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Allison Pearson needs to do her homework

In the Daily Telegraph today journalist Allison Pearson claims that a return to selective education would restore the UK “to the premier league”. She trots out the usual misinformation about the so called ‘golden age’ of pre comprehensive English education in which“children from modest backgrounds” were able “ to compete with offspring of the wealthy for university places, thus breaching bastions of hereditary privilege and creating a more diverse group of people at the top of society”

Not for the first time in this highly charged debate, the pro grammar school lobby has got its facts wrong.  It is not the case that the pre comprehensive education system provided a better standard of education for all children. Nor did it give a hand up to many poor children. That myth is usually based on anecdotal examples of individuals rather than the hard evidence, which points in the opposite direction.

The 1959 Crowther Report – commissioned by a Conservative Government to improve the education of 15-18 years olds – had a close look at what selective education meant in practice. Several interesting facts emerged – of the entire national cohort of 16 year olds in the late ’50s only 9 % achieved 5 or more O levels. That figure today is around 70%. Moreover 38% of grammar school pupils failed to achieve more than 3 O levels

The report also pointed out that the rapid rise in school rolls after the war ‘ largely increased public clamour against a competitive element in grammar school selection, which seems to parents to be contrary to the promise of secondary education according to “age, aptitude and ability” ‘ So much for the imposition of comprehensive education against parents wishes ( another myth regularly trotted out by supporters of grammar schools).

The Committee used a national survey of English 15-18 year olds carried out in 1957 by the Central Office of Information, and a survey of National Service recruits carried out 1956-8. The latter was, of course, boys only.

In both surveys, boys from homes of semi-skilled or unskilled workers “were much under-represented in the composition of selective schools…Likewise they are over-represented in membership of non-selective schools. The converse is true of boys from professional or managerial homes, who have far more than their proportional weight in selective schools and far less in the case of other schools”. This is no different today – the proportion of children eligible for free school meals in the remaining grammar schools is around 2% compared to a national average of 17% in all other schools.

Specifically, the Social Survey found that whilst 1 in 10 fathers of grammar and technical school leavers were semi or unskilled workers, almost 1 in 4 fathers of secondary  modern or all-age leavers fell into this group.

The National Service survey concluded that ”a majority of the sons of professional people go to selective schools, but only a minority of manual workers’ sons do so”. “A non-manual worker’s son is nearly three times as likely to go to a selective school as a manual worker’s”.

On school leaving ages, the survey reported that 38% of the sons of the professional and managerial classes stayed till 18+ compared with 9% unskilled manual workers'; 40% of professional and managerial sons left before 17 compared with 81% manual workers.

The overall picture is of an education system that wasn’t even serving grammar school pupils particularly well, let alone those rejected at 11.

Ms Pearson ends her article by comparing the selection of a 15 year old boy with an aptitude for football by a premiership club  with academic selection at 11, before calling on  Sir Michael Wilshaw, the new Chief Inspector at Ofsted ( who she likens to a premiership manager) to restore the same competitive principle to schooling.

Again, sadly, she hasn’t done her research. Most scientific evidence now suggests that teenagers brains can change, IQ isn’t fixed, as the early advocates of selective education believed, and judging children on the basis of a single test is neither reliable, nor comparable to the footballing skills of a 15 year old ( although early potential in football  is often not fulfilled).

Professor Cathy Price of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London recently published her research in the journal Nature.

The paper suggests that the results could be “encouraging to those whose intellectual potential may improve and… a warning that early achievers may not maintain their potential”.

Professor Price said: “We have a tendency to assess children and determine the course of their education relatively early in life.

“But here we have shown that their intelligence is likely to be still developing.

“We have to be careful not to write off poorer performers at an early age when in fact their IQ may improve significantly given a few more years.”

Finally – she may be looking to Sir Michael in vain. He has always been a firm advocate of all ability comprehensive schools with balanced intakes. In Melissa Benn’s excellent book “School Wars” (p 108) he describes selective education as “a disaster”.

Do your homework next time Allison.







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Comments, replies and queries

  1. Fiona – your article succinctly debunks the grammar school myth. Your argument is backed up by evidence from the OECD which finds repeatedly that the best-performing school systems in the world tend not to segregate children.

    Germany, with its tri-partite system, is often cited as an example of a good, selective sytem. But in 2006, a UN inspector severely criticised the German system because it excluded poor children and those from immigrant communities. The Hauptschule, the schools on the bottom rung of the German system, are increasingly seen as schools for “leftovers”. And the differences between the top and bottom in the German system are very large. (page 455)

  2. A guest says:

    Unfortunately Fiona this post will not be read by the majority of Daily Telegraph bloggers who repeatedly ignore any evidence that contradicts their view that the abolition of Grammar schools was all a socialist plot.

    • Really? From what I can see many of the comments on this site seem to come from people who do share the prejudices of the Daily Telegraph!

      • Raymond Dance says:

        So anyone who doesn’t agree with you is automatically some kind of bigot? You are a piece of work.

      • Tim Bidie says:

        There is a demand for grammar school places from parents who pay, as do we all, a lot of tax.

        Surely it is right for that demand to be satisfied?

        Of course we should not write off poor performers at an early age. Indeed, they can enter Grammar school at a later stage.

        Reinforce success by setting it free and concentrate remedial efforts where they are most needed.

        • Rosie Fergusson says:

          There’s also the demand for Grammar school places from the parents who would like to embrace co-ed all ability school but feel that their local LEA controlled by a right wing council e.g Kent is ideologically and professionally incapable of creating such schools.

        • Rosie Fergusson says:

          the ” who pay a lot of tax” argument could only wash with the right -wing… certainly wouldn’t with the families that pay tax yet find their children marginalised in a secondary modern.

          What needs to be done is for the sec mod parents to go “OY!!”

          • Rosie Fergusson says:

            the failure of the LEA to provide fair and equitable life chances of course brings up to the idea of the Free School as a philanthropic device.

            What could be a more effective way of subverting the arcane prejudices of the grammar obsessed middle classes than the emergence of the ” KUDOS COMP” i.e the future planned expansion of the WLFS into partnerships with the Kent secondary moderns ?

          • Tim Bidie says:

            Why should secondary moderns mean marginalisation?

            If your point is that alternative schools on offer for tax paying parents are inadequate, then we are both agreed on the fact that those schools require extra resources in order to effect a remedy.

            That remedy has nothing to do with restricting grammar school places for the academically more capable.

          • Rosie Fergusson says:

            Well Tim,
            I think I’m going to give Kent parents the benefit of the doubt and assume you represent the minority and that all of those with kids at the sec mods and a fair proportion of those with kids at the Grammars would much prefer a sh*t hot comp for their kids without putting their kids through the stress of the 11 plus. This clearly can’t happen unless such parents turn away from the Grammar schools . You’ll find me standing with Fiona Millar , Allan Beavis and Toby Young in the corner all wearing our ” Comprehensives Rock!!” T-shirts.

          • Tim Bidie says:

            I’m obviously not expressing myself clearly.

            I am a huge fan of Toby Young, excellent comprehensives, free schools, academies and as much diversity as possible.

