Social mobility and grammar schools

Today I will be exploring the role of grammars in our state educational system, with Graham Brady and Janet Daley.

The hatred of academic selection at 11 is an anomaly in our system of education. All political parties and most in the educational establishment agree with rigorous academic selection at 18, to decide who will go to university, and to determine who will go to the elite universities. The places in the best institutions go to the students who do best at A level and in academic interview.

All parties agree that from 16 onwards students should have to take an array of competitive examinations. Those seeking vocational qualifications also have to achieve various standards in GCSE qualifiers, and in the subsequent vocational tests and exams. This means that from 16 onwards all parties and the educational establishment have to accept the failure of some as well as encouraging success for many.

When it comes to promoting high quality sporting achievement, dancing, art, singing, and other musical activities we base our system from an early age on competition and special training or instruction for those who achieve more and show a greater willingness to practice and learn. The UK’s all conquering Olympians were given special coaches, special training regimes and very special treatment. In return they had to work extremely hard and give their utmost to the task. They had to reach high levels of achievement to stay on the programmes. If someone wants to be a concert pianist, a premier league footballer, an England cricketer, an opera singer or a ballerina, they have to go through arduous training based on selection on merit.

We allow children with rich parents to go to good schools,giving them charitable status. We allow those independent schools to select their pupils as they wish. Some of these schools give great academic coaching and expect high standards. The grammars used to give an equivalent specialised academic opportunity to children without rich parents. Now that only happens in a handful of counties like Kent, Buckingham and parts of Berkshire.

The result is more independent school pupils proportionately get into the elite universities. Instead of trying to dumb down requirments for university, we need to foster a cadre of schools specialising in teaching the most committed students who have an academic aptitude and determination. It is the best way to social mobility into academic life and the leading knowledge based professions.

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  1. Single Acts
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:20 am | Permalink

    “All political parties and most in the educational establishment agree with rigorous academic selection at 18”

    Er, do they? What about all this value added nonsense lowering requirements for kids who have gone to schools which poorly perform.

    “We allow children with rich parents to go to good schools”

    With respect, go to hell. You don’t ‘allow’ me to do a damn thing, I send the boy to one because of the utter disaster that state secondary schools are in these parts. And I am in no sense rich. For the coming years I accept that expensive holidays, decent cars, a larger house, another child and any number of other things are off the menu. Ditto tobacco, alcohol etc.

    Even if any party ever ‘banned’ or closed such schools, I would still send him to one abroad. So please no more of this “we allow” nonsense.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Oh well at least your health benefits too from the lack of alcohol and tobacco.

      • Bazman
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

        Coal miners, shipyard, steel and building site workers health is also greatly improved by being put out of work too. For some anyway. How others afford drink, drugs and gambling is probably down to the benefits they receive. Stopping these would also further improve their health and reduce the amount of children born. Which in turn would mean less unemployed and fewer criminals claiming benefits to spend on drinking and smoking.

        • Mike Stallard
          Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

          Hey ! I thought you were a leftie!

        • prof
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:32 am | Permalink

          One can obtain contraception from the NHS. Message finished.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

            prof? I doubt it. Like lifelogic. You cannot educate (them-ed)

        • Jon Burgess
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:15 am | Permalink

          You know, Baz, I think you’re slowly coming round to my way of thinking!

          • Bazman
            Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

            I am. Have you noticed how well this works in second and third world countries? Hard working self reliant East Europeans are concrete evidence of the benefits of such policies.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

          Perhaps there is hope after all.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

            You have learned absolutely nothing have you?

    • Liz
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      I totally agree – you have the very strange, and unique in the world, situation, whereby the British educational establishment and many teachers are against any system that would improve standards in state education. Helping clever children is an anathema to them. In fact you could say that many are against academic education and high standards altogether and see schools mainly as a social enginerring tool. This virus is now starting to affect universities which are now starting to fall down the international league tables.

      • uanime5
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        You do realise that national league tables meant resulted in teachers giving more help to pupils so that their school would get a better ranking.

        Also what teacher currently oppose is exam boards in England downgrading exam results for political reasons, their pensions being cut, and free schools which don’t require qualified teachers (in a free school you could have the dinner ladies teaching any subject). It seems that teacher, unlike politicians, are actually trying to raise the standards.

        • David Price
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:09 am | Permalink

          But the quality of result over the previous 14 years was decreasing alarmingly yet militant teachers never struck once over the issue. Modify the pension scheme to reflect reality and they strike at the cost to pupils teaching.

          So not only were standards not actually being raised, the militant teachers didn’t take effective action to reverse the trend and only struck when Labour weren’t in power. That suggests militant teachers are more concern for pocket and politics than pupils.

          By dumbing down education and stiffling competition all you socialists have succeed in doing is to deny our children access to employment. You have left businesses no recourse but to export jobs and import cheaper labour.

        • Ludwig
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

          Were teachers opposed to exam results being inflated for political reasons? Did they point out the unsustainability of their pension arrangements when the previous government was handing out money as if it were growing on trees? You do also realise that free schools are subject to the same Ofsted inspections that other schools are, so if an unqualified person is teaching then they’d better be doing a good job. There are good teachers around but too many of them, and especially their unions, have long stood in the way of selection on the basis of academic merit and any efforts to secure a real increase in standards.

          • uanime5
            Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

            1) Given that Governments benefited for 27 years from grade inflation they would have harshly punished any teachers who objected to it.

            2) Public sector pensions are sustainable and are currently in a surplus. The only pension that is unaffordable is the state pension.

            3) Does Ofstead fire poor teacher? I thought not.

          • APL
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

            uanime5: “1) Given that Governments benefited for 27 years from grade inflation….”

            uanime5: ” 3) Does Ofstead fire poor teacher? I thought not.”

            Being right on two points is pretty good for a socialist, you now need to draw the correct conclusion viz, removing government from the education of children altogether can only benefit the children concerned.

            Your point 2 is wrong, but two out of three is good progress.

          • a-tracy
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

            Uanime5, you say “public sector pensions are sustainable”, what evidence do you have for this, our council had to put an extra £500,000 in one year to top up their workers pension pot out of the council tax collections. The Post Office pension isn’t sustainable and will have to be provided by future taxpayers as just two examples.

            Do you know what % of the pensions paid by the State i.e. the taxpayer today are basic state pension and how much is funded out of taxes to public sector workers pensions? Do you know what this is expected to be in 20 years time after the boost to the ranks of the public sector workforce during the Labour party control?

          • APL
            Posted October 11, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

            a-tracy: “our council had to put an extra £500,000 in one year to top up their workers pension pot out of the council tax collections.”

            This is exactly what happened with our local authority a couple of years ago, I have no doubt they’d (will) do it again next time the stock market drops.

    • Disaffected
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Spot on.

      Cameron claimed he could not act when Cable appointed Ebdon to help dumb down university education. Cameron has used Labour politicians for key policy reform ie Hutton, Browne, Milburn etc. Were there no Tories available or capable?? He has continued a socialist engineering agenda from borrow and waste, change culture through mass immigration and gay marriage to change religion to change national identity and culture (as long as it does not affect him) and all under the guise of a blue flag. No difference between them only cosmetic subtleties.

      Remember the controversy over Blair sending his children to the Oratory rather than the local flee pit. The same for Harman. Where does Mr Clegg send his children??

      • Winston Smith
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

        You will find almost all left-wing politicians, commentators, journalists, luvvies, etc send their children to private or selective schools, especially at secondary level. You will also find that they mostly attended such schools themselves. Even the Milibands benfitted from private tuition, despite attending the local Comprehensive.

        Even JR must realise that Cameron and Osbourne are just New Labour in blue rosettes. DC has surrounded himself with left-wing, metropolitan advisers and speech writers. He appointed Will Cavendish, Blair’s principle adviser and Labour activist, to his no.10 policy unit. LibLabCon are continuity corporate socialist government.

      • Single Acts
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:04 am | Permalink

        Re Mr Clegg’s school choice, the Daily Mirror reported thus

    • forthurst
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      “For the coming years I accept that expensive holidays, decent cars, a larger house, another child and any number of other things are off the menu.”

      Comprehensive education is birth control for the middle classes.

    • APL
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      “We allow children with rich parents to go to good schools”

      The mindset of the modern politician, one supposedly on the right at that!

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Permalink

        I think what Mr Redwood was saying was this:

        “We allow children with rich parents to go to good schools but we don’t allow children with poor parents to go to good schools.”

        In what other context do we put it ? Because it’s completely true.

        Why are there so many bad schools ? This is the question we really ought to be asking.

        And the answer, I fear, is the inability to instill discipline and authority. Little to do with the intelligence of the pupils nor the desire and the abilities of the vast majority of teachers to teach.

        Nearly every teacher must surely dream of the day that their progeny returns with tales of success and to show gratitude for their influence.

        • William Long
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

          At the heart of the problem is that a great many state school teachers would probably be embarrassed by pupils returning with tales of success.

        • APL
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

          Electro Kevin: “I think what Mr Redwood was saying was this: ”

          Good for you EK, go on believing the Tory party is gonna change its spots. Unlike you, I don’t have a ‘backchannel’ to the pure thoughts of John Redwood MP.

          I do read some of his writings, less than I used to. So I can only read what he writes. Some of those writings include:

          The UK political class no longer believes the UK has a constitution that should be observed as a restraint on their freedom of action.

          That is, the UK political class are nothing less than lawless bandits.

          He seeks another set of UK obligations to the EU. I wish to see the EU completely out of UK politics and treated as a foreign power bloc.

          That is, John Redwood wants the UK to remain under the control of the EU, where it is fair to say, his party to be fair put it thirty nine years ago!

          Reply: I voted No in 1975, and am trying to get us an In/Out referendum. I have no wish for our country to be run by the EU

          • APL
            Posted October 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

            David Cameron: “a newly negotiated role within the EU”.

            BBC Today 9 October.

            So not only is the Prime minister trotting out the lie that we can ‘renegotiate a new role within the EU, that oddly mirrors the line John Redwood trailed on his own blog over the last couple of months.

            In short, both John Redwood ( an Eurosceptic Tory ) and David Cameron ( an Europhile Tory, who surrounds himself with Europhiles, for example Ken Clarke) both agree we should stay within the European Union’s area of political influence.

