Letter to the Secretary of State for Education

Dear Justine

I was pleased to see week-end press coverage that the government is considering allowing the expansion of existing grammar schools and the establishment of new ones where local communities would like this to happen. I strongly support this policy and urge you to develop plans as soon as possible.

In Berkshire children from my constituency and from other neighbouring constituencies can apply for places at the two Reading grammar schools, and frequently do. There are no grammars in Wokingham Borough , nor in the West Berkshire  Council area. My constituency contains parts of both of these Unitary Council areas.  High achieving students at local comprehensives obtain places at top universities, as well as pupils from  the grammars doing so, so it is not right to argue the presence of the grammars undermines the local comprehensives academically.

The grammar schools are massively oversubscribed and are popular schools. The academically gifted child does benefit from the specialist grammar teaching selection allows, just as specialist sporting, dance and music academies can bring out the best in the most enthusiastic and talented youngsters in those disciplines.  Nationally I read that children of better off families have more success at getting grammar places. This in part reflects the location of current grammars, with a concentration in higher income areas like Buckinghamshire, parts of Berkshire and Kent. It would be good to spread their reach more widely.

I do not accept grammars create an insuperable divide at 11. We need a system which allows those late developers who wish to go to a grammar for a more specialist academic education to have opportunity after 11, and we need to ensure high fliers academically can also be  well served by local comprehensives, as many are in my area. As sport, dance , art and music demonstrate, specialist concentrated teaching and learning helps achieve excellence, as it can  academic success. The bigger divide currently is between those whose parents can afford to send them to a top performing feee paying school and the rest. More grammars will help bridge this academic gap.

I was disappointed to read of delay in implementing the Conservative policy of fairer funding for secondary schools in areas like mine, and hope you will revisit this and reach a timely introduction, in line with our Manifesto promises.

Yours ever

 

John

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62 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    Indeed about time we had some proper Conservative announcements. People should also be able to switch to grammar at 12 13 or 16 if they have the ability as I think T May did at 13.

    Better vocational skills training needed tlas well. Plus some tax relief or vouchers for private schools to save the state money.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:39 am | Permalink

      I would get religion out of schools as much as possible too.

      • Sivanantham.Sivakolu
        Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        This is very good drive. Secularization of school education is very easy and simple.If the UNA insist all the member countries to make Humanism a compulsory subject in all the schools instead of religions. Religions show you the path to unknown hell and heaven. Not a single religion says the Hell and Heaven are on this Earth,making this World a heaven in your hands.

        • Lifelogic
          Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

          It also devalues education in general, how can you take teachers who push religious agendas seriously on anything else they teach you?

          Get the climate warming alarmist and the greencrap bogus science out of the school syllabus too. Or indeed how can you take the school that does this seriously?

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted August 12, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      As ever you have missed the point LL

      Mr Redwood has asked for fairer funding in his last paragraph. As educational studies show money and results are inseparable. The London initiative means nothing without additional funding. Mr Redwood’s plea for the introduction of fairer funding is actually more relevant than the doctrinal call for more Grammars.

      Michael Gove’s vision of better rigour throughout education will deliver more complete results in the long run but in the interim once funding has been properly visited additional Grammar Schools will improve outcomes.

  2. The Active Citizen
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    Good letter JR. Whilst on the subject of education, can you use your influence on the immediate rolling back of EU-indoctrination of our young people?

    I’m mainly talking about the provision to our schools of EU-funded ‘information’ of all kinds including the promotion of the whole EU ‘project’.

    I would also extend this to look at the curriculum, and what our educators are teaching to our young in terms of geo-political issues and history.

    Some of us can imagine that in another 10 years’ time a Referendum on the UK’s membership would be lost, by virtue of school-age brainwashed youngsters coming of age electorally.

    Incidentally, the http://facts4EU.org site recently asked for any parents or grandparents to send them examples of the kind of EU material which children are being given in schools. I’m sure they’d be grateful for anything your readers can provide.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted August 12, 2016 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      I would suggest that your target parents and grand parents would be better served countering such indoctrination.

      My forthright children had me called in to see the headmaster as they had turned their classes.

