oxbridge take proportionately the same numbers of suitably qualified applicants from state and independent schools. Grammar schools are over-represented in the srate proportion

  • Peter Watson 14th Aug '16 - 10:07pm

    @nvelope2003 “93% of children are educated in state schools but only 63% of those attending Cambridge University come from state schools”
    I believe that a successful Oxbridge application requires more than straightforward academic ability (and might therefore not be greatly improved by the grammar school approach).
    I remember reading an article a few years ago about Nick Clegg’s path to Cambridge, including schoolmasters who could point him towards a softer course and a softer college since the goal was any Oxbridge degree. My (limited) experience of children from less privileged backgrounds applying to Oxford or Cambridge is that they are motivated primarily by the particular subject they want to study rather than gaining an Oxbridge degree per se so might be unaware of (and uninterested in) alternative subjects and more interested in alternative universities, they are unaware of (and uninterested in) the social distinctions between colleges within the university and the effect it might have on the application process, they are applying for very tough conditional offers (which they often meet or exceed) but suffer in the interview process, and they can be put off by the preponderance of privately educated wealthier students (particularly with well-reported stories about Bullingdon boys and dining clubs). Some might be put off by the perceived Oxbridge lifestyle or the cost of living in those cities. I believe that Cambridge requires undergraduates to sign an undertaking that they will not work during term-time and declare that they can support themselves financially, so that might be off-putting. I also perceive that in recent years financial considerations mean that students are more reluctant to study further away from home.
    Overall, in terms of academic ability, are there too few state-educated students to fill Oxbridge places, are too few applying, or are too few being offered places? And does it matter?

  • @Peter Watson i am married to someone who does Oxbridge admissions and there are
    an awful lot if misconceptions in your comment.

  • Peter Watson 14th Aug '16 - 10:35pm

    “And does it matter?”
    Oops, I just realised that this might give the impression i think it does not matter, which was not my intention.

  • Peter Watson 14th Aug '16 - 11:12pm

    @TCO “there are an awful lot if misconceptions in your comment.”
    Quite probably (which ones in particular?) Perhaps demonstrating that they are misconceptions is something that Oxbridge needs to address, since my comments were based on my own experiences 30+ years ago and those of my children and their friends more recently.
    P.S. Are you on a permanent naughty step, as your comments often appear some time after the event, making it easy to miss and difficult to respond to the points you raise. If so, can I appeal to the site mods to let you off the hook as, although I often disagree with you, you always seem to be polite and on-topic.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Aug '16 - 9:53am

    nvelope2003

    I was not much good at memorisation so it was just as well I understood the subject but as must be obvious to anyone who is observant most students have to memorise things or they would not get any qualifications

    No, no, no!! And once again, NO!!!

    As I have said, the most common reason for failure in my subject (apart from laziness, where self-discipline is the issue) is the misbelief that learning requires memorisation.

    It requires practice, not memorisation. With sufficient practice, the necessary issues settle into your head, you don’t have to make a conscious effort to memorise them. Trying to memorise things rather than learn them through practice is both harder work and less effective.

    Of course, as a teacher, it is easier to push and use the memorisation approach, and do assessment in that way, because then you can do it without having a deep understanding of the subject yourself. However, if this is what is done (and, sadly, it is in too many qualifications), it is useless because it does not teach real skills. This is precisely why so many “vocational” qualifications are in practice of no use.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Aug '16 - 10:07am

    nvelope2003

    But it seems to be getting more and more like that here especially among young people – you only have to listen to the followers of the Pied Piper of Islington

    Er, isn’t there a slight difference here? Corbynism isn’t the state ideology, and we don’t live in a country where singing the praise of Corbyn is the universal position of the media and anyone who criticises him is likely to get censored and will be in trouble if they carry on.

    I certainly agree that the attitudes of the socialist left and their inability to see both aides of an argument, and the way when they do take control it is all to themselves with no thought of balance or true democracy, is troubling, and it is why though my political inclinations are to the left, I joined the Liberal Party and remained it in successor and have never felt attracted to the Labour Party.

    However- you know what? I see just the same sort of attitude in free market fanatics. Sadly, quite a few of that sort have joined the Liberal Democrats, and that’s why it’s no longer a party I feel comfortable to be a member of. When I have tried arguing with these people it feels very similar to when I used to argue with Trots when I was younger. They have a fixed simplistic ideology in their heads, to them it is the answer to all problems, and if you try to argue with them they will just accuse you of being an extremist on the other side, as they have no sense of political balance.