            Meanwhile they propose to sell our prime defense contractor to the French EADS, why might one ask don’t the British ever buy strategic french industries? Would that be because they are strategic.

            By the way, EADS is in bed with our future enemy the Chinese government.

            There is a word for this!

            Reply: Once again you lie about my views.

          • APL
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 6:20 am | Permalink

            JR: ” Once again you lie about my views.”

            Not at all, I call it how I see it.

            You have written on your blog, you wish to renegotiate ‘different’ terms with the EU. Your leader is now parroting the same line.

            By the way he has no credibility at all!

            Anyone who knows or has observed the EU over the last thirty years knows there will be no renegotiation, anything that impedes the drive of the EUrophiles toward the EU single State will be steamrollered flat.

            So supposing you are sincere in your demand for negotiation, you must know it isn’t on offer.

            Reply: I have said I want a new relationship with the EU. That is not the same as “new terms”. It requires an act of political will to bring this change about. It would help if people like you supported people like me trying to do within our current Parliament, instead of constantly carping from the sidelines that our view is not pure enough. As always you never explain how you are going to marhsall the 326 Parliamentary votes to repeal the 1972 Act.

          • APL
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:58 am | Permalink

            JR: “It would help if people like you supported people like me trying to do within our current Parliament, ”

            Indeed it would, but one needs to ask oneself how many time can one permit a party to make a fool of one and still support that party.

            George Eustace was supposed to be the salvation of Eurosceptic sentiment in the Tory party, what’s happened to him? He seems to have been another ploy to fool folk into thinking the party was increasingly EUrosceptic. And now, he has sunk without trace!

            The Tory party has suckered me too many times, I made up my mind not to allow the fraud of a Conservative party ( what has it actually conserved? ) to do it again.

            In advertising speak your party leader might understand, your party has like that high street retailer who destroyed his own company, managed to do exactly the same thing to the Tory brand.

            Reply : I notice you dodge the question of supporting those of us who do vote and speak as you would wish on a referendum. You are normally suggesting that any Conservative MP who does vote the right way should immediately resign their seat so a federalist has a good chance of winning it.

          • APL
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

            JR: “You are normally suggesting that any Conservative MP who does vote the right way should immediately resign their seat so a federalist has a good chance of winning it.”

            Not quite accurate, I do suggest that the Tory party as it currently sands is utterly compromised. My constructive suggestion is that an MP might resign the Tory Whip and stand as an independent Conservative.

            He would be responsible to his constituency party not CCHQ.

            JR: “so a federalist has a good chance of winning it.

            If your assessment is correct, there would be unlikely to be many federalists standing, since the Tory party is moving implacably to the cause of UK independence.

            Personally, I ain’t holding my breath on that one.

            Reply The aim of UKIP I thought was to try to get federalist Labour or Lib Dem to replace Conservatives to send Mr Cameron a message.

          • APL
            Posted October 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

            JR: “The aim of UKIP …”

            I have no idea what the aim of UKIP is. I used the term United Kingdom independence in its straightforward sense, unrelated to the UKIP party.

            However I doubt your analysis of UKIP aims is correct, I’d think they wish to see UKIP MPs replacing the Europhile or federist ConLabDem cartel.

            I would happily vote Independent Conservative, as long as I thought the candidate’s views on the EU were what I’d consider sound.

            Reply UKIP supporters often tell us their main aim is to dislodge Conservative MPs or the Speaker with a view to getting the Conservative party to change its mind. That is why Mr Farage put up last time in Buckingham, rather than against a leading federalist Labour or Lib Dem candidate in one of their seats.

          • APL
            Posted October 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

            JR: “That is why Mr Farage put up last time in Buckingham, ”

            I am afraid I supported the UKIP innovation of contesting the Speakers seat, that worm Bercow simply shouldn’t be in the chair.

            Since your party, is at one with the Labour party in its intent to trash our established traditions, the anomaly of a man who cannot be elected/dismissed is an anachronism.

            We suffered enough under Gorbles Mick, to elect an infant like Bercow is an insult to Parliamentarians.

            Reply: Mr Bercow is good Speaker, and clearly popular in Buckingham. He could be dismissed, but the people chose not to do so.

          • APL
            Posted October 11, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

            PS. Becrow wasn’t a ‘leading Tory’ even before he was elected Speaker, he was a nobody. After the shameful election he was supposedly above Party politics.

            Reply Why then did he and a pro Euro candidate both beat Mr Farage?

    Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

    I totally agree.
    Unfortunately, political dogma trumps common sense across the political spectrum…

  3. Nina Andreeva
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Could not agree more. Bristol has some of the worst state schools in the country. So if you want your child to receive a decent education you have no option but to go private and pay for it out taxed income too. Having said that there are also some rubbish fee chargers around here as well.

    Gove needs to spend some time in Germany. Look at the realschule, although there is a sort of snobbery that it is the place where the thick kids go,once they have passed through it and got a trade at the berufschule their chances of getting a job are far higher than their British counterparts. The rates of youth unemployment in the UK and Germany just do not compare because the kids walk out with a skill that is in demand because employers have a direct input in what is taught. The cirriculum is not determined by SpAds, civil servants or men with beards from universities

    Apart from Abbott and co who do not go state. I hope we are all not conned by those lefties who make a big thing about sending their kids to the local comp (and they are not all in the Labour and Liberal Democrat Parties either) . In that their kids experience of a state education is totally away from the norm. In that even the most incompetent head would realise that it would be a career threatening move if the kids involved were not provided with the most able teachers and were taught alongside the most committed and brightest children.

  4. MickC
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    Err-we don’t “allow” children with rich parents to go to good schools.

    Those parents are exercising their right to spend their own money on their children’s education. Many of the parents will, in any event, not be rich-just responsible parents who regard a good education as one of the many duties parenthood brings and who do not want their children to be “socially engineered” by the state.

    There is no question whatsoever of any “consent” from the state being required.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      They do allow as off course they should. I would not put it past some, fools in the Labour party actually legislating to prevent it.

      In effect many are prevented without legislation just by having to pay taxes to fund the state education system, then they have non left to pay the fees for their children.

    • Bob
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      Well said Mick.

    • Single Acts
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      I also found this an unfortunate choice of words.

    • Disaffected
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      No, but the state will now disadvantage them when they apply to university taking students with lower A level grades from so called “poor” backgrounds/school. If this is not dumbing down what it is?? i hope independent schools boycott universities who apply the OFFA scheme introduced by Cable.

      Secondly, school fees are paid from net income and no allowance is given, why not, as it reduces the cost to the state?

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

        “Secondly, school fees are paid from net income and no allowance is given, why not, as it reduces the cost to the state?”

        Because, like the BBC tax, the government want to distort the market and control it and indoctrinate – rather than educate. Just look at all the green tosh in the text books and exams, not science just quack indoctrination.

  5. zorro
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:06 am | Permalink

    To be honest John, there will have to be a large expansion of grammar schools too in order to satisfy demand. There should also be a better functioning education for practically minded people too to engender the skills that industry needs. This doesn’t necessarily mean more money but a new ethos. It could be done if the will was there and would be a vote winner. I went to a good comprehensive which was fine for me as I was self motivated but that is not universal…..and there are a lot of very average comprehensives…


  6. lifelogic
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:15 am | Permalink

    I am all in favour of selecting the basis of ability and teaching at an appropriate level for that ability. Be that for sport, dancing, singing, music, maths, physics, plumbing, reading, drama, science or woodwork. What sensible person would not be.

    I attended a good small northern Grammar school, but their certainly are problems with them. The selection at 11 is often quite arbitrary, partly random. It clearly makes many errors in the selection. There is a clear advantage to middle class parents who can, and do push the children with practice papers and the like. Often children, of very similar abilities, are separated and sent to different schools which is inconvenient and damaging. Also children learn from other children as much as from teachers. The High School is deprived of bright students. Some children are also almost a year younger then others when they sit the selection exam, may have suffered an illness or parental illness at the time, some have dyslexia or other special difficulties but may still be very bright indeed.

    Perhaps more of the selection should be done within one school until 13 when a more balanced decision might be taken on ability and aptitude. At that point they could decide which type of education would suite them best, be it practical, musical, sporting, science or the arts.
    Certainly there needs to be options to change track when needed.

    Osborne’s speech today I hear. Let us hope he makes a better job of it that his last incompetent budget, with gaping holes you could see even as he was making the speech. Can he be taken seriously until he brings in the £1M (each) Inheritance Tax threshold. As he promised several years ago – was that Cast Iron too?

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:31 am | Permalink

      ps I do know it is “there” not “their” in the start of the second paragraph, before anyone comments.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:24 am | Permalink

      I meant – “Often children (from the same family), of very similar abilities, are separated and sent to different schools which is inconvenient and damaging.”

      • Jerry
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        @lifelogic: On the other hand such separation can be very good for siblings, especially if one is academic and the another has a more practical or sporting disposition – perhaps not so important in junior schooling but vital for secondary schooling, it was not uncommon for one sibling to attend a grammar school and another to attend a secondary modern.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:11 am | Permalink

          No, but often the exam often gets it quite wrong or separates people who are basically of the same ability. I do not object to separation so long as it is done well and on relevant abilities and interest. The 11+ is a very blunt and inefficient axe. You are also making people sit it who are a full year younger than others, you have a gender ability difference at that age and are only testing limited skills that can be practised for and many will have many will not have.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      I see that Osborne now finally admits that the 50% income tax rate raises less tax and destroys jobs. So why has he kept it and why is it still in place?

      He claims he would do nothing to risk jobs. Well what about the gifts to the PIGIS, the expensive green energy plan, the over seas aid largely wasted, the three years of 50% tax, the Olympics, the £Millions wasted on HS2, the EU and the west coast tender. All destroy jobs as he must very well know.

      He says we need to cut back the state, but not too quickly so the private sector can tack up the slack. Nonsense you need to cut fast and release the state sector from its chains after most are doing nothing useful at all. Has you done that we would be better off now.

      Finally we have the share and workers rights proposal which sounds complex, contrived and restrictive. Some working with rights other with fewer rights. We shall see, but easy hire and fire would be far better for all just do it now. More pointless work for lawyers and accountants no doubt.