      That was an interesting discussion.

  3. The PrangWizard
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:23 am | Permalink

    I support the plan and I hope it gets the support of your parties MPs.

    But to divert a little – is this one of the Ministries which should be renamed ‘for England’?

    Will this proposal be voted on under EVEL only? I would imagine it should but how will SNP subversion be dealt with? More concessions and then capitulation?

    • JoolsB
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

      Exactly, I have made the same point although my comments haven’t been shown yet and the sop EVEL isn’t worth the paper it’s written on because the SNP and all the other UK MPs with non-English seats will still disgracefully get the chance to vote it down in it’s final reading.

  4. Sir Joe Soap
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Yes. Basically read and follow the last UKIP manifesto and you won’t go far wrong.

  5. Old Albion
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:49 am | Permalink

    Well hold tight JR, Labour will be opposing this policy.
    They cannot support selective education for the plebs. Not when they can send their kids to the best school money can buy.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      I’d like to see Labour oppose selection for Premier League football and Olympic squads.

  6. Denis Cooper
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    For several weeks the readers’ letters section in our local paper has been flooded with letters opposing the council’s idea of allowing the establishment of a local satellite of the nearest grammar school, which is over the border in Bucks. It bears the hallmarks of a concerted campaign and the local LibDems have also taken it up. Apparently grammar schools are the work of the Devil and should be eradicated not allowed to multiply.

    I think my main concern is making sure that the selection procedure works properly and cannot easily be distorted by wealthier parents employing professional coaches for their children, something which didn’t happen much in my day as far as I know.

  7. Ian Wragg
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    The left have a problem with grammar schools as they take their working class poor away from the prizes for all mentality.
    We can’t have the proles challenging the hegemony of the posh boys. Hence Cameron’s reluctance to sanction more grammar schools.
    After the collapse of Corbyn Soviet utopia they soon reintroduced selective education.
    The problem in Britain is we still have many fellow travellers at the top.

  8. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    “The academically gifted child … just as specialist sporting, dance and music academies can bring out the best …in talented youngsters….”
    “… We need a system which allows those late developers who wish to go to a grammar for a more specialist academic education to have opportunity after 11, and we need to ensure high fliers academically…”
    “As sport, dance , art and music demonstrate, specialist concentrated teaching and learning helps achieve excellence, as it can academic success. ”

    THE POINT:-
    Grammar schools failed “the academically gifted child”.
    They did however encourage within him laterally thinking: allowing him to see that “sport, dance, art and music” can be gifts. Because of bad teaching, ignorance and class prejudice of Grammar school teachers, their charges were not taught that the charwoman who cleans the floor after them is a “high flyer” ” gifted” “a specialist” “talented” and not a “late developer” even if she suddenly, lately as some would have it, took a course in Linguistic Philosophy. No, I am not referring to some lateral-thinking argument , some pseudo-Christian belief that we are all the children of God and therefore equal in His eyes. But the pragmatic and objective reality that this Charwoman did not receive any education in her school enabling her to do her work. None. Had she been in some human beings’ term “an academically gifted child” and yet found herself cleaning the floor many hours per day, five days per week, for half century of her working life, she in fact would not and could not have been able to do it. She would feel demeaned, insulted, exploited perhaps, underpaid, under-utilised, looked down upon, stigmatised, socially marginalised. She would soon be at the doctor’s surgery. He would eventually give her anti-depressants; send her on courses to alleviate stress. Her doctor, educated perhaps in a Grammar school would see her condition, if he had the time or inclination to think in such terms,- as her singular human psychological failure to accept her own reality…cleaning the floor for half a century as a Mrs Mop. A drain on his Grammar-school-begun professional expertise.

    People in politics speak of the good things to do with Grammar schools but never mention the Secondary Modern Schools. A failure in their education.

  9. David
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    An ideal world grammar school provision would not be an issue for central government. Ideally the department of education would set the exams and nothing else.
    Everything else would be done locally.

