Thursday, 16 March 2017 13:46

Bad Education: Should We Be Investing In New Grammar Schools?

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By Justina and Katie

Caption: Year 9 students at Colchester County High School for Girls (photo by Justina)

Since 1998, the grammar school conundrum has been highly divisive, without so much as a glint at the end of the tunnel for the country’s selective schools. However, the UK’s 19-year-long ban on grammar school expansion could be coming to an end. Prime Minister Theresa May has expressed a wish to lift the ban and to direct more funding towards existing grammar schools.

This has sparked much debate, as many still argue that selective schools, which divide eleven-year-olds by their academic ability, are not the most effective means by which to educate the population as a whole. Ex-Chief Inspector of Schools, Michael Wilshaw, told BBC Radio 4, “We have got to get many more children achieving well. My fear is that if we divide children at 11 and create grammars and secondary moderns – because that is what we will do – then we won’t be able to achieve that ambition.”

 

A survey of a class of grammar school students showed that 61% would prefer to keep the ban in place, with one saying that there was “no point in creating more, when the point is for them to be selective.”

Another argument against grammar schools is that their promise of a better education is one that comes at a price. The odds of gaining a place are forever skewed in the favour of families with bigger incomes who can pay for private tutoring. Families with less money cannot always devote similar sums to their child’s education, so they are at a costly disadvantage and their children miss out on the experience.

In response to this, Mrs May has proposed that adjustments be made to the system, to make the acceptance requirements lower for children of less wealthy backgrounds.

Mr Holdsworth, Head of Year Nine at Colchester County High School for Girls, disagrees with Mrs May’s strategy. "[It’s] a load of rubbish. Grammar schools are meant to be for the best of the best. I don't agree with tutoring anyway... and lowering requirements is like having double standards."

Mrs May has also met with criticism from her own party, with Conservative MPs telling Schools Week that they have “serious concerns” about the proposals. The vote has since been postponed until 2020. It is said that Mrs May thinks the vote will be more likely to carry after the next election.

Our survey of a class of 23 Year 9 students said that an overwhelming majority liked the concept of grammar schools, with only one saying she did not. Just under half of students won a place at the school without any extra tutoring. Students stated that they wanted to come to a grammar school for a “better education” than that offered at a comprehensive school.

Further surveys of twelve newly-admitted Year 7 students showed that they “love the grammar school environment” and support the idea of the expansion of grammar schools.  

It could also seem that claims of some being hindered by their lack of money are not quite true, as some of them even oppose tutoring: one student, Olivia, stated, “If you are tutored, especially during school years, it doesn’t promote self-motivation.” Another Year 7 student, Millie said, “It depends on the person - you cannot be tutored in every way of life. If you got in just through tutoring, you might not be able to keep up here”.

English teacher Miss Pink thinks that students should be capable of achieving a place at a grammar school without emptying their parents’ accounts. “I don’t think that paid tuition should be necessary for students and I actually think it would be fairer if they didn’t get tutored. I could see why some students would have tuition, but I believe that they should be able to do it on their own.” 

So, have we misjudged these sophisticated state schools, or were new grammars banned with good reason? We may have to wait until 2020 to find out.

Read 1221 times Last modified on Monday, 20 March 2017 15:51