      Perhaps 2 out of 10 for the speech.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Still he did mention fracking I suppose and the tumbling natural gas prices in the US which render wind farms even more pointless.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

      Hello lifelogic – I liked your post here.

      Here are some insights from recent policy which you may find helpful.

      In order to allow children to excel in which ever areas they are capable of excelling in, you need all schools to have good top sets in all the core subjects. Variety and choice should be extra to this. So if a child is great at dancing they may go to a school with excellence in dance, but once there they should be able to progress to the fullest extent possible in their core academic subjects.

      One of the most effective policies of the last few decades has been targeted ‘excellence cluster’ funding which has been directed towards schools which have top sets which are not achieving the highest academic standards to reduce the size of those sets until quality improves sufficiently and to provide funding for academically able children at those schools to engage with activities which will stretch them.

      The amounts of money involved have not been large but they have been very effective in ensuring every secondary school has excellent provision at the top end of all the core subjects.

      Beyond that there area all sorts of master classes and opportunities for our most able students to stretch themselves academically at weekends and in the holidays.

      The aim was that all children had the chance to achieve high standards in any core subject where they had the potential to that and we were making huge progress in that direction.

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

        Beyond that there “are” all sorts of master classes.

      • a-tracy
        Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

        Sorry Rebecca I can only go off my own experience with my three children, there used to be NAGTY the national academy for gifted and talented youth for the top set (5% I think of pupils) and my eldest experienced opportunities and a master class from this. However the Labour Government scrapped it and when it reverted to the local school the opportunities for gifted and talented children diminished and my youngest son got none of the opportunities you have written about here, yet he performed within the top 5% of the students at school.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

          NAGTY faced many challenges in working out how to operate. One of its biggest was that by admitting students from all types of school it was difficult for state school students to get in. Successor enterprises have been much more diffuse – with different universities offering different things.

          We seem to be able to get our students off on things to suit them. The things on offer seem to be very high quality and less exclusive than before. We can pick locations which are suitable for them too. We still have maths masterclasses for younger children, specialist science and engineering opportunities and lots of literary and dramatics stuff.

          • a-tracy
            Posted October 12, 2012 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

            My children all went to a middle league State comprehensive school. The eldest was put into Nagty from his state primary school. My middle child got herself selected to Nagty by her own eneavour, she did ask and receive a reference from the maths department at High School and other references she compiled herself from dance and performing arts teachers, she never got told of anything outside of school in seven years other than one athletics meet which wasnt her talent but she made the best of and one internal English masterclass, when she turned up the teacher in charge asked her what she was doing there as he didn’t know she was in the G&T or maybe he just didn’t like her, the school didnt offer her any of the things you mentioned yet she achieved 7A*s and 3A grades plus BTEC distinctions, all too often these activities are selected for teachers favourites or the children of the parents on commitees. My third child had no external experiences whatsoever yet achieved 6A*s and 4A grades. There are only three and two school years between them. Perhaps these opportunities need to be independent of the teachers of the schools so that the information goes direct to parents who often are in the dark about external opportunities for children that achieve certain targets.

            The system seems far more selective of certain schools and I’d like to see the evidence of the contrary.

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted October 13, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

            The quality of G&T provision at a local school usually depends on whether or not G&T is being given sustained attention by very able staff.

            Under this government I’ve been worried because I’ve seen schools cancelling their G&T work to refocus on dealing with an ever more abusive Ofsted and inappropriate changes being forced on them.

            I think your suggestion of information going directly to parents is a good on a-tracy. With coherent policy we could ingrate formative and summative assessment so that much richer information about both a student’s progress and their suggested next steps can be shared between parents, teachers and the student themselves.

            My blog on this subject starts here if you’re interested. As this discussion is aging now please do feel free to comment on the blog.

  7. Martin Cole
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    The hatred of the Eleven Plus system is a hugely curious fact of life in Britain. I once met a man of my age who’s entire family had emigrated to Canada simply because he had failed. I tried to explore his present views on this as I am a huge fan of Grammar Schools but there was no rational explanation of even his deep prejudice against selection at 11, even with re-examination opportunites at 13 and O Level instruction in streamed secondary classes.

    Pandering to such blind prejudice is a disaster for the Conservative Party and UKIP have a huge intellectual argument in their favour by boldly ignoring anti-Grammar prejudice for the utter ignorance it truly is.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      It is not just blind prejudice. Imagine someone with children of roughly similar ability two just pass two just fail. Perhaps because of birth dates/age or better preparation or just random chance. Then they have to travel to two schools in different directions at the same time and half the children perhaps feel they have failed in some way already at just 11.

      We need the selection to be rather more gentle and with more chances to change direction as things progress at different ages.

      • Ben Kelly
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        Segregation within the school itself in this instance would be a better outcome.

        But for that to work discipline would both need to be instilled and enforced to ensure that the academic have a decent learning environment and the vocational also have a reasonable environment if they choose to take advantage of it.

        Those who advocate equality for all must accept that equality goes both ways and the disruptive element must be neutralised otherwise grammar schools are the best way to ensure the brightest are treated fairly.

        The disadvantaged and under performers already get a large share of the devolved funds so those who perform well must be looked after in some way if we are not to continue to produce employees who can not communicate and problem solve.

      • NJHGC
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        Agreed lifelogic.
        Grammer schools with multiple points of entry perhaps would mitigate against some of the brutality of the 11+. I was at a large private prep school. Some of the kids who were in the bottom half of the year I met up with again years later at Oxford. Had those kids faced the 11+, they would have failed, and I doubt a secondary modern would have prepared them so well for university application as the public schools that they went onto. A lot of kids just don’t really wake up until their teens.

        Even with entry a several stages, I’m not entirely sure what would be the fate of a child with excellent abilities in one part of the curriculum but sub-par school abilities in another? There are plenty of good mathematicians who can’t write a decent essay.

        I’ve not heard a decent argument against a voucher system. Maybe regional discrepancies in property prices would require that the size of the voucher varies throughout the country, which would inevitably invite controversy. Whether or not it would be desirable for parents to have the ability to top-up a voucher is a moot point. Desirable or not, it would be prohibitively expensive as all of the parents of privately educated children would immediately want to use the state voucher to contribute towards the fees – i.e. they would no longer wish to pay twice for each child’s education.

        The argument against educational reform like free schools or vouchers that sickens me to the core is that it’s a terrible idea because it allows for “unqualified” teachers. Just thinking about it winds me up. Vile producer-interest trade union disingenuous drivel. It’s up to parents and the pupil/child to decide whether the teachers at a school are good enough in such a system. If not, you take your custom elsewhere.

        I don’t think a single one of my teachers had a formal teaching qualification, and I very much doubt that I suffered because of it.

        • NJHGC
          Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

          Sorry, I should proof-read before posting rather than afterwards.

      • Disaffected
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        So what do Sat tests do for children at the same age then? Or the CAT tests that schools do not tell parents about? How about the children who come top in their class and the ones who come bottom? Do you not think children are already aware of where they fit in with their peers when it comes to talent in the classroom? Of course they do, just as much as they know who is best at sport etc.

        Some develop later and as long as there is a safeguard to allow for it at 13 yrs, fine.

    • JoolsB
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      UKIP are the real Conservative party now. Cameron’s party are too busy occupying the centre ground with Labour and too busy trying to please their LibDum pals and Alex Salmond to have the courage to introduce some real Conservative policies, that’s even assuming they wanted to.

      UKIP will bring back grammar schools, give us a vote on the Eu and address the English Question all of which the party calling themselves Conservatives refuse to do and they wonder why their supporters are defecting to UKIP – duh!!!!!

  8. stred
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    A friend told us recently that he and another boy had shown aptitude for maths and physics at a secondary modern school. They were given some coaching, passed O level, and then transferred to a grammar school. There he obtained an A grade at maths at A level.

    This was in London. The process also was possible in the Westcountry. The idea that selection at 11 is a disaster may not have been true. Many of the pupils at good secondary modern schools received a better education in the core subjects and a far better training in practical subjects from teachers who were proficient in a trade, not one trained in a college to made badly conceived and executed ‘design’ projects. Many of these pupils went on to make far more income in industry, not wasting years taking a degree with no prospect of well paid employment.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

      Are you sure it was a secondary modern stred? London had ‘middle schools’ which other areas didn’t have. They were schools specifically for children who had passed part of their 11+ but failed others.

      My aunt went to one. She was there with June Brown.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 3:14 am | Permalink

        Who is June Brown, am I meant to know?

        • Jerry
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

          “lifelogic”, your street cred’ has just dropped in to minus figures, perhaps you know her better as “Dot Cotton”, or perhaps you have never ever [1] watched EastEnders -quite possible knowing your total dislike of the BBC.

          [1] I have not watched it either, well not in the last 20 years!

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

          Dot Cotton

        • uanime5
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

          She was Dot Cotton in EastEnders.

          • stred
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

            Where is Eastenders?

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted October 10, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

            June Brown’s wiki says she’s currently taking a break from Eastenders to write her autobiogaphy – so maybe we’ll get some more insights into the practicalities of what was going on in London which give insight into this issue.

            Here school would have been in the Enfield area I think but I can’t remember what it was called. My aunt is sadly no longer with us.

  9. a-tracy
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Most of the training in these external specialisms in sports, and the arts are usually trained for outside of school and parents sacrifice lots of time, energy and holidays etc to provide the income to pay for swimming clubs, music lessons etc. If these students stay in the comprehensive system they pass on their expert skills to others around them who otherwise might never see, hear or work at that level.

    I used to support Grammar schools many years ago, but now I’m not sure I do at all. All of the successful Comprehensive schools have a top stream of more than 30% of the children, take this stream away and the middle sinks and the bottom sets really are left to flounder. Comprehensive schools can be improved, the competition levels within them should be nourished instead of being discouraged.

    • A different Simon
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      I went to a comprehensive that had an “A” stream and a “B” stream and in the 4 years I was there not one child was promoted or demoted .

      In essence the “A” stream got decent teaching and the “B” stream was consigned to the bin at age 11 .

      Some of those “B” streamers have done very well in their chosen fields including business but none will have gone on to “the professions” .

      I wonder how many were “B” streamed because the education system had failed to inspire them rather than level of learning ability .