    • a-tracy
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      How local? Regional? County? Borough?
      Some people have to live in poor quality Labour borough’s who allow bigger councils to bully them into secondary town status with no planting, rubbish schools, rubbish shopping centres with all their rates going to support larger Cities and primary towns. So many social houses are then put in that town that over 50% of the housing is rental, we get all the low quality, high density homes on every new build estate, whilst plush, posh areas get the larger housing with no social housing anywhere in the vicinity. We get nominated for every undesirable project (like ed)recycling dumps and our schools are allowed to sink with less than 30% of teens passing with 5 or more A-C anyone with interesting switched on parents have to bus their children miles away. The local population are half on benefits so are convinced the Labour party are looking after them, even though they are upset with their failing infrastructure, lack of investment and being left behind. Yes great lets give these local councils total control 00

      • David
        Posted August 9, 2016 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Good point. Of course if we had a fair voting system councils would not be controlled by one party.
        I should have made that clear.

        Some councils have been Labour for years despite them never getting 50% of the vote.

    • acorn
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      Much agreed David. The UK is spending about £84 billion a year on all levels of education. About £6,000 per pupil / student on a broad average. The Department for Education could be shut down tomorrow and the job given to local government. Long term capacity planning can easily be done by the ONS number crunchers.

      Likewise, the Department for Communities and Local Government, does not add any value and should be shut down. Its £13 billion a year spend directed straight to local government by the Treasury.

      There were about 23 Departmental Groups that spend public money; about £700 billion last year. A competent group of Executive Directors, from one of our major corporations, could get that down to 11 operational divisions and no doubt considerably reduce the cost of transferring money to where UK society wants it to go.

      Unfortunately, a cabinet full of twenty odd Punch & Judy amateur “ministers”; plus, another hundred or so lesser junior ministers and associated bag carriers, are never going to understand the basic problem of UK government, never mind actually re-engineering it.

      What the UK needs is a Chief Executive Officer, who knows how to run an £1,800 billion a year turnover corporation. Or, a Putin.

      The UK desperately need a much higher level of brain power at its “executive” level. We have to get the executive out of our amateur Punch and Judy parliament, by electing the CEO and the Board of Directors separately.

      If we don’t, frankly, Brexit will be a form of national suicide and we would probably be better off staying inside the EU.

  10. Richard1
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Off topic but the continuing antics of Southern Rail’s unionised employees holding much of the South of England economy to ransom reminds us what a terrible waste of money ‘investment’ in new railways is, if they are dependent on employees who can use the monopoly to blackmail their customers and employer. The Government should use the opportunity to announce the cancellation of Hs2.

    • Anonymous
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

      This lot need to be hammered or the rest will be at it too.

  11. agricola
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    A long overdue change of direction in education thinking. Await the howls of protest from the politically motivated in teaching and the benches opposite. Then ignore them.

    11 plus is fine if the pupil can try again at 13. Make sure the feeder schools teach the necessary subjects at the requisite level. Keep building on the apprentiship route to success in working life and look to where it can be extended. Nursing is an obvious choice where basic skills would benefit the patient.

    In my day there was the Direct Grant Scheme enabling the particularly gifted from impoverished backgrounds to attend the best public schools. Impoverished in this case means not having a spare £30,000 per annum after tax that you can use for your childs education. In practical terms this means almost everyone. I would like to see the day when at least 33% of all children at public schools are there on such schemes. Why, because such educational establishments are demonstrably and unarguably the best. I am now flying sailplanes because my school enanbled the first steps when I was sixteen years old.

    In all the above cases the State would be facilitating an end product that is of great benefit, an investment in the future of the UK. This is the socialism emerging from a lifetime conservative.

    • Narrow Shoulders
      Posted August 12, 2016 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      33% there at a cost to the taxpayer of £6,000 per annum to justify the tax breaks and foriegners’ over payments and you have my agreement.

  12. Antisthenes
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    The creation of the comprehensive was an evil visited on our children by the twisted minds of the socialist and progressive left. The grammar school was the best education system devised up to the point it was scrapped and still is and until someone comes up with a better one it should be reinstated.