  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Aug '16 - 10:25am

    Stevan Rose

    You can’t use the secondary modern argument against grammars any more, because there can be education tailored to individual aptitude. And I would select on assessment rather than an 11 plus exam.

    There are two issues here.

    The first is that it is NOT just “education tailored to attitude”. What you are saying is that it can be worked out at the age of 10 what is most appropriate, with splitting of children into different schools at that age, making it very difficult to change things if the age 10 assessment was incorrect, or the child changes as he or she develops.

    The second is that although people like you put this line when pushed, it’s never your first line. The first line is always exclusively in terms of grammar schools, hence the belief that that’s all you REALLY care about, and the rest is just post hoc justification.

  • I am surprised to see this debate continues which only goes to prove that there is no clinching argument on either side.

    I have learnt a few simple things from many years of working with communities:

    1 People rarely, if ever, change their minds when told they are wrong.

    2 People normally find something else to blame if something they chose proves to be wrong. Repentance is a minority sport.

    Might I suggest an alternative? Since I last contributed to this debate I have been spending some of my time writing a post that I hope to submit to this blog about one possible alternative to the grammar /comprehensive argument, because there’s one thing it seems that we can all agree on – neither of them is particularly good.

    Might I suggest that others do the same? I would love to hear what alternative ideas other people have. Maybe we can find something we can agree on.

  • nvelope2003 15th Aug '16 - 1:45pm

    Matthew Huntbach: England, but possibly not Scotland and certainly not Ireland, has a tradition of toleration for other beliefs almost unique in Europe apart from the Netherlands. This springs from the 17th Century Civil War and the subsequent need to accept that the Protestant Nonconformists or Dissenters could not be accommodated in the Established Church without destroying it for the majority who were happy with it as it was. There was no such toleration in Scotland where in 1689 William of Orange was persuaded to abolish the Episcopal Church and allow the Presbyterian extremists to take control of the Church. Hundreds of Episcopalian ministers were forced out although it is not clear that Presbyterianism was popular but like Corbynism it had fanatical supporters who used violence to get their way, just as the English Dissenters had done during the Civil War.

    Now we see a similar intolerance of other people’s beliefs. It does not always need the state to enforce a particular belief. Social pressures can be more persuasive for many, especially younger or immature people. There is a certain perception which becomes the norm and anyone who does not share it either has to keep quiet or pretend to go along with it.

    The free market extremists have not taken over and I do not want to see the Comprehensive schools abolished – just let different systems exist to suit different circumstances. I think what really appalled me was the idea of using the unelected House of Lords to override any House of Commons decision to permit a limite number of grammar schools.

  • Katerina Porter 15th Aug '16 - 9:17pm

    I am glad Finland and S Korea have been mentioned. Korea suffers from rote learning so good results for teenagers but they worry about lost creativity. Finland has been top or near the top of OECD tables. School, comprehensive, starts at 7. Preschool, kindergarten, is very important and is on froebel/montessori lines -learn through play and learn to play together. There are no league tables, no outside testing till pretty tough exams at 18, either academic or vocational which may need retaking. Way back in the seventies early eighties both our children went to private and state schools for different reasons, and in those days both happened to be good but those state schools had more spark . I will never forget Kenneth Baker (Mrs Thatcher’s education minister) being interviewed. He was asked if they had set out to undermine the comprehensive system “of course we did” he replied. Our son, a dyslexic, started at prep school then a comprehensive (with setting not streaming) and ended up with a doctorate from Imperial college. Our daughter a brilliant primary, then a rather boring ex direct grant. The previous system was much geared to what the pattern of employment was, and the eleven plus let the right number through for middle class employment and secondary moderns for the rest – and the sense of failure that went with it.. Technical schools suffered from the social standing of technology. ie someone coming to mend your washing machine was called an engineer. We wondered if our son should do engineering (which we happened to think was rather exciting) and the school said “but he is such a sensitive boy” …….. ….

  • @Peter Watson thanks for your kind words. Yes I was put on permanent naughty step for responding robustly to someone who has subsequently been banned from this site for abusive behaviour. Perhaps I was wrong to do so but he had it coming as we have since seen.