      Since we left the school has gone downhill and nobody who goes there gets a decent education .

      • a-tracy
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        I went to a comprehensive, I was in the top sets for English and Science (I got the school award for science at the end of year 7) and was in the second of five sets for Maths and moved up from CSE/GCE cusp to GCE O level stream after a couple of years, I didn’t feel I had been consigned to the bin I had the best maths teacher and actually preferred her to the man that taught the top set.

        My comprehensive got closed down about five years after I left, it had no sixth form because the majority of children didn’t go on to further study at 16.

        Things have changed, my three children all went to comprehensives in an area where a lot of children opt to go private because they don’t feel the comprehensive is good enough. All three secured high A/A* grades for all their GCSE subjects, even though we were shocked when my youngest son at 11 scored a level 3 in KS2 writing when all of his other grades were 5, he got his A* in English this year and has gone on to take English at A level and is considering a career as a writer. There is too much focus on failure in comprehensives and not enough about all of the good work that goes on in them.

        It is not perfect and streaming, competition and rewards could be better for strivers as could additional classes outside of the timetable. Very low achieving comprehensives in high poverty areas who have very small top two streams are the major problem to me.

        • A different Simon
          Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:14 am | Permalink

          a-tracy ,

          I’m certainly not trying to knock comprehensives .

          It was the joint best school I went to (for me) and completely in contrast to the sixth form I went on to in Old Woking which was nothing more than a hopeless socio-educational experiment .

          Interestingly I was told by a teacher’s other half that the “inclusivity agenda” of the last Govt where children with learning difficulties are treated the same as children without was just a crudely disguised attempt to justify cuts in additional teachers needed to coach children who need extra help .

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

        We do not want everyone going into the professions, many of the professions are a bit of a protection racket, enabling them to over charge hugely for simple admin tasks that anyone could do. This needs addressing urgently, they are worse than the old print unions (that Murdock dealt with so well) is some cases. They self regulate too to a degree.

      • Stephen O
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:44 am | Permalink

        A Different Simon – It strikes me that the problem here was there was not enough ‘decent teaching’ for both streams, rather than the impact of streaming.

      • Bob
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        @A different Simon

        “…a comprehensive that had an “A” stream and a “B” stream and in the 4 years I was there not one child was promoted or demoted “

        The justification appears to be that they are separately educated under one roof rather than two. That somehow makes it alright.

        • A different Simon
          Posted October 10, 2012 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          Bob ,

          My main point was that the child’s future was decided before they even arrived at the school .

          On an annual intake of 250 people , I don’t believe that the decision makers put every child in the best stream .

          – If a child in the B-stream showed aptitude they should have been promoted to the A-stream .
          – If a child in the A-stream did not show aptitude they should have gone the other way .

          This never happened . Not even once .

          Stephen-O says one of the big problems was that there was not enough decent teaching in both streams .
          This is true but not because of lack of teachers but because the B-stream were written off at age 11 .

          I think it would have been better to group children into sets based on their ability at different subjects as happened in a-tracy’s school rather than a crude two stream approach which said you were a “B-band” person rather than in set-4 for English but set 1 for Math’s .

          Back in those days (early 80’s) , the local main employers ; British Aerospace etc took school leavers from both the “B” and “A” stream for the apprenticeship schemes .

          Reply I remember pupils switching from B to A class if they showed energy and skill. I also remember mature students at university who were very good b ut who had not done so well at school.

  10. alan jutson
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    The simple wish would be for all schools to be able to offer excellent education, no matter where they were located or what name they were called.

    Yes selection has to happen as it does in real life, otherwise you hold back the more talented, and completely undermine the less able who cannot keep up, and thus give up.
    The big question, is how best to do this.

    Firstly we have to accept that people have different abilities and interests, so surely the aim should be to bring out the best in everyone, but acknowledge from the start that all will develop differently, at different rates of progress, and with different interests.
    Thus streaming seems the sensible option, but with promotion and relegation options, just like competitive sport.
    Thus those who are perhaps late at developing their skills or interests, can have a route open to them so that they can make up lost time within a system that is flexible enough to accomodate them.

    Yes, we certainly need a core of sound English and Mathematics at the centre of our education system, as the ability to communicate in both written and verbal forms is vital to personal development, as is the ability to problem solve and calculate for survival in a very competitive World.

    The most important ingredient of any School however is a good Headmaster (headmistress) it is these people who drive a school forward, who select, recruit good teachers, and who are not frightened to sack poor ones.
    For it is they who instill some discipline, self belief and pride in their students and teachers, who encourage them to do well.

    • Disaffected
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      The system is about dragging everyone to the bottom irrespective of ability. Now Cable and Prof Ebdon have started dumbing down university education- it will cost the country a fortune.

      From 1997 billions of taxpayers’ money, our money, has been wasted without any improvement. Exams dumbed down to help politicians give a false impression to get them elected on a false premise- deceit, once again .

      The socialists will claim it is a fair system, it is not. Even under the state system, children with special needs should be allocated extra work and/or funds to help them. They are not. People at the top end of intelligence with special needs are given nothing. It is all given to the children at the bottom end. The ‘all inclusive’ approach is a failure and a core reason why the state system is redundant. The sooner politicians realise that children are not all the same, do not have the same needs and cannot be schooled in the same way the better. Three tiered approach like Germany would be a start irrespective of social background.

      Why should the squeezed middle be forced to have people from affordable housing live in their area because of social engineering and why should their children get priority of schooling. People work hard to improve themselves and improve their living conditions and that includes schools. People live in better areas so their children mix with children of a similar ilk (personal choice) and so their children can go to better schools to get away from badly behaved children, nothing to do with intelligence, behaviour inflicted by bad parents. Cameron and o continue social engineering through using former Labour politicians ie Milburn, Hutton, Browne and now academics like Ebdon. Tories are certainly not for striving families who are prepared to work for what they achieve. They are an international hand out brigade.

      • alan jutson
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Permalink


        I agree with you, I am not suggesting any dumbing down at all.

        I am suggesting improving poor schools, so that all schools can offer the highest education standards.

        I agree that for the past 30 years many schools have failed their pupils, that is the fault of government policy(all Party’s) and poor management within the schools.

        I simply cannot see why State education cannot provide a good education across the board if it is managed properly.

        Any system, no matter what you call it, has to have good quality staff, and a head who has the right “can do” attitude, so perhaps that is where we should start.

      • uanime5
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

        You do realise that if children with parents of low aspirations only meet with children of parents with low aspirations they’ll become adults with aspiration. It’s far better to meet a range of people than the social cleansing you’re promoting to remove anyone you don’t like.

        • Jerry
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:43 am | Permalink

          @uanime5: Sorry but parenting has far more to do with such aspirations than the schooling a child receives, remember that these aspirations are often set well before attending secondary school.

      • Jerry
        Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

        @Disaffected: All you say is so true, you only got one thing wrong, the date! Sorry “Disaffected” but the dumbing down started in the 1980s, it was in that decade that school wood and metal working classrooms were either gutted of machines or left unused and then came the GCSE, by 1997 all Blair was left to do was apply the metaphorical new coat of paint to the now dumbed down state education system…

  11. a-tracy
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Just one more thought, many children missed out on Grammar school because their English was slightly immature but had excellent maths and science results or visa versa, when this child then gets left to the Secondary system as the Elites move up and on, they really are left behind, without the breadth and pace in their specialised classes, whereas if they are streamed properly from year 7 at a Comprehensive they would be working in the best streams for their specialisation rather than written off academically completely as used to be the case for too many children for you to ignore it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      Indeed this happened a lot.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

      If there were more Grammar schools then such kids would have more of a chance of getting in. Also, Grammar schools use to take high achieving kids from non-Grammars at 13,14,15 if it was felt they would benefit from such a change.

    • Jerry
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

      @a-tracy: That is an argument against the age at which streaming was carried out (and by extension the age at which people leave compulsory education), not of the two-tier education system.

      • a-tracy
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Jerry, it’s not an argument against streaming, I strongly support streaming in Comprehensive schools from year 7 instead of mixed ability teaching which was the bane of my children’s lives. I’m also not supportive of task curriculum or integrated curriculum, but rather an argument against splitting the cohort between completely different schools. You can move up and down quickly and easily at the end of each year if necessary in the same school in certain subjects only, you can also retain the most advanced teachers to teach the fast paced classes with an A level department within the school instead of them moving into the grammar schools to the benefit of the minority of pupils.

        Does anyone ask what happens to the children in the Grammar school areas who don’t want to go to the local Secondary school, how many displaced children have to go out of their area (often with large commutes) in order to go to a fully comprehensive school?

        • Jerry
          Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:20 am | Permalink

          @a-tracy: Well I suppose that depends on if you think the theory of streaming works in comprehensive schooling, many on this blog (myself included) suggest that it doesn’t -in practice, there are just to many non academic pressures on the children that are neutralised if the child changes school rather than just grade, then there are the bright kids but due to family circumstances just can’t be bothered (this can affect both rich and poor kids).

          As Winston suggests in reply to the same comment I replied to, there needs to be a way of moving kids between grammar and secondary modern style schools, kids that are bright but failed the 11+ need to move up whilst those that passed the 11+ but have no desire for a academic education (being of a more practical, hands on, disposition) need to be able to move down – both without stigma that flowed from the lefts constant attack on grammar schools, “Toffs” and the class war that fuelled it all.

          • a-tracy
            Posted October 13, 2012 at 9:07 am | Permalink

            Jerry, by the time you would move them up all the solid High School friendships have been formed, trying to break in to these cliques, whilst also developing relationships with new teachers and new school rhythms is stressful for 13 year olds to contemplate.

            In my home area no children were offered a transfer to the grammar school at all. I also didn’t see any grammar school children coming our way.

            I used to believe that grammar schools didn’t make much difference to the opportunities for all able children, but looking back I feel and see that they did. I would like MPs to speak to the parents and children that are displaced by the grammar/secondary comprehensive model that has missing top streams to hear their concerns for their children about attending the 11+ failure schools with the missing cream of the cohort.