  13. JoolsB
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    John,
    As has often been said before on this site, its about time that the Secretary of State for Education was re-titled ‘the Secretary of State for Education for England’ seeing as education in the rest of the UK is devolved and especially in the light of Owen Smith’s opposition to grammar schools should he become Labour leader. How dare an MP with a Welsh seat be allowed to get away with opposing something which will have no bearing on him or his constituents? Labour and Lib Dum MPs have said they will oppose grammar schools, even the Welsh and Scottish ones and no doubt the SNP will make capital out of opposing it. No doubt when the bill is brought down by these MPs, not a word or protest will be heard, after all, we can’t bring attention to the democratic deficit which exists in England can we?

    When will this insult to England end? When will you or any of your colleagues demand an end to this affront to democracy? At the very least we must have English votes for English laws with MPs with non-English seats having no say whatsoever at any stage.

  14. Jerry
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I just wish that the old style technical colleges and Secondary Modern’s would return too, not that there is anything wrong with the Comprehensive system per se, although their scope has been diluted in the last 30 to 40 years, how many now have fully equipped machine-shops or teach the basics of brick laying?!…

    The problem has always been the selection process, age 11 was never a suitable age, 13 might be better and possible with compulsory education now ending at age 19, either there needs to be a way for gifted (either academic or those with practical skill sets) to move between different types of schooling or middle schooling needs to last until age 13.

  15. a-tracy
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    I’m sure I’ll be a lone voice here but I don’t agree with your statement “I do not accept grammars create an insuperable divide at 11.”. It is most unfortunate to children with July and August birthdays because often without extra classes or help from their parents they are immature in English and tests don’t adjust for this. Once again without extra private tuition or clever parents they then get left behind, rather than having a 25% top stream in each school that can help them to gradually catch up and in many instances at 16 overtake. Imagine for one moment an immature child being in a school where the best the top stream can achieve at 11 is anticipated to be a B. Quite often having bright peers lifts the teaching of each class, expectations and forces the child to do extra homework to keep pace.

    As for specialist music, art schools etc. they are very few and far between. How frustrating must it be for parents of very gifted and talented creative children who aren’t the most academically capable to be left in a school where art and the performing arts is seen as a none serious ‘fun activity’ where people just don’t bother to participate and the gifted child ends up in a dumbed down music class where the A level is cancelled because everyone else wants to do a BTEC because it’s easier and your child isn’t stretched because no-one plays instruments or is taught to read music!

    I think you should spend time in some local comps in Cheshire and speak to the parents who do anything to avoid sending their children there, often putting them on public transport at great expense and time to get them into better Comprehensive schools in a neighbouring authorities without grammar schools so their children at least have a chance of working with the brightest groups.

    If your party go ahead with this you will have to have a plan for the left behind comprehensive schools and creative and talented children in other disciplines who Maths and English may not be A grade standard at 11.

  16. Know-dice
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    The only problem I have with Grammar schools is that the 11 Plus is seen as a pass/fail rather than a system for routing children to schools that best fit their learning requirement.

    I unfortunately passed the 11 Plus in Buckinghamshire and went to a Grammar school, but I feel that I would have been better suited to a more technical environment rather than academic (Latin, History & Languages).

    I feel that Labour, Libdems etc. think that it’s ok to disadvantage the more academically inclined because they will “always get on alright”, whereas it should be every child’s right to the best education that they a capable of to create their own personal success in life.

    • libertarian
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

      Know-dice

      Totally agree, good post

    • Lifelogic
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

      There is nothing that is less academic about science and technology. Unless you mean academic in the “it’s academic it does not matter” sense?

      The UK could do with far more engineers, technicians and builders and rather fewer lawyers and civil servants with degrees in PPE or similar.

    • A different Simon
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      “academic (Latin, History & Languages).”

      Latin and history are not academic subjects . They are self indulgent ones .

      I think you have put your finger on the problem ; the British establishment rewards the humanities and letters subjects and distrusts people who studied science or engineering .

      Scientists , mathematicians and engineers can go to The City , which is a meritocracy compared with the public sector , and earn multiple times what they can as scientists and engineers .

      There should be ex lawyers in parliament but they should not be over represented to the extent they are . The current mix does not cut it in the 21st century .