    @Lyn Newman I’d be interested to see what you come up with. My own view i’s that there is room for many different types of school – highly academic ones amongst them. That is the best sort of school for some children without question; no one wants to grow up feeling like a freak so sometimes it makes sense to group those children together until they are mature enough to deal with society more generally

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Aug '16 - 2:05pm

    Matthew Huntbach
    ‘ Queen Mary has gone up in the ranks quite a bit since then, and become a Russell group university, although we still struggle because too many students see us as just a fall-back option if they can’t get into Imperial or UCL. ‘

    You know as well as I do that the ‘Russell Group’ is a brand that does not cover all of the top universities in the UK. A cursory look at the rankings (including Shanghai) shows this quite clearly.

    What is interesting is how QM has improved in the rankings since being invited to join the Russell Group, which is an unashamed cartel rather than a meritocracy.

    Proof that branding matters perhaps?

  • Helen Tedcastle 16th Aug '16 - 2:18pm

    TCO

    ‘My own view i’s that there is room for many different types of school – highly academic ones amongst them. That is the best sort of school for some children without question; no one wants to grow up feeling like a freak so sometimes it makes sense to group those children together until they are mature enough to deal with society more generally’

    My own experience of children teaches me that children do not fall always into distinct ‘types’ ie: rigidly academic or rigidly ‘typing pool’ material.

    Liberal Democrats believe that all children have potential and should be placed in schools which can draw out that potential across a broad and balanced curriculum.

    This can and is achieved within the comprehensive system. It is a great success story.

    It is a story rarely told because our media and political class is dominated by privately-educated journalists and MPs who would not dream of sending their children into comprehensives in London, where they might mix with children without the soft social skills they expect, and the inability to afford an annual week’s skiing in the south of France.

    The lowest achieving comprehensives which receive all the publicity in the right-wing media exist in deprived areas where parental attainment and expectations are low.

    A return to a grammar/secondary modern divide will simply depress even further social mobility in these areas.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 16th Aug '16 - 8:03pm

    I have real issues with the presumption that any and everybody can have their intellectual or creative , practical or otherwise , aptitude, mapped out at ten or eleven!

    So many good comments , so much input , but , as one who was grammar standard , yet post grammar school era, but whose talents were for the arts , humanities and such , and not for maths or sciences etc., I do not want an education that separates academic ability from creative sensibility , ever , let alone at primary school leaving !

    Room for policy agreements and compromises , in this constructive thread,or better , for radical solutions , for combinations of learning within schools , with selection increased within all schools , not by school , but only within them , and from time to time , and by assessment by subjects , but we do not need school as the indulgence of the child , to encourage the self indulgence of the adult ! What we need are schools that develop the whole person , holistic education is the only educational Liberalism , or it is none !

    And that means less study everything , subject generalisation ,up until goodness knows what age , imported from the USA and Europe , which some are increasingly keen on , that forces someone like me , or would , to do maths and science, to an age and level I was not able to , and neither of which was I ever really good at , in order to be allowed to pursue what I was and am good at , and would have led me to miss out on a degree in History and politics at London University ! As ever , two wrongs do not make a right , it is as bad to make people , force students, to try and be good at all things at a later age, amongst the academic, as it is trying to decide at an early age who knows what and force pupils then , accordingly !

    We need a more egalitarian ,and therefore more genuine ,version, of the age old British school and college tendency , academic ,or, practical, allowing specialisation, and yet with the nurturing of each individuals talents , as and when , they develop , which for very many , is not , by ten or eleven !

    Schools and colleges should not be factories of remedial enforcement , at the behest of government announcement, but laboratories of personal development at the service of human attainment !

  • Matt (Bristol) 16th Aug '16 - 8:28pm

    Look, I’m going to keep saying this, but ‘grammar schools’ will probably be the nostalgist front for a re-tread of Nicky Morgan’s forced academisation proposals with slightly more accountability thrown in and no more money added whatsoever.

    I can easily see the Home Secretary who introduced the elected PCCs (ie T May) encouraging her Education Sec into retaining the Morgan / Gove proposals for regional education commissioners to effectively replace LEAS, but simply making them elected, with some spurious ‘partnership’ arrangement whereby power retains with Whitehall. The element that enraged so many last time, of ‘nationalisation’ of education delivered by privately contracted companies, will remain.

    We need to wait until we see the detail, but I think the grammar schools element has been leaked early specifically to keep the swivel-eyed-loons on side.