            All children have skills, aptitudes. The more diversity in education, regulated, clearly, the more chance of allowing those aptitudes to blossom.

            But where those aptitudes lend themselves to a Grammar school education and that is what parents want and the Grammar School is successfully turning out excellent student, why restrict them.

            I just don’t see how limiting Grammar school places helps comprehensives, free schools etc.

          • Tim Bidie says:

            What will turn those parents who don’t want their children to go through the 11 plus away from Grammar schools is to have other available school places at other excellent alternative schools. That is where maximum effort should be directed, not in artificially restricting successful grammar schools, surely?

        • Tim – most parents pay taxes. The “demand” for grammar school places comes from parents who think their children will be among the one-in-four who would be selected for a place. That “demand” dies when the parents find that their child is among the un-selected three-in-four. That’s what happened in the late 50s, early 60s.

          Parents don’t choose grammar schools – the grammar schools chooses the child. And the rest, the majority, have to attend a school which is a secondary modern in all but name. The latter may provide a good education, even one superior to that offered by a grammar school, but it will still be perceived locally as second-best, with second-best teachers offering a second-best experience to second-best children. That is not what parents of three-in-four children “demand”.

          • Tim Bidie says:

            Understood. But grammar schools can and will only expand if there are sufficient pupils to meet the exacting criteria. They should, and are, allowed to expand to meet that demand.

            My point is simply that that must be a good thing.

            If the schools on offer for those not getting a grammar school place are inadequate, that is surely an entirely separate issue and, I agree, one that needs urgent attention.

            I just don’t see that restricting the number of grammar school places helps anyone..

          • Tim Bride has written: “I just don’t see how limiting Grammar school places helps comprehensives, free schools etc.”

            He has also used the word “bigot” and somewhere he repeated “surely” and wrote something like “how can that be a bad thing?”

            My answer to the rhetoric involved would be to suggest that none of the propositions we are engaging with are self evident. There are no absolutes, no “surely”s. Education is essentially a process of values and differences.

            So when I say “the presence of academically selective schools in one place nullifies even the possibility of comprehensive schools nearby” I am speaking from a set of beliefs that are unlikely to be shifted by simple facts. I no more “see” how one set of priorities are better than mine than Tim does.

            Pedagogical variety is a value that Tim and I probably share. However, dividing children into different schools at the age of 11 on the basis of the social distinctions that people might want to call aptitude or intelligence is something I believe to be wrong in many ways. There is no way that Tim could persuade me otherwise. I think Tim believes that dividing children up at 11 provides opportunities for all. I don’t think there is any way I could persuade him otherwise and I wouldn’t waste much time trying to.

            Our positions are expressions of a different sets of values and different views of the world. In my world the absence of rich children from the single local comprehensive school in the market town where we all lived was a loss to my children, to the rich children and to the country as a whole. In my world, even with rich children opted out I would still rather not split the remainder between different schools.

            For the time being Tim’s world view is in the ascendant, so I make the best of it and wait for another election and encourage my children and grandchildren to be open hearted. What I will not do is accept his apparent view that those who share my (probably socialist) values are wrong or unenlightened. I don’t think Tim is in error, I just don’t share his values.

          • Tim Bidie says:

            I can’t see any use by me of the word ‘bigot’ here.

            My use of ‘surely’ is mean’t to be questioning rather than emphatic.

            To summarise my views on education, and other things: I believe, as a country, that we need less top down prescription and much more hands off encouragement of success through deregulation and a smaller state.

            Set the enthusiasts free in education, as they have in Finland, and the results will come.

        • What about the parents who pay a lot of tax who don’t want their children branded as failures at 11. People seem to forget that a) it was this group who turned on a then Tory government fifty years ago calling for an end to academic selection b) the flip side of grammar schools is secondary moderns. Could you point me to the campaign to bring back the secondary moderns?

          • Tim Bidie says:

            The point is to create an alternative to grammar schools for those less academically inclined that does not mean they are branded as failures.

            I failed History ‘O’ level but got a History degree.

            It is on the alternatives to grammar schools that more effort should be expended.

            I am certainly not suggesting the return of the secondary modern. My guess is that the answer must surely come from a much more diverse secondary education sector with any number of different options on offer to suit different aptitudes.

            But restricting Grammar school places for those who want them and are capable of achieving them does not help that end.

          • My apologies to Tim Bidie for attributing to the use of the word “bigot” to him. It was Raymond Dance who used it in the immediately preceding post. Sorry Tim.

            I think the word “surely” is mostly used when the writer is sure. I have to confess now that I understand even less of what you have written than I first thought.

          • Tim Bidie says:

            I’m blaming my punctuation.

            The central issue here is how to improve state education.

            That will not be achieved by Whitehall favouring either the comprehensive system or grammar school/secondary moderns.

            Thus Grammar schools/11 Plus are red herrings.

            The 11 Plus will never return nationwide.

            However many existing grammar schools are successful and popular and expanding.

            I cannot see why new grammar schools should not be allowed to set themselves up where there is parental demand.

            That will not affect the goal of improved education across the country.

            What will radically improve state education is a return to chaotic diversity under benign regulation; the more choice in schools and thir academic offerings, the better, surely?

      • lolla says:

        What’s wrong with being a manual worker Fiona? Just because you’re a manual worker doesn’t mean you’re not aspirational. You could be a carpenter or a bricklayer by choice, because you like being self-employed and you might have a son who wants to be an astrophysicist and if he can get into a grammar school, then what’s the problem? Also, please consider some qualitative analysis instead of simply selected statistics. GCSEs are not the same as O’levels. Try looking at a 1975 O’level maths paper and compare it to a Higher Tier GCSE maths paper. Do the same with chemistry or French. The GCSEs are very easy by comparison. No wonder so many more pass them. It’s not the fault of the children who sit them, but the fault of those who think it’s better to have nobody fail, than have a qualification that counts for something. It’s not doing our children any favours in a global economy.

  3. A guest says:

    Agreed that there are some who write on here who share the prejudices of the Telegraph but most of the people replying positively to Allison Pearson’s piece probably will never read anything on this site. I think this is a shame since I think your piece is very good.

  4. A contributor called Assegai has just posted on the Telegraph site under Pearson’s article: “Fiona Millar has the perfect riposte to the myths propagated in this article”. This is followed by a link to this site.

    • A guest says:

      I look at the blogs on the Telegraph and Assegai consistently supports comprehensive education. There are a few others who ask people to look at the evidence for/against Grammar schools and even provide links to it but sadly this is far outweighed by people who quote their own/ parents/ grandparents experience as evidence.

    • The poster called Assegai is me.

      Shame there aren’t more other DT posters who share comprehensive school sentiments (although “brookbond” gets the stuffy traditionalists spluttering into their drink).

      The first reference I made to Fiona’s blog on Allison’s article was deleted and when I tried again the same thing happened.

      Unfortunately in my experience it’s not uncommon to have posts removed if they go against the grain.

      • A guest says:

        Out of interest are posts ever deleted on this site or ever not posted.
        I had looked for Assegai’s post after Janet had pointed it out here and wondered why I could not find it.