      Why can’t we have more real people such as ex head teachers like Rhodes Boyson or research chemists like Graham Stringer ?

  17. William Long
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    The suggestion that this government may be prepared to allow new Grammar Schools is the most encouraging thing I have heard for a long time. We hear a lot about the need for choice in our education system and as you say, for those who cannot afford to use the private sector, Grammar Schools present the only way of providing real choice. I was a product of a Direct Grant school and in my view the ending of these was one of the greatest acts of political vandalism. They provided both excellence and a real road to social mobility, and most importantly, they did not belong to the state.

  18. Pauline Jorgensen
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Agree John, when I was in school in NI I recall that some pupils moved between the secondary modern and the grammar after the age of 11 depending on subject choice. Not sure if this still happens there but it seemed like a good idea.

  19. Bob
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Grammar schools were never the problem, it was the secondary moderns that failedpupils.

    There should be a gammar school in every town, and alternative schools to focus on art and technical studies etc. instead of trying to squeeze all children through comprehensive sausage machines.

    For kids who are determined to go to grammars, reassessments should be available for those who fail the 11+ by a narrow margin, just in case they were just having a bad day the first time around or are slower developers.

  20. Anthony Makara
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    It is very clear that children have different capabilities and some are better suited to academic study while others have a natural inclination towards vocational skills. Those who do not recognize this reality do children a great disservice. As a society we have yet to appreciate than vocational training is of equal value to academic training. The Engineer is the equal of the Lecturer, the Architect is just as important as the Psychologist. Politically motivated snobbery and inverted snobbery is rife within the education system at all levels. As a nation we need to recognize that academic and vocational streams in education are of equal worth. We need an education system that understands individual needs and we should not be trying to shoehorn all pupils and students into one stream.

  21. Iain Gill
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    If you added that we should give far more buying power to parents in the relationship with schools I could have supported that.

  22. English Pensioner
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    To me, whether we have Grammar Schools or not, the problem is education beyond ‘A’ levels. The technical colleges and polytechnics of my generation have gone, and a university degree in now the only way forward.
    I did well at technical college because I was not academically inclined (although I had been to a grammar school). There the practical work gave you the impetus to learn the theory and I got my HNC with endorsement subjects which allowed me to become a member of the then IEE, something I’m sure that I would never have achieved if I’d gone to university. What were once highly respected technical colleges and polytechnics have now become second rate universities and are meeting no-one’s real needs.

  23. Bert Young
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Its a good letter John – one I entirely support . As the product of a Midlands Grammar School I can attest to the standards that existed and to the motivation that the boys who attended it received . It was a Boys only Grammar School ; local girls at 11 yrs of age attended the Girls’High School . Entry was secured normally at age 11 with provision to enter later at age 13 – subject , in both cases , to passing a “scholarship”.

    The school was under the direction of a Board of Governors who also answered to the local Board of Education . Academic standards were high – only 25% went on to further education .

    Aspiration and achievement were closely linked objectives maintained by a highly motivated and well qualified staff .

    I sincerely wish a similar system of selection and opportunity existed today ; as it stands the system is divided by a wealth barrier that creates forms of social divide .

  24. alan jutson
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    The most important thing is that good education is available to all no matter where you live or who you are.

    In addition we need to somehow replicate the role that Polytechnics played in the past, when very late developers, were given the opportunity to thrive later in life.

    Above all education should be relevant to work, yes aware that some people serve in academia all their lives, but the vast majority of the population need to work for a living in a competitive and commercial world.

    • Martyn G
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Alan, I agree re polytechnics, though it was a bit different in my days. Despite having been endlessly told the 11+ would be a cakewalk for me, I failed miserably on the day and went in due course to a local secondary. It was not long before I was advised to sit the entrance exam for a technical high school, which I passed with flying colours (was a bit of what we would call a ‘geek’ in those days with much knowledge of wireless, electrics and so on) and thus at 13 joined the tech high.
      It did me no harm and over a long working life I reached the well-paid top of my particular tree long before retirement at 68.
      Bring them back, says I!