  12. merlin
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Comprehensive education has been a total failure since its very existance. The dreadful individuals who instigated the destruction of grammar schools should be villified for ever that is Crossland and Williams, they completely destroyed the life chances of millions of ordinary children from working class and lower middle class backgrounds. The grammar school was a tremendous success so much so that many of the top jobs went to grammar school pupils as oppossed to public school pupils, it was so good that the socialists decided to get rid of it, an appalling mistake. Bring back the grammar schools as soon as possible, and those who are not academic create a vocational system for them. I have absolutley no problem with selction at any age and the 11+ worked perfectly well. My vision for the future a grammar school in every town and city in the UK. How do ordinary people get a grammar school education now? They make huge sacrifices to go private to obtain the same education that was originally achieved by going to a grammar school.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

      Grammar schools weren’t the success you claim they were. Given that the number of people that went from grammar schools to university was comparable or lower than those who went to a comprehensive it’s clear that grammar schools didn’t help the ordinary people.

      • Jon Burgess
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

        What’s your evidence for this and when?

      • Jon Burgess
        Posted October 10, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

        Uanime5, in your 1999 article,

        ‘38% of the Cambridge entrants this year are from comprehensive schools while 9% are from grammar schools. This gives a total of 47% of new students from state schools, 1% up from last year. Private school pupils comprise 43 % of the intake, 2 % down on last year, while the remaining 10% come mainly from sixth-form colleges.’

        This is from Peter Hitchens’ blog:

        ‘In 1965, just before most grammar schools and Scottish academies were abolished, 57 per cent of places at Oxford University were taken by pupils from state grammar schools or direct grant schools (independent schools that gave large numbers of free places on merit, a fine system done away with in 1975 in another wave of vindictive Leftist spite).
        What is more important, the number of state school entrants was rising rapidly, and had done ever since 1945, when the grammar schools were opened to all who could qualify.
        No special concessions were made in those days. The grammar school boys and girls were there by absolute right. These brilliant people still hold high positions in every profession and activity.
        But after 1965, the flow dried up’

        Now notice the difference – 47% state school entrants to Cambridge in 1999 and 57% state school entrants to Oxford in 1965.

        What this might suggest is that more state school children got to top universities during the grammar school period, and bright children from poor backgrounds were certainly amongst them.

        • a-tracy
          Posted October 13, 2012 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          Hold on a minute Jon, are these 6th form colleges State or private? If they are State then it’s 57% state school entrants to Cambridge in 1999 compared to 57% state school entrants to Oxford in 1965 no difference.

    • Jerry
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

      Before you get to carried away “merlin” (young wizard), just remember which government signed off on more Grammar schools to Comprehensive conversions than any other, clue it wasn’t either Crossland and William -indeed it wasn’t even a Labour Minister- it was the Secretary of State for Education and Science in the 1970-1974 Heath government, yes a certain Mrs Thatcher!…

  13. Tedgo
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    The problem with grammar schools is that there will only ever be a limited number of places available, so there has to be a selection system which is open to manipulation.

    The reason I failed my 11 plus was that I was in a B stream at junior school and was not therefore tutored to pass the exam. Doing the 11 plus I distinctly remember being asked questions of a form and type I had never seen before. It wasn’t intended that I should pass.

    Thankfully my Secondary Modern school quickly recognised my abilities and move me up two ability streams within a year.

    What we need is all schools to be excellent, but that will mean streaming by ability and weeding out poor ineffective teachers.

  14. Bob
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    I fully agree with your proposition Mr Redwood, and that’s why I support UKIP.

    The Tories abandoned Grammar Schools.

  15. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    I seem to remember a scene from Yes Minister filmed about thirty years ago when Jim Hacker said: “You need a comprehensive education to overcome a Comprehensive Education.”

    I regard that as a pertinent summary of our current system of education.

  16. merlin
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Another very important point that people often forget is that comprehensives schools lower edicational attainment not raise it, they also brainwash students with left wing ideology, after most of them are controlled by unions. I am an old grammar school boy and I remember saying at the time they introduced the dreadful comprehensive system that it would eventually dumb down educational attainment and I have been proved conclusively right. The idea underlying most left wing thought is to equalise everybody to the same level which is basically what comprehensive education does. Why should a student who is very bright be held back by being in a class of uninterested drones? In the USA they admire and praise success ,in this country it’s the opposite. A grammar school in every town and city should be the aim, unfortunately, John, this is NOT, Conservative policy but it is in UKIP’s manifesto. The present Conservative party is not a true Conservative party it is far too left of centre.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

      In the USA they admire wealth not success. Also their schools have very little discipline and have metal detectors to prevent people bringing guns into school.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Permalink

      Merlin: Literature comprised American books on social issues – Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men. No Shakespeare.

      Geography comprised colouring in crop rotation charts and injustices in the Third World.

      History comprised “Explain what it would be like to be a street urchin in 17th century London.”

      Our maths department was excellent.

  17. forthurst
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    “The grammars used to give an equivalent specialised academic opportunity to children without rich parents. Now that only happens in a handful of counties like Kent, Buckingham and parts of Berkshire.”

    …and of course the children were prepared for examinations which were significantly more rigorous and to a higher standard than their equivalents’ today. Offering an education today as good as that that existed before the destruction of the Grammar schools requires preparation for alternative examinations to GCSE and ‘A’ level. Therefore any discussion of educational reform should take into account the need to achieve the prior levels of the scope and complexity of exams as well as routes for marginal students so they are not disadvantaged by what for them would be a lottery.

  18. Martyn
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    It saddens me that after decades of comprehensive school and billions pumped into them that around 25% of youths leave school functionally illiterate. That is a scandal of the first water – the system simply fails far too many of our children.

    Regardless of the debate as to grammar and other schools at secondary level, I have long been utterly convinced that we must raise achievement at primary school level – motivate, inspire and guide the children to the highest possible educational standard before they leave primary school.

    In my day we had the 11+ which I failed, but my secondary school recognised certain other talents of mine and encouraged me to take the exam, which I passed and so entered the technical high school system. Also in those days, of course, no matter how poor the background of a child passing the 11+ they got a place in a grammar school. I say again, start with the primary schools, raise their game and ensure that none get sent to secondary schools without being able to read, write and calculate i.e functionally literate.

  19. eddyh
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The brightest man at my Cambridge college was the son of a Yorkshire coalminer. His brothers all went down the pit with their father. He got into Bradford grammer school, got a scholarship to Cambridge,ended up with a starred first in law and then became a don. I doubt he would have made this from a bog standard comprehensive.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      What a shame someone so bright ended up just doing law and then teaching law, rather than forming the next Microsoft, Intel or Berkshire Hathaway.

      • David Price
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:21 am | Permalink

        I’m not so sure, a law can effect everyone in one or even several countries and they have no choice in the matter.

        Surley we need to encourage the best in all fields and compete effectively in the world, something the dogmatic one-size-fits-all approach to education has singularly failed to do

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

          It is a game with (usually absurd) rules constructed and construed by lawyers and judges, largely for the enrichment of lawyers and the encouragement of litigants. Mainly with the aim of keeping the money making show on the road.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      You’d be surprised how many people went from comprehensives to university.

      • Jerry
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

        Yes, the same number that would have gone to university from the abolished grammar schools!

      • a-tracy
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        How many “people went from comprehensives to university”? How did this compare to grammar schools?

  20. DrJohn_Galan
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    The introduction of comprehensive education was intended to give everyone the chance of a grammar-school-quality education. In practice, it gave everyone (who did not have a choice) a secondary-modern-quality education. Unintended consequence: there are far less opportunities now for children from families who cannot afford private schooling to have a decent education. Second unintended consequence, engineer the selection system at 18 for university entry to compensate. You could not make it up it is so ludicrous.

  21. Mark W
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    The Left’s hatred of Grammar Schools has always baffled me. How many times do phrases like “look at Germany” crop up when the success of their industry is paraded around. Well indeed, look at Germany, they never suffered Anthony Crosland and the useless idea of Comprehensives.

    There should have been more investment into the other side of the coin, meaning better Secondary Moderns, but Comprehensives have the problem of the “hidden” school fee by mortgage.

    I’m not so sure many Labour/LibDem MPs would be so happy with the local Comp, if it was the local comp that some suffer. Ask Diane Abbot. Tory MPs are exempt from this as most Tories have always been happy with Private Education. I don’t see why Cameron is going to make a big show of sending his kids through the state sector when he can afford not to.

    Representation from the state sector in high positions peaked with the Grammar system. Maybe switching with a further entry point for 13 plus would have been a useful addition.

    The little mentioned Direct Grant system should also be reintroduced. Whereby 11 plus passes could go into a local public school, acting as a town Grammar in a fashion.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Permalink


      “The Left’s hatred of Grammar Schools has always baffled me”

      Why most fail the 11+ and it is clearly just another facet to the evil politics of envy, the main recruiter of the left.

      The hatred is sometimes justified too, as the exam is unfair to those with certain types of parents or poor primary schools.

  22. Jon Burgess
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    I’m sure you already know, Mr Redwood, but it is illegal in England to create a new grammar school, something that was put on the statute book by the last Labour administration.

    Does your party have any plans to reverse this? Not judging by the comments made by the likes of David Willetts.

    If not, why are you raising the subject? I guess it does help to show there is something other than the EU that we can agree with UKIP about!