      • O. Spencer says:

        Nigel – thanks for revealing you are Assegai – I’ve read many of your comments over on the Telegraph blogs for months and have often wondered if Assegai and Nigel Ford who posts on LSN were one and the same..

        • It’s all the Telegraph’s fault.

          If they hadn’t deleted my post – twice- referring to Fiona’s blog on LSN, I needn’t have said anything.

          Do you post on there? If so under what name?

          • I commented several times under Toby Young’s more rabid and rancid Telegraph globs, most memorably when I quoted from Laura McInerney’s excellent book on the pitfalls of setting up a Free School. One piece of excellent advice was to avoid polemicism and getting into competitive fights with existing schools but this is something that a professional polemicist can’t resist, even though under a rational government, he would not have been awarded £15m for a vanity project. Within half an hour, my comment was removed, not because it breached etiquette or was defamatory but because it totally contradicted what Chairman Young had written.

            I wondered at the time if the Tellytubbygraph employed a moderator who sat there staring away at the plethora of globs but I wonder now whether the authors themselves don’t have the power to censor comments that sail too close to the wind.

            What was amusing two weeks ago was to find Toby’s latest apologia in The Spectator, in which he attempted to draw a line/bury accusations of “homophobia” after it was raised again on LSN. Despite having a Post A Comment button, it did not actually allow anyone to make a comment.

            What is clear is that the Right Wing media – digital or otherwise – practices censorship. The moderate, liberal ones, like LSN, allow freedom of speech, however unpleasant some comments may be. And the Right Wing have a nerve to accuse those who question them of ignoring democracy.

            Laura’s book on Free Schools is far superior to Toby Young’s recently published tome, by the way.

  5. For ordinary conservatives, education is a matter of protecting privilege. “Parental choice” sums it all up. The facts that matter to these decent people are the hard data of how socially acceptable a school’s current pupils seem to be. However incontrovertible our evidence, there will always a be a “yes, but” that expresses this to parental anxiety about the threat of social mobility that (inevitably) would lead to nice children slipping down the socila and economic ladder. Whether its invalid and unreliable IQ testing or carefully nuanced residence criteria, they will generally vote for anything that keeps a status quo that has their family near the front of the queue. The mythic Gove – catapulted into government through scholarships and top marks in selective education is as keen to close the hatches as were the (rare) successful working class grammar school boys of Jackson and Marsden’s classic 1962 study “Education and the Working Class”.

    My own experience of Grammar School in the early 60s inspired me to make a compensatory lifetime in education, catrching up on all the learning I had missed, and trying (unsuccessfully) to inprove things for others.

    Our sad nostalgia for older forms of education should be seen as one important factor in explaining the poor quality of leadership in so many areas of British life. We are recruiting from a small and relatively shallow pool.

    • Although Eton and Conservatism are sometimes spoken in the same breath, particularly when it comes to those closest to David Cameron, the area of Rotherham can now boast 2 Conservative Cabinet ministers who were educated at comprehensive schools in the area, William Hague and the recently promoted Justine Greening.

      Eton and Rotherham comprehensive schools sharing a common bond?

      Watch out for Rotherham turning blue at the next election!

      • It’s a good point Nigel. I taught for a long time on Teesside – which has a lot in common with Doncaster. Both areas have large working class populations, industrial devastation, Labour politics, and good comprehensive schools. They also have affluent upper-middle class families who benefit from cheaper, better housing and a better immediate environment than their equivalent families in the Home Counties.

        What they don’t have are large numbers of long-established interconnected wealthy families with peer groups running to hereditary peers, newspaper magnates and third generation Old Etonians. William Hague is a very different kind of Tory to Cameron and Osborne – a mere grammar school boy, recognisably Yorkshire. Justine Greening is similarly meritocratic, (Oakwood Comprehensive School and University of Southampton).

        Society has always had a route for some lowly folk into high office – usually conditional on their accepting the values of the status quo and usually in low numbers relative to the pool of able young people who are left at base camp. However, the ways that educational selection filters pupils has always tended to reinforce rather than change social bias and social persistence. Even widespread comprehensivisation has done less than its early champions hoped.

        • Thanks Sam.

          Just a minor point but although Hague did initially start at Ripon GS, I believe he moved to Wath-on-Dearne comprehensive school, and received the bulk of his secondary schooling there, when it had already been designated as a comprehensive.

        • Rosie Fergusson says:

          Personally I feel that the absence of Right-wing MPs educated at Comprehensives is an ACCOLADE for Comprehensive Education not an indictment.

          When my great-Aunt at my wedding proudly informed me her grandson had just become a Tory agent in Birmingham I had to restrain myself from hugging her and saying how sorry I was.

          • It’s a shame that public school educated Blair and Harman didn’t enter the spirit of the comprehensive ideal when it came to educating their children, creaming off the most elite schools in the state sector miles away from their family home.

            If more politicians from all parties were educated at comprehensive schools hopefully they’d take a more enlightened view of comprehensive schooling for their own children. I know that when Hague was leader of the opposition he spoke quite favourably about the benefits of comprehensive education.

        • Teeside also used to have excellent grammar schools; my parents (grammar school children themselves) taught in them for years. By the time I was of school age they’d been done away with, to my parents’ distress, my father being one of the ‘anecdotal examples’ Fiona cites. He escaped a life of grinding poverty (the 30’s definition) to make it to one of the top UK universities, thanks to his local grammar.

          • Do you think your father wondered what happened to the majority of other children who did not get into a grammar school and whether they had an equal chance to escape the grinding poverty he might have endured? I wonder if he might have supported a system where all children – not just those who passed an exam at 11 – got an equal chance to a good education? Research shows that the presence of grammar schools does not increase standards for everyone and it fact drags down attainment.

          • R. I would be proud of your Dad and give him the credit for his achievement against the odds. He succeeded despite the existence of Grammar Schools – a disproportionate number of his slighlty less able or diligent primary school friends were held back and given much thinner educational gruel in schools that provided a curriculum that made it more likely that their pupils would not going to University, or even into skilled work.

            In my world view, providing one warm room with plenty of food for some of the family does not make a lack of heating or nourishment for those who missed the dinner bell acceptable.

    • Raymond Dance says:

      On the contrary it’s always seemed to me that it is not conservatives but the statist ‘left’ who are most interested in permanently entrenching divisions and class privilege. After all, when everybody is well-educated and financially secure there’s no more need for armies of busybodies. :-)

      • I think the left would consider that an egalitarian society would be an immense achievement. According to the OECD, income inequality is growing faster in the UK than any other rich nation, the gap coming about due to “the rise of a financial services elite who, through education and marriage, have concentrated wealth into the hands of a tiny minority.”

        It is this elite which dominates the ruling class, particularly within the Tory party. With the gap widening, I would imagine that busybodies still have quite a bit of work to do yet, despite the irritation of the entitled few.

        • Raymond Dance says:

          “the rise of a financial services elite who, through education and marriage, have concentrated wealth into the hands of a tiny minority.”

          This simply isn’t true.