  25. bigneil
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Going to Grammar school did me, nor my brother, no good whatsoever. We both ended up in manual jobs. Going on to further education was out of the question financially. Hearing bits through the grapevine, over the years, I found only two classmates had become “something” through ability/work. . One a doctor, the other a solicitor then on to be a lawyer. Strangely enough these two were from the most well off families. Coincidence? At the other end of the scale was one classmate who left school with no qualifications ( as far as I remember ) but started hanging round with the local councillors etc. Lost contact with him for years only to see his photo appear in the local council newspaper as “Head of the County Council”. Clearly a case of WHO you know more than WHAT you know. As shown with Cameron’s Honours List – it’s all the way from the bottom to the top.

    • fedupsoutherner
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

      Bigneil. Yes, of course the boys from well off families became a solicitor and a doctor. You need money to be able to support them through the years at University. Not everyone can do this. University fees are scandalous – I know, my boy is at uni on a 3 year course and it is costing mega bucks what with the accommodation etc. He works all hours himself to help out but it’s not easy.

    • stred
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

      Sorry about typos. On my tiny laptop again while repairing my estate.

  26. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Off Topic;
    Today, five people have won a High Court judgement which will allow Labour Party members to vote for their leadership, as was promised by their Party in the first place. The Labour Party doesn’t do democracy unless the threat of a truncheon on its bonce. Our police should be better armed.

  27. forthurst
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Now that we have got rid of the Heir to Blair, it is an opportunity to revert to Conservative policies; such policies should include the principle that all children should have equal opportunity to develop their talents, irrespective of background and in competition with their peer group abroad, and not just those who happen to be the children of parasites who pay fees from tax havens abroad. This means first and foremost that the standards of teaching and examination for the top tier of intelligence should revert to those which existed before the policy of feminisation and degradation of syllabi and exams was pursued so that our brightest can compete with the best in the world and that Universites can scrap two years of remedial teaching before engaging in University level work, particularly in science.

    The policy of offering ersatz academic education to all needs to be abandoned in favour of offering all children the opportunity to develop their skills and aptitudes equally, thereby ensuring that children receive an appropriate education for their needs rather than one which fails to recognise that children are not born with identical inate abilities; such a policy would ensure that schools equavalent to Technical Schools were also offered to children to develop practical skills.

    Etc ed

  28. fedupsoutherner
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    The Grammar school system was really very good when I was at school. It should be continued all over the UK. Good post John.

  29. graham1946
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    It’s good as long as everyone gets a chance and its not a postcode lottery like drugs and dentists etc on the NHS.

    Comps were a good idea in theory, but like the EU 50 years of experience has proved they can’t be made to work properly, mostly down to the education establishment. Where will the quality teachers be found for new Grammars though? Surely they are all coming out of the same colleges with the same ideas? How will Grammars fit in with the Tories ideas of using unqualified teachers in the Academies?

  30. Iain Gill
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I was one of the first intakes into what was supposed to be a Comprehensive, which had previously been a Grammar. The teachers were gaming the system and the school was massive with lots of streaming internally, so in effect was multiple schools within the one school, all streamed. So not the nirvana Comprehensive school Shirley Williams would have wanted. I was also the top of my school the year before I joined that Comprehensive, so know for certain I would have ended up in a Grammar. That same school is now an “Arts Specialist School” I get the impression because it’s a lot easier to be an Arts specialist school than a science specialist school for the teachers! In those days my parents had little choice of school (not much changed there then) and I remember my teachers before Comprehensive begging them to appeal my school allocation as they were concerned I would be wasted in a bog standard school, but my parents didn’t take the hint and looking back they didn’t understand the significance of what was being said. I ended up repeating the first few years in my Comprehensive what I had already learnt in my previous school, and what a complete waste of time that was.
    I was also in a working class area where regardless of school boys were expected (by the schools as much as anyone else) to go into one of the mines, shipyards, or army…
    The biggest problem for me with the Grammar system was that the Secondary Moderns were so bad. There really needs to be better provision than Secondary Moderns were then. Any Conservative policy to promote Grammar schools really needs to address what the modern equivalents of Secondary Moderns would look like to gain any chance of widespread support.
    Also my own fundamental belief is that the parents should be handed much more commercial buying power and therefore control over schools, and which school their children go to, as top down state control and school allocation is very sub optimal.