  23. Jon Burgess
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I think this sums up everything I wish I could write about selective education – it comes from Peter Hitchens blog from about a month ago:

    Here’s what they will never say about British school examinations. All their problems arise from the abolition of most state grammar schools in in the 1960s and 1970s.
    Since then, comprehensive state schools have been social engineering machines aimed at creating a more equal society, and incidentally in creating more easily manipulated voters. The first has been a bit of a flop, because it always is, and because our relatively free society allows rich and clever parents to rescue their children from the egalitarian fanatics. But the second has been quite effective.
    One of the reasons for this is that examinations give schools purpose and backbone. There’s something to work for. There’s competition. There’s a time limit . Schools without exams are a bit like tennis without a net. In the end the natural inertia of the human race will stop anything much from happening in schools where there’s no aim to work for.
    So the nature and rigour of those exams – and the way people are selected to take them, and the subjects into which they are divided – are far more crucial than any national curriculum (generally fictional anyway, as so much of it is optional) or government targets.
    The devaluation of all examinations, so that the annual results would not show up just how disastrous the comprehensive experiment has been, is just one aspect of the mountain of lies constructed to deceive the public about the real purpose and nature of modern education.
    One rather funny unintended consequence of this is that it has made the independent schools, the remaining grammar schools, and the church schools all look much better than they really are. In fact it has saved many mediocre and failing private schools from the doom that would have overtaken them if the grammar schools had survived (private secondary education is almost unknown in Germany, where there are still grammar schools). This is because, if you lower exam standards to make the comprehensives look acceptable, you make selective schools look absolutely wonderful, especially if you make the top grades accessible to mediocre pupils. So, harm done all round. Only a small minority of independent and selective schools have sought to maintain real standards, by using the ore rigorous International GCSE instead of the GCSE, and the International Baccalaureate (or the new Cambridge pre-U) instead of ‘A’ levels.
    Exams, by the way, are not the same as the wretched tests which take up so much time in state schools these days. They are solid investigations into how much pupils have learned about a given subject, not rigged and drilled attempts to prove that children who cannot really read, write or count can in fact do so.
    Before the abolition of the grammar schools, and of their close relatives the Direct Grant schools (independent schools which took in large numbers of state pupils who had passed the eleven plus – a sensible system which you might think met politicians’ repeated demands for the private sector to help the state sector – so why did they abolish them?) , we had two secondary exams at this level.
    One was the GCE ‘O’ level, generally taken by pupils at independent, grammar and Direct Grant schools. The other was the CSE, usually taken by pupils at Secondary Moderns. This distinction wasn’t universal. A minority of Secondary Moderns took ‘O’ levels ( and A levels) and even sent pupils on to university. Like Grammar schools, Secondary Moderns varied, from area to area, in quality and intake. Some areas, such as Wales, had far more Grammar Schools than other parts of the country. Surrey, by contrast, had comparatively few grammar schools. Some had better provisions for girls, though in general they had a poor deal when it came to winning grammar school places. Technical schools, promised in the 1944 Education Act, were seldom built, though they were and are badly needed. There were, in short, many reforms that could have been made to the system, which would have improved it greatly, and probably would have cost much less than the comprehensive revolution inaugurated by Anthony Crosland in 1965(and continued by Margaret Thatcher after 1970, though she, unlike Crosland, was unhappy about it) . See the chapter ‘The Fall of the Meritocracy’ in my widely-unread and almost universally unreviewed book ‘The Cameron Delusion’ for the definitive account of this extraordinary episode.
    The CSE had 5 grades of pass. Grade One at CSE was considered by schools and employers to be the equivalent of an ‘O’ level pass.
    Before 1975, ‘O’ levels were graded differently by rival boards. Some boards graded from A to H, with F, G and H being failure grades for which no certificate was awarded. Others (including the Oxford and Cambridge Board, used by my independent school in Cambridge) graded from 1 to 9, with 7, 8 and 9 being failure grades for which no certificate was awarded. Those certificates which were issued did not , as I remember (for I have never in all my life been asked to produce any of my exam certificates) , mention the grade, which was on a flimsy bit of paper sent out by post . Pay attention here, for these details are important.
    By the early 1970s, with the grammars vanishing, standards began to fall. As this was before the age of ‘league tables’, the evidence of this comes in brief intense flashes of light, which some people will no doubt dismiss as ‘anecdotal’. Well, let them.

    I have in front of me a cutting from the Daily Telegraph of 11th November 1974, which quotes the late Sir Rhodes Boyson, and Professor Brian Cox ( opponents of ‘progressive education’ as it was then called, before it ran into very serious trouble in the late 1970s). They cited surveys by the education authorities of Manchester and Sheffield.
    These showed that since Manchester’s comprehensive reorganisation in 1967, the proportion of Manchester schoolchildren going in for ‘O’ level had been falling sharply. By contrast, in that city’s Roman Catholic grammar and secondary modern schools, not yet reorganised, the proportion had risen. Sheffield’s experience was similar. In a report in October 1975 the Telegraph noted a ‘gradual decline in the percentage of comprehensive school pupils succeeding in GCE examinations’. Pupils at the about-to-be-abolished Direct Grant schools, meanwhile, showed ‘a constant increase in GCE success rates’.
    One state school which I will not name abandoned ‘O’ and ‘A’ levels altogether after a collapse in discipline and standards.
    But by then, as the late Lynda Lee-Potter wrote in the Daily Mail of 10th September 1975, the O level grading system had been mysteriously altered. There were now 5 grades: A, B and C were the equivalents of the old 1 to 6 or A to E. But a certificate was also awarded to those who received grades D and E. These were roughly the equivalent of the old failing grades (not exactly, of course. D was the equivalent of the old F and the old 7, whereas E was the equivalent of the upper half of the old 8 and the old G).
    Miss Lee-Potter complained, in an article I may come back to at another time because of its prophetic force, : “The government have now abolished the words ‘pass ‘ and ‘fail’ because they think it’s wrong to tell children they have failed.’
    By the way, I’ll note here that when the GCSE was eventually introduced, as the logical consequence of all this fudging and devaluation, its grades ran from A* (originally A) down to G. F and G were equal to the old CSE grade 4 and 5, and to the top half of the ‘U’ (or ungraded) grade of the post 1975 ‘O’ level.
    You need to be good at your letters and numbers to keep up with this, don’t you? But if you look you will see a trend, and it’s downwards all the way. It has to be. Anything else would make it obvious that comprehensive schools are about egalitarian politics (the central project of it, and the new , ironbound Clause Four of New Labour, so fiercely held to that the Tories dare not challenge it) not about good education. And when the public finally realise that, they might just object.
    A report in December 1975 said that marks had slumped in GCE exams, but quoted teachers who blamed the raising of the school leaving age and the increasing turnover of teachers. Perhaps these contributed, but given the education industry’s keen support of all-in schools, you can see why they might have sought to avoid mentioning the more obvious explanation – comprehensive schooling.
    Funnily enough, it would soon be harder to tell. Experiments in a combined O level and CSE (what would become the GCSE 12 years later) were reported as being already under way, on the initiative of the Schools Council, a Quango of the time, as early in June 1974. This idea had been floated as early as 1972. It would carry on floating – Shirley Williams wanted to introduce the GCSE in her time as Labour Education Secretary, in the late 1970s. Funny that it was evebntuall introduced by the prototype Thatcherite, Sir Keith Joseph, poor anguished sir keith, I suspect, had little idea what he was doing. But his party has for many years been a false friend to state education. Its senior figures either pay fees, or (liek New Labour nobility) live in comfy areas, or (these days, also like Labour toffs) have learned how to wangle their bairns into smart, untypical schools. They aren’t interested in a politically difficult true reform.
    Now , after leaks that ‘O’ levels were to come back (which this writer disbelieved from the start) , which were then watered down to a more rigorous GCSE, we have the double dog’s breakfast of the Gove Level, or Chewbacca, or whatever it’s to be called. Actually it’s the Gove-Clegg level, launched with Michael Gove more or less shackled to Nick Clegg, a flesh-and-blood assurance to the Education establishment that there will in fact be no true return to rigour. It may not happen at all, since the plan has been delayed till so late in the Parliament that Labour can begin to influence it too.
    If it doesn’t come off it’ll be no great loss. It would have had to carry on the sustained cover-up of comprehensive failure, just as all the gimmicks, from Blunkett to Gove, have sought to avoid confronting the awful truth which is – without selection, you can’t have good secondary schools.
    Maybe one day they’ll admit it.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

      “without selection, you can’t have good secondary schools.”
      Are you saying every comp in the UK is a bad school?

      • Jon Burgess
        Posted October 11, 2012 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        If compared to a grammar and secondary modern, then for those academically bright children from all backgrounds, then yes that is exactly what I am saying.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted October 11, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

          Based on your prior assumptions it seems.

          Try visiting reality.

          • Jon Burgess
            Posted October 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

            Prior assumptions based on facts and logic, certainly.

            Remember, what we are discussing here is whether selective schools offer more opportunity for social mobility than the current comprehensive system.

            In other words, do bright poor children fare better today than they did in the 1940’s to 1970’s?

          • Rebecca Hanson
            Posted October 15, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

            In the 1940s to 1970s a lot of bright poor children ended up in secondary moderns. It’s better to have comps with good provision in all core subjects so that every child has the chance to excel in any core subject they can.

  24. Electro-Kevin
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Selection in the fields of classical music and sport begins from an early age.

    This is impossible to refute and it should apply to education too.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

      At a local comp in a tough area in the 1970s every boy was forced to join the brass band unless he had a regular place on a sports team.

      Tickets for the brass band concerts were like gold dust and they ran night after night in a big hall………

  25. JoolsB
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    “We allow children with rich parents to go to good schools,giving them charitable status”

    The Tories have done nothing for social mobility. Despite Willetts continuingly droning on about it, they’ve made it even worse. Not only does our Liberal Prime Minister have the same hatred of grammar schools as Labour and the Lib Dums but without a doubt our brightest and talented kids from modest homes, the scientists, doctors and mathematicians, will now also be deterred from going to university rather than face a lifetime of crippling debt but only if they are English of course. The rich will still pay for their kids to go to university no matter how unsuited they may be for university, the sames for the Scots kids who will pay nothing and of course the Welsh and the NI kids who will have their fees heavily capped courtesy of UK taxes via the skewed Barnett Formula.

    It just won’t wash the politicians telling us this isn’t a debt when that’s exactly what it is at the same time they are lecturing against debt. Those bright kids in England from poorer backgrounds will most certainly be put off by the thought of being in debt for thirty years or they will graduate and then go abroad to avoid the debt creating a brain drain. Where is the level playing field for youngsters from England? Either all should pay or no-one should pay.

    This lifelong Conservative is ashamed to have ever been part of a party which has not only defended Labour’s education apartheid by their actions which discriminates against every one of England’s youngsters but they’ve made it three times worse but only for the very people who they rely on for their support – idiots.

  26. Electro-Kevin
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Of my own comprehensive education.

    One of the saving graces at my school was the Asian children.

    They pressed on regardless of the classroom disruptions and bullying. I expect that ‘grade inflation’ isn’t just a watering down of exams but also a genuine injection of work ethic from parts of the immigrant community. As well as better preparation strategies.