    Yes, I am cynical. No, this is not confirmed. But I don’t think the DfE will do a 306-degree turn on policy in 6months.

    Don’t get distracted. Let’s keep the focus on accountability and funding. This is where the big issues (and the big contracts) lie.

  • @Helen Tedcastle “The lowest achieving comprehensives which receive all the publicity in the right-wing media exist in deprived areas where parental attainment and expectations are low.”

    And their youve unwittingly destroyed your own argument in favour of your comprehensive utopia.

    If the schools that the poor go to are always the worst, for the reasons youve stated, then the comprehensive system entrenches and reinforces that widening gap via the catchment system. There is no escape – ever.

    That is fundamentally wrong and illiberal as we’ve seen over the last 50 years with this terrible iniquitous system.

    Its no coincidence that there was support for comprehensives from the middle classes worried that Grammars were too successful and they were losing their privileges to the less well offf.

  • Peter Watson 17th Aug '16 - 12:43pm

    @TCO “the comprehensive system entrenches and reinforces that widening gap via the catchment system”
    But evidence shows that the grammar school system “entrenches and reinforces that widening gap”.

  • Phil Beesley 17th Aug '16 - 1:25pm

    @Matthew Huntbach: “If I’d done that, I’d have lost my job and so would half my colleagues, because we wouldn’t have been able to recruit enough students.”

    I worked in higher education for 20 years, meeting staff at all levels, popping in for the tail end of an undergraduate lecture. Having been around a bit, I’ve seen good change and bad change. And no change in attitudes from some smart academics who should have known better.

    Some schools do not or cannot teach appropriate A Level subjects to university entry standard. A few years ago, I noted that some medical schools were running summer pre-admission courses for promising entrants who weren’t quite ready.

  • @Peter Watson the reality is that under any system the middle class will game it to their advantage.

    Under the wealth / property-based selection criteria we have in the comprehensive system there is no chance at all of the least well off attending the best schools. None whatsoever. This system excludes them 100% effectively because they are priced out.

    Under a system based on academic selection/aptitude testing you can tip it in favour of the poor in all sorts of different ways. This already happens at our universities who use aptitude and interview to discriminate *against* the expensively coached and polished and in favour of those with ability.

    Given the teaching profession is hardly a hotbed of right wing activism i would trust them to deliver on that, wouldn’t you?

  • Peter Watson 17th Aug '16 - 11:12pm

    @TCO “the reality is that under any system the middle class will game it to their advantage.”
    I completely agree. I think we also all agree that we want to raise those who are less well off rather than level down middle-class kids.

    “Under the wealth / property-based selection criteria we have in the comprehensive system there is no chance at all of the least well off attending the best schools.”
    This is likely to be worse for primary schools with their smaller catchment areas, so any advantage due to social class and wealth will be ingrained long before any academic segregation takes place. Unfortunately, much of the pro-grammar school argument sounds like social engineering designed to exploit these problems rather than solve them: a few of the cleverest poor children will be rescued from their peers to spend a few hours each day with less clever but wealthier children.

    I think there is a shared vision of a country in which educational opportunities and outcomes are independent of post code, dependent instead upon the ability and aptitude of a child rather than their circumstances. Evidence does not appear to support the assertion that early academic selection in general and grammar schools in particular can deliver this.

  • I did not find that wealthy people were less intelligent. On the contrary many of them are highly intelligent. That is one of the reasons why they are wealthy and one reason why some people are poor is that they are unable to get good well paid work.

  • Jayne Mansfield 18th Aug '16 - 11:06pm

    @nvelope,
    Children from wealthier families are 35% more likely to become high earners than more intelligent children from poorer families.

    ‘Downward Mobility, opportunity hoarding and the ‘glass floor’. Centre for Analysis of social exclusion. LSE 2015. ( sorry link not working on my computer)

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Aug '16 - 12:50am

    nvelope2003
    “I did not find that wealthy people were less intelligent. On the contrary many of them are highly intelligent.”
    Of course, Peter Watson’s remark about “spend[ing] a few hours each day with less clever but wealthier children” does not remotely equate to claiming that “wealthy people were less intelligent”. Your failure to parse this statement correctly doesn’t say much for the benefits of your grammar school education.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '16 - 9:58am

    TCO

    And their youve unwittingly destroyed your own argument in favour of your comprehensive utopia.