  31. agricola
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Off Piste.

    A most refreshing injection of reality into the future of the EU post Brexit by Barbara Spinelli MEP. Oh that she had been vocal when Nigel Farage had been saying much the same.

    The EU was a good idea in concept but increasingly dreadful and totally undemocratic as it developed in the hands of self interested politicians. A new plan is required that puts the power back in the hands of the electorate.. The penalty for continuing on the current failed path is a return to the uncertainties and extremes of the 1930s.

    I would submit that the member countries of the Euro are not yet ready to subjugate their sovereignty to a United States of Europe conceived by the current cabal in Brussels. Some of their political leaders might be but the people I doubt.

    Those states with less than successful economies need to get out with their own currencies, and engineer their own recovery with fiscal freedom. Some might wish to continue with the Euro but they will have to be states of comparable economic performance.

    To ensure that the USE continues in concept there should be set up an elected political board of directors, say two per country, giving equal weight to each member state. from them should come a constitution no more lengthy nor complex than that of the USA.. Subsequent proposals that require the consent of the people should be put to the people via referendums. No more top down dictatorship. Those counties that oppose should fail to adopt any proposal. If they see it working they may wish to think again after five years or more. Yes it would be slow and messy, but at least it will be with the consent of the people.

    • forthurst
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      Let’s get out of the EU and leave the remaining member states to sort out their own problems.

  32. Roy Grainger
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    Selective education at 11 works well in Germany at increasing both skills and social mobility. Odd the rabid EU enthusiasts oppose it then.

  33. Anonymous
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    The problem is not too few grammars (less is more) but non streaming in comprehensive schools. Able students are not allowed to get too far ahead of others and the leading peer group (usually the best looking and coolest pupils) determine in which way the school will develop: academia, sport, underachievement or crime.

    Root out lefty or indifferent heads and teachers and protect and nurture educational and sporting talent.

    Protect schools from bad parents whose kids take up too much time.

  34. Margaret
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    The insuperable disappointment of a child at eleven who fails to et a place in academic education sets a path which is hard to turn off for any child. The more affluent parents whose children get places in grammar schools but don’t seem to be as bright as those who fail is also heart breaking and it is the eleven year olds look at the real world which revolves around the more powerful being wealthier.

    The systems in the past have actually stopped some children excelling and the injustice is unbearable. Access to better education via grammar schools should be accessible up to ‘A’ levels. In fact educational achievement at any age should be recognised and not confined to a few years where children are developing in other ways rather than the 3 R’s. Concentration and focus need to be developed just as any other aspect of development. In these days of troubled backgrounds ; divorce etc ,the child has to fight against learning about survival first and maths and English second.

    • Margaret
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

      Bad English I see at the end of my comment .What I meant to say was that in households where there is turbulence, in schools where there is bullying, or classes where it does not pay to excel for fear of isolation and bullying in that respect, the child has to fight hard to survive socially and emotionally and that takes priority of academic work. It is sad when all chance of that child catching up on those lost years is curtailed because of what happened to him/her in earlier years.

      • Margaret
        Posted August 9, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        I am going to give up writing in these little boxes I don’t improve. ‘priority OVER’

  35. M Tyler
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I strongly believe parents can make the largest contribution to a students future success, providing guidance and promoting aspiration.
    Never easy of course, but my own children have proved it’s possible.

    Except, that was just before cuts in HE grants & public services. I don’t know how they would manage now…but at least, they are able to support themselves! Isn’t that the aim, the ability to support themselves?

    No, they would never have achieved Degrees or Masters now. Emphasis for you is the return of Grammar schools, under the guise of improving social mobility….something students already had! But was then taken away during the Conservatives austerity drive…your party!

  36. Ed Mahony
    Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

    Good post. Bring back grammar schools
    – And more focus on Maths (and logic) and English (and reading) in general.
    – Start school at 6 0r 7 (like Nordic countries) instead of 5 0r 4 (N. Ireland) to develop emotional intelligence, empathy, and creativity.
    – More vocational subjects.
    – More sports and arts.
    – More coding to develop high-tech entrepreneurs and workers of the future.
    – More teaching on ethics to increase work ethic and responsibility and tolerance towards others
    – And less three-year university courses like media studies and more one-year courses designed for specific technical job/career.