          These elites are largely created by the interference of an incompetent state in education and the wider economy. Human institutions develop through trial and error and the example of pathfinders. If you insist that all institutions of a given type (schools, hospitals … whatever) must be managed identically and according to a spurious model of ‘best practice’ devised by people like Fiona Millar and based on the sort of bogus statistics that she quotes above then you suppress experimentation and the urge to improve. The result is stagnation and decline.

          Monolithic systems always fail. Not sometimes. Not most of the time. Always.

          • Raymond Dance – could you explain how the statistics which were derived from the 1959 Crowther report can be bogus? Do you suspect Sir Geoffrey Crowther (Chairman Central Advisory Council for Education (England)), Deputy Chairman, The Economist Newspaper, of using dubious data?

            And how does it follow that in arguing for a fully-comprehensive system for all, a system which is followed by most of the world’s best-performing education systems, is likely to “suppress experimentation and the urge to improve”?

          • It is the ruling elite that is the monolithic structure which is failing us right now.

            Brave of you to dismiss the findings of the OECD but here is what they recommended:

            “Employment is the most promising way of tackling inequality. The biggest challenge is creating more and better jobs that offer good career prospects and a real chance to people to escape poverty”

            “Investing in human capital is key. This must begin from early childhood and be sustained through compulsory education” and

            “The provision of freely accessible and high-quality public services, such as education, health, and family care, is important.”

            The Tory-led coalition is doing none of these things whilst encouraging a two tiered education system in which the most able and advantaged will have access to better education at the same time as lining the pockets or ambitions of profit making companies, sponsors and philanthropists. Meanwhile, the less able and poor will be abandoned to an even bleaker future where the few jobs that are available are going to those that Gove’s education system has favoured from the outset.

            The release a few weeks ago of 1981 cabinet papers revealed a Tory plot under Thatcher to manage the decline of Liverpool. It is tempting to see that what we are witnessing now is the managed decline of state education as we know it. The Tories’ relentless attacks on the public sector, on unions, on the poor, on education are as reminiscent of the Thatcher years as is their restoration of class privilege and social division. In fact, Cameron, Gove and Osborne are presiding over deeper cuts, more far-reaching privatisation of public services, rampant inequality and social breakdown than even the Iron Lady herself managed.

            Immediately after the summer riots, Cameron went on the attack, blaming gang culture. Inconveniently for him, careful research afterwards showed that most of those arrested were from deprived backgrounds, had been excluded from schools, had special educational needs. The cuts affect this community most and will cut them further adrift into hopelessness and crime.

            Just as Thatcher did, the current crop of Tories is destroying communities, creating mass unemployment, redistributing from poor to rich and selecting and segregating children from primary school onwards. Thatcher imposed a neoliberal model now seen to have failed across the world but Cameron and his pals plod on with it, lining their pockets and the pockets of their chums along they way.

  6. David Moore says:

    My letter to the Torygraph – doubt if they will print it:
    Allison Pearson’s article “Grammar Schools would put us in the Premier League” shows a lack of understanding when trying to compare athletic or artistic prowess with academic selection for schooling. The 11 plus examination process takes place at a particular time in the life of a child when those children involved can have an age range difference of almost one year. Compare this to selection by Premier League clubs which takes place over a number of years and is always a fluid process allowing those selected to join or drop out over a period of time. Indeed it is interesting to note the small number of those selected for the 15/16 year old England Schoolboy teams that actually represent England at full international level as adults, proving that development of soccer skills can be variable according to age.Selection for other athletic and artistic activities mirror this allowing for the variable development of these skills to be

    recognised as and when they develop.
    If Ms Pearson wants schools to join the Premier League she should look no further than Finland, where attainment standards are consistently amongst the highest in the world, and she will find to her chagrin, a non-selective schools system where every child is able to achieve their potential without being labelled a failure at 11 years of age.
    David Moore

    • Very good letter. Hope they publish it.

    • So the point about your opposition to selection is not the principle of it but rather the operation; which when we conisder grammar schools means we should perhaps create more points of transition after 11+ and sixth form entry to and from grammars where they exist?

      • Rosie Fergusson says:

        and the best way to achieve that is to have single site schools with strong leaders and robust streaming and a ethos that puts the gifted teachers who can keep a child alienated from society sitting engaged in a classroom for a whole lesson on an equal footing with the teacher that can coach a gifted child in the absurdities of the Oxbridge interview.


  7. I don’t get the impression the Telegraph has any interest in the quality of its journalism bar perhaps avoiding getting sued. Their job is to publish controversial stuff which will drive traffic through their online area. As papers move from press to online presentation it is becoming more and more important to get good antagonistic interaction going in the comments to articles as engagement is a strong driver of traffic and therefore advertising revenue.

    It’s interesting to talk to the hacks who’ve been explicitly involved in understanding and developing this dynamic. They often deliberately interact with the comments sections of articles to promote engagement with inflammatory remarks. There’s no point in publishing intelligent stuff because when people read it they don’t feel like contradicting it….

    I don’t think many of the are properly aware of the consequences of their actions yet.

    • Do Telegraph bloggers get paid per comment I wonder?

      • I doubt it. I suspect many of them are not aware that they have been selected to blog because their views are naive and provocative rather than because they are wise…..

      • Peter says:

        Private Eye wrote this on 19 August 2011:

        ‘Norman Tebbit, Janet Daley, Christopher Howse, Toby Young. No, not the cast of the forthcoming Addams Family remake, but some of the stars of the “rolling comment” factory that is Telegraph blogs.

        ‘And long may they remain so – for the website has quietly introduced a culling strategy for its lowest-performing contributors. Evry writer is rated according to the number of hits their blog gets each month. Anyone who stays in the lowest 25 percent for three months running is put on warning. Linger in the bottom quarter for a further three months and you get dropped.

        ‘So it’s reasoned argument out, provocative headlines and attention-catching barminess in. And on that basis, which blogger holds the top position, month in, month out? James Delingpole. “He’s always number one, because he really is batshit mad” mutters a lower-performing colleague.’

        • Thanks for posting this. I had no idea that was how the Telegraph blogsites worked. It puts it all into perspective.

          • Rosie Fergusson says:

            Indeed…I had assumed the telegraph blogs were Bollinger-fuelled now it appears its testosterone!

    • I did not suspect the DT of deleting messages until assegai’s moderate comment was removed yesterday. I actually believed they allowed controversial messages to stay under the free speech banner. Many of the comments on the DT site are racist and sexist to the point of generating hatred. Yet these are allowed to remain while assegai’s link to this site was removed.

  8. Jenny says:

    I have 2 children, each with very different educational abilities and needs. I would split the schools into 3 Academic, Technical and a third for children who are needing extra help. There should be flexibility between the systems, and scope for expansion too, children should not feel ‘trapped’ in any specific pathway. We are not getting the best out of children by treating them all the same. Exams have got easier, standards have dropped, children are getting through without a grasp of the basics, something has to change, a more tailored approach is necessary.