    Neither Helen nor anyone else here is saying that the comprehensive system is a “utopia”.The issue is which on balance works better overall. Simply because one believes that one system works better does not mean one belives that system as it currently exists is without problems and cannot be improved.

    Its no coincidence that there was support for comprehensives from the middle classes worried that Grammars were too successful and they were losing their privileges to the less well offf

    What you write here makes sense only if the main purpose of grammar schools is to take children from poor backgrounds and educate them, as if grammar schools are just stuffed full of such children. That is just not the case, it is the opposite of what is really the case, which is that grammar schools have a much lower proportion of children from poor backgriunds than there are in the population as a whole.

  • Matthew Huntbach 19th Aug '16 - 10:13am

    Lorenzo

    And that means less study everything , subject generalisation ,up until goodness knows what age , imported from the USA and Europe , which some are increasingly keen on , that forces someone like me , or would , to do maths and science, to an age and level I was not able to ,

    Right now I am dealing with Clearing enquiries and I have just turned down one who had good A-level grades but no maths or science, the person was in almost in tears because they didn’t realise that you need at least some maths to do my subject.

    This happens all the time, I have dealt with hundreds of such cases over the years I have been involved with university admissions. Basic maths and logical reasoning is necessary for so many subjects, so cutting it out completely at the age of 16 is really damaging to one’s future career. One needn’t be a whizz at it, but keeping it up with a bit of practice is something that it really is a good idea, perhaps particularly for those who don’t like it.

    In the same way, ability to write good English is so important for almost any good career, so I think it is better to have a system that is more generalised so that those who want to specialise in maths and science don’t drop out completely of arts subjects from the age of 16.

  • Peter Watson 19th Aug '16 - 11:51am

    @ “I think it is better to have a system that is more generalised so that those who want to specialise in maths and science don’t drop out completely of arts subjects from the age of 16.”
    I completely agree.
    One of the things I dislike about the current changes to AS & A-levels is that it makes it harder to generalise and keep options open by starting with 4 subjects at 16. I would prefer to see a system in which education from 16-18 was broader and shallower (and perhaps therefore more useful for those not progressing to university) with some sort of foundation year at 19 to allow specialisation in preparation for university. I fear that the current system forces children to make important decisions about their futures too early.

  • nvelope2003 19th Aug '16 - 2:13pm

    Malcolm Todd: I know what he meant and I expect you do too. It is time the Liberal Democrats stopped their unnecessary campaign against grammar schools and addressed their concern to the issue of the dominance of the products of independent fee paying/public schools in all the best jobs despite constituting only 7% of the population. This is the problem which you are unable to face up to, probably because so many of you went to them or send your children to them, hence the embarrassed silence whenever the issue is raised.

  • nvelope2003 19th Aug '16 - 9:40pm

    Peter Watson; How do you help children achieve good results if they are forced to study subjects they have no aptitude for or interest in ? It must be soul destroying.

  • Peter Watson 21st Aug '16 - 9:27am

    @nvelope2003 “How do you help children achieve good results if they are forced to study subjects they have no aptitude for or interest in ?”
    As an alternative to A-levels, my ideal system would involve choice within a framework that required students to study maths, science and a humanity from 16-18, possibly as 3 out of 5 or 6 modules. I don’t know enough about the international baccalaureate or the Scottish and Irish systems to comment on those in detail, but my impression is that they contain elements I would like to see in the English system.
    A-levels, particularly following changes under the Coalition government, seem to force specialisation too soon. Choice of career dictates choice of university course which dictates choice of A-levels in a system which does not leave enough scope for flexibility. I am not convinced that 15/16 year olds, particularly those from less affluent backgrounds, have sufficient maturity, knowledge and exposure to alternatives to make those important decisions with confidence, and our system makes those choices more irreversible than they should be. Also, I am not convinced that A-levels are a particularly useful qualification in their own right for children who do not proceed to university.

  • Richard Underhill 15th Oct '16 - 7:26pm

    The Times, 15/10/2016, page 53, column 5, Raymond Keene writes:
    ‘No lesser figure than Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has weighed into the argument over whether junior chess tournaments should attract VAT or not. Mr. Farron, in the context of the UK Schools Chess Challenge, writes,
    “I have written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer asking why HMRC are seeking to put VAT upon the entry fee, given that this seems entirely anomalous as there are over 100 other sports and activities which are exempt from VAT and this definitely promotes healthy activity and good use of leisure time.”

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