    • Ed Mahony
      Posted August 8, 2016 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and more chess. The government should really get behind promoting chess as it has been shown to greatly improve both logical and creative thinking (as well as being fun and rewarding in general).

    • A different Simon
      Posted August 9, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      A lot of time spent teaching English is wasted due to peculiarities of the way Britain has been spelling words since so many spellings were revised in the 19th century .

      This is counter productive .

      The choice of whether to use the revised spellings or simpler originals is essentially arbitrary .

      Rather than pedantically pull people up for spelling a word validly but differently , spellings need to be simplified .

      The American’s (and most spell checker programs) have got this right , we have got it wrong .

      Similarly the maths curriculum should be streamlined so time is spent where it will be of benefit .

      Many of us who were not that good at continuous maths thrive on discrete maths which afaik is not part of the curriculum at GCSE and A’Level .

  37. Brigham
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    I think the dumbing down of schoolchildren, which it seems, labour want, is so that, in future, all school leavers will be so stupid they will only be fit to become union leaders or labour cabinet members.

  38. Chris S
    Posted August 9, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    As a former pupil of Maidenhead Grammar, now Desborough Comprehensive, I endorse everything you say. It is particularly pleasing to hear that my old School’s own MP is now the Prime Minister who is looking to lead us back to a system that was the single biggest influence in promoting social mobility.

    I have never believed the bullshit put out by the left wing educational establishment that the lack of social mobility has nothing to do with the phasing out of Grammar Schools.

    However this was in the early 60s and my parents were not certainly not wealthy, my father was a clerk at ICI Paints Division in Slough.

    Most of my classmates were from a similar modest background. I recall very few from well to do families although I do remember that there was a small number of boys from Twyford with whom we became friends who had fathers from middle management level. That was all.

    It is important to note that neither I, nor any of my friends who passed the 11 plus, had any coaching or private tuition.

    Our Grammar School education taught us to work hard and attend to the detail. Most of us have got on well in life and as a result we have certainly enjoyed a higher standard of living than we otherwise might have achieved.

    As for selection, these days it must be possible to select children by more sophisticated means than a single exam. I would certainly not give today’s children a single shot at a place at a Grammar School. Whatever the method chosen, it should be one where the outcome is incapable of being influenced significantly by coaching or private tuition.
    That cannot be difficult, can it ?

    Comprehensive education is like all socialist theory : it’s a Utopian ideal that never really works in practice for the majority of pupils. It fails to stretch the best and leaves the least able struggling at the back because the divide between the most and least able is simply too wide.

    If Brexit traces the establishment anything it has to be that they need to create conditions where more able children can thrive in a better environment.

    Will they listen ? I doubt it.

    But, I hope a groundswell of opinion will shame them into action. It won’t be for a lack of trying !

  39. a-tracy
    Posted August 11, 2016 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

    Have you ever thought John perhaps you’re trying to do this push for excellence selecting the wrong 10%. Instead of creaming off the top 10% perhaps there should be super special schools for the bottom 10%, the children that need more social worker type teachers, those children who swear and bully and cuss teachers and other pupils and generally disrupt classes of children there to learn. My school would have been a lot better off without them spitting at the ceiling and at good kids and smoking in the toilets, flushing kids heads down that cross them. Having parts of the playground you weren’t allowed to go to usually because they were sniffing glue. My kids had someone in their school who thought it was funny to set fire to someones hair, my son used to run along the link path having balls kicked at him and getting endlessly punched in the arm until I enrolled him on a karate course twice each week and he learnt to stand up for himself. I could go on and on with real life anecdotes including a Physics teacher who spent more time in the lab assistants little room than he did in the classroom leaving the class to copy down from the board and misbehave for 45 minutes. Pushing children to just get a C is just not good enough and this happens all the time in comprehensives you need the push to excellence that driven children and their parents bring.

  • 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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