    • Jenny – the tri-partite system that you recommend was suggested in the 40s but was never widely adopted in the UK. Some areas provided three tiers: grammar, technical schools and secondary moderns. The secondary moderns were regarded as the bottom of the heap – the stigma attached to them also stuck to the children who went there.

      In Germany the tri-partite system still exists in many states. However, the UN severely criticised Germany for its education system because it failed low-ability pupils and immigrant children. The Hauptschule (secondary modern) is seen as an establishment for the rejected.

      Your third tier for “children who are needing extra help” would quickly be viewed as schools for “thickos” – this still happens in areas where secondary moderns still exist. The best system is one that does not segregate children according to ability. Evidence from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development shows that the best-performing countries in the international PISA tests tend to be those countries that do not segregate children. And a recent report on reading by the European Commission’s education information network found that there was a link between the decision of Poland and Latvia to postpone the age at which pupils are streamed down different educational paths and the significant gains made by these countries.

      Unfortunately, this research is not widely discussed in the England because it counters the prejudices of many parts of the media. This site, however, regularly highlights the research with links to evidence. Page 455 of Education at a Glance 2011 is a good place to start for evidence about inclusive education systems and their effect on achievement:

    • I think you are correct to say that we are not getting the best out of children by treating them all the same, but this is precisely what Gove is imposing on English schools – a rigid, narrow and discipline-heavy approach with little or no creativity or scope to focus on the needs of individual personalities.

      Segregating children into “types” is unnecessary, more so if they are labelled “academic”, “technical” or “needing special help” by farming them out to different types of schools. Why should “academic” children be denied “technical” knowledge and experience and vice versa? And why should children with special needs have to suffer more indignity by going to a school labelled as such?

      With such rigid divisions, I can’t see how it is at all possible there can be expansion and movement between schools, particularly if the “academic” school is viewed by a results obssessed system as being superior and equipped to offer better life chances.

      I would agree that something has to change but segregating children is not the answer, as the nations who perform best in international tables prove. Those nations do not offer multiples of “choice” but many excellent schools, all of which are inclusive and teach children of all abilities under one roof. Further segregation, as you advocate, will drive overall standards down and will lead to a complete breakdown of social cohesion, so that those separated for a “better” education will have immediate access to better higher education and jobs. This will fuel greater resentment. When large numbers of the population are excluded, we ought not to be surprised when they rebel and riot.

      With over one million young people between 16 and 24 unemployed and with little hope of employment under the coalition’s catastrophic economic policies, the Tories have already bequeathed a legacy of a lost generation of young people, many of them already wondering why they should saddle themselves with going to school or higher education if all they get at the end of it is £40,000 worth of debt and having to do voluntary work in Poundland.

      • Raymond Dance says:

        “With over one million young people between 16 and 24 unemployed and with little hope of employment under the coalition’s catastrophic economic policies, the Tories have already bequeathed a legacy of a lost generation of young people”

        I’m sorry but this is just nonsense. Sure, in my area we have 40% youth unemployment – but any 19-year old from Gdansk can get a job tomorrow. This has zero to do with the current government and everything to do with the utter failure of Labour’s policies in education (and everything else).

        I don’t like the Tories but they’ve been in power for just 1 of the last 14 years. Statements like the above just destroy what little persuasiveness your arguments have.

        • I suggest you read the latest reports from IFS and Resolution Foundation and decide who is speaking nonsense here.

          I would also be interested to read any evidence you have that a 19 year old from Gdansk can get a job tomorrow.

          • Raymond Dance says:

            I suggest you read the latest reports from …

            Yep, here it comes: the appeal to authority.

            My brother-in-law just hired the 19-year old from Gdansk to answer his phones. She had better English than any of the home-grown candidates.

          • Oh. Personal and anecdotal then. I’m moving on then. I’m done with engaging with the ignorant and insane.

        • Raymond, Where is the 19 year old Polish person going to get a job? London or Gdansk? Presumably you are suggesting England. Any 19 year with the gumption, resources and knowledge to travel across Europe to find a job is probably going to find one. The EU was created for exactly such purposes. You will find the British equivalents of your Gdansk hero all over the world – Korea, Dubai, Portugal, Spain, Germany … and more. These are well-educated, mobile, and resourceful. Such people are a benefit to all of us wherever they come from.

          The important task for our governments, and for us, is to enable as many children as can to become resourceful and to educate and care for those who cannot reach so high.

          • Raymond Dance says:

            I’m talking about South Cornwall, actually. And the person in question was recruited via skype before she came here.

            “The important task for our governments …”

            It’s leaving this to the government that got us into this mess in the first place. The path to social progress is not through centralisation but through local and institutional autonomy. Let’s stop trying to be East Germany circa 1979 and adopt the Swiss model instead. It can’t be worse, surely.

    • This was tried before and failed. The most successful systems in the world are fully comprehensive. Bringing back selection is the wrong solution to problems that still exist in our school system most of which can still be addressed in all ability schools with the right leadership, teaching, curriculum and commitment from central government .

  9. Raymond Dance says:

    Let’s not pretend that the comprehensive system is not selective.

    • Do you think you could give some reasons for this statement to back it up?

      • Raymond Dance says:

        Instead of selecting by ability most comprehensives use house prices. Is that better?

        • I don’t understand the point you are trying to make.

          Community schools admit their intake by catchment area. As areas become gentrified, then there probably will be a greater mix of children from different socio-economic backgrounds but that is ultimately a good thing for the school, as evidence points to mixed ability, non-selective schools do best in international rankings. The catchment area remains the same but perhaps the demographics have changed. It does not follow that the local school then selects by house prices.

          Whats needs to be addressed is how to raise attainment in schools that are in poorer areas where regeneration has not yet come calling and where the more middle class intake has not yet contributed to raising the exam results, if indeed league tables are the only bar with which to measure a school’s achievements. These schools require more resources to help children trapped in the cycle of poverty-low attainment and this includes not just improved schools premises, but much better provision in social welfare, mentoring, resources in subjects such as music and drama which spark confidence in children who never knew they had any creative ability which in turn will inspire them to become more engaged in learning academic subjects.

          This will only become possible if the Secretary for Education recognised that all schools are different and all schools face different challenges. Instead, he resorts to a one size fits all, punitive “no excuses approach if schools with a challenging school population are not exceeding the expectations equally applicable to a school in a wealthy area.

          Instead of tackling this, the government’s economic policies have increase child poverty and unemployment to record levels and cut the schools capital budget by some 60%, meaning amputations to essential repairs and services in schools. The most vulnerable bear the biggest burden of these policies, so in fact the government is cutting adrift the children from homes, the market value of which won’t even figure in the debate.

          • Raymond Dance says:

            “As areas become gentrified, then there probably will be a greater mix of children from different socio-economic backgrounds”

            What about the areas that don’t get gentrified or go the other way altogether?

    • There is selection in the comprehensive system – by faith for example. I would be wholly in favour of abolishing that too although the majority of faith schools are all ability schools.