    It can’t all have been negative.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

      This isn’t to say that a watering down of exams hasn’t happened – but I see some excellent kids out there and don’t doubt that they’d have cut the mustard 40 years ago too.

  27. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely John. To hell with the consequences. Let’s go get those votes.

    • Rebecca Hanson
      Posted October 10, 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      Problem is it kind of compromised your credibility as someone who can think through the financial affairs for this country if you can’t think through the consqeuences of grammar schools…..

      But huge respect for the general quality of the blog and the allowance of freedom of speech!

      Reply: I can think through the consequences of grammars – we may not agree but it doesn’t make me unable to understand the issues!

      • Rebecca Hanson
        Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

        So what are the consequences of grammars John?

        Reassure me 🙂

        Reply: In my area where we have two and a range of comprehensives they allow the grammar school children to achieve very good results, and allow the children at the top of the comprehensives to also achieve very good results. The “creaming” allows children who would not be the best performers to become the best performers in the comprehensives, offering intellectual and academic leadership as well as the grammer pupils.

        • Rebecca Hanson
          Posted October 11, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          I have consistently supported grammar schools in areas where that is the case.

          I don’t mind an expansion of grammar school places in areas where it can be clearly demonstrated that the schools which are not grammar schools would be able to continue to provide high quality provision in core subjects.

          If there are concerns regarding whether this would be the case or not and appropriate interventions and monitoring are put in place to ensure the other schools are properly protected then I’m ambivalent.

          However in many situations other schools clearly would be seriously damaged and the life chances of the many children who attend them would be compromised.

          So long as no account is being taken of the impact of grammar school expansion on other schools it should not be allowed. Your comment doesn’t begin to challenge my position John. Can you do any better?

  28. David Saunders
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Grammar schools provide a valuable opportunity for pupils to aspire to the best they can achieve despite difficult and/or disadvantaged backgrounds. The lack of wide spread grammars since the 1970s explains why the Cabinet is stuffed with Old Etonians.
    Cameron is opposed to grammar schools and until post Cameron there is no chance of change.

  29. Winston Smith
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    I grew up in a working-class family, where my father was semi-literate and my mother left school at 15. She actually passed her 11+, but Camden scrapped Grammar schools the following year. Despite attending one of worst primary schools in the region, I made it to Grammar school, as did my sister. We received no coaching. However, times are now different. Those Grammar schools are now full with children from upwardly mobile, middle-class parents and Asian and Chinese parents. Working-class kids are virtually non-existent. These days, parents are more mobile and more aware of the differences in education. The shortage of Grammar schools means that those that exist are targeted by the middle-classes and highly motivated ethnic minority parents.

    We need more Grammars. Yet another reason to support UKIP.

  30. David John Wilson
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Firstly we need to get rid of the idea that private schools are charities that can claim tax back for that reason. There may be an argument for tha state making a contribution for children who otherwise would be using resources in the state system, but it should be just that. Why should the school get a contribution from the state that increases with the fees that the school charges?
    Previous posts have put forward the argument for the selection of better pupils so that the cream receive education suitable to their abilities. However there are strong arguments that this selection should take place at 13 not 11. From 10 to 13 children should attend schools large enough to allow “setting” according to ability.

  31. Bernard Juby
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    I’m the product of a Grammar school (mixed) and proud of it. We had three streams with the Form Number + A and Alpha. Brighter ones could move up and less bright could move down. If you weren’t up to it or you preferred tachnical aspects you could either go to a technical school or a Secondary Modern. Bright children from the latter could “graduate” up to the Grammar school.
    The biggest mistake was to label the non-Grammars as “Secondary Schools”. People forgot I9nfant-Primary-Secondary-Univ. and the lefties down-graded them by calling it Second Class Education.
    Shirley Williams did much to destroy Grammar Schools – I believe that her children were so educated or even went to Private Schools) She should be ashamed of herself for destroying such excellent schools.
    And YES, there were always winners and losers – just as in life – it was the taking part and giving it a try that mattered.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

      Shirley Williams that pleasant elderly woman – who has done so very, very much damage over her lifetime in so very many ways – and all with the best of (misguided) intentions on her part.

  32. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    The EU expenditure that we should refuse to finance relates to unnecessary and overused institutions. The Lisbon Treaty created a “permanent president” (to go with the 6 monthly Member State president and Barrosso – just a touch of overkill) and an EU foreign minister, together with all their support staff. The European Commission and EU courts are overstaffed in order that they can more thoroughly interfere with the internal affairs of Member States.

    Our approach should be to quantify these unnecessary costs and refuse to finance them. Yes, there would be a bust up; so what.

    • Lindsay McDougall
      Posted October 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Sorry, this is misplaced; it should come under “cutting the deficit”.

  33. pipesmoker
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    I passed my eleven plus in 1950 and went to Grammar School and because of my home circumstances and the need to earn a bit of money, never given pocket money, to get the things I wanted my schooling suffered. There was never a question of me going to university and left school at sixteen. I got my BSc as a mature student with the Open University.

    At sixteen, today, I would be classed as a failure in the educational system but those five years taught me how to study and pass exams and were not wasted. I left school to become a butcher, I then joined the Police Force and qualified to Inspector. Because of their policies in the 1980’s not to employ those in receipt of pensions I qualified in electronics and on retirement got a job in that field.

    I have followed the global warming debate, unlike many politicians, from an informed position and been able to understand the issues because of my secondary education.

    The system would label me a failure, maybe I am, but it set me on the right path to inquire after knowledge and evaluate it.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

      Good for you, I assume you are not fully taken in by the Anth. Global Warming, religion/exaggerations.

  34. Bert Young
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    There are two very basic areas to focus on in order to correct and improve the educational system 1) the age at which a selection takes place in order to determine who the brightest children are and what particular skills and interests they have and , 2) the quality of the teaching body in all types of schools . 11yrs of age is too young ; 13 yrs of age has proved to be accurate and realistic . No-one should be allowed to become a teacher unless they have both the necessary intellectual and personality skills ; these two aspects are often overlooked in the selection process , also , when the demand is highest , these quality standards have been dropped in the past . Having different types of schools to cater to a particular type of student is much preferred to one school attempting to cover everything . Getting these things right is the only way to go . I write as an ex- Headmaster and successful businessman .

  35. Richard
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    We were able to send our children to good local state primary schools and to two very good local state 6th form centres to do their A levels, but we had to send them to private secondary schools, from ages 11 to 16, because the school we were “allocated” by our all powerful LEA was so poor.

    There is a very good local comp, which we would have been happy to send them to, but each year it is several times oversubscribed and we were just outside the catchment area to be able to get places.
    It has got to the point that you now need to live right by the school to get in and property prices near to this school are very much more expensive than just a few hundred yards further away.

    So, the most important change I would like to see, is to allow and encourage these successful and popular comps to expand, to meet the demand from parents and pupils who want to go there.
    Our local LEA will not allow this to happen. Their view is that there are enough places overall to meet total pupil numbers so there is no need to expand.
    Its just that half the comps are good and are therefore heavily oversubscribed and the other half are rubbish and they have been rubbish now for decades.

    We had to make great sacrifices to do what we did, and I feel cross that there is still no real efforts being made or incentives being created, to improve the poor schools when each year they are full with their “allocated” pupils.

    Would we think it natural for the state to tell us where we had to live or for them to allocate us a home or to allocate us a car or allocate us a job of their choice?
    But when it comes to schools we allow them to post our children off to a school of their choice just as if the children were conscripted soldiers.

    PS There still is an 11+ of sorts because Year 7 pupils take a SATS test, which informs the senior school as to their ability and they are then streamed or setted accordingly.

  36. They Work for Us
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Your choice of words in “we allow” is most unfortunate, I hope this does not represent modern conservative theory. You work for us and ultimately we “allow you” to legislate.

    The USA has a better philosophical system whereby the citizen does not expect an activity to be regulated by default unless the electorate have (reluctantly) agreed to regulation. When anything new comes out there is no question of someone popping up with “you need a permit for that, have you got a licence etc.

    I went to a Grammar School and am forever grateful for the education I received.
    You won’t get good state education until the left wing bias of the Training establishments (who produce significant numbers of inferior but politically correct teachers) is reduced. Their efforts are why we have “students” or young adults instead of schoolchildren and the attitude that goes with it.

    Does anyone really need “Teacher Training” other than those that deal with the youngest e.g primary and infant, children. Why not go back to the old system of Training Colleges for primary/ infants teachers and subject degrees with no teacher training for secondary school. A short induction course on how the school they are joining would be useful. In time you could take the bold step of not allowing someone who was not academically qualified in a subject to teach that subject.

  37. Vanessa
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    All political parties, now, hate selection, but look at many MPs. So many, over the years, have been to grammar school and done so well. It is pathetic to protect children from competition at any age. Life is made up of those who are good at something bobbing to the top – there is nothing you can do about it. The tragedy is that we do not value those children who are brilliant in a practical way and make the most of their talents. We are losing engineers, technicians, electricians, plumbers, etc. because they all have to go to university to be seen to succeed. What a lie. Society is made up of every hue of human being; governments red&blue&yellow all peddle this idiocy and so we are plummetting down the world league tables, putting more and more on benefits and destroying our innovation and creativity. Vote for UKIP – the only party supporting more grammar schools.

  38. zeena
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

    I so much agree with lifelogic.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, good to know I am not alone.

  39. merlin
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    Just look at the present government and opposition, many privately educated, there would be more grammar school representation if students had had the opportunity. The greatest prime minister of the 20th century went to a grammar school, Margaret Thatcher that is. Bring selection in education properly and ensure that there is a grammar school in every town and city in the land, the result, huge improvement in educational standards and more success for this great country.

  40. uanime5
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    At 16 and 18 children are mature enough decide what they want to do with their life; so no one objects to them taking exams, and deciding whether to go to university or look for a job. By contrast 11 they lack this maturity so people question whether they should be making such a major choice at this age.

    John you mentioned that there are special activities for sport, dancing, art, singing, and music. Why do you suppose that in the UK and most other countries there are not similar events for STEM subjects? Could it be because those who study STEM subjects are doing so for reasons other than public performances.

