Will the creation of more grammar schools benefit our children?
In September 1973 I started my secondary schooling at a selective girls’ high school. I am the product of a grammar school education which you think would make me welcome the announcement that the Government may allow the creation of more of these types of schools.
Rather surprisingly I am not a great believer in the premise that a return to selective education will lead to more social mobility. Education, as recognised in many poor countries, maybe a route out of poverty. It perhaps enables educated people to find regular employment. However, turning back the education clock fifty years will not create a generation of aspirational pupils necessarily. Too much has changed in society and especially the rise and expansion of the middle classes. If children are selected at 11 years old to attend a particular school what happens to the rest and in particular the late developers?
I fear it would mean that parents with the funds to afford private tutors would pay for extra lessons to give their offspring an advantage. House prices in the catchment of grammar schools would be so expensive that only those with comfortable incomes would live in the area. For these reasons I am not convinced that a return to a selective system would increase opportunity for pupils from poorer homes.
In my opinion schools need to be small enough for pupils to be known and supported well. However, they need to be large enough to offer choice. It is out of fashion to academically set pupils in all subjects but in truth that system does work. In order for our publicly funded schools to ensure they have enough groups to support all their students they need more money. Through the “building schools for the future” programme many schools have excellent facilities but they are severely under-funded to provide enough teaching and support services to serve their pupils well.
Furthermore the creation of more grammar schools is not a panacea for solving behavioural issues in schools. Parents need to be interested in their child’s education and ensure their offspring attend regularly, whilst giving them encouragement to achieve of their best and to support rather than oppose the school staff.
When I attended school I very much valued and enjoyed the type of environment my school embodied. I admit that at times I had to be resilient to criticism and the unpleasantness of others. School toughened me to the roughness of life whilst educating me to a standard that helped me on my way to realising my ambition to be a teacher. Too often schools are compromised by poor funding, unsupportive parents and pupils who do not value education.