The government is right to worry that children who achieve the highest standards academically are often held up or let down by state schools. I am glad they at last acknowledge there is a problem. It is??a pity that their solution of vouchers for the top ten per cent in each school is such a poor response.

??The first injustice is in taking the top ten per cent of each school, whatever the general standard. It means many children who work harder and are brighter in better schools??will not get the extra assistance which less hard working or less motivated children in poor schools will receive. If it was truly a talent based system it would seek to help all those who met a required standard, not the top ten per cent of every school.


The second injustice is to think they are "gifted", when quite often it is ninety percent perspiration and only ten percent inspiration. Being a successful academic is not all in the genes – much of it is reading and writing much more than others, to become good at it. Just as great athletes have to spend a large number of their waking hours training, so a high flying academic has to spend a large number of waking hours studying. The rewards should go to those who combine intelligence with great effort.


The third mistake is to think it can all be done in summer and week-end schools. What is needed is to remedy the defects every day in??each child’s school. We need setting and streaming, so every secondary school can have a grammar stream, where children are encouraged or required to go more quickly through the basics and to delve more deeply into the subjects.


Bright hard working children from poorer areas should have the chance of a place at a local grammar or independent school, paid for by the state, so they can compete on more level terms with the children of better off parents. Such an entitlement would do them far more good than summer school vouchers.


The grammar schools provided an excellent education for those?? who had an aptitude or a love for learning. The failure was in many of the other schools that failed to light flames for achievement in other areas of life. We should keep what grammar schools we still have, and at the very least create a grammar stream in every comprehensive, as we know grammar schools are the best way to nurture and speed the academic development of many children, from any background. They are the scholars’ comprehensives. We need more of them. No amount of summer school work for the top ten percent can make up for the loss of so many grammars, nor can I understand how?? the creator of this idea??can think it is a "less divisive" system than grammars.


This government has created an exam based culture where much of the effort?? goes into coaching for exams rather than into wider education. Many bright pupils now have a materialistic view of knowledge – tell me only if it can help me pass the exam. Whilst there is a need for good public exams for schools leavers of 16 or 18 years of age, there is?? no need to have so many other public exams on the way. Schoolchildren should enjoy some years when instead of cramming for exams and relaxing afterwards in the summer term, they can be encouraged to read, think and range more widely without the pressure of an immediate public test. Our education system is falling prey to a crude centralisation based on a target culture. It shows once again that when the government sets targets they can so often distort or destroy the institutions they are seeking to control.


  1. Serf
    December 28, 2006

    We need diversity in education, with schools freer to try things out. We also need complete freedom for parents to choose schools and schools to choose pupils. Centralisation and PC equality ideals have ruined education.

  2. niconoclast
    December 28, 2006

    You chaps had years to reform the system. Had you liberated it as you did the public utilities we wouldn't be in this mess now. Yet still you insist a little tweaking and tinkering will do…. Pragmatism over principle?

  3. billy
    December 29, 2006

    Well, much to my surprise, I find myself agreeing with you. Would you also consider early identification of academically inclined children (perhaps by IQ testing) and primary school classes with less than 25 children. A lot of money is being spent on training teaching assistants who are proving to be a lot less useful than the old nursery nurses. Lastly, take the maladjusted children out of the ordinary classroom where they do nothing but disrupt the learning for others.

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