  10. Well (Raymond) in the context of this discussion comprehensive schools are not selective. The imbalances and inequalities of the whole system are a consequence of other important processes and institutions – housing and private schooling being the principal means of sustaining inter-generational inequality within the education system (which, as a whole, is not comprehensive at all). Comprehensive schools in general are not allowed to (and don’t) set aptitude or achievement tests as a condition of entry.

    Jenny and Janet, on the tripartite system (embedded in the 1944 Education Act) Technical Schools (in some areas) were the socially least desirable schools, being housed in old buildings – sometimes the former Elementary Schools built after 1870. Secondary Moderns were often preferred, being started with new buildings and enthusiastic teachers and (in some cases) having options for pupils to transfer to Grammar Schools in time to start O Level courses.

    More importanly, I think that we need to be careful about accepting the idea that children were or can be reliably selected on “ability”. “Ability” and the related concepts of “Intelligence” or “Disposition” are superficially attractive ideas that make sense in general conversation, but their translations into reliable and valid measures that have the power to predict later achievement have never been secure. They are, at heart, summary evaluations with strong social and judgemental characteristics , not scientific realities based on confident knowledge of causal regularities. However we classify and grade our children every teacher of every class is always faced with a set of widely different children, who can all change beyond recognition over a lifetime, and who can all surprise us with simultaneous outbreaks of stupidity and genius. Education is still a disputed moral practice, not a science. Pretending otherwise leads us into failure and injustice. A major function of teaching is to first know your pupils. Test results are interesting and useful only once you have had time to know the child directly.

  11. Sam – you are correct in saying that technical schools only appeared in a few areas. in 1959 there were 267 technical schools in England and Wales compared with 1,252 grammars and 5,493 secondary moderns. Only 4% of boys went to technical school, 22% to grammars and 65% to secondary moderns. I have been unable to find the figures for girls attending technical schools although I was one.

    It would be wrong to generalise about technical schools. They did not always rise from old buildings. The Dunsmore Boys’ and Dunsmore Girls’ school in Rugby, for example, were new-build technical schools established c1957 (now amalgamated with a third school to become Ashlawn School). Although described as a technical school, the girls’ school had two streams: grammar and secondary. It was reclassified as bi-lateral and had a full range of ability from high-fliers to pupils then described as “remedial” who could barely read or write. The Dunsmore schools were not regarded as the “socially least desirable”.

  12. Thanks Janet. Lovely detail. My “in some areas” was a bit shoddy – I was thinking of a singular case where my Mother worked briefly as a teacher, in Leamington Spa. (not so far from Dunsmore). It goes to show how important “local” can be in discussing educational policy.

  13. To summarise the flurry of crossed wires on what constitutes “selection” in a comprehensive system or in a school, I would return to my main point that while recent attempts to re-justify educational segregation have been based on a return to the fiction of identifiable ability differences between pupils, the social or religious distinctions that preceded 1944 are now returning under various guises and a broadly comprehensive system is being eroded.

    The end point of these recent trends will be (and in some areas might already be) a strengthening of socially division that is characterised by unequal provision and leads to reduced social mobility. Social harmony is diminished and economic resilience is reduced. An extreme example of the way that segregation and selection can reflect and contribute to a damaged society has been in Northern Ireland.

    At this point good Tories like the late Edward Boyle might be looking to set the elite schools free to pay their own way (a reversed “payment by results”) while concentrating generous resources (particularly the state-trained staff) on the fewer casualty schools whose multiple difficulties are leaving their pupils behind. Old Etonians might soon be looking on enviously as the stars of inner city schools enrol for Classics at Oxbridge with Latin and Greek at A*and a science curriculum taught in the medium of Chinese.

    • I totally agree Sam. I think the crossed wires are a deliberate ploy by the pro-selection lobby to draw attention away from the naked inequality in the belief that the process of undoing social cohesion can go by, seemingly undetected.

      What is astounding is that pro-“reform” lobby are willfully blind to the fact the the nations whose schools perform at the very top of league tables are those which do not segregate or select. This degree of blindness make James Murdoch appear as if he 20:20 vision!

    • Who cares Toby? If people can be bothered with your thoughts and want to leave a comment there, they will only get censored by yourself or the Right Wing Press Barons. I have to say I find your need to be noticed by and validated by Fiona Millar a little creepy and sad.

    • Toby – the best-performing school systems in the world tend to be those which do not segregate children academically or by virtue of where they live (OECD Education at a Glance 2011).

      You say in your article: “If we accept that bright children from deprived backgrounds are more likely to excel in grammar schools – and I think that’s indisputable – and we also accept that less bright children in neighbouring schools will suffer as a result of not being taught alongside them – again, hard to dispute – the question is whether that’s a price worth paying?”

      Are you really saying that it doesn’t matter if a less bright child won’t benefit from being in contact with children of higher ability? What you are effectively saying is that the dim can stay a little bit dim. This is not the attitude in those countries where performance is high and the difference between low and high ability children is narrower than in England. In Finland, teachers are expected to deal with all abilities and they are taught together. I’m sure you’re aware that Finland is the top-performing European country.

      A bright child will excel in a comprehensive school. And university students from comprehensive schools outperform their peers from independent and grammar schools.

      You say it is a parent’s right to choose the type of education they want for their child. Choosing a grammar school does not ensure acceptance – if the child is not in the top 25% of the ability range the grammar school will not accept the child. And a fully-comprehensive school can’t exist alongside a grammar. The only schools next to grammar schools are secondary moderns – and that’s why you’ll find such a large number of under-performing (as measured by raw exam grades) secondary schools in Kent and Lincolnshire.

      Good to know, though, that you read Fiona’s piece especially as a link under Pearson’s article which directed Telegraph readers here was removed. What could have been the reason for its removal when so many posts on other DT threads which are racist and sexist almost to the point of inciting hatred are allowed to remain?

    • When we were on the same platform at the NEEC you said you were in favour of comprehensive schools..

      • And so I am. I think grammars and comprehensives can coexist perfectly happily.

        • I think that while any two schools can coexist, a local area that has one selective grammar school and one or more schools with no academic selection would not be understood by many people as a comprehensive system. The ones that called themselves comprehensives would simply be secondary modern schools with a misleading name (as happens in a number of areas to this day).

          Private education complicates the whole thing of course, because if what I’m saying is taken to it’s conclusion, then Britain has never had a comprehensive education system.

        • I think they can in some areas and not in others. If you are considering creating a new selective entry school it’s essential careful consideration is given to the obvious implications for other local schools and steps are taken to avoid the creation of sink schools as a consequence of the new policy in a nearby school.

          Well I say it’s essential. It’s essential if you live in a democratic country. It might not be essential, say, in a monarchy where the king had put his favourite son a pet project of running education and the power to sack anyone who disagreed with him and neither the king nor his son could be bothered to see reality through their enormous egos.

  14. I can assure you I’ve never censored anyone’s comments Alan – and I very much doubt any of the Telegraph’s moderators have either. If you check out the comment threat beneath my blog post, you’ll see plenty of people disagreeing with me.

    • Raymond Dance says:

      We don’t believe you Toby. You’re a Tory and therefore by definition an evil hobgoblin who is not fit to grovel at the feet of the great Beavis. Personally I always preferred Butthead.