    The main problem with grammar schools is that they were considered schools for the clever and be definition anyone who didn’t go to a grammar schools suffered from the stigma of being a failure and an idiot. Unless you have a way to remove this stigma all grammar schools will do is tell those who don’t get into grammar schools that they’re a failure; resulting in a generation of disillusioned children who question why they should bother to learn and a generation of adults who question why they should bother to work.

    In real news Osborne has begun his attack of those on benefits in order to pay for tax cuts for the wealthy (such as reducing the 50% tax rate). The effects will be as follows:

    1) If you’re under 25 you can’t claim housing benefit, so young people won’t be able to move to areas where there are jobs available or be able to work in unpaid internships.

    2) People will no longer be able to claim the £13.40 per week per child of they have more than one children.

    3) Employees will be forced to sell their employment rights for shares in a company. Expect demotivated workforces with shares that quickly become worthless.

    It seems that Nasty Party is back with a vengeance.

    Finally I’ll leave you with a letter from the Independent about Conservative policy.

    The Tories don’t want to abort unwanted children (“Hunt: I believe abortion limit should be 12 weeks”, 6 October). They don’t want to house them. They don’t want to feed them properly. They don’t want to educate them adequately. They don’t want to employ them. They don’t want to pay them benefits. About the only thing they want to do is eventually put them in prison.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Indefinite moderation for criticising your policies on grammar schools and Conservative policies on benefits?

  41. Dave Bush
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Close down the private schools and watch the state schools improve. Finland has one of the highest education standards in the world – why? Becausethey have no private schools and don’t test until around age 16.

    Most of the contributors on here are wallowing nostalgia. In the ‘good’ old days many children were consigned to the Secondary modern scrapheap. In those days of course there were many low-skilled jobs, but these have all but disappeared. We owe it to ALL our children to give them a decent education so that they can survive and compete in today’s world.

    • David Price
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

      You proposal seems to suggest that all the best teachers are in the fee paying schools. If that is the case, which I very much doubt, and you close down those schools I suspect the good teachers will simply go abroad or into different occupations. You’ve had a lot of years to work on teaching quality and prove that comprehensives work but all you have succeeded in doing is lower the quality of result.

      If, however, a key difference is actually the attitude of the parents just how will you address that?

      • uanime5
        Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        Given that the attitude of the parents will be a demand for local schools to provide better quality education this will benefit the UK greatly.

        • David Price
          Posted October 10, 2012 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          I doubt parents have the time to be the heroes of the socialist educational utopia you describe. I’m pretty sure that they instead focus on raising the capability of their own children through coaching/cramming, move house to the appropriate catchment area for the good comp and/or try and get them through selection tests into a grammar school.

          My question stands – if the attainment of pupils is inflenced significantly by the supportive attitude and investment in time of their parents, how will you address the situation of pupils of parents who are not similarly motivated or engaged in the educational process.

  42. Christopher Ekstrom
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

    Cast Iron can’t be bothered on Grammar schools; too busy scheming with Clegg how to head off Big Ed. Really just too pathetic. Had this scenario been the plot line of Yes, Minister just a decade ago it would have been considered way over the top.

  43. Yosarian
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    Things have changed for grammar schools though. I went to a grammar ’76-’82 when it was a real mix of backgrounds with a lot of kids from relatively poor families. When I took the twelve-plus I was at a state primary as were most of my future grammar school peers, actually I remember it as all my future peers but I can’t believe it was quite like that. As I understand it, today around one third of kids attending that same grammar come from prep school. Better off parents pay-up to give their children the best chance at the expense of those families that don’t have the money to send their kids to what are effectively crammers. Apparently, the grammar is not the place it was; the mix is less vital.

    • Jon Burgess
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      Well, you could change that by opening up more grammars and giving more opportunity to bright kids from poorer backgrounds, but sadly it is currently illegal to do this!

  44. JimF
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    You’re clearly helping write the UKIP manifesto. The Tory one would read something like “despite the local call for Grammar Schools in parts of the Country which we understand, we continue to foster a belief in supporting choice through a Comprehensive system which is delivering enhanced outcomes for pupils across the ability spectrum”.
    So whose side are you on?

  45. Andrew Johnson
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    Regarding 11+ and the stigma of failure for all kinds of reasons – that’s why the 13+ was in place, so if you missed out, you had another chance.
    To those who say Comprehensives can be improved, don’t you think that after 47 years enough time has been given to do that?
    I don’t believe you should discuss grammar schools without also mentioning the excellent Technical schools which many 11+ “failures” attended. The best of these schools, gave as good an academic education plus a technical education (e.g. plumbing, bricklaying etc), so the pupils were doubly equipped.
    The main teaching Unions have never been willing to engage in meaningful debate about why after 11 years of state education, getting on towards a million young men and women leave school every year unable to read, write or carry out basic maths even to the currently low academic level.
    In my opinion of all the institutions in the UK, the two that have contributed most to social mobility and have fostered a desire to strive for excellence in all that one does are the Grammar and Technical Schools.

    • David Price
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 6:16 am | Permalink

      Agree – selection should be at appropriate ages and to establish the most appropriate path, technical or academic, not promoted as a binary pass/fail.

  46. cp
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who thinks Grammar Schools will promote “social mobility” should come to Kent where Grammar Schools still exist, but are almost exclusively filled up with the children of people who have been paying for two years or more of private tuition for their children to ‘coach’ them to pass the 11+!!!

    • Jon Burgess
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      No doubt this is true, but if there were more grammars then this would solve your problem. But as I keep pointing out creating a new grammar school is currently against the law, so there is something very easy that this government could do to help – repeal this law.

  47. JimF
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Grammar schools are caught in a pincer between the elite who can afford the best teachers and facilities and the poor who are envious and in many cases would be too stupid to benefit. To re-invent them in this way (as UKIP also do) is possibly a mistake, and taking a trip backwards, but there is a case for academies catering for the best in the arts, sciences and engineering under one roof. There is a case for selection picking out the best at 8,11, or 13. People need to be stretched in what they are good at, and not either struggle where they have no inherent ability or sit out lessons which they could sleep through and still pass the year.

  48. Jon
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    It gets my vote. Only thing I would modify would be to include artisan subjects to take the best of those as well.

    I went to a comp that had just been changed from a grammar. I saw the academic side slip whilst I was there and saw a lack of understanding that most of this economy if artisan based.

  49. Monty
    Posted October 8, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Permalink

    If you are serious about re-instating academic excellence and rigour to our education system, the first school you need to provide in every town and city in the land is a sink school. And in that school, you put all the hoodlums, headbangers, disrupters, chronic truants, thieves, and junior gangsters who have already learned to cite their “anger management issues” in terms familiar to the police. And you send in the roughest toughest teachers to control them, teach them the rudiments of literacy and numeracy, and intimidate the living daylights out of their drunken berserk parents. That’s the school where you spend the security budget on metal detectors and barbed wire, and the staff are allowed to search and physically constrain hooligans.

    Otherwise, each of those kids will trash the educational prospects of about 30 other pupils in a mainstream classroom somewhere else in town.

    Only after this has been established, can you work out the best approach to deliver a quality education to all the other youngsters, from the brilliant, to the nice but dim, and integrate the disabled bairns in so far as that is feasible. The mainstream schools, be they selective or comprehensive, would then have an ultimate sanction for dealing with unruly behaviour, the threat of being dropped into the sink school. The children, and the parents, would be only too aware that they now have something to lose.

    What we can not do, is imagine we can just set the clock back to 1970, and pick up from there. We did not have a significant violent lawless underclass in 1970. We most assuredly do now.

  50. Epimenides
    Posted October 9, 2012 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Politicians (the state) should not run schools. The most successful, the independent schools, are free of politicians and that is one of the reasons they excel.

    • uanime5
      Posted October 9, 2012 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      The private sector excels because they can charge up to £30,000 per pupil per year. They can also restrict their intake to ensure small class sizes and that there are no disruptive pupils. If the state did the same they’d have schools equal or better than the private sector.

      • Jerry
        Posted October 10, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

        Funny that, the same pressures and problems were about in the 1950s but state education was far better then than it is now, indeed the state sector was better in the 1960/70s (in the middle of the “Baby Boom Generation” thus at post war peak numbers), care to explain this “uanime5”?…

      • Epimenides
        Posted October 11, 2012 at 3:13 am | Permalink

        Your £30k is for full board. The Labour government increased spending per pupil, for teaching, to the same level as independent schools back in 2005/6.

  51. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 10, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    In theory, comprehensives afford the same opportunities for an academic education as do grammar schools, and cut out selection at 11. In practice, it rarely works out that way. If the school isn’t big enough to sustain a sixth form, the children have to go to separate sixth form colleges. Sadly, there is also the fact that in comprehensives, academically minded pupils are looked down as ‘swats’ and feel themselves to be an unwanted minority.

  52. Monty
    Posted October 10, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    The unspoken mission statement of every state comprehensive, is to devote all their resources into maximising their GCSE passes at grade C. So the youngsters hovering around the grade C/D boundary are key. The obvious A and B candidates, and the hopeless Es, will not get the attention they need or merit, because their achievements don’t enhance the school’s league table rank.

    Which leads me to wonder, what would a real comprehensive school look like, how would it differ from St Asbo?
    For any discipline within the curriculum, there will be perhaps 15 to 2o% of the year group who could achieve a good grade at the old GCE O Level standard. They need a course which will stretch their command of the subject to that level, and put them into the frame for potential progression to A Level and further. The rest of the cohort need a different course altogether, to evaluate their competence with reference to the population average. You can’t do that with a single course or a single qualification.

    (Even in a Grammar school, though the pupils are all reasonably academic, they each have their own profile. A child who is brilliant at maths might be middling at French, and hopeless at history. He would need a GCE maths course, a CSE French course, and drop history altogether.)
    If your aim is to provide a well tailored package to match the aptitudes of each child, then you need a big campus. And you need to reward the staff, and rank the school, according to the full spectrum of their performance.
    And as I already mentioned, you need the ability to expel the disruptive kids and keep them out, without the risk of the LEA forcing the school to re-instate them.

  53. Robert Taggart
    Posted October 11, 2012 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Speaking as a former Prep’ / Boarding school ‘inmate’ – a lot of good it did this scrounger !

  • About John Redwood

    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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