Grammar Schools…are they really so bad?!

I see no reason why anyone can think that the reduction of the 11+ and the Grammar school system has been a success.

It was done so everyone had equal access to education and stop a divisive system of which pupils are selected on merit. Which was not allowed under the Labour government, stopping a meritocracy society and wanting to include everyone as ‘winners’.

The problem is this then creates a society divide as the the private school educated students are achieving higher standards of numeracy, literacy and science compared to state schools. All the while the nation as a whole is slipping down the OECD rankings as the comprehensive schools system is not the one that works.

In 2005 the Professional Association of Teachers (PAT) passed a motion to bring back Grammar schools after a motion by Mr Morris, he stated

“The Labour party took the road of political expediency for a quick fix when it abandoned grammar schools in favour of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to education through comprehensive schools.”

“Social inclusion is wonderful in theory, but clearly does not produce the results anticipated prior to its introduction.”

The fact is that while we have been taking on the concept of the single education system the gap between the rich and poor has grown and the numeracy, literacy and science skills have been reduced. The so called divisive system has now created a division between those who can afford to send their children to private school and those who can’t. If we focus too much on the issue of where people are educated as a reason for inclusion at university, all it will serve to do is reduce the levels of our universities on the world stage. It should be down to merit alone.

Some people may well say, but we are average in numeracy, literacy and above average in science. I don’t see this as a great thing, reduction in education standards is never to be seen as that. Maybe a return to the Grammar school system would change this, I am not an expert. That’s why I would like to see the issue being discussed as the current one really isn’t working, will the school independence from Local Education Authorities that an academy brings help? I hope so, however why look to alternatives when the Grammar school system was one which did the job well.


One thought on “Grammar Schools…are they really so bad?!

  1. P McGreavy

    Thom, you clearly have little understanding of education in the 21st century. The 11+ and grammar schools were, (and in some areas still are), a divisive and socially damaging devise aimed at suppressing the ambitions of ordinary people. They are on a par with the idea of private schools which are effectively supported by the state, (you may be aware that almost all private schools are registered charities and thus take financial benefit from that designation). The socio-political establishment of the UK, (dominated by a privately educated elite), have maintained an educational apartheid for decades despite the introduction of comprehensive schools.

    People do not have equality of access to this tripartite system – it is limited by both financial and social constraints, they are limited by the class system and the expectations and prejudices of people who have no understanding of education or a vested interest in maintaining a large lumpen-proletariat as a pool of cheap labour and who control the state system.

    Your quote from the Professional Association of Teachers 2005 conference is misleading and not representative of the teaching profession. PAT are a minority group who, quite frankly, are dominated by people with some rather strange ideas about both education and society.
    The comprehensive system does have problems; these are largely due to the imposition of19th century grammar school values onto that system. Things started to go wrong in the late 1980s when the Thatcher government under the influence of Keith Joseph introduced the 1988 ‘Education Reform’ Act. They basically imposed a 19th century grammar school National Curriculum onto the state system in an attempt to return to the ‘good old days’ of the system that you appear to support. They also introduced a selection of socially and politically repressive measures into the educational arena too. This was continued during the Major government’s ‘Return to Victorian Values’ period of the early & mid-90s and in the Blair government’s adherence to the National Curriculum and the conservative educational philosophies developed over the preceding decades. This reactionary approach to education has been further developed by the pronouncements of Gove, Cameron, Clegg et al, (again all privately educated and not having a clue about how to develop a 21st century educational system), by their development of a, frankly idiotic, attempt to fragment the educational system and to move us further into the 19th century.

    I would suggest that you take a look at the Finnish educational system – possibly by starting with an article ‘Are Finnish Schools the Best in the World?’ published in the Independent on 6th June 2011. Interestingly Gove has said that he’d like to progress down the Finnish route, but his actions so far in his, hopefully, brief tenure as Education Secretary are achieving the opposite of that by entrenching the social divisions and educational fragmentation mentioned above.

    You also mention the decline in quality of the English university system. It’s interesting to note that this decline is only around one year old and coincides with the rather disturbing actions of the current government with regard to higher education.
    So to conclude – as you say you are not an expert on education and as such I think you are totally misguided in your assertion that the grammar school system ‘did the job well’, but on the positive side you are right in suggesting that we should discuss the future of education. We should actually look at a fundamental realignment of the system rather than merely tinkering with the old failing 19th century curriculum and the re-introduction of selection and numerous types of school.


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