    • Well that has not been my experience nor the experience of many other people. I’ll pass on reading your latest blog, thank you – I haven’t been interested in reading any of them in a very long time.

      • Raymond Dance says:

        But you should take a look at Daniel Hannan’s last blog which has direct relevance to you:

        “Evil, having lost the meaning attributed to it by the monotheistic religions, has instead come to mean ‘someone who disagrees with me’.”

  15. Tracy Hannigan says:

    I might disagree with Toby on some things but I don’t think it does anyone – or any issue – or any conversation – any good to call names (whether it be Raymond or Jake!)

    • Raymond Dance says:

      The description of Toby as a hobgoblin is ironic. I’m sorry if it’s been misunderstood. I like the guy. How to lose friends is very funny.

      • Tracy Hannigan says:

        It is – you are right!! I just seem to see that the substance of a thread tends to dry up with this sometimes and I think its good to engage in a meaningful way!

  16. Rosie Fergusson says:

    I think in Toby’s article we have the answer to the question on another post as to whether the WLFS is proposing to introduce selection.

    It is not.

    Toby says “We’re engaged in an experiment to see what it’s possible to achieve with an all-ability group of children – we’re trying to re-invent the comprehensive,”

    I see the aim of the WLFS which of course exactly matches the original ethos of the Comprehensives.

    I am confidant that the top academic students, with the private sector provenance of many senior staff at WLFS , will be able to access marvellous support for Oxbridge and Russell Group entry and this is to be applauded.

    But the worry is that is the school large enough to deliver the streaming and subject resources to engage the whole gamut of abilities? Standing alone from the LEA can it efficiently access the learning support expertise and services provided by the LEA when a single child baulks or creates disruption at school?

  17. Adrian Elliott says:

    In his piece in the Telegraph Toby Young refers to the LSE study for the Sutton Trust in 2005 which suggested that inter-generational mobility was smaller for children born in 1970 than a similar cohort born in 1958.
    At the time many columnists attributed this to the ending of selection. Tim Luckhurst in the Times even argued that only a ‘blend of ideological zeal and intellectual dishonesty’ could now defend the comprehensive system.
    But whilst Toby Young quotes one of the LSE researchers suggesting ‘probably that system got more people through from the bottom end of the system than we currently have today’, my understanding is that this comment was in response to persistent questioning about grammar schools at the press conference for the paper’s launch. The issue is not discussed in the paper which, in any case, suggests that only a third of the perceived decline in social mobility has been due to educational factors.
    But there are bigger reasons for questioning the interpretation put on this paper by so many newspaper columnists in the past seven years.
    The data only applies to boys. It is beyond doubt that the educational attainment of girls has risen faster than that of boys in the last fifty years and had we had the figures for social mobility across the whole population a different picture might have emerged.
    More significant is the confusion which has afflicted nearly everyone who has written on this topic about the childrens’ dates. Nick Cohen in the Observer, under the headline Long live grammar schools made much of the ‘grouse moor image of 1958.
    But the children were born in 1958 not selected for secondary school then. By 1969 when these children went to secondary school at least a third would have gone to comprehensive schools and the large majority would have seen their schools convert before they left in 1974. And according to the report, 1974 (and 1986 for the those born in 1970) are the key dates.
    Because what the report actually says is that the major factor in any decline in social mobility was the difference in the rates of staying on at school after 16 between the middle and working class. And note that it was a relative difference. The percentage of poorer children staying in did rise significantly with the advent of comprehensive education but middle class children took much more advantage of the opportunities offered.
    Any headteacher will tell you that many children from poorer homes will make their decision about staying on at school later than those from professional homes – often only in year 11. By 1974, when the 1958 children reached 16, 75% of English children were in comprehensive schools.
    Most of the many articles written on this topic in the past seven years are based on a false assumption which a little less ideological zeal on the part of the writers might have corrected.

  18. Rosie Fergusson says:

    The failure of the Kent LEA to provide fair and equitable life chances of course brings up to the idea of the Free School as a philanthropic device.

    What could be a more effective way of subverting the arcane prejudices of the grammar obsessed middle classes than the emergence of the ” KUDOS COMP”

    i.e the future planned expansion of the WLFS into partnerships with the Kent secondary moderns ?

  19. Rosie Fergusson says:

    Sam Sanders says ( 22/1/12 about 3pm)

    “For the time being Tim’s world view is in the ascendant, so I make the best of it and wait for another election and encourage my children and grandchildren to be open hearted.”

    I fear waiting for another election is a vain hope given that Labour has just had 12 years to remove the 11 plus and done nothing!

    We must remember that in the 1960’s Crosland allowed communities to choose to go Comprehensive with the incentive , not just of equality, but also of new school builds.

    The Grammars remained in areas where a) some isolated girls grammars had to remain for gender equality to match the local impregnable Haberdashers/charity boys schools or b) the right wing controlled LEA wished to retain selection.

    In which case is the Grammar today safer as an Academy or remaining under the LEA ?

    So , to move the Grammar vs Comp debate along lets assume the moral argument for abolition of Secondary Moderns is won; we come to how is it to be achieved?.

    Labour needs to state unequivocally NOW that when they come to power there will be a carefully phased programme to abolish the secondary moderns.

    I could see this entailing :

    a) any post 2010 increase in selective places must become non-selective or the school will lose the funding for that place. Labour needs to do this NOW to suppress investment in the expansion of Grammars .

    b) Schools selecting on the basis of the 11 plus are not to use a catchment area; the “opportunity” is to be available to all [ tho’ school transport will be limited to say 15 miles??- I’m sure market forces will see the opening of a private boarding facility if necessary) . This will greatly increase the level of competition amongst the militant pro-Grammar folk and they can tear themselves apart fighting over places. It will also mean only the very brightest , hopefully 10% will get in and the Grammars will become the “boffin” academies serving the very-bright that they should be not just the ivory tower of the middle-class child hot-housers.

    c) Simultaneous investment into the conversion of the secondary moderns into quality comprehensives ( which again raises the possibility- dare I say it – that partnering with “Kudos Comp Free schools” could be a force for good????)

  20. Selective schools don’t have to abide by catchment areas already. They will take from as wide an area as necessary until the places are filled and if there are still empty places then they will offer places to those pupils who did “less well” (as the two Boston Grammar schools do in Lincolnshire) thereby creaming more of the higher-ability children from other local schools (which are secondary moderns in reality whatever they call themselves).

    As long as grammar schools exist there will be secondary moderns. A secondary modern can never be a comprehensive because it does not have the full range of ability. It may be a “quality” secondary modern offering an excellent education to its pupils. But it will always be seen as second-best and second-rate.

    This is what happens in Lincolnshire.

  21. Lincolnshire and Kent with their 100% selective system may indeed be diff from North Yorks which has only 2 selective schools Ripona nd Skipton.

    details on

    These are the key points from North Yorkshire selection process for Ripon and Skipton.

    1) Both towns have a catchment area covering the town and relatively small surrounding rural areas.

    2) The North Yorkshire Council instruct head teachers in the catchment areas not to provide coaching and further practice for children in VR or NVR selection tests though we cannot stop private coaching ( ah…hardly a level playing field for the local kids given the definite market for 11 plus tutoring.)

    3)For the boys school in Skipton , Ermynsteds in 2011 46 of the 139 in catchment applications gained the required mark ( it was therefore considered under-subscribed) which left 68 out of catchment places for the 188 out of catchment applications. These 68 places were awarded based on siblings at the school and closest distance to school with the furthest being 10.8 miles.

    I can assure you that there would be many many more out of catchment applications from Ilkley, Bradford, Harrogate, North Leeds and Otley if all places were open to all and awarded on highest mark basis. People don’t bother applying beyond the 10 or 15 mile mark because there’s no point and many kids go by default snobbery to the private Bradford or Leeds Grammar Schools instead. To be honest the Harrogate and Ilkley comps are pretty affluent and snotty and deserve a shake up.

    Might not work in central Kent/Lincolnshire but could make all the diff to the secondary moderns in the isolated pockets of selection and those on the borders of Kent and Lincolnshire which are currently deprived of the top 28% of the local kids.

    It’s a thought …

  22. Although in North Yorkshire the system might well change because the girls grammar school in Skipton is now an Academy and looking into moving away from the North Yorkshire testing scheme to their own system whereas the boys school remains a maintained school. It will be interesting to see if parents have concerns about the equality impact of this if it happens.

  23. re Skipton girls it appears all that is changing is the test process which they will run themselves .They say they will still admit the same quotient of local girls as before.

    Until this year our selection tests were carried out by North Yorkshire Local Authority on behalf of our Governing Body. This will no longer be the case. Instead the school will carry out its own selection tests. Many grammar schools in England already do this, including the vast majority of grammar schools in the North of England.
    This means that there will be changes to:
     the content of the selection tests
     the number of selection tests
     the application procedure for testing
     the timing of the selection tests
     the location of the selection tests

  24. Rosie Fergusson says:

    and of course there are comprehensives and there are comprehensives.

    The link below is the letter from the newly Academised Harrogate Grammar to parents requesting them to pay for a new all weather pitch.

    Harrogate Grammar has the intention of intention of forming a large Academy chain taking in the outstanding Otley, Rossett and Ilkley Comprehensives up to 18 miles away ( Her name is RIOH [and she dances on the…..Duran Duran) .) .

    Strange when there’s a struggling ” satisfactory-Ofsted Grade 3 ” comprehensive just 2 km from their door – Harrogate High.

    Doubly strange when you consider that Harrogate Grammar is one of the leading lights in the training teachers project and could offer a lot to Harrogate High .

    Meanwhile the struggling comprehensive “Harrogate High” 2 km away is fighting to gain Academy status to be allowed to join the Outwood Grange Academy Trust ( still retaining Labours Sponsership Academy ethos) .

    • Prince Henry’s Grammar School (a good community comprehensive with a national reputtation as a Specilaist Language College) has been dragged into Academy status by the head (wife of the head at Harrogate Grammar) against the wishes of many in the town. Many long-standing Governors have resigned. Staff have been out on strike.

      The story is that immediate budget deficits are part of the story.

      I had a long association with the school but moved away from the town last year and do not know hte full story, so feel free to take my comment with a degree of scepticism. I had three children who went there and I was a Parent Governor for a few years.

  25. yep that’s the case ..
    The Governors made the difficult decision to convert and openly admitted it was purely financial ( against Dept of Educ’s edict). The vote was taken 3 times with a 10 10 split but the chair of Governors made it clear he would vote yes if the split remained for the final vote. A Governor absence due to sickness made his final vote unecessary and the conversion was passed 10 to 9 .

    Approx 100 people turned up to the first parent consultation in July 2011, this was poorly advertised so there was a 2nd meeting consultation in Sept where attendance was reduced to 80 ( after much better publicity). 10 Governors resigned in protest and the local Lib Dems and Labour Councillors joined forces in the Town Council to condemn the move . After much local media publicity over 250 people attended a last minute meeting in Nov. to try and stop the conversion ( out of a town population of 15,000 and school popul of 1400)

    The main objections were :
    a) For the parents /community the impact on the core funding for Leeds LEA and the schools that would remain ( didn’t get that reason in Ilkley or Harrogate) and the loss of local accountability.

    b) For the teachers item a) as above and also, quite rightly and in spite of TUPE agreements , the loss of employment security under the LEA Umbrella.

    c) There were issues over retention of the school’s swimming Pool facility for the community but this to be honest was disingenous on both sides and a bit of a rabble-rouser.

    A spirited and civilised Anti_Academy march through the town got sympathy.I shouted “No Convertor Academies” but was appalled by an aggressive minority.

    And then the perils of the Internet took over and the main Facebook site for the campaign was poorly moderated and allowed unsubstantiated, personal and abusive attacks including mild racism against the head and the yes governors.

    I got pretty vexed at this and tired to intercede ; this was when I discovered that pragmatism and objectivity are not virtues in the internet forum especially when normally mild-mannered quiet folk have the “lies, lies and more lies …help help we’re being oppressed” bit firmly between their teeth. [ One particularly memorable moment was when someone suggested we should boycott the new Academy by opening our own free school]. Soley because of the disgraceful abuse I became a turncoat and threw my lot in with the school [ but I am still anti-convertor academy but I’m anti-bully as well].

    The head of Kenton School in Newcastle summed it up , as his school converted , when he criticised the Government for coercing voluntary bodies into political decisions and so ripping communities apart ( well not Ilkley and Harrogate obviously,still their staff just got an email the first day of term).

    Which leads me to another question… has the conflict over core funding including the High Court judicial reviews of some Councils , finally got through to Messrs Gove and Gibb . He seems to have stopped his ” stop whining message” aimed at LEAs last year .

    The D of E website stated on 10th January something about LEAs now not losing more than 2% of funding but it’s not clear that this is protecting core funding.

    Anyway the Prince Henry’s converted on 1st Dec and all went quiet, nothing has changed,,,text books are still 1 between 2 ; the new Admissions Policy is exemplary and in line with Leeds LEA, Alas the ten lost Governor posts are replaced by 3 parent governors. There is no mention of the RIOH academy partnership…suspect it’s being kept on the back burner …not even mentioned when you hack into Harrogate Grammars Governor minutes. There are rumours that Harrogate Grammar is about to require paretns to purchase i-pads for their children ( wonder what Katharine ” No ICT here” Birbalsingh would make of that.

  26. anet has highlighted that Bourne Grammar School ( selective academy) is expanding by 30 pupils/year
    IF I was looking to explore funding discrepancies and bias in favour of Acadmies I would be chasing this to see what capital funding is being diverted from othe rprojects
    when are Labour and the LIberal Democrats going to stop standing with their hands in their pockets and actually do something about this ?

  27. David Birch says:

    My experience of teaching in a London grammar school in the 70s bears this article out. It was virtually taken for granted that the bottom of the three forms of entry would not perform well at O Level; at the same time, there was no CSE safety net in place for them, so many students left each year with no or very few qualifications.

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